'War' follows '300' path

Tarsem is lined up as director

NEW YORK -- The producers of "300" are taking another trip to an epic battlefield.

Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton will produce "War of the Gods," a story with a similar scope and tone to the Warners breakout, with Ryan Kavanaugh, whose Relativity Media will finance the picture.

The production has attached music video and commercials director Tarsem ("The Fall"); Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, the brothers who are writing a draft of the Japanese thriller "Death Note" for Vertigo, are penning the screenplay. Tucker Tooley and Craig Flores will exec produce.

A number of studios were interested in the project since it went out about a week ago, but Relativity won rights with a bid of mid-six against seven figures and the commitment to make the movie quickly, with principal photography set for as early as the first quarter of 2009.

The Relativity move sets up a potential epic battle -- or at least a race to production -- with Warners' "Clash of the Titans," now set as a 2010 release and which recently attached "Incredible Hulk" director Louis Leterrier. Warners was interested in "Gods" and at one point even considered buying the project and using the script in place of the one it had for the "Titans" redo, but in the end it opted to stick to its original plan.

The widespread interest shows studios' desire to capitalize on the lower-budget, greenscreen-driven success of "300" -- like that film, "Gods" will be budgeted at $65 million-$75 million -- but also highlights how too many of those projects could create a logjam. Warners was in a similar position in 2004 with "Alexander" and "Troy" taking on similar themes; "Troy" outgrossed "Alexander" at the boxoffice.

"Gods" concerns the battles waged by Theseus, a warrior from Greek mythology, who leads a fight against the imprisoned titans. Among the hooks is that, unlike some mythological tales, gods fight alongside mortals. That moves it into a different historical time than "300" -- which concerned the battles of King Leonidas against the Persians -- but ensures a similar vibe and young-male demo.

Canton and Nunnari are teaming for the first time since their successful collaboration on "300," which grossed $450 million worldwide. Canton recently produced Paramount's child fantasy "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and is attached to produce MGM's "Fame" update. Nunnari is producing Miramax's upcoming ensemble pic "Everybody's Fine."

The Relativity buy continues an aggressive streak that makes it as much a first resort for big packages as proper studios; the company also is behind the Will Smith tentpole "Hancock" and in the spring nabbed desirable post-strike projects including "The Low Dweller" and "The Matarese Circle."