Levy goes 'Way Back' with Mandate

He'll only produce, not helm like originally planned

"The Way Back," a coming-of-age dramedy that Shawn Levy was to direct and produce for Fox Searchlight, has now been set up at Mandate Pictures with Levy attached only to produce.

The project, which came together quickly on the Fox lot in spring 2007 after Levy's success with "Night at the Museum," was to mark a the director's move into more specialized fare. But Levy has a busy schedule at big Fox, producing the upcoming Peter Cattaneo comedy "The Rocker" and directing the "Museum" sequel for the studio, among other projects.

The character-driven "Back," based on a script by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, centers on a teenage boy from a broken home who strikes up an improbable friendship one summer with the operator of a water park.

The project is also being produced by Peter Principato and Paul Young through their shingle Principato-Young Entertainment.

Mandate has gone out to several directors, with the shingle at one point talking to Tom Bezucha ("The Family Stone"). No director has officially been attached.

Searchlight has a number of other big projects on tap in the coming months, including the awards play "The Secret Life of Bees" and the hip-hop biopic "Notorious."

Under topper Joe Drake, Mandate and owner Lionsgate are set to expand. Lionsgate is poised to bring on an exec who, like "The Way Back," came from Fox ranks, hiring Lisa Ellzey as exeutive vp of production.

Mandate is currently in production on the Drew Barrymore-helmed "Whip it!" and this fall will release teenage music-themed romance "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist."