×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Polanski pulls out of ‘Pompeii’

Looming actors strike causes problems

Roman Polanski’s “Pompeii,” the $100 million high-wire act that was levitated early this year and sold in many territories at Cannes before bogging down over location and script problems, lies in ruins now that the director has exited the project.

But the movie is apparently still going forward, with another director being sought.

As for now, all prep work on the indie epic has been indefinitely halted. Producer Robert Benmussa blamed fears of a SAG strike, which intensified as casting dragged on. Others connected to the film said Polanski never succeeded in tailoring the script to the kind of top-tier stars who’d have been key to the unlikely tentpole.

“Polanski has asked for his liberty, and we’ve given it to him,” said Benmussa, who is producing the film with Alain Sarde and Polanski via the helmer’s company RP Prods.

If the union dispute is resolved by February, Polanski could return, Benmussa said, but added that he had “very little hope of that.”

Polanski, 74, has not pulled out so that he could take on an alternative project. The director had been “working nonstop on the project for the past 18 months,” Benmussa said.

The decision to put “Pompeii” on ice was made “in the past 48 hours,” the producer said Tuesday.

Just last week, Summit Intl., which is handling international sales, had expressed wary optimism that the locations would finally be set, paving the way for eventual shooting. Then suddenly, in the middle of the Toronto Film Festival, the sales outfit faced the prospect of meeting not with dealmakers or filmmakers but with angry distribs.

It’s the first festival season for vet sales chief Patrick Wachsberger since Summit added a production and distribution apparatus and $1 billion in Wall Street financing.

“We’ve been meeting agents, and they’ve all said they can’t commit beyond June 30 of 2008 because of the strike,” Benmussa said. “Unfortunately, we are scheduled to shoot in Southern Italy in August 2008.

The weather, the producer said, “is an actor in this film, because the catastrophe happened Aug. 26, during the sweltering heat of summer, when water supplies had run out. It is a part of the story.”

Other, more southern, settings for the five-month shoot were considered but ruled out.

“This isn’t a TV film where sand dunes in Morocco are made to pass for some other part of the world. It’s a question of credibility,” Benmussa said.

Millions have already been spent since the film went into preparation in March, the producer said, and France’s Pathe, Germany’s Constantin and RAI Cinema in Italy are among some 35 distributors from around the world that have pre-bought the pic on the strength of Polanski’s association as helmer, as much as the subject matter.

“I don’t know what we are going to do yet,” Benmussa said. “If Polanski is no longer directing, we’ll have to completely remount the project. Distributors will also have their liberty to pull out of the film.”

He went on: “We still have the book rights, we still have a scenario and a very strong subject that people all over the world are interested in. This is a temporary problem that we have to resolve.”

Pathe and RAI Cinema both confirmed on Tuesday that they were exiting the project. A RAI Cinema rep said: “The contract we had for ‘Pompeii’ is no longer valid, as it was tied to Polanski being attached to direct. If we are offered another director, then we shall see.”

(Nick Vivarelli in Rome, Dave McNary in Hollywood and Sharon Swart in Toronto contributed to this report.)

More Film

  • Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special

    Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special Mention Winner ‘Monster God’

    CANNES – An exploration of the ramifications of God, “Monster God,” from Argentina’s Agustina San Martín, took a Special Mention – an effective runner’s up prize – on Saturday night at this year’s Cannes Film Festival short film competition. It’s not difficult to see why, especially when jury president Claire Denis own films’ power resists [...]

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content