EXCLUSIVE: It’s easy to forget that Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal had to be talked into making Kevin James’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company which also put Kevin in the summer hit Grown Ups and the upcoming Sony-MGM coproduction star turn The Zookeeper slated for a July 8, 2011 release. Of course now Sony Pictures is doing its best to keep the actor in a choke hold — so the studio just made a deal for an untitled mixed martial arts vehicle for James to shoot next year. The script will be written by Allan Loeb, and Kevin is producing with Todd Garner.
James is attached to play a physics teacher whose school faces drastic cutbacks. In an attempt to save his best friend’s job and the music program his students love, he moonlights in the octagon as a mixed martial arts fighter, ultimately leading to brawling in the UFC. The film is on a fast track, and production presidents Matt Tolmach and Doug Belgrad hope to get it into production next year. Jeff Sussman will be exec producer. James has really proven himself after moving into features following his King of Queens TV sitcoms run. His Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry were all co-starring hits until he could fly solo. Garner and James produced the Sony/MGM co-production The Zookeeper with Happy Madison’s Sandler and Jack Giarraputo.