Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Hugh Jackman is director Shawn Levy’s first choice to star in 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Voyage, the James Cameron-produced 3D tent pole film. It’s early days, but this would give Jackman a big movie to do while he and Fox sort things out with The Wolverine. The film was on a fast track to start production this year, until Darren Aronofsky dropped out as director. They’ve considered such helmers as Source Code‘s Duncan Jones and David Slade, but haven’t yet hired a helmer. There has also been complications because the Christopher McQuarrie script is set almost entirely in Japan, a country still dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Pushing the picture back wouldn’t hurt Fox that much, because expectations are high for this summer’s X-Men: First Class, which would keep the franchise vibrant. It would also keep Jackman and Levy in the Fox fold at a time when their recent collaboration, Real Steel, looks like it could be a big hit for DreamWorks in the fall.

Deadline revealed in February that Levy had come aboard Fantastic Voyage, the re-imagining of the 1966 original about a team of scientists shrunk into a ship in an attempt to save a colleague’s life. Fox and Cameron are planning an ambitious 3D film with a script by Shane Salerno and Laeta Kalogridis, and the new draft is coming in imminently. The tone of the movie now has a dramatic love story that has Levy very excited. Fantastic Voyage doesn’t have a green light yet. I’m told that Jackman and Levy got along famously on Real Steel, the DreamWorks action drama that will be distributed by Disney October 7. DreamWorks is so bullish on the film that it already has signed the original writer, John Gatins, to a 7-figure deal to write the sequel. Fox has made a deal for Levy and Jackman to team on an untitled pitch being written by Lost‘s Carlton Cuse. Jackman’s repped by WME.