Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Anna Faris has been offered and is in negotiations for the female lead in The Dictator, the Paramount Pictures comedy that has Sacha Baron Cohen starring in dual roles. Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles is helming, and Paramount has set a May 11, 2012 worldwide release date. Scripted by former Seinfeld scribes Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel, The Dictator is being produced by Scott Rudin, Baron Cohen and the scribes.

Baron Cohen plays a ruthless dictator who heads to the U.S. for a meeting at the United Nations and finds that his number two has replaced him with an unsuspecting sheepherder lookalike. As the dictator wanders the city, he meets the owner of an organic food store. That’s the role Faris is negotiating. She turns around his dictatorial thinking, and there’s a little romance in it as well. Faris just sold a stalker pitch starring vehicle to Paramount, and she just wrapped the New Regency comedy What’s Your Number. She’s repped by Gersh and Anonymous Content’s Doug Wald. As for an official logline, Paramount released this one recently: “The film tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. It is inspired by the best selling novel, Zabibah and The King, by Saddam Hussein.”

The Dictator was one of the more electric material sales of 2011. Four studios chased the project when it was first shopped, but when it got down to two studios, Paramount made its serious intentions known by dispatching two goats (wearing Paramount logo T-shirts) to visit both Baron Cohen and his WME reps. The studio won the deal by committing to make the movie (and paying Baron Cohen $20 million). Despite that, the picture is budgeted at $58 million and Paramount executives love the script.

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