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CGI report false; Schwartzman in 'Simone'

Jason Schwartzman has signed on to writer-director Andrew Niccol’s “Simone,” the Al Pacino starrer set up at New Line Cinema.

Catherine Keener and Pruitt Taylor Vince are also in negotiations to co-star in the pic.

“Simone” centers on a disillusioned producer (Pacino), desperate for a hit, whose film is endangered when his star walks off the movie. Forced to think fast, the producer decides to digitally create an actress to sub for the star. The “actress” becomes an overnight sensation — and everyone thinks she’s a real person.

In a recent published report, the storyline was mistaken for a casting move. But Niccol is likely to use an unknown in the title role, because the idea of digitally creating an actress is too expensive. “We are considering several options,” Niccol told Daily Variety.

Minor stir

The erroneous announcement of Niccol’s “decision” to use a CGI-created actress caused a minor stir last week at the Screen Actors Guild, in the F/X community and on various Web sites, including Ain’t It Cool News.

F/X experts questioned the cost-effectiveness of the endeavor, noting that Sony’s “Final Fantasy,” a pic that relied completely on computer-generated effects, cost well over $100 million to make. They also observed how “unreal” the final generated characters looked.

“It’s nothing that we’re greatly concerned about at this point for several reasons,” said SAG spokesman Greg Krizman. “First of all, these CGI characters are extremely expensive to produce and they have to spend more to create them than paying an actress.

“There are always going to be aspects of performance that a CGI character will not be able to do. And if they use the character, it is still going to be voiced by a real actress, so there’s no job that’s being lost.”

The pic is being produced by Niccol Films from Niccol’s script. Production is slated to start lensing Sept. 7 in Los Angeles.

For New Line, “Simone” is being overseen by exec veep Lynn Harris and director of development Bryan Hickel. Bradley Camp is the project’s exec producer.

Topper and reporter

Keener would play Pacino’s ex-wife, a studio topper, while Vince would play a tabloid reporter who sets about trying to uncover the “actress’s” true identity.

Real-life actor Schwartzman starred in “Rushmore” opposite Bill Murray. He next will be seen in Destination Films’ “Slackers,” due in theaters in the fall.

Keener was Oscar-nominated for USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich.” Her credits include “Simpatico,” “Your Friends and Neighbors,” “Box of Moonlight” and “Living in Oblivion.”

Schwartzman is repped by UTA, Niccol by CAA, Keener by the Gersh Agency and Vince by Gersh and manager Joannie Burstein.

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