Searchlight pulling up its ‘Eucalyptus’

Kidman, Crowe pic falls in Oz

Production on Jocelyn Moorhouse pic “Eucalyptus” — in which her fellow Aussies Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman were to topline — has been postponed indefinitely, Fox Searchlight announced Thursday, just three days before principal photography was to start.

In a statement, the studio explained that “in order for Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman to be a part of this low-budget Australian production, there was a small window within which both were available. Pre-production elements were accelerated to try to meet this opening, but unfortunately the time was not sufficient. Searchlight plans to remount the film when schedules permit.”

Searchlight topper Peter Rice has spent much of this year in Australia dealing with the problematic pic; his absence has been keenly felt. Searchlight, coming off its best year ever, was out of the hunt at one of the most commercial Sundance film fests in years. Rice also has been noticeably absent this Academy Award season, one in which Searchlight’s hit comedy “Sideways” is thought to be in serious contention for picture, screenplay and acting Oscars.

It now appears his effort was for naught. The likelihood of remounting the pic with the same cast anytime soon — or ever — is slim to none. Crowe will embark on a global PR push for Universal’s “Cinderella Man” this spring. And Kidman is committed to promoting U’s “The Interpreter” in March and Columbia’s “Bewitched” in June before appearing in Wong Kar-wai’s “The Lady From Shanghai,” which lenses in Hong Kong this summer.

“After consulting with all the creative elements involved in ‘Eucalyptus,’ ” Rice said, “we have collectively agreed that the screenplay is not where we need it to be. For that reason, we are postponing the production.”

However, numerous other production sources indicated that Moorhouse and Crowe, also an executive producer, had substantial creative differences that gave the studio misgivings about proceeding with Moorhouse at the helm. The pair have a history dating back to Crowe’s breakout hit, “Proof,” in 1991.

(Michaela Boland in Sydney and Dana Harris in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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