Three British Strikes Against Pic Production

As if the impoverished British film industry does not have enough problems, one picture has shut down because the male star became ill, Universal has put Richard Attenborough’s “Charlie Chaplin” into turnaround, and a third switched the leading man shortly before lensing began.

Gary Oldman fell ill after eight days of lensing “Dylan,” and production of the Dylan Thomas biopic was abandoned. It is hoped that the production will be reassembled in August, according to Michael Ryan, cochairman of J & M Entertainment, which is fielding foreign rights. Ryan said his company and Miramax, which prebought U.S. rights, are “still behind the film.”

Co-producer Paul Sarony, head of production company Harlech Films, a subsid of broadcaster HTV, told VARIETY a new director will have to be recruited to replace David Drury, who has resigned.

Attenborough is looking for a new home for the “Charlie Chaplin” biopic after Universal aborted the project. It had been slated to roll in London next month with Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. A spokeswoman for the director said another company is negotiating with Universal for the project, but she would not identify the suitor. Reportedly, Carolco, Columbia and Warner Bros, all have expressed interest.

“Charlie Chaplin” was to be part of Attenborough’s three-picture deal with Universal; the spokeswoman said she did not know the status of that pact.

Patrick Bergin, said to be exhausted after doing three films in a row, bowed out of “Prime Suspect,” and was replaced by Liam Neeson. The psychothriller rolled Feb. 18 in London for Columbia domestically, Rank Film Distributors in the rest of the world.

Produced by Brian Eastman and directed and scripted by Simon Moore, it pairs Neeson and Laura San Giacomo in the saga of a private detective suspected of murder.

Bergin was ill during the filming of his last picture, 20th Century Fox’ “Robin Hood,” and apparently has not fully recovered.

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