EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures is in negotiations for what could be the dramatic screen-starring debut of Justin Bieber. He will star alongside Mark Wahlberg in an untitled drama that will revolve around street basketball and will give Bieber the chance to show off his hoops skills. Deal comes after Bieber’s musical performance film Never Say Never minted money for Paramount. Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson will produce with Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. The script will be written by Ian Edelman, creator of How To Make It In America, the HBO series that is exec produced by Wahlberg and Levinson, who hold the same titles on Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. The tone of the project is described as The Color of Money meets The Karate Kid, and it came out of Wahlberg and Levinson seeing Bieber play ball in February during a celebrity game held during NBA All-Star Game weekend. Bieber more than held his own against celebs and former players; he was named MVP. It’s understandable that Paramount would want to be in business with Bieber again. Made on a $13 million budget, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never grossed $97 million worldwide. Paramount immediately hired its director, Jon Chu, to helm its G.I. Joe sequel.
But can the 17-year-old Bieber make the transition to serious actor? Wahlberg was thought of as a hip-hop artist until gritty performances in films like Basketball Diaries re-crafted his image to a point where he was honored this week for being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People following his role as star and producer of the Oscar-nominated The Fighter. I don’t think Wahlberg has had time to have Bieber come to his home, where he regularly plays full-court basketball games with his friends. I remember him telling me when I interviewed him for a magazine cover that his team prided themselves on playing physical against the likes of his Basketball Diaries costar Leonardo DiCaprio. (So be careful about playing in the paint, Bieber!) Wahlberg, who just wrapped the drama Contraband, is currently starring in the Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy Ted for Universal and Media Rights Capital.