×
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

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, president of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild leaders [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York City in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. Sylvie (played by Thompson) meets aspiring [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content