Picturehouse finds room for remake of 'Women'

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Picturehouse has acquired all North American rights to the long-gestating remake of "The Women" from writer-director Diane English, with Meg Ryan in talks to star.

Budgeted in the $18 million range, the project is slated to begin production in March in New York and Connecticut for release during next year's holiday season or spring 2008. The Jagged Films/Inferno Distribution feature will be produced by Jagged's Victoria Pearman and Mick Jagger, Inferno's Bill Johnson and English. Inferno's Jim Seibel is serving as an exec producer.

" 'The Women' is a very exciting project for our company," Jagger said. "It's a very funny and incisive script."

English described George Cukor's original 1939 film adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce's all-female comedy as "a poison pen letter to society women." She added, "My version is more of a love letter."

In the new version, Ryan, repped by CAA, would play a contemporary Martha Stewart-style TV personality who, as in the original, discovers that her husband is cheating on her. Picturehouse president Bob Berney said he plans to market the film as a broad comedy with a wide release, adding, "I laughed out loud reading this script."

Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow and Candice Bergen are among the other actresses being mentioned.

The project has been in the works since 1995, when Ryan and Julia Roberts independently asked New Line Cinema about doing a remake. The studio hired English, creator of CBS' "Murphy Brown," to pen a new screenplay for the duo, but they then moved on to other projects.

Directors such as James Brooks and Oliver Parker also were involved at various points. "(New Line co-chairman and co-CEO) Bob Shaye finally suggested that I direct about three years ago, which I always secretly hoped he'd do," English said.

In January, English bought back the rights to her screenplay along with certain remake rights for a price in the low-seven figures. Pearman, Jagger and Johnson then officially came aboard. In moving to Picturehouse, the project remains within the New Line family as Picturehouse is jointly owned by New Line and HBO.

"I've spent the better part of a decade trying to convince Hollywood that an all-female cast is a good bet," English said. "The timing on this couldn't be better, and I'm thrilled that Bob Berney and Bill Johnson recognize that."

ICM is packaging and raising financing for the project. Inferno also has been financing the film through its hedge fund facility and sales of foreign rights at the recently wrapped AFM.

The deal was brokered by Sara Rose, Picturehouse's senior vp acquisitions, and Carolyn Blackwood, executive vp business affairs and co-productions at New Line. ICM brokered the deal with Inferno on behalf of Jagged and English.
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