Steven Spielberg Gods and Kings

EXCLUSIVE: Steven Spielberg is near to etching in stone with Warner Bros on that biopic portraying the Jewish leader as the warrior to beat all warriors. With a working title of Gods And Kings, what’s envisioned is “a movie like a Braveheart-ish version of the Moses story,” an insider tells us. “Him coming down the river, being adopted, leaving his home, forming an army, and getting the Ten Commandments.” And despite the awesome screen possibilities of the parting of the Red Sea, the movie isn’t being contemplated in 3D. Back in 1956, Paramount released The Ten Commandments in VistaVision to give moviegoers a more spectacular experience of scenes like that. But this film is as far from a remake of the Cecile B. DeMille-directed epic as you can get even though they cover similar ground. Instead Warner Bros wants Spielberg to direct it with the gritty reality of Saving Private Ryan, which is considered a masterpiece redefining battle movies. “There have been glossy versions of the Moses story but this would be a real warrior story,” an insider tells us.

The studio has wanted Spielberg on the project since last September when he first read the script. (See previous, Warner Bros Goes To The Mountaintop For Moses Epic.) Getting Spielberg seemed a long shot because his deals are always complex and his dance card is always full. Talks intensified, and now insiders tell us the dialogue should consummate by the end of the month. Warner Bros wants to start production sometime in March or April of 2013.

Producer Matti Lesham came to the studio with a treatment that was bought for development. The film is being produced by Dan Lin and Lesham. The two writers are Stuart Hazeldine (the upcoming epic Paradise Lost for Legendary/Warner Bros and inspired by the John Milton poem) and Michael Green (co-writer of Warner Bros’ Green Lantern and the upcoming ABC midseason series The River for Spielberg”. It’s the first time they’ve scripted together.

Spielberg just finished directing Lincoln and is already working on Robopocalypse: both are DreamWorks pics co-financed by Twentieth Century Fox. Spielberg wants a big film next and this is it: Ten Commandments was one of the most profitable films of its era, grossing $65 million in 1956 — which in today’s dollars is equivalent to close to $1 Billion theatrical. Spielberg helmed another seminal Jewish movie, Schindler’s List which won seven Oscars at the 66th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. He was just overlooked for a Best Director nomination on Tuesday for War Horse even though it received a Best Picture nod.

Meanwhile this marks the second high-profile film Warner Bros is developing on a seminal Jewish hero. Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas are collaborating on their pitch to tell the story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the 2nd century B.C. Gibson has the first option to direct, and he will produce the film through his Icon Productions banner.