Paxton and Thornton near ‘Plan’

NEW YORK — After years of complications, “A Simple Plan” is finally getting a cast and a start date. “Titanic” star Bill Paxton and “Sling Blade” star Billy Bob Thornton are back in negotiations to topline the John Boorman film that has definitely not followed a simple plan.

The two stars were being considered last year, but Paramount did not go forward with the pic because of budget. That changed recently when Gary Levinsohn and Mark Gordon’s Mutual Film Co. came through with the needed cash in exchange for foreign rights. It’s resuscitated producer Scott Rudin’s long-percolating adaptation of the Scott B. Smith novel.

The film has had an interesting history. In 1992, Mike Nichols bought the rights, paying $250,000 out of his own pocket and laying off the rest of the $1.1 million deal on Savoy Pictures. When Nichols couldn’t get to the project, Ben Stiller was brought on in 1994. But Stiller dropped out because of a restrictive budget that included a $4 million pay-or-play deal with Nicolas Cage.

It looked like John Dahl would be directing Cage — until Savoy exited the movie biz. The film resurfaced in 1995 at Paramount, where Rudin championed it and worked hard to put together a package with Boorman, only to see it stall.

Now, the pic’s going forward. If talks work out, Paxton would play an average guy whose life turns upside down when he, his brother (Billy Bob Thornton) and a friend happen upon a crashed plane containing stolen money. Production starts in January.

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