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Casting Leo has Harron hesitant

'Psycho' deal killer for helmer?

Producer Ed Pressman, whose “American Psycho” has become the hot buzz of the Croisette with its $21 million deal for Leonardo DiCaprio to star, said May 21 that the producers would still like to finalize a deal with director/writer Mary Harron on the pic.

“We’re trying to get Leo and Mary together,” Pressman says. “That would be the best of all possible worlds.”

Harron, who developed and co-wrote the indie pic with Guinevere Turner, had been set to helm “Psycho” as a low-budget indie project with Christian Bale in the lead for Lions Gate Films. Sources said Harron was pay-or-play on the pic, which is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel about a yuppie serial killer in Manhattan.

Reports filtered out that Harron stepped down as helmer on the pic because she did not want to direct a big-budget version of the book. Sources say it is now expected to be budgeted in the $40 million-plus area

That scenario is plain wrong, Harron said May 21. She had no comment on whether she would direct DiCaprio in the role, but she said she had a few reservations.

“It must seem strange that a director would hesitate to have such a huge star and big budget on a film,” Harron says. But she admits she was reluctant to make the pic without Bale, who had been her first choice for the role.

But Lions Gate, looking to capitalize on foreign pre-sales of the pic, made an offer in April to DiCaprio, which he quickly accepted. Sources say he was looking to shake the squeaky clean romantic lead image he culled worldwide with “Titanic.”

Lions Gate execs had no comment on the film or whether it had started pre-sales yet. In the press release announcing it, Lions Gate pointed out the huge international interest in a post- “Titanic” DiCaprio. But one source says the company would likely wait until a director was officially named before taking it to buyers.

Harron said she also worried about “artistic control” over the pic once it became so expensive.

Representatives for Harron said the director had been contacted by Lions Gate regarding her involvement in the pic, but no talks had begun. Pressman said Harron, DiCaprio and Lions Gate execs would meet in Los Angeles in coming weeks to see if they could work together.

Sources say Lions Gate was looking for a major helmer to take over the project. Names that have been bandied about include Gus Van Sant and Curtis Hanson. According to the terms of his deal, DiCaprio has director approval.

Harron has never worked with DiCaprio before the camera, but had once offered the part of Candy Darling to him on her indie pic “I Shot Andy Warhol,” a role that was played by Stephen Dorff.

Harron and Bale together had developed the script and the character of serial killer Patrick Bateman for more than a year. And both had turned down or put off other projects so that they could make “Psycho,” which had been slated by Lions Gate to start shooting in late August.

Pressman, Chris Hanley’s Muse Prods. and Christian Halsey Solomon’s Quadra Entertainment are set to produce. Lions Gate Films prexy Jeff Sackman, international president Joe Drake and prexy of production Michael Paseornek, along with Ron Rotholz, are exec producers.

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