Davis walks, rocks the boat

Paul Verhoeven is once again attached as director of Columbia Pictures’ “Mistress of the Seas.” But Geena Davis may have capsized the film by bailing out.

At the 11th hour Thursday, spokeswoman Susan Geller told Daily Variety that “Geena just withdrew from the project,” and declined further comment.

Davis’ Creative Artists Agency rep Kevin Huvane could not be reached for comment.

Speculation varied on why Davis withdrew, although one source said that Davis doesn’t want to work with director Verhoeven.

The untimely announcement may also be a result of the fact that Columbia still hasn’t greenlit the female swashbuckler. Meanwhile, Davis has said she will produce “The Fly III” with Brooksfilms for Fox, a pic in which she will also star (Daily Variety, July 20).

Columbia declined comment on Davis’ departure.

Verhoeven could not be reached for comment last night. However, earlier in the day he confirmed he has final cut and final script approval of “Mistress.”

This whitecap comes just one week after the director walked the plank on the project — which he’d been actively developing for six weeks — because Columbia wanted to downplay the female lead and beef up the male pirate lead in Michael Cristofer’s script, based on John Carlova’s book.

Verhoeven said he didn’t want to direct “Master of the Seas” since the swashbuckler was written to spotlight two femmes — Anne Bonnie and Mary Reed — who disguised themselves as men and took the sea by storm in the late 1800s (Daily Variety, July 14).

The Dutch helmer of “Basic Instinct” and “Total Recall” said he was willing to deep-six the project if the female role was watered down.

“No one will ever think it’s ‘Master of the Sea’ now. This is one of the things I felt would be hurting the movie. And I always felt a woman could carry a movie, given, of course, that she has the tools they always give men, including brilliance, audaciousness and getting everything she wants.”

Verhoeven said previous negotiations ground to a halt because “no one was willing to listen,” including himself, and that there were “too many people in the room.” However, Verhoeven said producer Jon Peters called him to reopen the conversation and they reached a “compromise” when they met alone.

Peters could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Insiders say another problem is that the script is so provocative that Verhoeven would inevitably turn in an NC-17 cut. However, the director insisted “it will be an R. It might take me some time to get an R. It took me 10 times to get an R for ‘Basic Instinct.’ ”

Another of the director’s compromises was to agree that the length be trimmed to two hours and 10 minutes from two hours, 25 minutes.

Verhoeven, interviewed prior to word of Davis’ exit, scoffed at persistent speculation that the film’s development was held up over concerns about its budget in light of the disappointing returns for Col’s “Last Action Hero,” or that it was rejuvenated by the success of “In the Line of Fire.” Verhoeven admitted there is no green light, but Columbia spokesman Mark Gill said, “It is moving rapidly forward toward production.”

But that also was before word of Davis’ withdrawal from the project.

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