EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired the rights to the Cannonball Run franchise and set Tropic Thunder scribe Etan J. Cohen to write and direct Cannonball. Andre Morgan and Alan Gasmer (Vikings) are producing.

The studio isn’t calling this a remake but rather a relaunch of a film based on the famous “Cannonball sea to shining sea memorial trophy race” that was captured in three Hal Needham-directed films that starred Burt Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Dom DeLuise atop a whole ensemble of ’80s stars. They played roles in the re-enactment of an illegal cross-country race where the participants were not above playing dirty tricks on one another.

cannonballThe new version is being spearheaded by producer Andre Morgan, who has been making movies at Warner Bros since Enter the Dragon in 1973 (that film also was backed by Golden Harvest, which orchestrated the Cannonball Run films). Warner Bros acquired all sequel and remake rights to the franchise from original copyright owners Brock Yates, the Hal Needham Estate and Fortune Star LTD. Albert S. Ruddy and Raymond Chow are the exec producers. The first film was released by Fox in 1981; Warner Bros released the 1984 sequel; and Orion released the 1989 third film, which starred John Candy, Donna Dixon, Eugene Levy and Brooke Shields. The original films and the legend of the original races on which they were based have generated international interested; people are still running their own time-lapse races to beat the records established in the original five races.

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etan cohenCohen, who scripted Men in Black 3 and most recently wrote and directed the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart starrer Get Hard, is repped by CAA and Mosaic. Jesse Ehrman is overseeing for Warner Bros. The rights deal was brokered by WME, and attorney Alan Schwartz of Greenberg Truarig.