Helmer to adapt Murakami tome 'South'

VENICE — After making first works the priority of her Xingu Shingle for the past five years, Trudie Styler is looking to leap into the bigger league with a Michael Radford-helmed adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel “South of the Border, West of the Sun,” among other new projects.

Radford’s rendering of the redemptive romance penned by one of Japan’s most popular authors marks the first time Murakami has “allowed a book to be optioned,” says Styler.

Styler and husband Sting were at the Venice Film Festival promoting freshman Dito Montiel’s gritty Queens-set memoir “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” which unspooled at the Lido in crix’ week after scooping two nods at Sundance.

“The business is getting crippling if you want to get a movie made with a director who has never made one before,” Styler lamented.

“There are just less places to go with your hand out saying, ‘Help me! This guy is really good.'”

For “South of the Border,” the tale of two schoolmates who meet again, and fall in love, after a 25-year separation, Styler has teamed up with British producer Alison Owen (“Elizabeth,” “Proof”). Idea is to transpose pic, which is still in early development, from Japan to the U.S.

Styler also is developing a film franchise for children and teens, which she described as not “Harry Potter, not James Bond” but rather a film that can encourage “social activism, told with a broad stroke.”

Also in early stages is “The Provider,” a drama from writer-director Joel Hershman, with Maria Bello attached to star. Styler will be shepherding with her Xingu partner, U.S. thesp-cum-producer Travis Swords.

Styler and Swords produced Hershman’s jail comedy/drama “Green Fingers.”

All three projects are budgeted at about $20 million.

“It’s a new phase. It’s more expansive. It’s more collaborative. It’s pushing forward with more people attached whom you want to work with,” Styler says.

As for Sting, who got an executive producer credit on “Saints” after personally coughing up some coin to get it made, he said that made him feel very “grown up,” but that he’ll be happier “when I get my money back.”

And as far as him getting an acting role in his wife’s projects: Forget it.

“There is nothing in these movies for me. Let’s face it,” he chuckled. “There are no effete English rock star roles.”

Sting added that he hasn’t been in a movie since “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” executive produced by Styler. “And in that she only used me ’cause I’m cheap.”

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