Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Tom Shadyac, once a prolific director of blockbuster comedies before a near-death experience sent him on a life-changing journey chronicled in his feature documentary I Am, is returning to laffer mode. Shadyac is in talks with The Weinstein Company to helm its remake of the Olivier Nakache/Eric Toledano French sensation The Intouchables.

TWC has a script by Paul Feig, and Colin Firth has been circling to star, though casting is not locked. The picture seems primed for remake — it grossed $416 million overseas, and only $10 million domestic. That is a decent number for a foreign film but leaves a lot of room for an American audience to discover the story. TWC released it here and got remake rights as part of the bargain. Feig was once going to make it his directorial follow-up to Bridesmaids but he left the project after writing the screenplay about an aristocrat who, after being paralyzed in a hang-gliding accident, hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker. TWC’s Dylan Sellers has been shepherding the redo.

Firth, who won the Academy Award playing such a character in The King’s Speech for TWC, seems a natural to play the role originated by Francois Cluzet (Omar Sy played the caretaker), but some other actors have been chasing the role as well. The surprise here is Shadyac, in his first directing assignment in a narrative feature since 2007′s Evan Almighty. That film was pretty much the first Shadyac effort that didn’t work after a dizzying list of hits that include Bruce Almighty, Liar, Liar, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor and Patch Adams. These Intouchables talks have taken awhile, and part of that was a director at the top of the pay scale returning to a business that just doesn’t pay as well as it once did. They seem to be in synch now, as Shadyac’s deal is being made by WME’s Dan Aloni.

By all accounts, Evan Almighty was an arduous experience, but Shadyac’s had plenty of time to recharge his batteries. After suffering post-concussion syndrome following a bicycle accident that left him hyper-sensitive to light and noise, Shadyac changed his life dramatically. He gave away much of the money he made for causes that included opening a homeless shelter in Virginia, and he simplified his life by selling his Hollywood mansion and moving into a trailer park in Malibu. He chronicled much of this in the documentary, which also showed him meeting with intellectual and spiritual leaders to seek answers to what ails the world. Now he seems ready to dive back into comedy.

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