Uni gets busy on 'Fockers' spawn

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"Little Fockers" finally is coming of age. The long-gestating third installment in the comedy franchise is maturing quickly at Universal — but with new parents.

John Hamburg has been brought on to write the screenplay based on his treatment, after Larry Stuckey penned an earlier draft.

The Endeavor-repped Hamburg is a Ben Stiller collaborator who did drafts on "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers" and worked with the star on "Along Came Polly." He also wrote and directed the comedy "I Love You, Man," set for release next month via Paramount.

And Jay Roach, who directed the first two films and had been loosely attached to direct "Little Fockers" will not helm the picture. The hyphenate is concentrating on the comic romp "Dinner for Schmucks" for DreamWorks and Parkes/Bowles and only will produce "Fockers."

Producers instead are out to a handful of top comedy directors and hope to close a deal imminently.

Among the candidates in the running are comedy veteran Paul Weitz, who wrote and directed "In Good Company" and co-wrote and co-directed "About a Boy"; the quirky-comedy figure David Wain, writer-director of cult pic "Wet Hot American Summer" and Universal's male-buddy hit "Role Models"; and Peyton Reed, who directed the current Jim Carrey starrer "Yes Man."

After some slowed momentum, Universal and Tribeca Prods. are moving forward quickly on the project, with an eye toward shooting as early as summer or fall.

On the casting side, Stiller, Robert De Niro and Owen Wilson — the last of whom had unrelated small parts in the first two pics as an ex-fiance and a minister, respectively, but could have an expanded role here — are in negotiations to star in "Fockers."

The "Fockers" franchise stars Stiller as a liberal, do-no-right husband and De Niro as his conservative, unforgiving father-in-law. "Little Fockers" is expected to revolve around the children of Stiller and Teri Polo, who plays his wife.

The property has provided a reliable cash infusion for Universal, with the first two pics earning more than $800 million worldwide.

But after the sequel "Meet the Fockers" came out in 2004, development encountered some hiccups. The "Little Fockers" project was announced two years ago with Roach protege Stuckey writing the script but until recently had not gained sufficient traction. (partialdiff)
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