Fest demands hit ‘Heights’

Close's no-show costs pic its Berlin berth

When the Glenn Close starrer “Heights” was pulled from the competitive lineup at Berlin mere hours before the fest kicked off, the ensuing sturm und drang starkly revealed the tenuous relationship between art and commerce that film fests usually manage to keep behind the screen.

At the time, Berlinale brass declined to explain the last-minute switcheroo. But it soon became clear that the pic was pulled because Close — now a series regular on cable cop drama “The Shield” — could not make the trip to Berlin.

“Heights”‘ helmer Chris Terrio says the rest of the cast — Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Bradford and James Marsden — was set to travel to Berlin, but Close had to attend to family matters.

Pic’s producer Ismail Merchant says he was given a six-hour deadline to either confirm Close would show or have his film pulled, a demand that left him “angry and outraged.”

“If an actor has a chance of working, she has to work,” says Merchant. “Glenn is so supportive of the film, but she also has a commitment to this (TV series) and her family.

“To behave like this, to threaten us,” he adds, “should not be allowed.”

“Heights” screened last month as part of the Sundance Film Festival, and Terrio worried the Berlin move might suggest there was something wrong with the film, which Variety called “an entertaining ensembler marbled with wit and heartache.”

But recent history shows why Berlin head Dieter Kosslick might be touchy about which celebs can hit town: The glaring absence last year of “Cold Mountain” topliners Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger at Berlin’s opening night left the fest with schnitzel on its face.

Berlin also used to coincide with Oscar voting, and hence enjoyed higher star wattage than competitor fests. But the Oscars’ shift to late February instead of March may be yet another factor keeping A-listers home in sunny California.

Ironically, the film taking “Heights”‘ place was one with no stars per se: Lajos Koltai‘s directorial debut “Fateless.”

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