EXCLUSIVE: The Paul Haggis-scripted Honeymoon With Harry might make it to the altar after six years of broken engagements. Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper two weeks ago read the lead roles in a run-through organized by New Line at De Niro’s Tribeca Productions offices. Now, Jonathan Demme is circling the project. All this has created the sense of optimism that a script regularly featured on “best unmade” lists is finally on a fast track. That Honeymoon With Harry is gaining momentum now is ironic. Hollywood is squarely operating in safe-bet mode and one of the script’s problems has been that it has strong comedy and drama elements but can’t exactly be called one or the other. The most apt description is to call it a James Brooks-style look at two characters who loathe one another but are stuck together at a time when each is in desperate shape.

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 them up. They get engaged anyway. When she dies tragically just before their wedding, the groom heads off on their honeymoon to drown his sorrows and drink himself to death. There, he meets his almost father-in-law, who has come to spread his daughter’s ashes on her favorite beach.

New Line and producer Mike Karz hatched the project in 2004 by buying an unpublished novel by Bart Baker. Haggis was hired to write it, before he directed Crash or adapted Million Dollar Baby. Haggis then became director, and once had Vince Vaughn and Jack Nicholson circling. But the previous New Line regime and Haggis couldn’t agree on budget. The project then sat through the implosion of New Line and the writer’s strike. The Hangover’s Cooper became interested.  He and De Niro made the Neil Burger-directed The Dark Fields and wanted to work together again, which got the project going again at New Line. They are attached, and Demme has met, but there are no deals yet. Demme does well with the Honeymoon subject matter, as evidenced by Rachel Getting Married.

Baker never got his book published, but will get another shot if the film gets made.