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Regency saves its marriage

Smiths an item again with Jolie, Pitt

New Regency has rekindled the romance for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

Project appeared dead just two weeks ago when Brad Pitt, lacking a leading lady, pulled out.

Now Angelina Jolie is coming aboard and Pitt is back in the film. It’s set to lense in November with Doug Liman at the helm.

Pitt and Jolie will play a couple in a dead marriage. They happen to be assassins, and when they are sent on the same job, they realize that each is supposed to terminate his or her marital mate. Simon Kinberg and Jezz Butterworth wrote the script.

The film’s resuscitation is remarkable, since films that lose key players and momentum rarely see the light of day.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” originally was set with Pitt and Nicole Kidman, but her tight schedule on “The Stepford Wives” forced her to drop out of the film. By then Pitt was away playing Achilles in “Troy,” and the producers and New Regency’s Arnon Milchan, David Matalon and Sanford Panitch spent most of the summer struggling to find a replacement.

Mrs. Smith not only had to excite Pitt, she had to be available in November so Pitt could finish and report for the Steven Soderbergh-directed “Ocean’s Twelve” early next year. Big names such as Jolie, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Cate Blanchett were contemplated, but things began to look dire. A glimmer of hope materialized when Pitt sparked to Jolie. But she seemed hopelessly busy with the Oliver Stone-directed “Alexander” and the Randall Wallace-directed “Love and Honor.”

Jolie has also been busy with humanitarian pursuits, and on Oct. 22 will be presented the UNCA World Citizenship Award by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “Love and Honor” is in the process of relocating from Disney. After much discussion between Jolie’s Industry reps and Pitt’s reps at CAA and Brillstein-Grey, a window was created in which each thesp will shoot part of the film without the other, and then come together as a duo for part of the shoot. The pairing was made.

Lucas Foster, who is producing the film with Akiva Goldsman, Patrick Wachsberger and Eric McLeod, said the tension level was high, but the producers and particularly Liman never wavered.

“Nicole’s exit could have been a death blow,” said Foster. “When you have a picture with a star like Brad, it gets heavily scrutinized and at moments of uncertainty, every studio steps in and offers him movies. The key to making this work was the fact that Doug remained so passionately committed and articulate about what he wanted to do with it. It gave Brad confidence and made it possible to get Angelina. We all think they will make a pair that you will want to see battling each other and falling back in love.”

Liman, who last directed “The Bourne Identity,” said, “The screenplay is so good that even as I felt like I was on a roller-coaster, I believed it was too good a piece of material not to be made right now.”