Action pic "Unstoppable" hits budget snags

Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:50am EDT

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NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - "Unstoppable" may be anything but.

The Denzel Washington/Tony Scott runaway-train movie, at one time on the fast track at 20th Century Fox, is slowing down as a result of disagreements over the appropriate budget.

The project -- about a train containing toxic chemicals that speeds out of control -- was aiming for a fall shoot, and Washington and director Scott said as recently as several weeks ago that they were moving forward on that assumption.

But the studio has concerns about the cost of physical production on the action-heavy film, which could put the project on hold.

Neither the main acting deals -- for Washington and "Star Trek" star Chris Pine -- or Scott's directing deal have been closed.

Washington is an A-lister who earns as much as $20 million per picture at a time when studios say they want to rein in star salaries.

Hollywood executives are pointing to such star-driven projects as "Land of the Lost" and "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," which have faltered at the box office, while concept-driven pictures including "Up," "Star Trek" and "The Hangover" have flourished. In three weeks of release, action feature "Pelham," the most recent Scott/Washington collaboration, has earned a middling $53 million domestically for Sony.

Known for their high production values, Scott's movies tend to travel in a higher-budget range. But Fox is known for managing costs by examining budgets critically.

Neither the studio nor the film's producers would comment for this report.

"Unstoppable" is hardly the only example of a Hollywood movie being imperiled because of financial considerations.

A week ago, Sony pulled the plug on Steven Soderbergh's "Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt, just days before it was to begin shooting because studio executives were uncomfortable with the commercial potential of the script.

"Unstoppable" is not thought to be in as precarious a position as "Moneyball." But Fox has a reputation for keeping a lid on budgets, and the current climate only bolsters its bargaining position.

"A year ago, you could agree on a budget and then come back and give them a higher bill and they'd pay it," said a producer with a deal at a studio. "It doesn't work like that anymore."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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