Malkovich sure ‘Libertine’ at end of Odyssey

Star won't direct, will star with Depp, Morton

This isn’t the first time that “The Libertine” has been launched at Cannes, but this time John Malkovich is sure it’s for real.

The $16 million project is set to shoot in the U.K. in December, with financing from Ralph Kamp and Louise Goodsill’s Odyssey Entertainment.

Malkovich will star alongside Johnny Depp and Samantha Morton, and is producing through his Mr. Mudd shingle with his partners Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith.

Malkovich was also originally slated to direct, but has stepped aside in favor of first-timer Laurence Dunmore. They met when shooting a Eurostar commercial.

“It’s always difficult to get something done, and if it’s something with any imagined or suspicioned degree of difficulty, then it’s just more so,” Malkovich says.

“We started ‘The Libertine’ with J&M, but I don’t think they ever had any intention of making it,” he recalls. “Then we had it at Granada, who did want to make it but didn’t have the power.”

Malkovich says the project was hampered by an excessive $23 million budget, but this has come down to $16 million “or maybe a bit less.”

“Laurence has done a lot of work on the script and made the film his own, and our company has evolved to the point where people don’t necessarily run screaming from us,” he jokes.

“Libertine” is adapted from Stephen Jeffreys’ play about the Earl of Rochester, a notorious 17th century poet and sexual athlete.

“It’s a highly literate, very bawdy, very sexy, very rowdy piece of writing,” says Malkovich, who played Rochester on stage but will impersonate King Charles II in the movie version.

Dunmore says his contribution to the script development was “about creating enough pace to take it a little bit further away from a stage play and nearer to cinema.”

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