Busy Rea Teams With Roberts, Penn

Julia Roberts and Stephen Rea are joining Liam Neeson in writer-director Neil Jordan’s drama “Michael Collins” for Warner Bros., sources said.

Rea, meanwhile, and Arthur Penn have been attached as star and director, respectively, on “A Further Gesture,” a $6 million Irish-American thriller being readied for production this summer.

In “Collins,” Roberts will play the title character’s lover Kitty. The pic is slated for a four week shoot in June, sources said. All actors are finalizing their deals.

Sources involved said the film is a “labor of love” for all those involved.

“Michael Collins” is about the Irish revolutionary leader who fought the Black & Tans to free Ireland from British rule during the early part of this century. Eventually, he ended up disagreeing with his former collaborators.

Rea has been involved in “A Further Gesture” from its conception by screenwriter Ronan Bennett and producer Chris Curling, and plans to make the film immediately after Neil Jordan’s “Michael Collins.”

Britain’s Channel 4 is putting up half of the budget for the film, developed by London-based CSL Films. The remaining financing will be put in place after delivery of the final draft of the script, expected soon.

The film is the story of a burnt-out IRA gunman who breaks out of prison and flees to New York to find a new life, instead of staying in Northern Ireland to continue the fight. In Gotham he gets involved with South American revolutionaries, and finds himself sucked back into the world of political struggle.

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