Helmer revisits 'Deja Vu'

It really is “Deja Vu” all over again.

Just when it looked like plans for the Touchstone/Jerry Bruckheimer action thriller might be falling apart, helmer Tony Scott has come back aboard the project, and the production is eyeing an early February start — probably in New Orleans, its original location.

The Denzel Washington starrer becomes the first major pic to commit to shooting in the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region and left the city a waterlogged ghost town.

A spokesman for Scott said that the return to New Orleans lured him back to the project.

Pic was originally slated to shoot in the Crescent City this month, with Washington starring and Scott directing.

Then Katrina set off a domino effect. First the pic lost its location and the sked was pushed back. Producers eyed alternative sites, including Seattle and San Francisco.

Then Scott ankled (Daily Variety, Oct. 5), citing logistical and scheduling concerns.

Disney and Bruckheimer were left with the difficult task of finding a director whom Washington would approve, as well as a new location, which might spell the loss of Louisiana’s generous tax breaks.

Bruckheimer Films was planning on a late January start when Scott stepped aside. Whatever scheduling issues he may have had at the time, a spokesman for Scott said Wednesday that he is returning to the project mainly for creative reasons, i.e., because it will shoot in New Orleans after all.

A Disney spokesman said the studio hopes the pic will return to New Orleans.

Alex Schott, executive director of the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Film & Television Development, said he’d been meeting with the producers about keeping the shoot in the state but was careful not to say that “Deja Vu” would definitely return to the city.

“We’re having another meeting on Friday,” he said. “It looks very promising that we’ll keep it in Louisiana.”

Making headway

“This is the first film we’re having ongoing conversations with,” said Schott. “It’s certainly the one that’s making the most headway and is the one that looks to be coming.”

Film production has not yet returned to New Orleans. Schott said that lodgings were the No. 1 concern for shooting there, but hotels there are reopening.

Police and other support services should be available, he said.

The city’s docks and ferries — the setting for a key action sequence in “Deja Vu” — were damaged in the hurricane and are still undergoing repairs.

Mike McHugh, business manager for the IATSE local in Louisiana, said many of his members have migrated to Shreveport, which has suddenly become the state’s production center.

Locals need housing

More than half the IATSE members lost their homes, he added, but it’s likely that even local hires for “Deja Vu” will get hotel housing, since most are still paying for their New Orleans homes plus rent where their families are staying now.

“I’m telling (producers) if they don’t do something, nobody’s going to take their job,” said McHugh.

Scott’s latest pic, “Domino,” pulled in only $4.7 million in domestic box office for New Line in its opening frame last weekend, ranking seventh.

His previous pic with Washington, “Man on Fire,” grossed $78 million in the U.S.

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