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‘Ninja Turtles’ relaunch gets writer

John Fusco to pen 'Teenage Mutant' for 2011

John Fusco has been tapped to breathe new life into “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

The scribe will pen the live-action pic that producers hope will help relaunch Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and their master Splinter in a new film franchise to bow in 2011.

The sewer-dwelling characters, who love eating pizza when not fighting villains, starred in four pics for New Line in the early 1990s that earned more than $323 million worldwide. An animated feature in 2007 helped reignite interest in the turtles, minting $95 million for Warner Bros.

Fusco will certainly be able to handle the action elements.

He’s been practicing martial arts since he was 12, and continues to study Shaolin kung fu. He penned last year’s actioner “The Forbidden Kingdom,” starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li. He also wrote a redo of “The Seven Samurai” for the Weinstein Co. His other credits include “Hidalgo” and “Young Guns.”

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“It is always exciting when you can come aboard a project that bridges the worlds of what you do with what you love,” Fusco said. Fusco will incorporate elements of the “Turtles” comics, created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman in 1983, for the new adventure, which is being planned as an origins story.

Scott Mednick (“300,” “Superman Returns” and the upcoming “Where the Wild Things Are”) and Galen Walker (“TMNT”) are producing through Mirage Studios, which owns the “Turtles,” and TMNT Prods., respectively. Laird, Gary Richardson, Frederick Fierst, Eric Crown and Napoleon Smith III will serve as executive producers.

No director or studio are yet attached to the project, which is being funded through Lightbox Prods. 4Kids Entertainment is handling licensing for the pic.

Casting for martial artists to perform stunts in the film began over the weekend at the Hollywood and Highland complex.

Fusco’s hiring comes as the 25th anniversary of the “Turtles,” dubbed “Shell-ebration,” ends this week at Comic-Con in San Diego with a panel discussion involving the property’s creators and film producers, a screening of the original pic and other promotional activities.

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