Par thinking tentpole with sci-fi ‘Tomorrow’

De Laurentiis-financed project may see 2004 release

This article was corrected on June 22, 2003.

Paramount Pictures has picked up U.S. distrib rights to “The World of Tomorrow,” a retro sci-fi actioner starring Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow and directed by Kerry Conran.

Tentpole-style project was a huge bet for Aurelio De Laurentiis, who financed the film’s $70 million budget without a domestic distrib in place. Par, which is in final negotiations on the deal, is expected to release “World” in 2004, though a date hasn’t been set.

“Today, the gamble sure doesn’t make Aurelio and me look stupid,” pic’s producer Jon Avnet told Daily Variety.

Principal photography wrapped in April in London.

“World” uses alive action-animation combo with nearly everything onscreen — aside from the actors — to be computer-animated in post-production. In London, the actors worked entirely on blue-screen sets.

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The animation is scheduled to take 52 weeks to complete. However, Avnet said “World” would be available for a summer 2004 release.

Paramount has a gap in next summer’s slate after it recently moved “Mission: Impossible 3” away from its previously announced May 2004 date. Other key Par films expected to be released next year include “Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Series of Events,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Stepford Wives” and “Sahara.”

“World” is set in 1939 New York City, with Paltrow playing a reporter who notices that the world’s scientists are disappearing. She and Law track down a mad scientist to foil his plot to take over the world.

Cast also includes Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi and Bai Ling.

Also producing are Avnet’s producing partner Marsha Oglesby, Law and his wife Sadie Frost. Exec producing with De Laurentiis are his cousin Raffaella De Laurentiis as well as Bill Haber.

Pic marks the directorial feature debut for Conran, who also penned the script. He had spent eight years mapping out the movie on a PC in his Sherman Oaks apartment.

After seeing a sample of Conran’s work two years ago, Avnet agreed to finance the pre-production of the pic.

Conran praised Avnet, saying, “This strange film exists because of his maverick spirit, his insane belief in me and his love for this project.”

Rather than work through the studio, the two decided to seek outside financing for the pic.

Rafaella De Laurentiis produced the Avnet-directed telepic “Uprising” and introduced him to her brother Aurelio.

After seeing a test of “World” at their first meeting in Rome in January 2001, Aurelio De Laurentiis said, “I understood it immediately. It was a fantastic new adventure. I decided to become involved, financing the entire project.”

Aurelio De Laurentiis, who has expressed interest in turning “World” into a trilogy, peddled the pic at Cannes last month, selling rights to Gaga in Japan, SHowbox in Korea and Scanbox in Scandinavia.