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With Gabriel Allon film, Paul Haggis eyes an Israeli spy

June 23, 2011 |  9:07 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Haggis moved in an action-thriller direction with the Russell Crowe prison-break movie "The Next Three Days" last fall. He may keep the chases coming.

Rembrand The "Crash" filmmaker is in talks to write the spy film Universal is planning based on Daniel Silva's trademark Gabriel Allon character, said two sources briefed on the project who were not authorized talk about it publicly.

It's possible Haggis would also direct it, but one of the sources  said that the project is in early development and that any decision on a director would be much further off. A Universal spokeswoman declined to comment.

Allon is a fortysomething Mossad agent who has appeared in ten of the bestselling author's books. Having avenged the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics earlier in his career, Allon has taken a quieter job restoring art. But he is often called out of retirement for covert missions, many of them involving terrorists with ties to radical Islamic groups.

The first movie (in what the studio hopes will turn into a franchise) could draw from Silva's inaugural Allon book, "The Kill Artist," or blend the  story lines from several books.  (Silva's most recent Allon novel was last year's "The Rembrandt Affair"; a new title, "Portrait of a Spy" is due out next month.)

Universal acquired the Allon series this spring for former NBC chief Jeff Zucker to produce. The Allon character is considered a meaty one for an actor in his late 30's or 40's. The studio is doubling down on the spy genre, also rebooting the Bourne franchise with Jeremy Renner.

Haggis has a number of projects on his plate, including a revival of television show "The Equalizer." He also told 24 Frames last fall that he was writing a romantic drama that would replicate the interlocking structure of his Oscar-winning "Crash."

Like Allon, the filmmaker has been seeking justice in the context of radical Islam, recently calling Hollywood to action on behalf of jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Book jacket of "The Rembrandt Affair." Credit: Putnam

Haggis is known for a meticulous development process that often sees him write and refine a project closely before he gets behind the camera.

 
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