The looming Hollywood strike won’t start until next year — if it happens at alll — but it may have already claimed its first high-profile victim.
Variety reported yesterday that Roman Polanski, who had signed on to direct the film adaptation of Robert Harris’ 2003 novel Pompeii, has been granted his request for a release from the project, leaving the $100 million production hanging in the balance. The reason? Principal photography can’t take place until next summer, meaning filming wouldn’t begin until next fall…at which point, pretty much everyone expects the strike will be in full swing. As producer Robert Benmussa is quoted in the article:
The decision to put “Pompeii” on ice was taken “in the past 48 hours,” the producer asserted. “We’ve been meeting agents and they’ve all said they can’t commit beyond June 30, 2008 because of the strike. Unfortunately, we are scheduled to shoot in Southern Italy in August 2008.”
The producer went on: “The weather 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.”
Polanski’s involvement was enough to get a number of distributors to sign on before the project’s completion — and now that he’s gone, some of them are following suit, including France’s Pathe and Italy’s RAI Cinema. A rep for RAI tells Variety:
“The contract we had for Pompeii is no longer valid, as it was tied to Polanski being attached to direct.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. But as things stand we are no longer on board.”
Pompeii‘s producers remain committed to the project.