New Line woos ‘Women’ redo

English makes helming debut

The long-gestating remake of 1939 comedy “The Women” is crystallizing … again.

The latest plan has New Line looking to distribute domestically and co-finance with Ascendant Pictures and Capitol Films.

Diane English, who wrote the script, will make her directorial debut.

Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd are in negotiations to star. Uma Thurman is being eyed for a role as well.

The money and talent deals are expected to be finalized by week’s end. Shooting begins in February.

Mick Jagger will produce the film with Jagged Films partner Victoria Pearman and Ascendant’s Christopher Eberts. The Rolling Stones front man will also supervise the soundtrack.

English has been writing drafts for a decade; originally, Ryan planned to produce and star in the pic with Julia Roberts for director James L. Brooks. English credited Pearman’s aggressiveness for getting New Line interested again in a project it scrapped several years ago.

“The Women” has always been a tough act to repeat. Many were skeptical that a predominantly female audience would justify the budget and felt that the Clare Boothe Luce source material was chained to its era and made stars Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell hopelessly unsympathetic.

But recent ratings successes such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City” indicate auds may be receptive to such material. English solved the plot problems by embracing the fact that women today don’t base their identities on the men in their lives.

“The original was funny but very mean-spirited. It was Luce’s attack on her gender,” English said of the play that was adapted by Anita Loos for the George Cukor-directed film version. “The catalyst of the story is still one of the women discovering her husband is having an affair, and the reaction of her friends. Unless I screw it up, there’s a built-in audience for this movie.”

Bening will play the wronged woman (Shearer’s role), while Thurman would take the Joan Crawford part of the husband-stealer. Ryan, Bullock and Judd will play characters that are composites of some in the original.

New Line will distribute domestically, with exec veep Mark Ordesky supervising. Ascendant will provide gap financing and Capitol will sell foreign rights to the film, English said.

Ascendant and Capitol are teamed on “Lucky Slevin.”

ICM packaged the pic.

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