Coin crunch hits ‘Mortara’

Hopkins starrer was due to start shooting Oct. 7 in Rome

LONDON — The fate of the $20 million FilmFour/Miramax project “Edgardo Mortara” is hanging in the balance, after financing problems caused the pic’s producers to shut down pre-production.

Pic, to be directed by Damien O’Donnell and starring Anthony Hopkins and Javier Bardem, was due to start shooting Oct. 7 in Rome.

Crew members were given notice of the shutdown Monday, but they’re still working in the hope that a solution to the cash crisis can be found quickly.

According to one of the pic’s producers, Julia Chasman, the crew is currently working for free, prepping locations in Rome and in a studio in Bucharest, Romania.

“We are hoping for a speedy solution to save this incredible project, to which the actors remain committed,” said Chasman, who developed and prepped the project. Chasman, along with Industry Entertainment’s Nick Wechsler, has been working on the film for more than two years and has been in pre-production in Rome since July 1.

Bardem, who attended the Venice Film Festival with “The Dancer Upstairs,” has been working in London prepping his role. Hopkins is currently in Los Angeles, where his new film “Red Dragon” is about to open.

The Film Consortium and its sales arm The Works were in the final stages of negotiating a deal to take over the project from FilmFour, and to put up half the budget. There also have been other international offers.

Sources said the shutdown was triggered when Germany’s Senator Film wobbled on its commitment to co-finance the pic. Subsequently, the producers and Miramax were unable to reach a new agreement for North American distribution rights, which Miramax was to take.

The film is based on the true story of a young Jewish boy who was kidnapped by the Pope in the mid-19th century. Hopkins is due to play Pope Pius IX, and Bardem the boy’s father.

“Edgardo Mortara” is one of two films, along with Walter Salles’ “Motor Cycle Diaries,” to which Channel 4 said it would honor its commitment despite its decision to close down FilmFour as a separate company.

(Charles Lyons in New York contributed to this report.)

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