Keitel nabs role in ‘Imaginary Crimes’

With such disparate pics as “Snake Eyes” and “The Piano” already in the can, thesp Harvey Keitel is stretching even further. Daily Variety has learned he is set to topline next in the family drama “Imaginary Crimes,” which Morgan Creek Prods. is currently acquiring from Interscope Communications.

Adapted from a Sheila Ballantyne-penned novel by the same title, the Kristine Johnson/Davia Lee Nelson script hit the fast track last Friday when William Morris Agency talent/movie division VP Brian Gersh, who is brokering the deal, took it to Morgan Creek COO Gary Barber.

“I read it overnight and knew we had to have it,” said Barber,who explained that the project is structured as a negative pickup, with Morgan Creek buying the literary rights from Interscope for an undisclosed amount.

The film is described by insiders as the story of two young girls coming to terms with their father, played by Keitel, who sometimes strayed on the wrong side of the law to fulfill his promise to take care of them. Insiders say the script has a tender, “Rambling Rose” feel to it.

According to Barber, no other talent has been slotted, though casting will heat up as soon as all principals have signed off on the deal. The ink should be dry by the end of this week, sources say.

“Crimes” director Anthony Drazan, who helmed last year’s cross-racial teen outing “Zebrahead” for Shadow Hill Entertainment and Oliver Stone, reportedly has been collaborating with Keitel to get the story to the screen for more than 1 1/2 years. He was unavailable for comment.

No toppers from either side would comment on financial details. “Crimes” reportedly is slotted at an under-$ 10 million budget.

At press time, Keitel was in the besieged Bosnian city of Sarajevo for a charity benefit and could not be reached. But a source close to the deal said that “Harvey is doing the film he’s been dreaming of for a year and a half.”

Morgan Creek prexy and CEO James Robinson will produce “Crimes.” Barber, Interscope chairman and CEO Ted Field, Interscope prexy and COO Robert Cort and Interscope producer Scott Kroopf will supervise the movie in various undetermined producing capacities.

“When Keitel and Drazan brought this project to us, we immediately understood their passion for it,” elaborated Robinson in a statement, further calling the story “so full of heart and imagination, it affects everyone who reads it.”

Lensing is set to begin Nov. 1 in an undetermined locale, though Morgan Creek toppers say it will probably be “somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.” Under the distribution agreement with the indie, Warner Bros. will take “Crimes” out nationally, and overseas will be handled by Morgan Creek International.

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