Paramount Pictures has acquired rights in UK, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand to Crusader Entertainment's action-adventure Sahara which is set to start shooting on Oct 28. Paramount already had North American rights to the film through a previous arrangement with Crusader. Patrick Wachsberger's Summit Entertainment is selling remaining territories on the film at Cannes.

Rob Bowman, director of The X-Files: The Movie and Disney/Spyglass Entertainment's upcoming Reign Of Fire with Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey, is directing the film, the first in a potential action franchise for Crusader and Paramount based on the books by Clive Cussler featuring adventure hero Dirk Pitt.

"Clive's Dirk Pitt books have an enormous, fanatical following, and his characters and stories demand the kind of big screen adaptation that Rob can deliver," said Sherry Lansing, Chairman, Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group, in a statement. "We're excited by the possibilities Sahara offers, and are thrilled to be working with Crusader to make this one of our tentpole releases for 2003."

Cussler has written 17 Dirk Pitt novels, all of which are owned by Crusader. They include Atlantis Found, Night Probe, Inca Gold, Flood Tide and Valhalla Rising.

Most of Sahara will be shot in the deserts of Namibia, according to producer and Crusader chief Howard Baldwin.