Barrymore exits Allen pic

NEW YORK — A major casting change is taking place on Woody Allen’s fall project. Drew Barrymore has withdrawn from playing one of the lead roles because of a scheduling conflict with “Cinderella,” the Fox Family Film she’ll topline this fall for director Andy Tennant.

But Allen won’t be left bereft for long. Just as Barrymore withdrew, Winona Ryder was in talks to step in. Ryder had been courted by Allen early on for a role in the ensemble film, but thought she would be unavailable because of her plan to star in the untitled film based on the life and murder of Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin.

Ryder planned to start work in early fall playing a fictionalized version of Guerin, with a script written by Irish journo Mick Sheridan — who worked with Guerin before she was gunned down after writing about Irish mobsters. The script has been rewritten, but the rewrite has delayed the start date for the indie pic, which is being produced by Dublin-based Irish Screen. Ryder’s managed by Carol Bodie.

Barrymore, who worked with Allen in his musical pic “Everyone Says I Love You,” became one of the first to join a cast that now includes Kenneth Branagh and Leonardo DiCaprio. But the logistics behind “Cinderella,” which will be shot in Europe starting in late August, ultimately made it impossible for her to do two pics at the same time on opposite sides of the pond.

Allen starts work on the new film in late August in New York. Fine Line is eyeing a late fall opening for his recently completed “Deconstructing Harry,” which was named the opening-night film at the Venice Film Festival.

“This decision was very difficult for Drew,” said a spokesman for the actress. “She had a tremendous experience working for Mr. Allen last time and hopes to work with him again in the very near future.”

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