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CASTING ‘BRIDGES’ IS TAKING ITS TOLL ON HOLLYWOOD

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It may not rival David O. Selznick’s search for Scarlett O’Hara, but the race to land the female lead in the screen version of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County is the hottest contest in Hollywood. Virtually every major actress of ”a certain age” is scrambling for the role, which will most likely be opposite Robert Redford. And the competition is driving the movie’s rumored director, Sidney Pollack, crazy. | A Who’s Who of actresses, including Glenn Close, Kathleen Turner, Barbara Hershey, Susan Sarandon, Mary McDonnell, Cher, Anjelica Huston, and Isabella Rossellini, have descended on Pollack, convinced that lonely, sensuous Iowa farm wife Francesca Johnson, who has a passionate four-day love affair with a National Geographic photographer, is the kind of part that wins big box office as well as big awards. ”I’ve been inundated by their agents who think I’m doing (the film),” says Pollack, who claims he still hasn’t decided whether to direct. Industry insiders aren’t surprised by the stampede. ”In that age group, the roles are so few and far between they have to fight it out every time one comes around,” one exec says. Adds another insider, ”How many older actresses work? It’s brutal.” To take the heat off Pollack, all sides have decided to present a much cooler front. The film was once expected to begin shooting as early as August, but a spokesman for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, which is producing the film for Warner Bros., says a start date has been indefinitely postponed. Redford’s spokeswoman, who earlier described him as ”very interested” in the male lead, now only says he ”hasn’t committed to anything.” For now, Pollack is acting as if he’s immune to Bridges fever. ”I’m sure somebody will make a movie out of it-because it’s a phenomenon,” he says (the slim volume has sold 2.4 million copies). ”It’s not literature, but it is touching.” His actions may belie his words, however. Amblin has brought in veteran screenwriter Kurt Luedtke to rework the script. Luedtke is best known for having written or polished almost every Pollack script since 1981’s Absence of Malice. Says one executive, ”With Luedtke writing the screenplay, Pollack’s gonna do this.” Meanwhile, Twentieth Century Fox has already acquired the rights to Waller’s next novel, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, which is due out in November. ”It’s another (romance) with a female character who’s only slightly younger than Francesca,” says Waller. Ladies, dial your agents.