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A Madden-ing touch

Helmer courted by Miramax for 'Silk' adaptation

ROME — Will Helmer John Madden ever contemplate contemporary life? Perhaps, but his current triad of projects under development would indicate otherwise.

The “Shakespeare in Love” helmer has been casting about for the proper follow-up to his Oscar-winning gig, and has settled his eyes with interest on an adaptation of “Silk,” by Alessandro Baricco.

Miramax toppers Bob and Harvey Weinstein confirmed that they’d optioned the novella Oct. 29 for producer Domenico Procacci at Rome-based Fandango.

Baricco has an agreement that permits him to author the first draft, though other writers will likely rewrite the screenplay, according to insiders familiar with the deal.

The pic could become his first project to go before cameras since Miramax Films’ multiple Oscar winner “Shakespeare in Love.”

Madden, who has a multipicture deal with Miramax, has yet to make a firm commitment to a project to follow “Shakespeare.”

He’s also attached to direct the World War II pic “Charlotte Gray” about a young Scotswoman who joins the French resistance, which is based on Sebastian Faulk’s bestseller of the same name. The Film Four Production of “Gray” might still be folded into Miramax’s banner, with Jeremy Brock writing the screenplay.

Then again, Madden’s also interested in helming the Miramax horse opera “St. Agnes’ Stand” for producer Elizabeth Karlsen — but there’s no writer on the project as yet.

Even with all the other distractions, insiders say a “Silk” script is being rushed into Madden’s hands in an effort to ensure this really is his next project.

Story of “Silk” follows an 1860’s silkworm merchant on his first trip to Japan, where the married man falls desperately for a mogul’s daughter. But unable to speak the language, he knows their affair is doomed, and returns to France and his wife. He makes every excuse to return to Japan once a year, and later begins a correspondence with the woman via a French translator, with ultimately tragic results.

The action in “Silk” is divided mainly between France and Japan, but no decision has yet been made about where the production would shoot.

Madden is in Italy to meet with Baricco, who is penning a screenplay with the director’s input. Further meetings reportedly are scheduled.

Film rights to the novel were initially optioned by Procacci, who figures as sole producer on the project.

(Claude Brodesser in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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