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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Oscar-winning "Usual Suspects" writer Christopher McQuarrie has signed on for double duty with United Artists, the largely somnolent studio headed by Tom Cruise.
UA has brought in McQuarrie to write and produce two high-profile projects: "The Champions," an adaptation of an old British TV series; and "The Monster of Florence," a fact-based story about a series of murders in Italy. Cruise may take one of the lead roles in "Florence."
McQuarrie's concrete involvement suggests a new push to accelerate UA's slate. The studio has a $500 million production fund that requires three UA movies to be released by mid-2010. But the only project greenlit by UA since Cruise and business partner Paula Wagner took control of the MGM division two years ago is Cruise's World War Two drama "Valkyrie," due in theaters next month. McQuarrie co-wrote that film.
"The Champions" revolves around a group of government agents who encounter a hidden civilization that grants them superhuman talents. McQuarrie is hashing out the script with Guillermo del Toro, who will also produce the film but is not attached to direct.
"The Monster of Florence" tells the strange-but-true tale of popular author Douglas Preston and Italian journalist Mario Spezi, who began investigating a series of unsolved murders in Italy and wound up implicated in the case. Two years ago, McQuarrie optioned the film rights to the duo's ensuing best-seller along with "American Beauty" producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen.
UA also is developing the children's literature series "Ranger's Apprentice," the first book of which "Crash" director Paul Haggis is adapting with his daughter Alissa into a possible franchise.