Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Catherine Zeta-Jones has been set to star in Side Effects, the thriller that Steven Soderbergh will direct. She joins Blake Lively, Jude Law and Channing Tatum, who are also negotiating. The Scott Z. Burns scripted film is being financed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, with production to start in April in New York on a thriller that has a budget in the $30 million range. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing with Greg Jacobs and Burns. Open Road recently signed on to distribute in the U.S.

The film is a potboiler in the Jagged Edge-Basic Instinct mold, and Zeta-Jones will play Dr. Erica Siebert. Lively plays a troubled and depressed woman who is taking serious amounts of prescription drugs, which leads her into a relationship with another doctor (Law). Her intake is ostensibly designed to help her deal with the anxiety surrounding the pending release of her husband (Tatum) from prison. Burns wrote it several years ago and set it up at Miramax under the title The Side Effects, intending to direct it but never getting there because of his busy scripting schedule that included the Soderbergh projects Contagion, The Informant! and Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Zeta-Jones and Soderbergh previously worked together on Traffic and Ocean’s Twelve, and he developed a musical version of Cleopatra for her that probably isn’t going to be part of his retirement tour. Her latest film, the Stephen Frears-directed Lay the Favorite, premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival and a distribution deal is expected shortly. Her upcoming projects include Playing the Field with Gerard Butler, Rock of Ages and Broken City, the latter of which stars Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe and is now shooting. Zeta-Jones is repped by WME.