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Ryder tripping with ‘Heathers’ helmer

London, Garnett to produce project; filming begins Jan. 15

Winona Ryder will reunite with director Michael Lehmann on the independent comedy “Mary Warner.”

Ryder will play a slacker actress who trips her way through a series of life-changing misadventures after eating a batch of marijuana-laced brownies made by her stoner roommate. Michael London and Jane Garnett are producing the film, scheduled to begin shooting in L.A. on Jan. 15.

It’s Ryder’s first true lead role since she was sidetracked by a trial and shoplifting conviction. Trying to regain career momentum, Ryder chose a script reminiscent of her career-making dark comedy “Heathers,” and recruited that film’s director. The script was written by actor Dylan Haggerty, Lehmann said.

“It’s more like a dysfunctional ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ than a stoner movie because the humor and characters are as much layered and sophisticated as visual,” Lehmann said. “It is a good choice for Winona, who hasn’t really done comedy since ‘Heathers,’ and is very good at it.”

London said the film is being made on an indie budget, with Arclight Films completing pre-sales at the Toronto Film Festival and Cinetic Media selling U.S. distribution rights. London, who recently produced “Thirteen,” the Lehmann-directed “40 Days and 40 Nights” and the Alexander Payne-directed “Sideways,” said they avoided an early studio alignment because the financier would have been unable to resist weeding out pot references and other politically incorrect quirks that made the script funny.

“If you take a studio deal on a movie like this there would be pressure to homogenize, and it is best for both Michael and Winona to recapture that sense of risk taking they displayed with ‘Heathers,’ ” London said. “We decided to get a domestic partner later, and really push the film at the festivals where people might want a break from angst fare and will be receptive to an outrageous comedy.”

Ilan Breil is the pic’s exec producer.

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