Thesp drops from 'Basic 2' radar, takes pre-strike pic

Benjamin Bratt is in final negotiations to star alongside Katie Holmes in “Abandon,” a drama written and to be directed by Steve Gaghan.

The film, which Lynda Obst and Ed Zwick are producing for Paramount, had been rumored to verge last week between a greenlight and shutdown, as Bratt juggled that offer with another to co-star with Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct 2,” the sequel to be directed by John McTiernan.

Paramount, which rarely sponsors films by first-time helmers, had been looking to offset its risk with a foreign partner, with the likes of Spyglass kicking the tires. At the same time, Stone had been holding back approval of Bratt, and the actor likely grew tired of waiting and took the other film, which assures him of a pre-strike job.

It is unclear how the exit of Bratt from consideration will affect “Basic Instinct 2,” which had also been expected to begin production by April so that it could be concluded before a possible SAG strike July 1. It’s believed that McTiernan, MGM, financier Intermedia and producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna pushed hard for Bratt. Several other names, such as Vincent Perez, have circulated, and it’s possible that they’ll regroup and take a run at Pierce Brosnan, who became unexpectedly available after his expected film, “A Sound of Thunder,” went back to the shop for script rewrites.

Brosnan worked well with McTiernan in the sexy thriller “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and though he turned down “Basic 2″ when David Cronenberg was its director, it’s believed he’d be more receptive now that McTiernan is at the helm. A key consideration is cost: Intermedia is financing the entire film and has insisted on a $70 million pricetag. Brosnan could push that up to $78 million, but he’s been a charm for MGM. In fact, counting “Thomas Crown” and the Bond films, he’s been in the middle of just about every hit the studio has had in which a cannibal wasn’t the central character.

Bratt was long identified for his role on the TV series “Law & Order,” but his screen profile has been rising after recent performances in “Miss Congeniality” and “Traffic,” the latter scripted by Gaghan. He is also generating strong buzz for his lead role in the indie film “Pinero,” the story of Miguel Pinero, the Latino poet who wrote the play “Short Eyes,” based on his experiences in Sing Sing. Pic, directed by Leon Ichaso, was made by GreeneStreet Films.

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