Execs battle over Daldry’s ‘Reader’

Weinstein Co. film may not be ready in time

It must be awards season: Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin are duking it out again.

For the second time, it’s over a Stephen Daldry picture. Last time they fought over “The Hours.” This time, it’s about whether Daldry will deliver “The Reader” to the Weinstein Co. in time to open Dec. 12 to qualify for Oscar consideration.

Weinstein very much wants a strong contender for 2008 to supplement his push for Penelope Cruz as supporting actress in Woody Allen‘s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

The Weinstein Co. needs to release “The Reader” this year and get it off its books.

Daldry, however, is busy putting in 16-hour days prepping the $20 million stage musical version of his film “Billy Elliot” for its Broadway opening Nov. 13 while squeezing in two hours of daily cutting time on “The Reader.”

Weinstein (who is also one of the producers of “Billy Elliot”) insists that “Reader,” a World War II romance based on Bernhard Schlink‘s novel, needs an Oscar boost. He wants Daldry to deliver his director’s cut by Oct. 5.

“I can’t deliver it as fast as he wants it,” insists Daldry, who has final cut. “I can, but it needs finishing at the level it need finishing.”

Rudin has brought in lawyers Melanie Cooke and Marty Singer to face off against Weinstein Co.’s Bert Fields. E-mails are flying back and forth.

The DGA may step in to arbitrate.

One reason Weinstein doesn’t want to delay “The Reader”: Next year he boasts three possible awards contenders: Quentin Tarantino‘s “Inglorious Bastards,” Rob Marshall‘s musical “Nine” and Andrew Jarecki‘s “All Good Things,” starring Ryan Gosling.

On the other hand, Rudin sees no need to rush: He already has two possible 2008 kudo candidates, “Doubt” and “Revolutionary Road,” which also stars Kate Winslet.

Daldry says he feels caught in the middle.

“I’m in week eight of my director’s cut,” says the helmer. “I said I would do my best to try and get it done this year. In the end, I need a bit more time. I feel a moral obligation to Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack to produce the best film. It’s not about whether it’s released this year or next: I need time to finish it to the best of my ability.”

The physical demands of completing the movie for a Nov. 7 delivery seem prohibitive. Daldry hasn’t locked his cut or tested or revised it, much less started scoring the movie, which will need about 65 minutes of music through its 2:20 running time.

According to the Weinsteins’ calendar, Daldry was obliged to complete the movie in 21 weeks, a span that counts Daldry’s hiatus time.

It’s only the latest drama for the project. Original star Nicole Kidman got pregnant and was replaced by Winslet. The production waited several months for its leading man, David Kross, to turn 18.

Daldry persuaded Weinstein, who flew to the set in Cologne, Germany, to brokera deal giving him $2 million over the $30 million budget for eight extra days of shooting and full creative control.

Weinstein granted those requests, with the proviso Daldry would test an early assembly, and if itscored above 70, he’d release the film this year.

The pic completed shooting on July 14 and when Weinstein tested the rough assemblage on Aug. 26, it scored 77.

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