Phillip Noyce to direct Col’s ‘Salt’

Spy drama being developed for Tom Cruise

Phillip Noyce is negotiating to direct “Edwin A. Salt,” the Kurt Wimmer-scripted drama that Columbia Pictures has been developing as a star vehicle for Tom Cruise.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash are producing.

The Australian helmer and Cruise had been mentioned as possible participants in the Warner Bros. drama “The 28th Amendment,” but recently their focus shifted to “Salt.” The drama casts Cruise as a CIA officer who’s accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper spy. He must elude capture long enough to clear his name.

Though he hasn’t firmly committed, Cruise has stayed with “Edwin A. Salt” as Wimmer wrote drafts for directors Terry George and then Peter Berg before each ankled. Columbia sources said “Edwin A. Salt” still doesn’t have a firm start date.

Cruise has a small role in the Ben Stiller-directed “Tropic Thunder” opening later this summer and will next be seen starring in the Bryan Singer-directed “Valkyrie” for United Artists.

Pic marks a return to the world of espionage and action for Noyce, who tackled the subject in the Jack Ryan films “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger.” Noyce’s last feature was “Catch a Fire.”