LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Arnold Schwarzenegger has zeroed in on the film that will mark his return to the big screen: "Cry Macho," a drama about a down-on-his-luck horse trainer who is hired to kidnap a 9-year-old boy.
Filming is set to begin in September. Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") will direct. Producer Al Ruddy, an Oscar winner for both "The Godfather" and "Million Dollar Baby," has been nurturing the project for years.
"I guarantee that you'll get another look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in this movie," Ruddy said. "Arnold always plays these big muscular guys, but there's a sweetness to Arnold in real life, and we want to bring that sweetness to the screen. Now that Brad's met with Arnold, he's convinced there's an accessibility and vulnerability there that he wants to bring out."
The project's financier, QED International, will begin offering it to international buyers at the Cannes Film Festival next week.
Schwarzenegger's deal calls for the actor to receive $12.5 million plus 25% of gross ticket sales from the first dollar. Ruddy and Schwarzenegger also will end up co-owning the negative on the film.
While the former governor also is attached to a "Terminator" package that is being offered to studios, with "Macho," he is opting for a movie that is more a character study than a full-blown action piece -- although some action elements have been added to accommodate the star.
The film is based on the 1975 novel, "Cry Macho," by N. Richard Nash, who also wrote the play The Rainmaker. Nash, who died in 2000, wrote the screenplay, which Ruddy has re-optioned over the years.
"I just would never let go of this one," Ruddy, 81, said. Actors ranging from Burt Lancaster to Pierce Brosnan expressed interest in the lead role. And at one point, it looked as if Clint Eastwood might star in and direct.
Because he didn't want to lose control of the property, Ruddy said, he never took it to a studio but continued to look for ways to package it independently.
Schwarzenegger, 63, will play Mike, a horse trainer whose wife and son have died. His former boss makes him an offer he can't refuse: $400,000 to kidnap the boss' trust-fund son, who is living with the man's ex-wife in Mexico. But when Mike locates the boy, a real troublemaker, the ex-wife doesn't want the kid. But as Mike and the boy head back to the states, with the Federales on their trail, they develop a father-son bond.
"If it works, and I think it will," Ruddy said, "this could be a classic. There's an emotional line to the story that really works. At the end of the movie, I'm hoping audiences will be laughing and crying at the same time."