By EW Staff
Updated August 10, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Black Dahlia: Rolf Konow

Patient fans of James Ellroy’s hard-boiled ”L.A. Quartet” can raise a glass now that the first book in the series that went on to include L.A. Confidential is on the big screen. In the works for nearly a decade, the dark-as-a-bruise film noir seemed all but dead after David Fincher gave up the director’s chair. Things didn’t get easier when Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) came on board. Financing for the film repeatedly fell through, and its foreign locations kept getting more and more austere with each budget revise (Berlin was traded in for the cheaper Rome, which was then swapped for the bargain-basement Bulgaria). You’d think with Confidential‘s nine Oscar nods and Dahlia’s luminescent cast, raising the cash would have been easier. Not so, says De Palma. ”In L.A. Confidential, the detective gets the girl. That doesn’t happen in The Black Dahlia. It’s just a descent into hell.”

Dahlia is a classic Hollywood story: A desperate knockout (Mia Kirshner) comes to Tinseltown to become famous only to wind up infamous on a slab at the morgue — the murderer has cut her in half, removed her organs, and sliced her mouth from ear to ear in a rictus grin that mocks the detectives on the case (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart). Also on board are Scarlett Johansson as Eckhart’s girlfriend and Hilary Swank as a femme fatale who looks a lot like the victimâ?¦and may have been her lover. Kinky. And then some, says De Palma. ”This is noir to the nth degree. It’s just as dark as it gets.” Promise?