Stone taking on ‘Forest’

Eslinger-helmed project 'Man' looking for financing

American filmmaker Ryan Eslinger has snagged Sharon Stone to star in his $2 million indie project “When a Man Falls in a Forest,” and he’s also penning a script for her to direct.

In the as-yet-unfinanced pic, Stone is attached to play an unhappily married woman who shoplifts to relieve her suffering. The woman is one of four sad, middle-class characters living in a small town in the Midwest.

Eslinger’s first pic, “Madness and Genius,” drew critical acclaim and a William Morris Agency contract for the then 22-year-old novice helmer when it unspooled at the Toronto Film Festival in 2003.

New effort is one of 18 projects featured in the Cannes Film Festival’s “Atelier du Cinema” line-up of pics looking for coin. It has also been selected for the Sundance Institute’s filmmakers lab next month.

In a separate project initiated by Stone, also repped by William Morris, Eslinger, is penning a script for the actress to direct. Eslinger said the screenplay’s scientific theme has echoes of his “Madness and Genius.”

Made with helmer’s savings of $19,000, “Genius” is about a student who blackmails his teacher in order to steal a scientific discovery and claim it as his own — “Stanley Kubrick meets ‘Good Will Hunting,'” in the helmer’s words.

Eslinger said “It will be a challenge for her to play a Midwestern housewife.”