Natalie Portman exits 'Wuthering Heights'

HanWay Films hoping for a swift replacement

LONDON -- John Maybury's upcoming adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" is facing a casting crisis after Natalie Portman pulled out of one of the main roles.

Portman's exit has left the financiers, sellers and producers in a world of pain just days ahead of this year's Festival de Cannes, during which the movie is due to be sold.

Finance and sales company HanWay Films, which is selling the picture, is still planning an aggressive campaign and the sales company is hoping to have a replacement for Portman "within days" in the role of Cathy.

Ecosse Films, the production house run by Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae, is producing the picture.

Local press reports here put the smart money on a British replacement for Portman. For his part, Maybury is of the opinion that the famous English role should go to someone from these shores.

Written by Olivia Hetreed, who also undertook the adaptation of "Girl With a Pearl Earring," the new adaptation plans to steer away from "the stuffy costume drama" format.

Emily Bronte's novel details the intense love story between the rich Catherine Earnshaw and a foundling brought from the slums of Liverpool named Heathcliff.