According to Variety, New Line has acquired The Jazz Ambassadors, a pitch for Antoine Fuqua to direct and Morgan Freeman to star in as jazz impresario Duke Ellington.

Fuqua hasn't made a film since 2004's King Arthur. He developed American Gangster with Denzel Washington, only to watch Universal pull the plug over budget, and then got close with the Warner Bros./Icon drama Under and Alone until Mel Gibson decided not to star.

Fuqua, who has busied himself directing commercials and videos, is expected to next direct the Paramount drama By Any Means Necessary this spring.

Jazz covers the Ellington orchestra's tour of Iraq during a 1963 CIA-led coup that would eventually pave the way for Saddam Hussein's rise to power.

Jeremy Donner will write the script. Freeman and his Revelations partner Lori McCreary will produce with Fuqua, whose deal is being negotiated.

Donner, a tyro writer who studied film at AFI, found the historical tale and came to Revelations carrying a rights deal with Tom Simons, a State Dept. official who accompanied Ellington's band as a young man.

Part of the intrigue is the discovery, years later, that the CIA exploited the global zeal for Ellington's jazz by planting spies in the entourage as the orchestra toured hostile parts of the world. When and if Ellington knew of the program will be part of the drama.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.