UA stalks 'Lions' as initial pickup

Redford, Cruise, Streep topline

United Artists, which was revived two weeks ago under new bosses Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, is making its first acquisition: the CAA package "Lions for Lambs."

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 Sydney Pollack's Oscar-winning 1985 epic "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, with an expected release in late 2007. MGM will distribute the movie domestically and handle worldwide rights.

Redford's most recent directorial outing was 2000's "The Legend of Bagger Vance"; he most recently starred in Lasse Hallstrom's "An Unfinished Life." Streep scored kudos as Miranda Preistley in this year's "The Devil Wears Prada."

Redford, Cruise and Streep are repped by CAA.