Thesp-turned-scripter Stowe sez no to dough

Actress turns down millions, wants part in pic

When leading actresses pass 40 and find the best roles going to younger peers, one remedy is to craft a role by writing a movie around it.

Madeleine Stowe did just that, but her Western script “The Unbound Captives” turned out so well that Fox wanted to fast-track it with director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. The catch: Stowe had to limit her participation to screenwriter.

Though a 20th Century Fox source denies it, sources said Stowe turned down a $5 million offer Thursday. This followed a previous nixing of a $3 million.

Much of that money would have been to cushion the blow of not starring in the film. But the alleged offers would been among the highest sums ever for a spec script. The spec record remains the $4 million New Line gave Shane Black for “The Long Kiss Goodnight.”

Fox: No formal offer

A Fox spokeswoman denied the studio ever made a formal money offer. Still, Scott has been looking for a Western and a vehicle to reteam with his “Gladiator” star.

In turbulent times, when most people are spooked about doing far-flung location shooting, Fox pushed back the Morocco shoot of the Scott-Crowe epic “Tripoli” to 2004. Fox also pushed back by several months the start of the Mel Gibson starrer “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Had Stowe acquiesced, Scott and Crowe would have made “Unbound Captives” their next film and returned to “Tripoli.”

Hartnett did same thing

Stowe’s decision marks the second time in recent weeks that an actor has nixed a huge payday for philosophical reasons. Josh Hartnett recently turned down Warner Bros.’ “Superman” because he didn’t want to be shackled for the next decade with the baggage that comes with that role — even though, in a best-case scenario, he could have earned near $100 million for three pics (assuming that they’re mega-hits). Hartnett could change his mind, as WB will surely reapproach him after the studio enlists a director.

Stowe does not appear ready to change her mind. Under the pseudonym O.C. Humphrey, Stowe wrote the script with her husband, former “Dream On” series star Brian Benben.

She wants to play May, a woman whose husband is killed and her two young children are kidnapped by a Comanche war party in 1859. She is rescued by a mysterious frontiersman named Tom, who tries to track down and free her children.

Shades of Stallone, ‘Rocky’

Stowe’s decision is reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone’s career-making stance on his script for “Rocky.” Despite being broke, he refused to sell until promised he’d play the Italian Stallion.

“Unbound Captives” has caught interest from actors such as Harrison Ford and Stowe’s “12 Monkeys” co-star Brad Pitt. If it’s sold elsewhere, it’s unlikely the fee would break the spec script record; but if she gets that starring role in a more modest production, that will be just fine with her sources said.

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