Brian De Palma has signed on to direct The Black Dahlia, the film of the James Ellroy classic noir novel which is being sold here by new sales company Signature Pictures International.

Josh Hartnett is in negotiations to star in the film which is being produced by Art Linson, who produced DePalma's The Untouchables, and Rudy Cohen, with Signature chief Moshe Diamant executive producing.

Signature, which is showing footage in Mifed of Imaginary Heroes starring Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels and Emile Hirsch, is also talking up three new projects:

In Search Of Ina Byers, a comedy to be directed by Charles Shyers (the upcoming remake of Alfie, Father Of The Bride) and produced by Linson; the script is written by Larry Spencer and Ken Kuta.

Fantasy adventure Neverwas written and to be directed by Joshua Michael Stern which is the story of a young man whose problems are unlocked with the help of a series of children's books set in the land of Neverwas; and Taste Of Water, another project being developed by Linson with Sam Bayer, the music video director who made Nirvana's classic Smells Like Teen Spirit clip, and actor Sean Penn.

Diamant said that The Black Dahlia will see De Palma return to the same period crime territory as The Untouchables. The film, scripted by Josh Friedman is a fictional account of the notorious murder in 1947 of an actress in Los Angeles and the investigation into the case. De Palma replaces David Fincher who was long attached to direct but dropped out after Cannes this year.

Signature Pictures International was set up to handle sales and marketing for all the films made as part of the production partnership between Diamant, Linson, Cohen and Jan Fantl. Diamant said that Imaginary Heroes, which marks the directorial debut of Dan Harris, is currently in post-production and will be ready in time for next year's Cannes Film Festival.