Julie Delphy's long-gestating historical drama The Countess is on shaky ground again after the Hungarian co-producer, Tivoli Films International (www.tivolifilms.com), backed out when its American producers slashed the budget in half
Shooting was to have begun in Hungary in late October and last six to eight weeks. The latest move jeopardizes the planned December wrap.
"I am convinced that after this drastic scale-back, The Countess cannot be realised the way Julie Delphy envisioned it," Katalin Krammer of Tivoli Films (www.tivolifilms.com) told FNE. "It is simply infeasible to shoot it anywhere in Eastern Europe for the amount of money they wish to spend. The film is now budgeted at even less than that of an average contemporary Hungarian movie."
According to industry estimates, an average contemporary movie in Hungary costs from 200 million to 400 million forints (€800,000-1.6 million), without star perks.
Krammer, who has been involved with the project for three years, believes a production with Hungarian historical figures played by international stars was important for Hungary. The film is based on a 17th Century Hungarian countess who supposedly bathed in the blood of virgin girls.
"The film attracted offers from England and Spain, but all our efforts were stopped by the American partners at Social Capital, as they insist on retaining all the rights," he said. "Especially with the weak dollar, the film could not come in under such a tight budget."
The production has been through several makeovers in recent months, first as an English-Belgian-Hungarian co-production, then a predominantly American one, subsequently with a German partner added.
The French actress has been trying to launch the project for years, announcing her interest as early as the 2004 Berlinale. Even well before that, according to American insiders, three major Hollywood film studios turned it down.
This year the U.K.-based Intandem Films (www.intandemfilms.com) came on board as sales agent. It has pre-sold The Countess to Australia, Brazil and Russia, among other territories.
Delphy has lined up a stellar cast for her first period piece as a director. William Hurt, Vincent Gallo and Daniel Brühl will star in the film. In the new setup, co-producers abound, with Ethan Hawke rumoured to have the lead. The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) credits as many as nine of them.
Originally called Bathory, Delphy's sophomore directorial effort has been re-titled because a rival production with the same title by Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko is scheduled to hit the screens in January.