Fox plans new 'Used Guys'

Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon circling project

"Used Guys" just might be re-activated.

The high-concept sci-fi comedy, kneecapped by Fox several years ago, is rising again in a new guise. While the earlier incarnation would have seen Jay Roach directing Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey, the new iteration will change the story's focus into a vehicle for Stiller and Reese Witherspoon.

"Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are negotiating to take on helming duties. No writer has been hired.

The comedy takes place in a future run by women, who clone and trade men like used cars. Stiller and Carrey were to play returned, outdated models who go in search of their masculinity.

The current take at Fox focuses more on the relationship between Stiller's character and Witherspoon's clone owner. Roach will remain a producer on the project along with Stiller's Red Hour Films.

Dave Guion and Michael Handelman ("The Ex") wrote the Roach-Carrey version of the project, which was to co-star Emily Mortimer, based on an original draft by Mickey Birnbaum. The film had a start date of June 11, 2006, and a release date of June 15, 2007.

But in May 2006, as the project was entering preproduction, Fox pulled the plug on it as too costly an enterprise, with a $112 million budget and Roach, Stiller and Carrey reportedly accounting for 27% of the backend profits. At the time, the studio portrayed the decision as merely a delay because of the stars' scheduling conflicts.

Fox hasn't yet successfully mined the new vein of guy-centric comedy that has resulted in hits for studios including Universal and Sony. Instead, the studio has done best with its comedies aimed at women, from "The Devil Wears Prada" to "Marley & Me."

But Fox has a long-standing relationship with Stiller, who starred in 2004's "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and "Night at the Museum" and the latter's upcoming sequel. The new and retooled "Used Guys," with its changes in personnel and presumably tighter cost controls reflecting current frugal industry economies, could make for a more affordable ride.

The Endeavor-repped Stiller is filming Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg" and has "Little Fockers" lined up behind that. As a director, he recently signed to helm "Help Me Spread Goodness" for Participant Media even as he develops "The Trial of the Chicago 7" for DreamWorks. He next appears in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," which Fox releases May 22.

Witherspoon, repped by CAA and Management 360, most recently provided the voice for Ginormica in DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens," which has earned $325 million worldwide. She is attached to star in forthcoming projects from writer-directors James L. Brooks and Cameron Crowe.

UTA-repped Dayton and Faris also have the Tom Perrotta adaptation "The Abstinence Teacher" in development with Bona Fide Prods., which also produced "Sunshine."