EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has come up with a short list to replace Rupert Wyatt as the director of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. I’m hearing that Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves is atop the list, along with The Disappearance Of Alice Creed helmer J Blakeson, 28 Weeks Later helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Take Shelter and Mud director Jeff Nichols, Pacific Rim helmer Guillermo del Toro, The Impossible helmer Juan Antonio Bayona and Looper helmer Rian Johnson (Johnson’s reps deny he is in the hunt).

Fox production president Emma Watts is steering the effort to fill the plum post that Wyatt exited. Deadline revealed September 17 that Wyatt, who helmed the superb franchise reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, would not reprise. I’d heard at the time that his exit was similar to the same reason that Gary Ross stepped out of Hunger Games: Catching Fire; with Wyatt uncomfortable about making the May 23, 2014 release date that the studio announced in May.

This should all be decided rather quickly, and this certainly helps the effort that Watts and Jim Gianopulos are making to invite elite emerging filmmakers into the Fox fold, with the promise of giving them more creative leeway. Who wouldn’t want to jump on this sequel, which already has a script by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. They did the first film, which grossed $483 million worldwide and seamlessly set up the apocalyptic sequel plotline. Stay tuned.