'A-Team' plan comes together for Neeson

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire... Liam Neeson.

Representatives from the film corporation 20th Century Fox have reportedly approached the Irish actor to offer him the part of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in the forthcoming movie The A-Team, based on the cult 1980s television series.

Producers hope Neeson, 57, will be able to recapture the magic of the original character, portrayed by George Peppard. A cigar-smoking master tactician, who is also leader of the crack squad, Hannibal's recurring line, "I love it when a plan comes together", has regularly featured in lists of television's most memorable quotes.

According to the film industry newspaper Variety, Neeson – whose wife Natasha Richardson died following a skiing accident in March – is understood to be close to reaching an agreement with Fox.

His co-star is likely to be the American actor Bradley Cooper, who has been cast as smooth-talking womaniser Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck, originally played by Dirk Benedict. Cooper, 34, has denied being involved but is thought to be favoured by Fox after starring in The Hangover, which has proved to be a surprise hit in the US.

Work on the film, which will be directed by Joe Carnahan and produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, is due to begin at the end of August. The film will keep to the series' original premise but is likely to be much slicker and a lot less camp.

Still to be filled are the roles of Captain "Howling Mad" Murdock, the unhinged ex-helicopter pilot played by Dwight Schultz in the original show, and Sergeant "BA" Baracus, the musclebound mechanic with a fear of flying played by Laurence Tureaud (more commonly known by his pseudonym Mr T).

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