Howard Off ‘Chamber’

Ron Howard has fallen out of directing “The Chamber,” the John Grisham book that Universal Pictures spent a record $3.75 million to acquire on his behalf more than a year ago, sources said.

The director, who recently wrapped filming on “Apollo 13,” has reportedly been skittish about committing to the script, which is said to bear little resemblance to the book. Sources said it’s now more of a character study than a crime drama.

The story concerns a white supremacist lawyer on Death Row for killing two Jewish youths. He hires a young attorney who, unbeknownst to either, is his grandson.

Universal, which has committed nearly $7 million to the pic by buying the rights, bringing in screenwriter William Goldman and hiring producers, is pushing ahead with the film. Sources say the script has to be rewritten.

The script is now going out to other directors, Peter Weir being among those who have expressed interest. Davis Entertainment is producing the project.

While Imagine topper Brian Grazer has steadfastly maintained that Howard would direct the film if he could cast it, the casting difficulties started when Brad Pitt passed on it. Pitt has since received a $7 million offer from Warner Bros, and New Regency on “Captain Blood.”

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