EXCLUSIVE: Gravity, the 3D film that Warner Bros is mobilizing with director Alfonso Cuaron and Robert Downey Jr., is suddenly in danger of falling back to earth after Angellina Jolie said no to a full court press and a big money offer to star in the film. It has put Warner Bros in a bind. The studio needs an actress who can hold the screen and draw an audience to an $80 million film. Much like Tom Hanks’ role in Cast Away, the Gravity heroine is the only person onscreen for a large part of the movie. Beyond Jolie, which other actress do you bet on?
Cuaron first courted Jolie when the project was tethered at Universal. She was intrigued with the filmmaker, but passed around the time it landed at Warner Bros. I’m told the studio tested or made approaches to actresses including Sandra Bullock and Natalie Portman (word around town is the studio’s intrigued with both), Naomi Watts, Marion Cotillard, Carey Mulligan, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Abbie Cornish, Rebecca Hall, Olivia Wilde, Blake Lively. Warner Bros made a second overture to Jolie, but she just passed for a second time. While Downey certainly has the star power to carry such a movie, he plays a comparatively small role and it was never Downey’s or Cuaron’s intention for him to carry the picture.
Scripted by Cuaron and his son Jonas, Gravity is set on a remote space station. While a team leader (Downey) and a female colleague are traveling outside, the other team members get wiped out by a debris field from an exploding satellite. The film’s central focus is the heroine’s desperate attempt to return home to her child. The intention is to shoot the film next year after Downey completes Sherlock Holmes 2.
I don’t see Jolie returning to the fold. Right now, she is focused on making her directorial debut this fall on a love story that takes place in 1990s Bosnia, from a script she wrote, with GK Films co-financing with an equity partner. Not counting offers coming in, Jolie and longtime manager Geyer Kosinski are figuring out a full slate of projects that are in various stages of development for her. They include joining director Tim Burton in the role of Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty; playing the title role in Cleopatra, which is being scripted by Brian Helgeland for Sony Pictures Entertainment; playing the lead role in Scarpetta, the Fox 2000 adaptation of Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling novel series about medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, which Kerry Williamson adapted. In addition, there is a sequel to Jolie’s summer hit Salt just getting underway at SPE; Christopher McQuarrie is adapting the British miniseries Unforgiven for GK Films as a potential star vehicle for Jolie, and Paramount is developing Code Name Sasha with Bryan Bertino writing the script. Jolie next stars alongside Johnny Depp in the Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck-directed The Tourist, which SPE releases December 10, and then provides a lead voice in Kung Fu Panda 2, which will be released May 26, 2011.