Pic based on Frazier award-winning novel about the Civil War

Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger are the leading candidates to round out one of the most hotly sought-after ensemble casts for Civil War drama, “Cold Mountain.”

Based on Charles Frazier’s bestselling and National Book Award winning Civil War novel, is a co-production of Miramax, MGM, Mirage Enterprises and Bona Fide Prods.

Writer-director Anthony Minghella has been huddled in casting sessions for the last two weeks, with producers saying their priority is casting the role of Inman, a wounded soldier whose Ulysses-like journey home after the War is the main thread of the novel.

Negotiations with Tom Cruise to play Inman went South earlier this year, but the pic remains in active pre-production and is moving toward a July 2002 start date. “Cold Mountain” will be shot in Europe and the American South.

Kidman, currently Oscar nominated for her role in “Moulin Rouge” would take the role of Ada, the minister’s daughter Inman left behind when he enlisted as a Confederate soldier.

Zellweger, also Oscar nominated for her perf in Miramax’s “Bridget Jones Diary” could play Ruby, the drifter who becomes Ada’s companion and hard-scrabble partner in eking a living the soil.

Miramax declined comment. Law, Kidman and Zellweger are all repped by CAA.

(Cathy Dunkley contributed to this report.)

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