Don't call it a greenlight yet, but Universal Pictures is fast tracking Brett Ratner's long-gestating "Tower Heist" with Ben Stiller set to star and Academy Award winner Brian Grazer producing.
The screenplay has bounced around amongst Hollywood's hottest writers, including Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Leslie Dixon, Rawson Thurber, Russell Gewirtz, Adam Cooper & Bill Collage and Noah Baumbach, whose character work on the script helped secure Stiller's participation.
Kim Roth will executive produce for Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, while Tracy Falco and Kristin Lowe will oversee the project for the studio.
Led by their overworked manager, a blue-collar team of operations and maintenance workers from a Manhattan luxury high-rise use their inside knowledge of the building to stage an intricately choreographer heist of its penthouse tenant, a Wall St. capitalist (think Bernie Madoff) who defrauded the rank-and-file staff of their pensions and is now under house arrest.
The project was originally titled "Trump Heist" and envisioned with a largely African American cast, including Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Ratner's "Rush Hour" star Chris Tucker.
The film, which will hopefully have heart to complement the humor, could go into production as early as this year, with November being a distinct possibility for cameras to start rolling in New York.
Imagine recently wrapped Ron Howard's infidelity comedy "The Dilemma." Jon Favreau is currently filming the company's "Cowboys and Aliens," while LeBron James is set to star in Malcolm Lee's "Ballers" next summer.
Stiller is represented by WME, while CAA represents Ratner, who hopes to follow "Tower Heist" with "Playboy," the Universal/Imagine movie about Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner.