It's no illusion: Uni reviving 'Fred'

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Universal is resurrecting "Drop Dead Fred," this time as a starring vehicle for Russell Brand.

Dennis McNicholas, one of the writers of Universal's upcoming "Land of the Lost," will pen the remake. Marc Platt is producing via his studio- based Marc Platt Prods. along with Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

The 1991 original starred Phoebe Cates as a wallflower who loses her job and husband during the course of a lunch hour. Forced to live back home, she's reunited with her childhood imaginary friend (Brit actor Rik Mayall), who promises to help but causes more havoc.

Produced by PolyGram and Working Title, the first "Fred" was critically drubbed and commercially unsuccessful. But it did achieve a certain cult status and is considered a film that fell short of its full potential.

The take for the new "Fred" is to make a film in the tone of "Beetlejuice," building a universe around the concept of imaginary friends. Brand would play the trouble-making pal.

Brand seems to making Universal his American home. The comedian and former BBC host made his U.S. screen debut with the studio's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and is rehearsing for the Judd Apatow-produced "Get Him to the Greek," which shoots in May.

Brand also appeared in Disney's "Bedtime Stories" and is attached to star in Warner Bros.' remake of "Arthur."

McNicholas, a longtime writer on "Saturday Night Live," is scripting the feature version of "H.R. Pufnstuf" for Columbia. He and Brand are repped by Endeavor.

Platt is producing "Scott Pilgrim," Universal's adaptation of the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O'Malley now lensing in Toronto. (partialdiff)
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