Gary Ross to direct "Venom"

Variety reports Gary Ross is making a deal to rewrite and direct the "Venom" spin-off film at Sony's Columbia Pictures. Ross is currently writing "Spider-Man 4."

He began his writing carrer with 1988's "Big," starring Tom Hanks and broke into directing with 1998's "Pleasantville," starring Tobey Maguire. He also directed "Seabiscuit" in 2003 and wrote the 1993 Kevin Kline comedy, "Dave." Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, the writers of "Zombieland" were previously attached to the project and were talking about their draft as late as this past July.

Variety describes the character as "an archenemy of the webslinger in the Marvel Comics series, will be transformed into an antihero who becomes a defender of the innocent." A take that is not a million miles away from the character's solo title in the '90s.

Topher Grace, who played Eddie Brock in "Spider-Man 3," is not expected to return to the role. The part will either be recast or one of Venom's other hosts will be used as the lead character.

Variety also notes despite the Marvel/Disney merger, Columbia has control of "Spider-Man" and associated characters "in perpetuity" as long as films continue to be made. "Venom" would be another project to ensure the studio's continued option and interest in those characters and intellectual property. With "Spider-Man 4" slated for release in May of 2011 and the fifth and sixth installments already being written, "Venom" would slot into one of the off years, but no release date has been set.

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