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Studios balk at spending a pretty Penny on ‘Boys’

Here’s an example of how above-the-line salaries are preventing studios from making anything other than movies with sex and explosions. Penny Marshall, famous for taking her time choosing projects, decided on a film about middle-aged lifeguards called “The Boys of Neptune,” after holding two different readings with participants like Joe Pesci, Chazz Palminteri and Danny DeVito. She hopes to get either Robert De Niro or Bruce Willis to star. But its $50 million budget has beached it at Columbia, where Marshall has her first-look deal.

The film’s a middle-aged version of “Baywatch,” about slightly over-the-hill guys try to regain their youth by becoming lifeguards in South Jersey to save their hometown. They had patrolled the beaches in their youth, but a natural disaster wiped out the town’s lifeguard budget, and the lack of guards is killing the summer tourist season.

The prospect of DeVito and Pesci sucking in their guts in lifeguard chairs is certainly visual, but when Penny tried to marshal support at Col, she was told they’d go no higher than $35 million, because the pick was short on foreign appeal. She’s now shopping it to other studios, hoping one will throw a lifeline.

Buzz hears the project’s certainly viable, and everybody wants to be in business with the maker of “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” but studios feel a beach pic with no special effects shouldn’t cost so much. Much of the budget consists of salaries for what Marshall hopes will be a star-studded cast. Some feel the pic could be beached until its budget gets reduced significantly.

Marshall declined comment.

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