Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After getting to within weeks of a production start in China on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not before pulling the plug in 2007, Paramount Pictures is taking another shot at turning newspaper columnist Robert Ripley’s life into an epic film. Oscar-winning scribe Eric Roth has come aboard to do a complete rewrite overhaul. Tim Burton, who had been set to direct that earlier incarnation, is gone. But Jim Carrey is still attached to star as Ripley.

The film is about Ripley’s search around the world for the most unusual people and places that he immortalized in his newspaper column. The locales were exotic and the sights were unbelievable, but the film is about Ripley’s journey to appreciate that the unusual people were more than just conquests to be cataloged. The film was green lit at a $175 million, with a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, but the picture halted when Carrey came up with some ideas for a major overhaul. While Burton liked those ideas, stopping the film’s momentum cost the film  its director. Burton went off to do Sweeney Todd, and dropped out of the project. A new version was attempted with Chris Columbus and Master and Commander scribe John Collee, but that too stalled.

The addition of Roth to the mix gives reason to be optimistic once again about the project. Roth, who won his Oscar for Forrest Gump, has most recently adapted the Jonathan Safran Foer novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which Warner Bros and producer Scott Rudin are about to put into production with Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks starring. Roth also scripted The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich and The Good Shepherd.

Carrey turned in an acclaimed performance as conman Steven Russell in I Love You Philip Morris and just wrapped Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Carrey hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend.