Ephron revives ‘Beech’ with Fox 2000 talks

NEW YORK — After watching the script she co-wrote for “Higgins and Beech” get beached several times over the past four years, Nora Ephron is now in talks to develop it as a possible next directing project at Fox 2000.

Coming off the holiday hit “Michael,” Ephron is well positioned to film the story of the love affair between New York Herald Tribune reporter Maggy Higgins and Chicago Sun correspondent Keyes Beech during the Korean War in 1951. Ephron wrote it with her “Silkwood” script collaborator, Alice Arlen. If she accepts the offer from Fox 2000 prexy Laura Ziskin, Ephron and Arlen will rewrite the script.

The film was nearly a go in 1993, with Jon Amiel directing Michelle Pfeiffer and Richard Gere, but it stalled. Fox put it in turnaround, and a newly revived United Artists almost had it in production with the same players. With a budget already at $40 million, UA dropped out, fearing that the logistical problems of re-creating the war in Korea or China would make the project too pricey. New Line promised a green light, but Fox took the pic back, though its unwillingness to give Pfeiffer the deal she had gotten elsewhere prompted her to drop out. Amiel exited later, followed by Brian Gibson (“What’s Love Got to Do With It”) and Joe Ruben (“The Money Train”).

That’s not to say stars aren’t still interested. Both Elisabeth Shue (“Leaving Las Vegas”) and Gere are still in the mix, though no cast will be contemplated until Ephron’s deal is done.

Ephron’s no stranger to films that take a rough road to production. “Michael” was developed at Universal by Alphaville Prods. partners Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks. U put it in turnaround, nervous about the budget and about paying John Travolta $11 million. Turner Pictures picked up the tab, the film grossed $55 million after just two weeks, and Universal’s now paying Travolta $20 million for several pictures.

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