'Elite' helmer pledged for Universal's 'Sigma'


Universal has found a director for its international thriller "The Sigma Protocol": Berlin prize winner Jose Padilha.

The studio is in negotiations with the helmer of "Elite Squad," the action movie that won the Golden Bear at last year's Berlin International Film Festival, to direct the Robert Ludlum vehicle.

The studio is planning a summer shoot with European locations. Jeffrey Weiner of Ludlum Entertainment as well as Strike Entertainment are producing; Scott Bernstein and Franklin Leonard are overseeing for Universal.

"Sigma" is based on Ludlum's final completed novel, published after the author's death in 2001. Like the Jason Bourne franchise, another Uni property, the story involves a man on the run in Europe from assassins and agents.

The two plots differ sharply, though, with the latter using a World War II conspiracy and Nazis as a plot hook. "Sigma" will use the current economic climate and make the protagonist a Wall Street type who specializes in the economy of catastrophic events, known as "black swan events."

"Iron Man" co-writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum are penning the script. Paul Sandberg and Strike's Marc Abraham and Eric Newman are producing.

"Elite," which IFC released stateside, centers on a battle between police and drug dealers in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The Gersh-repped director also is attached to direct the thriller "The Willing Patriot" for Warner Bros. and the drug tale "Marching Powder" for Plan B. (partialdiff)