Wahlberg, Newton being courted to play leads

NEW YORK — Jonathan Demme is finalizing plans to direct “The Truth About Charlie” as his next pic, looking to start production in the spring for Universal.

The film is a retitled remake of Stanley Donen’s 1963 thriller “Charade.” Demme is in Paris eyeing locations and meeting with director Luc Besson for advice on how best to shoot a film there.

Helmer is courting “Perfect Storm” star Mark Wahlberg and “Mission: Impossible 2″ topliner Thandie Newton for the roles originated by Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but it is unclear whether either actor will commit. Wahlberg, for instance, has been offered several plum roles for the project he undertakes after he completes starring in the Tim Burton-directed “Planet of the Apes” at Fox.

Demme had been expected next to direct “Intolerable Cruelty,” a dark romantic comedy at Universal that is being developed by Imagine and Alphaville, with the most recent script draft done by Joel and Ethan Coen. Demme would have done that film, but the cast didn’t come together the way he’d hoped in the timetable needed to complete production before the projected Screen Actors Guild Writers Guild of America strikes next summer. Sources said Demme’s still planning to make the movie with Tea Leoni, but will return to it sometime next year.

With that project postponed, the Oscar-winning director of “Silence of the Lambs” then turned his attention back to “Charlie,” a Hitchcockian thriller in which a Parisian discovers that her husband is murdered and she is being pursued by four strange men. She’s rescued by an attractive stranger, but his motives are murky. The remake was scripted by Demme and Steve Schmidt. The film will be produced by Demme, Ed Saxon and Peter Saraf, with Neda Armian as associate producer.

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