Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. are bringing their iron-clad collaboration to another comic-book property: "Cowboys & Aliens."
Downey has been attached to the DreamWorks/Universal project since last summer, when "Iron Man" co-screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were working on the adaptation of the Platinum Studios Comics graphic novel written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley.
In the fall, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who are executive producers on the project, took over scripting, along with "Lost" exec producer Damon Lindelof.
Now Favreau has come on to make "Cowboys" his next directing gig.
The sci-fi Western explores what would happen if the traditional Old West enemies -- cowboys and Native Americans -- found the prairie attacked by aliens in mid-1800s Arizona. Long in development, the "Aliens" project originally was set up at Universal and DreamWorks in 1997 with Steve Oedekerk writing and directing. It later moved to Columbia, with "Sahara" scribes Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Donnelly writing.
The Favreau-Downey-Kurtzman-Orci-Lindelof nexus represents the current nucleus of geek-genre pop culture. Kurtzman and Orci recently delivered the sci-fi megahits "Star Trek" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," Lindelof maintains his control over the "Lost" mind screw, and Favreau and Downey will serve up another highly anticipated "Iron Man" saga next year.
For DreamWorks, the property represents an essential tentpole to help elevate its newly independent status now that the studio's first round of financing is complete. DreamWorks included "Cowboys" among the 17 projects it bought from Paramount upon leaving last fall.
As part of that exit arrangement, Paramount has an option to co-distribute the film with new DreamWorks distributor Disney, an opportunity it presumably will engage given Favreau's $585 million worldwide success on the Paramount-distributed "Iron Man."
Imagine Entertainment principals Brian Grazer and Ron Howard -- the latter once a possibility to direct -- are producing with Platinum topper Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Universal, where Imagine is housed, co-developed and is co-financing the project.
As it ramps up production for the next few years' slates, DreamWorks likely would anchor its 2011 summer to "Cowboys." DreamWorks and Kurtzman and Orci also are developing the Platinum property "Atlantis Rising," another big-budget sci-fi hybrid, with director Len Wiseman and writer Joby Harold.
The CAA-repped Favreau is in postproduction on Paramount/Marvel's "Iron Man 2," slated for a May release. As a writer and actor, he will next appear in the Oct. 9 Universal comedy "Couples Retreat." He is also providing a voice to the MGM comedy "The Zookeeper."