Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Disney and Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil are teaming up on two new projects: a feature version of the ’70s TV movie The Night Stalker, and a drama about the Midnight Ride made by Paul Revere to warn Colonial militia of the impending British invasion. Depp is the potential star of both films, and he and his Infinitum Nihil partner Christi Dembrowski will produce.

Like many, Dembrowski and Depp had fond memories of the ABC telepic and series The Night Stalker, and they got Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey sparked on a pitch for Depp to potentially play tabloid reporter Carl Kolchak. Originated by Darren McGavin, Kolchak was the dogged journalist first seen in the 1972 telepic (where he hunted a killer who was draining the blood of beautiful girls on the Las Vegas strip) and later in the ABC series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Kolchak’s investigations always seemed to lead him to the doorstep of vampires, zombies, werewolves and aliens. For its time, it was pretty scary stuff. The studio will go out to writers shortly. David Kennedy will be exec producer.

Dembrowski and Depp set up the Paul Revere film at Disney with Batman Forever scribes Lee and Janet Batchler writing the screenplay. The film will focus on the Boston silversmith and that 24-hour period in which he made the risky “midnight ride” from Charlestown to Lexington, becoming a seminal figure in the American Revolutionary War. Jon Brown and Infinitum Nihil’s Margaret French-Isaac will be executive producers.

It is a coup for Disney’s Ross and Bailey to be back in business with Depp, right after Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides cracked the $1 billion mark in worldwide gross. It’s the third time that the studio has reached the billion-dollar milestone on a film with Depp in the lead role, after Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Alice In Wonderland. Depp next saddles up for the studio with Armie Hammer in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Lone Ranger.

Depp and Dombrowski, whose Infinitum Nihil has a production deal with GK Films, have been busy: The Rum Diary, which was written and directed by Bruce Robinson and stars Depp, will be released by FilmDistrict on Oct.  28; the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D Hugo Cabret will be released Nov. 23 by Paramount Pictures; and they are now shooting the TV series transfer, Dark Shadows, at Warner Bros, with Depp starring and Tim Burton directing. Both Dark Shadows and The Night Stalker were based on series produced by the late Dan Curtis.

The Night Stalker will push the boundaries of the family film formula that Disney is following under Ross and Bailey. But as they showed by taking on the Ice Cube-directed Chrome and Paint, Ross and Bailey are broadening that definition into edgier territory. And who wouldn’t bet on The Night Stalker and Paul Revere with Depp a strong possibility to star in both? UTA reps Depp.

By the way, insiders have denied a story in The Wrap story that Depp is set for a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean.