Steve McQueen biopic in the works

Jesse Wigutow-penned project joins another under way

Jesse Wigutow is taking on the King of Cool.

Wigutow has been hired to pen the screenplay for a biographical treatment of screen legend Steve McQueen for producers Michael Cerenzie and Christine Peters. The writing deal is for seven figures.

Wigutow will work from Marshall Terrill's biography "Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel," to which Cerenzie ("Before the Devil Knows You're Dead") and Peters ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days") nabbed film rights in January. Cerenzie-Peters Prods., which has a first-look deal with Paramount, will produce with Arthaus Pictures' Brian Oliver and Chuck Rock, who brought in the project.

CP Prods. president Graham Kaye is executive producing alongside Brett Granstaff, Keith Watkins and Kenny Johnson.

Wigutow's script will trace McQueen's development from reform-school delinquent to the highest-paid actor in Hollywood and cover the star's obsession with motorcycles and racing, his drug abuse, his marriages and affairs and his hard-fought battle with cancer, which felled him in 1980 at age 50. Cerenzie acquired the cooperation of McQueen's widow, Barbara Minty, as well.

"McQueen wasn't only the leading man of his era, he was the prototype for the modern-day movie star," Wigutow said. "Between the motorcycles and the paparazzi and his highly publicized relationship with Ali MacGraw, he epitomized fame and intrigue. When the opportunity comes along to really examine what makes a man like that tick, you say yes."

Said Cerenzie and Peters, "We were immediately impressed with the tremendous passion that Jesse brought to the table and especially his insight into the depths of a very complex, iconic figure."

The producers are looking to nail down a director and a star in time for a fall production.

It is only one of two McQueen-centered projects in the works. Producer and former McQueen publicist David Foster ("The Getaway") is developing a film derived from a memoir written by McQueen's first wife, Neile McQueen Toffel, titled "My Husband, My Friend." Roderick and Bruce Taylor ("The Brave One") are adapting.

CP and Arthaus also are teaming to produce "Black Mass," written by Nye Heron and "In America" helmer Jim Sheridan, who also will direct.

Wigutow, who is repped by UTA and Benderspink, has "Tender Is the Night" in development at Fox and "Irreparable Harm" set up at HBO with Eugene Jarecki attached to direct and Paula Weinstein attached to produce. He also is pulling together his directorial debut, "Where the Sidewalk Ends," for producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Abbie Cornish attached to star.