Searchlight could sing 'Swan's' song

1:43 PM PST 11/09/2009 by Steven Zeitchik, AP

Winona Ryder joins cast of Darren Aronofsky thriller

Fox Searchlight may be going to the ballet.

The specialty division is close to climbing aboard Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," in final negotiations on an agreement to co-finance and distribute the supernatural thriller set in the world of New York ballet.

Cross Creek Pictures would now co-finance the picture with Searchlight; Rick Schwartz's Overnight Films had been co-financing, though Schwartz will remain involved with the project. As part of the new financing arrangement, Cross Creek topper Brian Oliver is set to come aboard as a producer.

The pic, which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, has also rounded out its cast. Winona Ryder has signed on to play an older dancer to Portman's and Kunis' younger performers, while Barbara Hershey and French actor Vincent Cassel are also joining the cast.

Shooting is scheduled to start in New York before the end of the year, with a budget estimated to be $10 million-$12 million. Searchlight had long been eyeing the pic but had not previously committed to finance or acquire rights.

Scott Franklin of Aronofsky's Protozoa Pictures will also produce, along with Arnold Messer and Mike Medavoy of Phoenix Pictures, with Phoenix's Brad Fischer and David Thwaites exec producing. The script was written by Protozoa's Mark Heyman based on an original screenplay by Andres Heinz.

The project marks another collaboration between Aronofsky and the specialty division. Searchlight acquired the helmer's awards-season favorite "The Wrestler" out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

"Swan" centers on a young dancer at the New York City Ballet (Portman) who may or may not be having delusions about a rival dancer (Kunis). The project, which began life at Universal before being reconceived as an indie, has drawn comparisons to "The Others" and other high-end supernatural thrillers.

Ryder most recently starred in "Star Trek" and is attached to indie thriller "Alpha Numeric." Cross Creek is also co-financing the mob drama "Delivering Gen" with producer Lorenzo diBonaventura.

Searchlight next releases awards hopefuls "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Crazy Heart."
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