United Artists spies Surnow thriller

Martin Campbell to direct film

United Artists and Lakeshore Entertainment have set “24” co-creator-exec producer Joel Surnow to develop a contemporary spy thriller that will be directed by “Casino Royale” helmer Martin Campbell.

Surnow will write the film with Michael Loceff, a “24” co-exec producer.

UA, which is run by Paula Wagner and partially owned by Tom Cruise, has made it a priority to find a commercially viable franchise for Cruise, though the studio wouldn’t confirm whether the Surnow/Campbell project was specifically designed for the “Mission: Impossible” star.

Lakeshore’s Gary Lucchesi and Tom Rosenberg will produce.

Surnow also developed and exec produced “La Femme Nikita,” which ran from 1997-2001, and served as producer or wrote episodes for “The Equalizer,” “Miami Vice,” “Nowhere Man” and “Wiseguy.”

“This is an original concept that both UA and I feel will have an impact creatively and commercially,” Surnow said.

After directing “The Mask of Zorro” and “The Legend of Zorro,” Campbell showed his spy thriller acumen by directing “GoldenEye,” and then “Casino Royale,” the film that transitioned the James Bond franchise to Daniel Craig.

Campbell will next direct “Edge of Darkness,” a drama starring Mel Gibson (Daily Variety, April 29). That film, based on a BBC miniseries that Campbell directed in 1985, is being financed and produced by Graham King’s GK Films.

The new project gives UA two plum commercial projects, the other being “Champions,” an adaptation of the ’60s British TV adventure series that had Guillermo del Toro attached. The helmer will likely have to be replaced, after committing to four years in New Zealand making two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” UA parent MGM shares “The Hobbit” with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.

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