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EXCLUSIVE: Big-Screen Merlin in the Works

Legendary wizard Merlin is being conjured up for the big screen.

Working Title is developing a take on the magician, having picked up a pitch from author-screenwriter Jay Basu that brings Merlin into a contemporary setting.

Other details are being kept under a cloak of invisibility.

The figure of Merlin, who figures prominently in the legend of King Arthur, has been an influential force in pop culture. Characters from Gandalf to Obi-Wan Kenobi to Albus Dumbledore owe their creation to him.

And while most of Merlin’s appearances have stuck to the England of the past, he has appeared in modern times before, notably in a short-lived 1981 sitcom called Mr. Merlin in which Bernard Hughes portrayed the wizard living in San Francisco as an auto mechanic.

While having magicians in modern times can seem like a novel idea, it can also misfire, as seen with Disney’s recent The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Basu also is writing an adaptation of British crime novel Bad Traffic for producer Nick Wechsler. The book by Simon Lewis, which was released this spring, centers on a corrupt Chinese inspector who must travel to the U.K. to find his missing daughter. The man, not knowing a lick of English, partners with an unwilling sidekick, an illegal immigrant, to uncover a nest of human traffickers and Chinese gangsters. The project is out to directors.

Basu is repped by UTA and U.K.’s Independent Talent.