Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes Movie Loses Key Financial Backer (Exclusive, Now with Update)

Warren Beatty HFPA Luncheon 2009
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 11:  Actor Warren Beatty speaks during the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's installation luncheon held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on August 11, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.

Morgan Creek Productions has parted ways with the project as casting director Debra Zane also departs.

Warren Beatty’s planned movie about Howard Hughes is having as much trouble taking off as the Spruce Goose. According to insiders, the project has lost one of its main financiers as well as its award-winning casting director.

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Morgan Creek Productions, the independent outfit that had agreed to back the pic with New Regency when Paramount dropped it in September, has now parted ways with the project. Sources say New Regency, under the direction of Arnon Milchan and Brad Weston, was to split the risk with James G. Robinson's Morgan Creek, with each company taking a 45 percent stake in the project and producer/financier Steven Bing making up the difference.

A source says the budget is currently in the $47 million range but the producers and potential distributor Fox, where New Regency is based, wanted it brought down to $42 million. Facing an impasse, Morgan Creek has pulled out.

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Meanwhile, sources say Beatty's hand-picked casting director Debra Zane also has left the project. Zane, one of the top names in the field, has worked on such movies as Get Shorty, American Beauty, Traffic and Dreamgirls. She was said to be looking at potential cast for the drama but left the project due to creative differences that are said to be unrelated to the financial issues.

The Hughes pic is meant to be a comeback of sorts for Beatty, 74, who was last behind the camera with 1998's Bulworth and last starred in the 2001 film Town & Country.

UPDATE: Reps for Bing and his Shangri-La banner have issued the following statement: New Regency and Steve Bing have always been Warren Beatty's partner in making the Howard Hughes film. They will continue to be his partner until the film is completed. 

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