U taps scribe for ‘Moby Dick’ rewrite

Hopes to bring down the budget for helmer Bekmambetov

Universal Pictures is looking to stay in business with “Contraband” scribe Aaron Guzikowski, who is in negotiations to rewrite the studio’s long-gestating adaptation of “Moby Dick” with the aim of scaling back the budget for director Timur Bekmambetov (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”).

Adam Cooper and Bill Collage made a lucrative deal to adapt Herman Melville’s whale tale back in September 2008. Duo’s initial draft reimaged the classic novel by ditching the first-person narration of young seaman Ishmael in order to depict the whale’s decimation of other ships prior to its encounter with Captain Ahab’s vessel. Ahab will also be depicted as more charismatic, rather than just hell-bent on revenge.

Evan Spiliotopoulos (“Wanted 2”) wrote the most recent draft. Guzikowski’s rewrite is expected to incorporate Bekmambetov’s notes.

Bazelevs principal Bekmambetov is producing with Jim Lemley and Bluegrass Films topper Scott Stuber, as well as Cormac and Marianne Wibberley.

Guzikowski is best known for writing Alcon Entertainment’s thriller “Prisoners,” which has Hugh Jackman attached to star for director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”). He also wrote an untitled sci-fi action pic for Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road banner. A modestly-budgeted remake of Icelandic pic “Reykjavik-Rotterdam,” U’s “Contraband” grossed nearly $100 million worldwide.

Guzikowski is repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment.