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Fiennes is culled for Chen’s ‘Killing’

'Concubine' helmer delves into English with erotic thriller

Joseph Fiennes is in negotiations to star opposite Heather Graham in “Killing Me Softly,” the first English-lingo pic from Chinese helmer Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”).

Fiennes (“Elizabeth,” “Shakespeare in Love”) will next appear with Jude Law in the Paramount/Mandalay production of Jean Jacques Annaud’s “Enemy at the Gates.”

MGM had picked up U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the $25 million-budgeted “Killing Me” in a negative pickup deal worth close to $10 million earlier this month (Daily Variety, Aug. 10).

The Montecito Picture Co., the production shingle of ex-Universal topper Tom Pollock and helmer Ivan Reitman, is exec producing. Producers are Michael Chinich, Dan Goldberg, Joe Medjuck and Lynda Myles.

The erotic thriller, based on the novel by Nicci French, spins the tale of a London research scientist (Graham) who opts out of her comfortable but ordinary relationship with her boyfriend and into a dangerously obsessive bond with a handsome and mysterious mountaineer. Production designer turned writer Kara Lindstrom penned the script.

Deals for worldwide distribution are in the works. Pollock and Reitman have a deal with DreamWorks, but that studio passed on handling the pic, in part, apparently, because of the frankly sexual nature of the material.

“Killing” is set to start lensing in London on Oct. 29, with an eye to release in fall 2001.

Pic reps the first English-lingo effort by any of China’s famed Fifth Generation helmers, who include Zhang Yimou and Zhou Xiaowen. Chen’s most recent film is “The Emperor and the Assassin.” His pic “Farewell My Concubine” won both the Palme d’Or and the Intl. Critics Prize at Cannes.

Fiennes is repped by CAA and by attorney Barry Hirsh in North America, and by Ken McReddie Ltd. in London. He is managed by Parseghian/Planco.