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Christian Slater will star opposite Joe Pesci in Paramount’s untitled Barry Levinson project. The comedy, which begins principal photography in late July, centers on a hapless actor who goes to extremes in order to get work. Slater will play William, the Pesci character’s best friend and described in one studio report as “Stan Laurel to Oliver Hardy.”

Slater “and Barry Levinson had been looking for something to do together,” said Rick Kurtzman, Slater’s agent at Creative Artists Agency. “Christian considers him one of the finest filmmakers working today, and Barry had been very supportive to him when he directed the children’s play ‘The Laughter Epidemic’ for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.”

The final arrangements in the casting of the Levinson film were complicated, in part, by another commitment on Slater’s schedule. The actor had planned to star in August in the Hexagon/Warner Bros. dramatic thriller “Murder in the First,” to be directed by Marc Rocco. Producer Mark Wolper said he was happy to delay the start date of “Murder” as long as it did not jeopardize the film. It’s now scheduled for mid-November.

The change in dates has allowed “Murder” co-star Kevin Bacon to take a principal role in Universal’s “River Wild.” Bacon will play one of two escaped convicts who kidnaps Meryl Streep, her husband and son as they elude the law through white-water rapids in the Pacific Northwest. Production on the Curtis Hanson-directed thriller is scheduled to start mid-July.

Kurtzman reiterated that the top priority in the negotiations was to keep all projects viable, which was enabled by the cooperation of Rocco, Wolper and Hexagon co-producer Mark Frydman.

A prime consideration involved having the film ready for 1994 Cannes fest.

Kurtzman served as the point person for CAA in the dealings involving agency clients Slater, Bacon and director Rocco.