New UA team stalks 'Lions'

Redford at helm for Cruise, Wagner

United Artists, revived only weeks ago under new bosses Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, is making its first acquisition: the CAA package "Lions for Lambs" (HR 11/15).

The fledgling label is in final negotiations to pick up "Lions," a drama set in Afghanistan that will be directed by Robert Redford, who also will star along with Meryl Streep and, in his first acting gig since "Mission: Impossible III," Cruise.

Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan ("The Kingdom"), the multilayered story stars Redford as a professor in the U.S. with two students in Afghanistan. Cruise will play a U.S. senator. "I'm the investigative reporter on (Cruise's) ass," confirmed Streep, who co-starred with Redford in 1985's "Out of Africa."

Andrew Hauptman and Carnahan are producing. The duo first teamed up when Hauptman hired Carnahan to adapt "State of Play," a political drama based on a hit BBC miniseries that is set up at Universal.

Because "Lions" is not a Cruise/Wagner production, Cruise and Wagner will function as supervising executives and will not take producer credits, sources said.

Production is scheduled to begin at the end of January.