Universal Pictures has paidan estimated $10m for North American rights to Brian DePalma's film of JamesElroy's The Black Dahlia starringJosh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank fromSignature Pictures.

The studio plans a 2006 releasefor the 1940s-set thriller about the two cops investigating the brutal murderof Elizabeth Short.

The film was produced by ArtLinson, Moshe Diamant and Rudy Cohen of Signature Pictures and Avi Lerner ofMillenium Films. German media fund Equity Pictures KG III invested in thepicture.

Universal Pictures vicechairman Marc Shmuger negotiated the deal here in Cannes this week withDiamant. "It is very rare to have the opportunity to find a project of thisquality that is self-financed," said Shmuger. "We are thrilled to bein business with the film's producers and with the legendary filmmaker, BrianDe Palma. This film is a real gem."

Lerner's Nu Image is handling international sales on the film which hasa star-studded lineup of below-the-line talent including Vilmos Zsigmond asdirector of photography, Dante Ferretti as production designer and Jenny Beavanas costume designer. Sets of 1940s LA were built at a studio in Sofia,Bulgaria.