Billy Bob Thornton to star in boxing pic

'Bull Durham' helmer Ron Shelton to write and direct

Million Dollar Billy Bob?

Billy Bob Thornton is attached to star in "Pound for Pound," a boxing drama based on a novel from F.X. Toole, the author of the book that became "Million Dollar Baby."

Ron Shelton will write and direct the indie film, which Leslie Greif and Herb Nanas are producing via their Greif Company banner. Elie Samaha will exec produce.

The project centers on the parallel lives of a retired and widowed boxer beset by depression after his grandson is killed in a car accident and an up-and-coming teenage Latino fighter from a difficult background. The lives of the two intersect in unexpected ways. Thornton will play the retired boxer, while producers are out to cast on the younger role. The project aims to shoot in the first quarter of 2010.

Producers say that despite the dark undertones, there remains an optimistic note to the pic. "Unlike 'Million Dollar Baby,' which was fabulous but a dark movie and a tragic story, this is a dark story but with a life-affirming, hopeful ending," Greif said.

Toole, the pen name for the late boxing cutman Jerry Boyd, gained fame two years after he died when the stories in his collection "Rope Burns," became the basis for the Clint Eastwood-Paul Haggis drama "Million Dollar Baby." The 2004 movie earned $207 million worldwide and was nominated for seven Oscars and won four, including best picture.

"Pound" was published two years later, the manuscript shaped by his agent Nat Sobel and a freelance editor.

The CAA-reped Thornton is attached to produce and star in the baseball drama "Three Nights in August," among other pics.

The WME-repped Shelton is also attached to direct "Q School," a golf comedy he wrote that Tim Allen and Dennis Quaid are eyeing for starring roles. The movie takes the director, know for a range of sports-themed movies such as "Bull Durham" and "White Men Can't Jump," back into the ring for the first time since "Play it to the Bone," a Las Vegas-set boxing pic he wrote and directed and which starred Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson.

Greif Co. has a range of credits, including the A&E reality series "Gene Simmons: Family Jewels" and upcoming A&E series "Teach" and History Channel show "Chasing Mummies." Greif helped created "Walker, Texas Ranger" while Nanas counts pics such as "Rocky III" and "Defending Your Life" among his credits.