David Cronenberg circling Ludlum thriller

Tue Oct 7, 2008 7:55pm EDT
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By Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - David Cronenberg is making his first foray into the big-budget action arena.

The Canadian filmmaker is negotiating to direct "The Matarese Circle," a political thriller that has Denzel Washington attached.

The MGM project is derived from a Robert Ludlum conspiracy novel. In the 1979 book, two rival intelligence agents, one American, one Soviet, find themselves working together to ferret out and vanquish members of a mysterious group of criminals called the Matarese that has infiltrated the highest levels of American government. Ludlum published a sequel to "Circle," "The Matarese Countdown," in 1997, but the studio did not acquire the rights to it.

MGM hopes "The Matarese Circle" will beget a franchise, in much the same way as the "Bourne" trilogy, also derived from Ludlum novels, grossed $945 million theatrically worldwide. A fourth Bourne film is in development at Universal with returning director Paul Greengrass.

Several other Ludlum properties are in development at Paramount ("The Chancellor Manuscript") and Universal ("The Sigma Protocol"). And Summit Entertainment is developing a remake of Ludlum's early work, "The Osterman Weekend," which Sam Peckinpah turned into a film in 1983.

Famed for such edgy releases as "The Fly" and "Crash," Cronenberg most recently directed the Oscar-nominated films "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises." The opera he adapted from his remake of "The Fly" opened in September at the Los Angeles Opera.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Director of the movie David Cronenberg attends a news conference for the movie "Eastern Promises" during the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, September 8, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>