Star-crossed gnomes get their stars

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James McAvoy and Emily Blunt might soon discover the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence — if you're a garden gnome in love.

The pair are in negotiations to play the title roles of "Gnomeo and Juliet," a CGI-animated Shakespeare adaptation from Miramax and Elton John's Rocket Pictures.

The film will feature several John classics but not Kate Winslet; she was first attached to voice Juliet two years ago and fell out because of scheduling conflicts. Tim Rice also was approached to write original songs with his "Lion King" partner John at the time, but the soundtrack now will be filled with the performer's well-known hits and possibly a few new tracks.

In the loose and edgy adaptation of Shakespeare's play, McAvoy ("Atonement") and Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada") would play lovers from rival gardens. John, who is producing alongside his offscreen partner David Furnish, Baker Bloodworth and Steve Hamilton Shaw, is said to be pursuing big-name talent to voice supporting roles.

Rocket initially brought "Gnomeo" to Walt Disney Feature Animation, but several years later the project was dropped by incoming Pixar executives John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. Miramax president Daniel Battsek, who followed the project while at Buena Vista International, persuaded Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook to revive it at his specialty division in April 2006.

Kelly Asbury will direct from an original script by Rob Sprackling and John R. Smith. Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley and Mark Burton have worked on later versions of the screenplay. Now in the storyboard stage, production is expected to be completed by 2010.

McAvoy, repped by WMA and United Agents, had his first big-budget hit with this summer's "Wanted." After a string of upcoming indies, the CAA- and Ken McReddie Associates-repped Blunt is expected to follow suit with "The Wolfman" in summer 2009. (partialdiff)
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