UK TV comedian Steve Cooganhas landed the plum role of Phileas Fogg opposite Jackie Chan as Passepartoutin Walden Media's mega- budget movie adaptation of Jules Verne's AroundThe World In Eighty Days.
The move, which wasconfirmed by Coogan's UK agent ICM yesterday, marks Coogan's first lead role ina Hollywood movie, although the TV star made his feature debut in DNA Films' TheParole Officer and played legendaryFactory Records founder Tony Wilson in Michael Winterbottom's acclaimed 24Hour Party People. Coogan is wellknown in the UK for his comic characters such as Alan Partridge, a spoof chatshow host who expounds the virtues of his "sports casual" wardrobe,and Paul Calf, a beer-swilling sexist pig.
Paramount Pictures was tohandle North American distribution on the picture but recently pulled out overcreative differences leaving Walden, which is backed by Denver-based TheAnschutz Group, to foot the bill for the film which is in the $100m-plusregion. Summit Entertainment, which is handling international sales on thefilm, said this week that several other studios have been pursuing the film.Summit and Walden negotiated domestic deals on previous Walden films GhostOf The Abyss and Holes with Disney, which could be a likely home for AroundThe World In 80 Days, especially since Walden's remit of educationalentertainment with multi-media applications is a perfect fit for Disney'swholesome family brand.
Frank Coraci, whose previouscredits include Adam Sandler comedy smashes The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy, is directing, with production starting in March atStudio Babelsberg in Germany.
Chan, who this week used atrip to Berlin to scout for locations, plays Passepartout, Fogg'ssidekick on a round-the-world ballooning trip which Fogg has bet members of hisclub that he can complete in less than 80 days. Set in the 19thcentury, the film sees the characters in hair-raising adventures - andlocations - all around the world.
The book has been filmedthree times before - in 1919 in Germany with Conrad Veidt as Fogg andEugen Rex as Passepartout, in 1956 by director Michael Anderson with DavidNiven and Cantinflas in the roles (the film won the best picture Oscar) and in1989 as a TV miniseries with Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle in the roles.
(Mike Goodridgecontributed to this report)