Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro appear together in this weekend’s release of Limitless from Virgin/Relativity. So I decided to check on that other reteaming of Cooper and De Niro in the works for New Line, the heartfelt dramedy Honeymoon With Harry, with Jonathan Demme on board to direct. Well, it’s not in the works anymore because of the usual De Niro paralysis. I’ve learned that Demme recently dropped out because he grew frustrated with De Niro’s hemming and hawing about the project — even after Demme and Jenny Lumet (the same team that did the wonderful Rachel Getting Married) did a rewrite of the Paul Haggis script regularly featured on “best unmade” lists. I heard both New Line and Cooper loved the new version. But De Niro still balked.
“Demme basically said to Cooper, “De Niro will never do this. It’s a wild goose chase. Bradley, we should make this movie together,'” an insider explains to me. After circling the film since August, Jonathan was ready to go into pre-production. But Cooper “didn’t want to look disloyal by leaving De Niro on the side of the road”, another source tells me. When New Line couldn’t build a bridge between Demme and De Niro, Demme parted ways rather than “make the movie in a negative environment”. Now the pic is all but dead at New Line. Jeez, given how many lousy projects De Niro stars in these days, I find it surprising that the actor would balk at working on a movie with a brilliant Academy Award-winning director like Demme. (De Niro adds so little to films these days his photo isn’t even on the Limitless poster.) I hear Jonathan may try to take the project out of New Line and make it somewhere else when he’s done directing Erin Brockovich screenwriter Susannah Grant’s pilot at CBS.
Honeymoon With Harry already had a history of six years of development hell. New Line and producer Mike Karz hatched the project in 2004 by buying an unpublished novel by Bart Baker. Paul Haggis came on to write it — before he directed Crash or adapted Million Dollar Baby — and then to direct it, too, with once had Vince Vaughn and Jack Nicholson circling. But Bob Shaye’s New Line regime couldn’t agree with Haggis on a budget. After New Line’s implosion and the writer’s strike, Cooper became interested. During the summer, Cooper and De Niro did a read-through organized by New Line. Cooper read the role of a formerly self-centered womanizing booze-hound who changed his ways when he met a girl and fell in love. De Niro read the role of the girl’s father, who recognizes himself in the young man and tries to break up the couple. There’s an engagement, a tragedy, and then a boozy honeymoon where the two men reconnect.