BERLIN — Miramax Films is in final negotiations with Intermedia for North and South American rights to Phillip Noyce’s “The Quiet American.”
The $30 million pic starts shooting Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It stars Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, and is produced by Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella’s Mirage Enterprises.
It’s an adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, set in 1952 against the backdrop of the Vietnamese war of liberation from French colonial rule. Screenplay is by Christopher Hampton.
The story revolves around the ambivalent friendship between a jaded, opium-addicted British newspaper reporter (Caine) and an idealistic but naive American aid worker (Fraser). Their relationship is complicated by their rivalry for the affections of a Vietnamese girl — a love triangle that finally leads to murder.
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The girl is played by 19-year-old Vietnamese actress Do Hai Yen, in her English-lingo debut. A graduate of a Hanoi dancing school and star of two Vietnamese movies, she was discovered after a four-month worldwide casting search.
“This is an extraordinary piece of literature, which really examines the very beginnings of how we Americans got into Vietnam, and does it not through describing battles, but through a marvelous triangle,” Pollack said.
“It becomes a kind of thriller melodrama between these three people, set against the canvas of the changeover between the French and the Americans in the fight against communism.”
Pic also stars Rade Serbedzija (“Snatch”) as a French police officer. It is produced by William Horberg for Mirage and Staffan Ahrenberg, who first brought the book to Pollack more than a decade ago. Pollack and Minghella will exec produce, alongside Guy East, Nigel Sinclair and Moritz Borman for Intermedia.
Intermedia’s sister company, Pacifica Film Development, is co-producing the film, with financing from Borman’s German tax fund IMF.
Intermedia has been developing the project with Mirage for the past year and will handle international sales.
The fact that Intermedia greenlit the pic two months ago without a U.S. distrib in place is a sign of the company’s new financial strength, which is enabling it to take the leading role in major international productions instead of waiting for studio backing. That policy has now paid off with the Miramax deal.
The project was brought into Miramax by Matt Brodlie and Mark Gill. Bob Osher and Charles Leighton negotiated the deal with Intermedia’s Jere Hausfater.
Noyce, who has been attached to the project for five years, has gathered a team of regular collaborators, including director of photography Christopher Doyle, production designer Roger Ford and costume designer Norma Moriceau. All three worked on Noyce’s previous pic, “Rabbit Proof Fence.” Noyce’s Rumbalara Films will get an associate producer credit.
Pic will shoot for three months in locations across Vietnam and at studios in Sydney. Vietnam locations include the ancient port town Hoi An, northern province Ninh Binh and the capital Hanoi.
Communist Party officials objected to a Ho Chi Minh City shoot depicting a fiery car exploding in a plaza in front of the city’s Continental Hotel. Producers are meeting with municipal authorities and hope to begin shooting Saturday as scheduled.
(Michaela Boland in Sydney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)