Brett Ratner circles 'Conan'


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," co-produced by Nu Image/Millennium and Lionsgate Films, 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.

While the "Conan" development deal puts the brawny brigand on Ratner's docket, "BHC IV" is still likely to go into production first.

Ratner jibed to the "Conan" script by Gersh-repped 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 character. The writers are doing a quick polish to incorporate some of Ratner's ideas, with an eye toward releasing the film in 2010.

Joe Gatta and Avi Lerner of Millennium Films are producing, along with George Furla and Paradox Entertainment president and CEO Fredrik Malmberg.

Meanwhile, Paramount -- eyeing the successful fourth-installment resurrections of the long-dormant "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.

As for "Conan," Millennium and Lionsgate are eyeing a potential franchise and 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," Lerner said. "This is a coup for Millennium Films and proves that our choice of projects and material is attracting much higher-profile directors and actors."

Oliver Stone and John Milius wrote the surly fictional thief's first screen incarnation, "Conan the Barbarian," which Milius also directed in 1982. 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.

Oppenheimer and Donnelly also wrote "Sahara" and "A Sound of Thunder," and they have "Airborn" in development at Universal, with Stephen Sommers attached to direct.

Ratner, repped by CAA, most recently directed "Rush Hour 3" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."
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