Helmer withdraws from Disney's Western

Ron Howard will not lead the charge on “The Alamo” as his next directing project after all.

Howard, off his Oscar win for “A Beautiful Mind,” has begun concentrating on other film projects for his followup. He’s in the process of disengaging from the period Western being mounted by Disney, though he and Imagine partner Brian Grazer may well continue as producers.

The studio has already begun seeking a new director in hopes of keeping a late-year start date in place, as well as a cast that was to include Russell Crowe and Ethan Hawke.

Howard has decided to forget “The Alamo” because the studio took too long to get into production. He never formally signed a deal to direct the film, but such an accord was considered a fait accompli when word got out that he was scouting locations in Texas.

After winning all that Oscar hardware for “A Beautiful Mind,” Howard and Grazer wanted to capitalize on the momentum and get a film started quickly; “The Alamo” just went back to the shop for a rewrite by “Traffic” scribe Stephen Gaghan.

Apparently, the cast will remain in place to see which helmer Disney hires to replace Howard. That includes Crowe, who rearranged a very busy dance card to carve out a few weeks for “The Alamo,” mainly because he wanted to reteam with its director.

Howard laid aside several high profile scripts to concentrate on “The Alamo,” and there are numerous candidates for his next picture. One possibility is that he and Crowe will work together again on “Cinderella Man,” the film about Depression-era boxer and folk hero Jim Braddock that’s a co-production between Universal and Imagine. That pairing became known as a viable possibility when Crowe agreed to do “The Alamo” (Daily Variety, April 11).

Howard has also shown interest in the fact-based, Doug Wright-scripted drama “The Burial,” a Warner Bros.-based film. Studio was said to have once had Denzel Washington in its docket to play Mississippi personal injury lawyer Willie Gary, who represented a funeral parlor owner wronged by a conglomerate and helped win the plaintiff a $260 million verdict. The tale originated as a New Yorker article by Jonathan Harr, who wrote “A Civil Action.”

Imagine’s Grazer would likely come aboard to produce with Ed Saxon and Robert Shriver.

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