Mike Fleming

Jack Bender is atop the short list of directors to resuscitate the Tom Clancy-created Jack Ryan franchise, with Chris Pine playing the character in a contemporized original story that picks up Ryan before he joined the CIA. Paramount Pictures and co-financier Skydance Productions are readying for a February production start and I’ve heard Bender is the fave among a group of directors who’ve met on the coveted gig. He’s meeting today with Pine at the studio. The pic’s tentatively titled Moscow, and has a script by Adam Cozad. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mace Neufeld are producing.

While Bender has features on his resume, his momentum comes from his work as director and exec producer on Lost, where he helmed the finale. He has also directed episodes of Alias, The Sopranos, and many other series. Paramount long ago locked in Pine to play Ryan, after the studio saw what they had when he played Captain Kirk in Paramount’s relaunch of Star Trek. Pine next stars with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in the Fox comedy This Means War, and the plan is to put the Jack Ryan film into production by February so Pine can play Ryan and then reprise as Kirk in the Star Trek sequel.

UTA-repped Bender would become the second key member of the Lost team to springboard into a big feature opportunity. Damon Lindelof last week made a Fox deal to rewrite the Alien prequel for Ridley Scott, though Fox insiders said that he and Ridley Scott agreed on a take could potentially be a standalone science fiction film.

The Ryan franchise has been dormant since 2002′s The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck playing a young Ryan in a film that didn’t live up to its predecessors despite a $193 million worldwide gross. The franchise was launched with Alec Baldwin in the lead role in The Hunt for Red October, which grossed $200 million worldwide in 1990. Harrison Ford took over the character for 1992′s Patriot Games, which grossed $178 million worldwide, and 1994′s Clear and Present Danger, which grossed $215 million worldwide. Cozad’s script was originally meant to be a freestanding drama, called Dubai. He rewrote, changed the venue and retrofit it for the Ryan franchise.