A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : BEYOND BATMAN : The Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz: Eddie Murphy as the Green Hornet

Could there be a crime-fighting super-hero in Eddie Murphy's future? Sources insist Murphy is itching to star in a movie version of "The Green Hornet," which the studio has on the development fast track.

Officially, however, Universal senior production vice president Tom Craig would say only "it's a very good possibility, but it's a ways off. It's in the very early stages of discussion."

According to another source close to the film, Murphy contacted Universal about the project. "Ever since 'Batman' was released in 1989, Eddie has really wanted to play a super-hero," the source says, "specifically that character. He's a big fan of the story and he's let it be known to Universal that he wants to star in the film." Screenwriter Don Mancini ("Child's Play") recently completed the "Green Hornet" script for the studio.

But Murphy's camp denies it. "We have no interest in 'The Green Hornet' right now," says Mark Lipsky, who served as executive producer of Murphy's current "Boomerang." "There was some initial interest, but right now we've got other projects in development." One is "Beverly Hills Cop III," which begins production in October, and a recently announced Western that is being developed for Murphy at Paramount. Murphy has been filming "The Distinguished Gentleman" for Hollywood Pictures.

Lipsky says it would be difficult for the actor to make a film at rival Universal because of his deal at Paramount, but the source says it wouldn't be hard for the studios to work out a co-production deal if Murphy had his heart set on starring in the film. "Eddie Murphy is like that joke about where does an 800-pound gorilla sit. Anywhere he wants," says the source.

According to Universal's Craig, Murphy's attachment to the project "would definitely make it a 'go' project," he says. "It would be a high-profile character combined with one of the biggest box-office stars. It would be hard not to make it."

"The Green Hornet" was originally created as a radio show by George Trendle and Fran Striker during the 1930s. Other incarnations of the character include two movie serials during the early '40s and later, the '60s television show that starred Van Williams with Bruce Lee as the Green Hornet's trusty Japanese sidekick and martial arts expert, Kato. The Green Hornet is the secret identity of Britt Reid, the editor of a large metropolitan newspaper.

Describing his script as "an origin story," screenwriter Mancini says the film will tell the story of how the Green Hornet came to be and how he meets and ultimately teams with Kato.

While there are the obvious comparisons to "Batman," Mancini insists that the film will be "more like the 'Indiana Jones' movies. It has a lot of humor balancing the thrills."

Mancini admits his "Green Hornet" script would have to be rewritten slightly to tailor it to Murphy's persona. "There's a lot of humor in it already," says Mancini, "but with any star of that stature, the script will have to be retooled." Also, Mancini points out that the Lone Ranger (also created by Trendle and Striker) is the great-grandfather of the Green Hornet, a fact that is shown and discussed in early scenes of his screenplay.

Does this mean that, if Murphy decides to star in the film, the Lone Ranger will also be black? "It's a possibility," answers Mancini. "The fact that he's related to the Lone Ranger is an integral part of the story. It's what motivates the character to become the Green Hornet."

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