Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Robert Pattinson will star in the period drama "Unbound Captives," with Madeleine Stowe making her directorial debut from a script she wrote.
Gil Netter and Grant Hill will produce with Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment. They are eyeing a year-end production start.
Though Stowe's a newcomer behind the camera, getting the job and landing that cast is a payoff for her risky decision to turn down millions of dollars for the script in 1993. Under pseudonym O.C. Humphrey, Stowe teamed with her husband, actor Brian Benben, to write "Unbound Captives" as a star vehicle for herself.
She would have played a woman (now to be played by Weisz) whose husband is killed and her two children kidnapped by a Comanche war party in 1859. She is rescued by a frontiersman, to be played by Jackman. Pattinson will play the son.
Fox offered Stowe $3 million, and later $5 million, for her script, with Ridley Scott poised to direct and Russell Crowe to star. She turned down what was among the highest sums offered a first-time scribe because there was no promise she would be anything more than screenwriter.
Stowe, who has never publicly spoken about her decision, said she can still remember the surreal moment of turning down all that money over the phone while staring in disbelief at her husband.
"There was never a moment's hesitation on my part, but it felt unreal, and I can remember my husband putting a finger across his neck to signal not to take the offer," Stowe said. "There are moments in life where you need to follow your heart. The script remained my singular focus, but directing it myself wasn't something I ever dreamed of."
The idea came from Netter as she spent years honing the script and visualizing every scene.
"Gil made me realize it when he said there isn't anyone who's going to make the movie you want to make," said Stowe, who then faced the painful task of finding an actress for a role that was once worth $5 million to her.
"I saw three actresses, and knew after meeting with Rachel that she was the person I wanted to hand this role to," she said. "Robert said yes last fall, before everything broke with 'Twilight.' Hugh said yes a couple of weeks ago."
Amritraj sparked to the idea of Stowe directing; she'll be helped by an experienced cinematographer in John Toll, who shot epics "Braveheart" and "The Last Samurai."
Hyde Park Intl. will sell offshore territories at Cannes, and Endeavor Independent, which packaged the pic, will sell North American distribution rights.
Jackman, fresh from "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," is formulating a sequel to that film for Fox. Weisz next stars in the Peter Jackson-directed "The Lovely Bones" for Paramount, and Pattinson is reprising his role as Edward in the "Twilight" sequel "New Moon" for Summit.