In an example of art imitating life, Anjelica Huston has been set to star opposite Jack Nicholson in Miramax Films’ “The Crossing Guard,” scripted and directed by co-star Sean Penn. Huston, who had a 12-year relationship with Nicholson, will play his ex-wife in the pic, sources said Monday.

Huston’s commitment to “Crossing Guard” follows on the heels of reports that talks between representatives for Huston and Penn were ongoing (Daily Variety, Dec. 22).

Sources familiar with the production said Huston has agreed to a rich salary and deferment deal that locks her into seven days of shooting on the movie. The pic, budgeted at $ 11 million, is skedded to start 45 days of production by early February.

In real life, Nicholson and Huston were a couple for more than 12 years before they split in the late 1980s. “Crossing Guard” sources said Penn, Nicholson and Huston are in agreement that the relationship between Nicholson and Huston could lead to “some really interesting chemistry onscreen.”

The pairing of Nicholson and Huston has yielded dividends in the past. Nicholson helped revive Huston’s career by landing her a choice supporting role in the 1981 release “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and Huston won a supporting actress Academy Award in 1985 opposite Nicholson in “Prizzi’s Honor.”

A Miramax spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. Company sources acknowledged a final agreement was in the works but said Huston has yet to sign a contract.

In the “Crossing Guard” script, Penn’s character has just been released after serving an eight-year sentence for killing a girl while driving drunk. Nicholson’s character is a down-on-his-luck jeweler intent on exacting revenge for the death of his daughter. Huston’s character wants to leave the past behind.

Sources said Penn is doing a minor rewrite of the project, specifically to expand Huston’s part. Attempts to reach the filmmaker through “Crossing Guard” production offices failed.

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