Harris sets ‘Pollock’ as directorial debut

Move ends 6-year fight

After six years of trying to get his dream project about abstract painter Jackson Pollock off the canvas, Ed Harris has a greenlight and an April 19 start date to make his movie directorial debut on “Pollock.” Harris will co-produce and play the title role, and Marcia Gay Harden has been set to play his painter wife, Lee Krasner.

The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga,” written by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. It has been adapted by Barbara Turner and Susan Emshwiller. Harris’ Zeke Productions produces with Fred Berner of Fred Berner Films. The film will be exec produced by Peter Brant and Joseph Allen, who held the same titles on the Julian Schnabel-directed “Basquiat.”

Harris’ long quest to direct is similar to actor Robert Duvall’s. Despite working on high-profile projects, Duvall spent many years vainly trying to get a backer for his low-budget film “The Apostle” before finally financing the movie himself. Harris has found a financier, but the Oscar-nominated actor, who is used to working in big- budget films, knows that getting his chance to direct a passion project comes at a price — a very low budget.

“For me, this is the culmination of a very personal journey I’ve taken with screenwriters along the way to shape a subjective look at Jackson, his wife Lee and their life in Manhattan,” Harris said. “But it is a low-budget, independent film, and getting it going has been a pretty interesting process.” So interesting, he said, that it has left him little time to be nervous about getting behind the camera for the first time in his long career: “I have been so busy getting ready and just being in the middle of all this that I haven’t had a moment to think about that. There are constantly financial problems. Already, I’ve lost five days in the shooting schedule, so it becomes an exercise in squeezing everything together, and hoping I can maintain my original vision of the film.”

Most of the film’s budget comes from Brant and Allen, who run Brant-Allen Industries. Brant is the well- known art collector and publisher whose magazines include Art in America and Interview. He also produced the Andy Warhol films “L’amour” and “Bad.”

For his co-star, Harris brought in Harden, with whom he co-starred in the New York Shakespeare Festival premiere production of Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico.” She has also appeared in such recent films as “Meet Joe Black” and “Flubber.”

“I saw a lot of actresses for the character of Lee, but Marcia Gay was the one who came shining through,” Harris said.

Harris is repped by CAA and managed by Neil Koenigsberg. Harden is repped by Endeavor, manager Mary Ellen Mulcahy and attorney Ira Schreck.