LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner is in final negotiations to take on literature's most famous barbarian.
Over the past few weeks, Ratner has been considering signing on to direct a 21st century update of "Conan," even as he pushes another high-profile project -- a fourth installment of the "Beverly Hills Cop" franchise -- toward a greenlight at Paramount, where he recently set up shop. The latter film is still likely to go into production first, at Paramount.
Ratner jived to the "Conan" script by "Sahara" duo Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly, who looked to Robert E. Howard's original pulp stories of the 1930s to create their take on the brawny brigand. The writers are doing a quick polish to incorporate some of Ratner's ideas, with an eye toward releasing the film in 2010.
The project is set up at Nu Image/Millennium and Lionsgate, which envision a very R-rated approach in the $85 million budget range.
"The story opens on the battlefield where Conan is born and tells the origin story that sets the stage for what will be the first of multiple films," said Millennium principal Avi Lerner.
Oliver Stone and John Milius wrote the surly fictional thief's first screen incarnation, "Conan the Barbarian," which marked the breakthrough feature for Arnold Schwarzenegger; Milius also directed. A jokier, less blood-and-boob-heavy sequel, "Conan the Destroyer," destroyed the character's franchise chances in 1984 by aiming for a PG-13 rating.
Meanwhile, Paramount -- eyeing the successful fourth-installment resurrections of the "Die Hard" and "Indiana Jones" franchises -- has been gunning to get Detroit's funniest cop back on the streets for a summer 2010 release with Ratner behind the camera. Much-wanted "Wanted" scribes Michael Brandt and Derek Haas have been working on the script so the filmmakers can take advantage of a small scheduling window open for perpetually working star Eddie Murphy.
Ratner most recently directed "Rush Hour 3" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."