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The Cat In The Hat Is Phat

After lighting up box-office hits as a bucktoothed super-spy and a grumpy green Ogre, comedian Mike Myers has his paws around a new role -- a big, mischievous cat.

Myers will play the title role in a live-action movie version of the Dr. Seuss classic "The Cat in the Hat," putting him back in business with the studio and producers he was at war with two years ago, Universal Pictures said Thursday.

The film about the lanky, rambunctious feline in a striped stove-top hat will mark the second Seuss character brought to the big screen by Universal and production partner Imagine Entertainment, which teamed up for 2000's top-grossing holiday hit "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

It also returns Myers to the Universal-Imagine fold for the first time since the three-way settlement of their legal feud over an aborted attempt to develop a movie based on Myers'
"Saturday Night Live" character "Dieter."

In a joint statement, Myers and Imagine executive Brian Grazer, the film's producer, said the "conflicts over 'Dieter' are long behind us and only served to strengthen the relationship we've enjoyed for more than 10 years."

Myers, who won A-list status playing goofy, swinging spy "Austin Powers" and Dr. Evil in a pair of espionage parodies, was most recently in theaters as the voice of the green ogre in the animated storybook spoof "Shrek," last year's second-highest-grossing film.

Universal and Imagine each sued Myers for breach of contract in the summer of 2000, accusing him of abandoning "Dieter," which he had agreed to help write and star in for $20 million.

Myers alleged in a counter-suit that Universal was trying to bully him into making the film with a script he found unsatisfactory, despite a contract that gave him final script approval. His suit named Grazer as a "co-conspirator" for divulging his home address to a process server who allegedly chased Myers and his wife "down dark, winding and unlit streets."

As part of the settlement, "Dieter" was shelved and the three parties agreed that Myers would write his next original character-based comedy as a co-production for Universal and DreamWorks, whose principals, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, reportedly helped broker the deal.

"Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" will be jointly released by Universal and DreamWorks, though it was not clear whether that film satisfies the terms of the legal settlement since the Seuss character is obviously not a Myers creation.

But Grazer was quoted in entertainment trade paper Daily Variety as saying the idea of casting Myers as the Cat actually occurred to him in the midst of the "Dieter" squabble.

"The Cat in the Hat," first published in 1957, remains one of the best-selling hardcover children's books of all time.

The film is expected to follow the story line of the fast-talking cat who tries to bring cheer to two bored children on a rainy afternoon while their mother is out, only to turn the house upside down with a series of wild games with two ill-mannered playmates, Thing One and Thing Two.

Universal said the movie, to go into production this fall, will bring original characters to the big screen, as well as some new ones created especially for the film.

Universal Studios is a unit of French media giant Vivendi Universal.

By Steve Gorman

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