April 17, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

St. Agnes' Stand

Current Status
In Season
Martin Scorsese
Charles Randolph

After ”Gangs of New York,” Martin Scorsese is sticking around in the 1860s, but he’s heading out west. Variety reports that DreamWorks has optioned a Western for him to direct. Called ”St. Agnes’ Stand,” it’s based on a Thomas Eidson novel about a wounded fugitive who finds himself aiding a wagonload of nuns and orphans, who’ve prayed to be rescued from Apache Indians. Writing the screenplay will be Charles Randolph (”The Life of David Gale.”)

The project has been in development long enough to see plenty of tumbleweeds roll by. Initially, Miramax bought it for John Madden (”Shakespeare in Love”) to direct, with Larry McMurtry (”Lonesome Dove”) attached to adapt the screenplay. DreamWorks chief Steven Spielberg then picked it up, but it’s not clear when he’ll get it made, since Scorsese is spending this year making his Howard Hughes biopic ”The Aviator,” starring ”Gangs”’ Leonardo DiCaprio.

That nuns-and-orphans bit sounds unusually corny for a Scorsese movie, but maybe he’ll turn it into a meditation on faith and violence. You talkin’ to me, pardner?

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