Miramax phones gnome

Winslet finds love in John's 'Juliet'

NEW YORK — Looks like Elton John’s “Gnomeo and Juliet” is not dead after all. Kate Winslet is attached to topline the long-gestating CG-animated feature for Miramax Films and John’s Rocket Pictures.

Project — a twist on Shakespeare’s classic that’s set in the world of tacky garden gnomes — had originally been in development at Disney animation, and John even made an appearance at a Mouse House showcase last fall to pump the pic’s planned 2008 rollout. But the plug was pulled at Disney last month by incoming animation toppers Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, who are evaluating the Mouse House’s toon slate as they shift over from Pixar.

Daniel Battsek — a vet of Disney’s U.K.-based Buena Vista Int’l division, who had a close relationship with Rocket — then made a move to develop and produce the available pic at his Miramax label. It marks the unit’s first animated project under his reign.

“I have had a longstanding relationship with Rocket and have been following this project since I was at Buena Vista Intl.,” explained Battsek of the move.

People familiar with the project said it has a “Monty Python” sensibility and presumably the move to a specialty label will afford it an edgier, hipper tone. Also, under Miramax, “Gnomeo” should cost significantly less than the $100 million-plus Disney spends on animated features produced inhouse.

Other casting is under way on the pic. John and Tim Rice will team to provide the pic’s soundtrack.

“I am very excited about working with Miramax,” John added in a statement. ” ‘Gnomeo’ is an edgy concept, and Miramax is the perfect home to push the envelope in animation.”

John and Disney previously worked with Disney animation on 1994’s “The Lion King.”

Rocket is currently in post on “It’s a Boy Girl Thing.”

Pic will be animated in Blighty, and Baker Bloodworth is onboard to produce and guide the production.

Originally scripted by Rob Sprackling and John Smith, “Gnomeo” was first brought to Disney by Rocket. Scribes Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley penned the current script.