GoldenEye’s Martin Campbell

NEW YORK (Variety) – Director Martin Campbell, last in theaters with the mountaineering thriller “Vertical Limit,“ is on track to make a sequel to his hit film “The Mask of Zorro.“

The Columbia Pictures project will likely mark his first film under a new first-look directing deal with the studio`s Sony Pictures Entertainment parent.

It is now being written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, scribes of the 1998 original which grossed more than $250 million worldwide and launched Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is Campbell`s intention to bring her back along with Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins.

For the present, though, Campbell is in talks to direct an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks bestseller “The Notebook.“ While a few deal points are still being worked out, he expects to start work as soon as threatened writers` and actors` strikes this summer are settled or averted.

The project is a stark contrast with his recent trio of hits “Goldeneye,“ “The Mask of Zorro“ and “Vertical Limit, “ each of which grossed north of $200 million worldwide and made him one of the most bankable helmers in town.

The Sparks novel tells the story of a man who makes daily visits to a woman in a nursing home to read her stories from a notebook. It becomes clear that she has Alzheimer`s Disease, and that he is reading their love story, which centers around a young woman and two men vying for her affections. It`s unclear which man she has chosen, though he`s obviously the one reading the tale.

The bestseller has been a magnet for A-list directors, with Steven Spielberg and James Sheridan nearly going forward. For Campbell, it is a welcome change from his logistically challenged recent efforts.

“I read the book and loved it four years ago, but Steven Spielberg was going to do with Tom Cruise, and I moved on,“ said Campbell. “After finishing the recent films, I want to do a smaller character-driven piece, one that harkens back to my BBC roots. It`s a love story with very few characters involved and not an explosion in sight, which I find very appealing.“

Campbell and producer Mark Johnson will be working on the script with screenwriter Jeremy Leven, who wrote the most recent draft.

The “Zorro“ sequel will follow “The Notebook.“ And Campbell hopes to follow that by directing “Travel Agent,“ also for Columbia.

“It`s a time travel story, but unlike most of them, it`s not a gimmick where you`re taken to medieval times or the future,“ Campbell said.

One project which Campbell won`t revisit is James Bond, even though the 1995 film he directed, “Goldeneye,“ restored the luster of the flagging franchise, grossing over $350 million worldwide and cementing Pierce Brosnan as a viable 007.

“It was great fun, but I just don`t know how many more control rooms I could blow up,“ said Campbell.

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