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Warner on the road with Marco Polo

Asia traveler's tale reimagined as fantasy-adventure

Warner Bros. is traveling back to the 13th century journey of Marco Polo for a feature, attaching Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”) to direct and setting up the project with Erwin Stoff at 3 Arts Entertainment.

Warners moved this week to buy a pitch preemptively from the writing team of Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, who are penning the script. Sarah Schechter is overseeing for the studio.

Untitled project’s seen as a fantasy-adventure rather than a biopic, with the logline under wraps. “We see this as something that takes place in the Orient of our imagination amid the cultural clash of the East and the West,” Cooper told Daily Variety.

Polo, a Venice merchant, traveled with his father and uncle through Asia for 24 years at a time when the Mongol empire of Kublai Khan stretched into Eastern Europe, menacing the Holy Roman Empire. According to Polo’s “Il Milione,” Khan asked Polo to serve as an ambassador, leading to his extensive travels throughout Asia on behalf of the Khan.

When Polo returned to Europe, Venice was at war with Genoa and he was imprisioned and dictated his stories to a cellmate before he was released in 1299.

Lawrence will exec produce. He’s also attached to direct Fox 2000’s Depression-era drama “Water for Elephants,” with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson attached.

For Cooper and Collage, the Marco Polo sale marks their third consecutive reimagination of a classic story purchased preemptively. The duo sold a pitch last fall to Fox to tell the story of Moses, set up with Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark at Chernin’s Fox-based banner; they also made a deal in 2008 to reinvent Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” for director Timur Bekmambetov and producer Scott Stuber at Universal. The duo’s turned in that script and will begin work on the Marco Polo project once they’ve completed writing the Moses script.

Cooper and Collage wrote U’s 2006 comedy “Accepted” before deciding to move into reimagining classic stories and personalities as potential tentpoles. They also scripted “Tower Heist,” which Brett Ratner will direct for Universal and Imagine. Lawrence is repped by CAA and 3 Arts; the scribes are repped by WME.

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