Rodriguez to direct 'Barbarella'

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Robert Rodriguez has signed on to direct "Barbarella," a new feature adaptation of the classic sci-fi comic book series that Universal Pictures is fast-tracking for a 2008 worldwide release.

The character was immortalized in a 1968 movie starring Jane Fonda. Dino De Laurentiis, who produced the original film, will produce the update with Martha De Laurentiis.

"Barbarella" tells the story of a female mercenary who roams across the universe of a distant future, undertaking missions that require physical fearlessness, ingenuity and sensuality. The character debuted in 1962 in a French graphic magazine written and illustrated by Jean-Claude Forest and was known for her many adventures, often involving sex. There also was a musical produced in 2004.

"Dino De Laurentiis came to me and said, ' "Barbarella" is a world where you are completely free to unleash all your fantasies, creativity and imagination -- where the possibilities are limitless,' " Rodriguez said. "I love this iconic character and all that she represents, and I'm truly excited by the challenge of inviting a new audience into her universe."

"Barbarella is the ultimate science-fiction adventure heroine: smart, strong and sexy, " Dino De Laurentiis said. "In our vision, the future is female, and I can't wait to introduce Barbarella to a new generation of moviegoers."

Rodriguez is working with writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who are developing a completely original adventure for Barbarella. Purvis and Wade co-wrote "Casino Royale" and recently finished work on the next installment in the James Bond franchise, which has a working title of "Bond 22."

"When we decided to take Barbarella on again, " Martha De Laurentiis said, "we wanted the film to play as a big, legitimately exciting adventure in space, but we also know that the character of Barbarella is grounded in a very specific reality. Balancing those aspects requires a very deft hand. With Robert directing and Neal and Robert writing, we feel like we have the dream team in place. "

Rodriguez's coming on board puts to rest questions about what the in-demand director would do next. Despite "Grindhouse" not doing well at the box office -- Rodriguez directed the "Planet Terror" segment -- the helmer was being courted heavily by studios and was looking at megaphoning "The Jetsons" at Warner Bros. and "Land of the Lost" at Universal.

Rodriguez is repped by Endeavor.