Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz’s ‘Gambit’ might give CBS Films its first jewel

The much beleaguered MGM could never seem to get the much rumored sequel to 1999’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” off the ground, but CBS Films may have just landed the perfect 2011 model with “Gambit.”

Based on the 1966 comedy thriller starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, the film follows a London art dealer (recent Oscar winner Colin Firth) who enlists a Texas Rodeo Queen (Cameron “don’t call it a comeback” Diaz) to help con one of the richest men in England. The project has some major pedigree behind it as the new screenplay is by none other than Joel and Ethan Coen.  Bringing more prestige film acclaim to the party is “The Last Station’s” Michael Hoffman who is on board to direct.

Acquiring U.S. rights is something of a much needed coup for CBS who has had a rocky first two years of existence.  Their first feature, “Extraordinary Measures” with Harrison Ford and Brendan Frasier, was a critical and box office disaster.  However, the studio insists that their Spring 2010 follow up “The Back-Up Plan,” which grossed $77 million worldwide, was profitable.  Unfortunately, November’s “Faster” was nothing but and disappointed with just $23 million domestic.  January’s “The Mechanic” cost the studio much less for domestic rights and will soon slip into the black with $28 million in receipts.  That brings us to this month’s “Beastly” which reportedly cost only $17 million to produce and the studio says it recouped most of that with international sales.  The romantic drama has made $10.9 million in 5 days preforming above pre-release polling.  Needless to say, whether the Tiffany Network’s film division is profitable doesn’t mean much to the media who don’t see anything close to a real hit in their stable.  It appears with films such as “Gambit,” the company is going for some higher quality players with longer shelf life and greater return all around.

As for “Gambit’s” stars, Diaz will be seen next this summer in the already buzzed about comedy “Bad Teacher.”  Firth will appear later this year in the big screen adaptation of John le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” alongside Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong.  “Gambit” will be his first film since winning best actor for “The King’s Speech” last month.

“Gambit” is expected to begin shooting this May in London.  CBS Films has not determined a release date as of yet.

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