Keanu Reeves in for new 'Jekyll'

Actor to star in adaptation from scribe Justin Haythe

Universal is developing a modern retelling of the classic novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," with Keanu Reeves attached to star and Justin Haythe, writer of "Revolutionary Road," penning the script.

Nicolas Winding Refn is in negotiations to direct the project, titled "Jekyll." It is being produced by Erwin Stoff and Red Wagon Entertainment's Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher.

Robert Louis Stevenson's tale about a doctor who scientifically develops an evil self has become so pervasive in popular culture that the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" conjures the idea of a split personality. The story has been translated to the screen and stage dozens of times, with several deviations including comedy, kids ("Jekyll and Heidi") and gender (1995's "Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde"). The story has seen modern iterations as recently as 2007, when the BBC aired a miniseries with the story set in the present as Hyde ran amok in London.

Plot details for this "Jekyll" are being kept locked in the laboratory.

Universal clearly is enamored with the tale as it also has been developing a take on it with Guillermo del Toro, though the two couldn't be more different.

Del Toro, who has an affinity for gothic horror as well as creature features, aims to stick more closely to the Stevenson tale. Also, del Toro's project is on the slow track as the filmmaker works on "The Hobbit" for New Line and MGM, which is expected to take up the next five years. Even when he comes back, he likely will tackle one or two other Universal projects before his version, so a good amount of time will exist between the projects.

Universal executive vp production Peter Cramer and vp production Erik Baiers will oversee the "Jekyll" project.

Refn, repped by WMA and Anonymous, is a Danish director who made a name with homegrown gritty thrillers known as the "Pusher" series. He co-wrote and directed the indie crime biopic "Bronson," starring Tom Hardy, which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

Haythe, repped by CAA, also wrote the script for "The Clearing," the Robert Redford kidnapping thriller. He is working on Fox 2000's remake of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."

Reeves, repped by CAA and 3 Arts Entertainment, most recently starred in Fox's remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles; Steven Zeitchik reported from New York.