SiddharthaEXCLUSIVE: Indian telecoms magnate BK Modi has thrown open the casting for the $40 million Indian epic he’s producing. Director Ashutosh Gowariker is looking for an unknown to play the 500BC Indian prince who became Buddha. Actors have until May 15th to submit to the Buddha-Movie website. “We felt that we needed a new face for our Buddha,” executive producer Michel Shane tells me.

Gowariker, who was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar for Lagaan (2001), plans to start shooting in India at the end of August. Modi is fully-financing Buddha through his Spice Studios. ICM has packaged the project and is handling international sales. Client David S Ward, screenwriter of The Sting, has penned the screenplay, based on Kyra Pahlen’s biography of Prince Siddartha, The Warrior Prince. The Dalai Lama is even credited as “consultant producer.”

Shane, executive producer of I, Robot and Catch Me If You Can, is pitching the project as “Gladiator meets Lawrence of Arabia.” He says it’s much more action adventure Little Buddha, Bernardo Bertolucci’s take on the same subject. I dunno. I’m sure these projects sound great on the celebrity Buddhist circuit, when you’re saying “namaste” to Richard Gere or Uma Thurman, but I just don’t know how much appeal they have in Des Moines.