You've gotta feel bad for director James Gray here. He's been dancing around "The Lost City Of Z" with Brad Pitt for months, and while it looked like the notoriously fussy actor — known for attaching himself to lots of projects, but not always actually committing to them — would be starring in his picture sometime in 2011, it's just not to be.
And the writing was on the wall yesterday. Pitt dancing around the shiny new toy that is Andrew Dominik's new project, the crime caper "Coogan's Trade" with a possible impressive cast that may include Casey Affleck, Javier Bardem, Sam Rockwell and Mark Ruffalo (plus he's interested in another project called, "The Gray Man"). Anyone paying attention all along knew that this news had to smell like bad news for the long-gestating "The Lost City Of Z." And yup, it pretty much does.
The adventure tale was being excitingly billed as a "Lawrence Of Arabia"-style epic and now had Inferno Entertainment's Bill Johnson and Jim Siebel on board alongside Pitt and his Plan B shingle with buyers at Cannes "flocking to the project" earlier this year. The thought was, at the time, principal photography could commence as soon as Pitt completed his turn on "Moneyball" which shot this summer.
But it's not gonna happen. Vulture reports that Paramount and the project have officially lost Pitt. Why? As they say it, because of the Dominik project and the fact that apparently there was a pay impasse for Gray with Paramount that could not be reconciled.
Though it does sound like it's ready to go and when push comes to shove, Pitt is more interested in the project by the man who directed him to a Best Actor prize in Venice for his turn in "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward John Ford." That film was an expensive near fiasco at the box-office, but as Venice attests, it gained great critical praise and it's become a total cult, fan favorite. Look at our Best of the Decade coverage, it's everywhere, the #2 film of 2007 (just a hair behind "There Will Be Blood"), plus we named its haunting score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis the #1 score of the entire decade. It's a film cinephiles adore and you can see that Criterion Collection myopicists are always clamoring on about when the film will finally arrive there. It's owned by WB, and we wouldn't hold our breath, frankly. Bad news for Gray, but good news for cinephiles we suppose if/when Dominik's film gets off the ground. 'Assassination' kind of landed him in director's jail it did so poorly, but its legend has only grown, so in the end it worked out for him.
For Gray it's back to the drawing board and or he's possibly full off this project entirely, but it's not as bad as when Pitt bailed on the original version of Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" in 2002, then budgeted at $70 million with Cate Blanchett in the female lead role that eventually went to Rachel Weisz. He basically jumped about a month or two before the film was to start shooting, sets had been built; the whole shebang. He did the same last minute exit with "State Of Play," and to a lesser extent with Aronofsky's "The Fighter," but as readers point out, script changes -- and over script tweaking -- may have precipitated his exit on all of these, i.e. if it ain't broke...