De Niro, 50 Cent visit 'New Orleans'

Robert De Niro and 50 Cent are in final negotiations to co-star in "New Orleans," a police thriller set to be directed by Tim Hunter. The film, previously titled "Microwave Park," centers on a cop who thinks his partner has died during Hurricane Katrina, only to discover that he was shot to death. When he gets a new partner, the pair investigate the murder, which takes them on a journey into a world of police corruption. De Niro is attached to play the lead, with 50 Cent as his new partner. The project originally was set in Los Angeles but changed to New Orleans after Katrina. Production is tentatively scheduled to begin filming in February in New Orleans. Millennium Films, Emmett/Furla Films and Len Evans are producing. Millennium is repping sales of the film at the American Film Market.

'Best Time' for Capitol Films

U.K.-based sales and financing house Capitol Films is backing the Keira Knightley-Lindsay Lohan starrer "The Best Time of Our Lives," the company said Wednesday. Capitol will finance the movie and take worldwide sales duties on the John Maybury-helmed title, set to begin shooting in the spring in Wales. Billed as a love story, the film revolves around two free-spirited women connected by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who loves them both. The movie will be produced by Rebekah Gilbertson and Sarah Radclyffe from a script penned by Sharman Macdonald. The producers are casting the role of Thomas. "Capitol is excited to be financing 'The Best Times of Our Lives' and introducing the project to distributors at the AFM," Capitol managing director Jane Barclay said. Capitol also is financing and selling worldwide rights to "Blackout," a high-concept serial killer thriller from Mexican director Rigoberto Castenada. The film stars Amber Tamblyn ("The Grudge 2") and Aidan Gillen and will be produced by Valerio Morabito and Simon O'Leary. Ed Dougherty penned the screenplay, based on the best-selling Italian novel "Blackout" by Gianluca Morozzi.

Producing trio launch Grand Illusions

Producers Jonathan Sanger, Ed Elbert and Sarah Ryan Black launched indie film production and funding outfit Grand Illusions Entertainment with financing partner David Steiner and introduced one of their first features, "Beast of Bataan," for presales at AFM. The World War II drama starring Charlie Hunnam was to be directed by Paul Verhoeven, who was replaced by Fred Schepisi in an amicable parting when Verhoeven's duties on "Black Book" caused a scheduling conflict. "Bataan" is slated to begin filming in the spring in Australia. The project has been presold to Greece, Portugal, Russia and the Middle East by Film Bridge International. The company plans to back two to three features a year in the $5 million-$30 million budget range as well as co-finance several television projects. Its upcoming slate includes Simon Brand's Spanish-language drama "Paraiso Travel," starring John Leguizamo; Eric Red's thriller "100 Feet"; an "East of Eden" remake, with development and production funding and distribution by Universal Pictures; and an adaptation of the soon-to-be-published mob novel trilogy "Dark Legacy." Grand Illusions headquarters will be on the Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood and in Brooklyn at Steiner Studios.

Metcalfe gets 'Loaded' for Wingman

Jesse Metcalfe is set to star as a rich club kid in "Loaded" for Corey Large's Wingman Prods. Metcalfe will play a character whose life takes a downward spiral into a world of drugs, sex and violence. Production on the film begins this week in Los Angeles with Wingman partner Alan Pao directing. Nathalie Kelley, Monica Keena, Johnny Messner, Vinnie Jones, Large and hip-hop performer Kurupt play supporting roles in the film. Shimon Arama's Filmmakers Ltd. is repping the film at AFM. Large and Pao produced "Window Theory" and "Chasing Ghosts" and recently completed postproduction on their latest film, "Toxic." Metcalfe is repped by Endeavor.

Torres helming Latino 'Sense'

Fina Torres is set to direct a contemporary, Latino version of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," to be titled "Sense and Senibilidad," for Camelot Pictures and Odd Lot Entertainment. Torres ("Woman on Top") will direct the project, set in Los Angeles, from a script she wrote with Luis Alfaro ("Electricidad"). Gary Gilbert, a principal at Camelot, will produce with Odd Lot principals Deborah Del Prete and Gigi Pritzker. Odd Lot's Linda McDonough will co-produce. Torres is repped by Keith Redmon at Anonymous Content and the law firm of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols & Adler.

Magnolia explodes for 'Dynamite'

Magnolia Pictures has acquired all North American rights to "Dynamite Warrior" (Tabunfire), a martial arts movie from Thailand directed by Chalerm Wongpim. Produced by Prachya Pinkaew ("Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior"), the movie stars Dan Chupong ("Born to Fight") as the Rocket Thief, a young man bent on revenge after witnessing his parents' murder by a malicious killer. It will feature stunts by stunt coordinator Panna Rittikrai, who also worked on "Ong Bak." Magnolia's head of acquisitions Tom Quinn and head of business affairs Jason Janego negotiated the deal with Sahamongkolfilm exec vp Gilbert Lim. Magnolia will release the film domestically in the summer.