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CUT AWAY It’s taken three years, several financial plans, and two leading ladies, but Jane Campion’s adaptation of Susanna Moore’s 1995 erotic thriller In the Cut will finally begin filming in New York this July. Meg Ryan steps into the leading role of an NYU creative writing teacher who becomes caught up in a murder, replacing Nicole Kidman (who remains as an executive producer); Mark Ruffalo costars as a policeman, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is currently in negotiations for a supporting role. The project looked good to go three years ago, when Kidman optioned the book and Miramax agreed to coproduce the then-$35 million project with Universal. But Miramax put the project into turnaround, and last fall, Kidman dropped out. ”I think the concept of Campion’s kind of take on Sea of Love was a very sexy notion,” says producer Laurie Parker of the amicable parting with Miramax, ”and I’m not saying the film won’t achieve that kind of commercial crossover, but when you are set to guarantee [that], it becomes constraining.” The filmmakers ultimately made a deal for financing with Pathe (the film will be made for less than half of the original budget), and reconceived the script for Ryan. ”There were millions of times when we almost doubted our sanity, because things seemed so cosmically against us,” says Parker. ”But ultimately, when you do things a little differently, you have to be more solid in your resolve. Now, all we have to do is make a good movie.” Or at least a cut above.

FURTHERMORE Javier Bardem, who passed on a supporting role in In the Cut, is a hot commodity: Producer Saul Zaentz (The English Patient) is hoping to score the actor for a biopic of Spanish painter Goya, which Milos Forman will direct. ”We’ve been working on this quietly for two years,” says Zaentz, who also produced Forman’s Amadeus. ”It’s like Mozart. You can’t fool around with this story — you have to get it right.” (Additional reporting by Cindy Pearlman)