Wahlberg to star in Shyamalan film

'Happening' set to happen June 2008

Mark Wahlberg has been set to star in 20th Century Fox thriller “The Happening,” which M. Night Shyamalan will direct in August in Philadelphia.

Fox has carved out plans to release the film with a day-and-date worldwide bow on Friday, June 13, 2008.

“Friday the 13th has very distinctive, global connotations, which make it the ideal launching pad for this frightening thriller,” 20th domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder said in a statement.

Wahlberg will play a man who takes his family on the run when a cataclysmic natural crisis threatens to end the world.

Shyamalan set a spec deal for the spooky apocalyptic pic at the studio earlier this month (Daily Variety, March 7).

When he made the deal, Shyamalan brought back his “Unbreakable” and “Sixth Sense” producer Barry Mendel to produce with Sam Mercer. He also brought with him a co-financier in India-based UTV, which committed 50% of the film’s $57 million budget, with Fox distributing worldwide except in India.

When Shyamalan made his deal with Fox, he’d already been making inroads to get Wahlberg aboard the film.

“Mark has a unique blend of charisma, humanity, authenticity and skillfulness as an actor,” Shyamalan said, “all of which coalesced at this moment in his career, making him the perfect person to take on the role of Eliot Moore, the science teacher at the center of this event.”

The actor, who just opened in “Shooter,” is also getting in the ring with Matt Damon and director Darren Aronofsky on Paramount film “The Fighter.”

Pic is the third that UTV has recently co-financed at the studio, after the Mira Nair-directed “The Namesake,” and the Chris Rock starrer “I Think I Love My Wife,” both distributed by Fox Searchlight.

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