Searchlight booked for 'Baggage'

Talbert will write, helm, produce pic from his novel

Fox Searchlight is ticketed to produce and finance David Talbert's "Baggage Claim," about a single flight attendant who jets around the country in search of a husband.

Talbert, a multihyphenate who has earned comparisons to Tyler Perry, will write, direct and produce the movie based on his 2005 novel. Casting is under way for the prestrike project, which Searchlight hopes to shoot ahead of a potential actors strike in the summer.

"Baggage" centers on the thirtysomething Montana Moore, who, frustrated with being single, embarks on a 30-day, 30,000-mile barnstorm across America to find an appropriate suitor. Along the way she encounters several interested prospects, including a preacher, a politician and a tycoon.

The project marks the latest in a series of movies aimed at black audiences, including such Perry products as "Why Did I Get Married?" and "Madea's Family Reunion" and Preston Whitmore's "This Christmas," which earned $50 million at the domestic boxoffice during the holiday season.

It also signals that Hollywood might have found another writer to follow Perry as the scribe continues to churn out hits.

Talbert also wrote, directed and produced the Sony/Screen Gems film "First Sunday," which opens wide today. The inspirational comedy stars Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan as friends who plot to rob a church.

Like Perry, the WMA-repped Talbert is a veteran of the "chitlin circuit." For years they penned plays geared toward black audiences and took them to cities with large black populations, often to theaters that served as the pre- integration home of such icons as Duke Ellington, B.B. King and Richard Pryor. Earlier Talbert works that traveled the circuit include "The Fabric of a Man" and "Love Makes Things Happen."

Searchlight has sought to expand its presence in movies centering on the black experience, with plans to move ahead on a biopic about late rapper the Notorious B.I.G. and an adaptation of the multiracial female-bonding book "The Secret Life of Bees."