MGM Motion Pictures and Relativity Media have acquired rights to Robert Ludlum's thriller The Matarese Circle.

The property had done the rounds at the US majors as executives hunted for a new spy franchise from the late author, whose Jason Bourne series has brought Universal Pictures such lavish rewards.

News late last week that Denzel Washington had been attached to star appears to have clinched the deal for MGM, which is mounting a return to production under the recently arrived chair of worldwide motion picture group, Mary Parent.

Washington will star as an American agent who teams up with his Russian nemesis to overthrow a shadowy organisation of killers.

Red-hot screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, who wrote 3:10 To Yuma and Universal's upcoming graphic novel action adaptation Wanted with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy, are attached to adapt the screenplay.

The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy executive producer Jeffrey Weiner will produce alongside Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler.

Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media will partner with MGM to develop, finance and produce. Head of creative Tucker Tooley will oversee production on behalf of Relativity.