Heath Ledger's last film awaits deal for U.S. release

Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:23pm EST
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Backstage at the Oscars on Sunday night, where her brother was awarded a posthumous supporting actor's award, Kate Ledger told reporters that her family is very much in the loop on his final movie.

"We've seen a little bit of the footage," she said of Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," Heath Ledger's last film. "I think it's going to be amazing."

But the comments only highlighted a larger question: When will U.S. audiences get to see it?

The head-trippy "Parnassus," about a traveling magician who gives customers more than they bargained for, is a joint production of financial entity Grosvenor Park and sales mogul Samuel Hadida of Davis Films. It was gliding along as just another independently financed production -- and product of Gilliam's funhouse imagination -- when Ledger died early last year, in the middle of production.

The project's fate was thrown into question until Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp stepped in, with all three part of an elaborate work-around that has the actors playing different parts of Ledger's role.

That saved the production. But the sales process since then has been nearly as complicated.

A number of U.S. buyers during the summer and early fall were said to be interested in acquiring stateside rights -- Lionsgate and Overture reportedly were among the potential suitors -- but word of a potential deal quickly quieted down.

That has fueled speculation concerning such matters as dissent among producers over finances. Rumors aside, the film, whose budget is thought to be upward of $20 million, does present challenges.   Continued...

<p>'Heat', an oil on canvas by artist Vincent Fantauzzo, is seen in this image provided by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney May 8, 2008. REUTERS/Art Gallery New South Wales/Handout</p>