You'll recall "Downsizing" announced earlier this year in Variety (which Jeffrey Wells actually got the jump on first), the return of indie director Alexander Payne after a five year absence from feature-length filmmaking.*
The project was ambitious, high-concept and pretty much a left turn for Payne's more, low-key, indie-minded serio-comic dramas ("Sideways," "Citizen Ruth," etc.). Essentially, "Downsizing" is of his ilk — a social satire — but ostensibly challenging to execute with some small touches of sci-fi: it's about a financially struggling man who decides he can have a much nicer life if he undergoes a process to shrink himself.
The film was to star Paul Giamatti, Reese Witherspoon as what one can assume is the love interest (or a "miniature he meets along the way" according to Variety) and Sacha Baron Cohen as a foreigner little guy (it's really unclear from the reports if we're dealing with
midgets little people or a whole society of people who have shrunk themselves down) Meryl Streep's name was mentioned in Wells' piece, but not Variety, who said all three aforementioned actors had committed to star in the film).
But Patrick Goldstien has small and plausible-sounding update:
"The script is rumored to be dazzlingly original but too costly to get financing from Fox Searchlight, which distributed "Sideways," meaning that the project will be run through 20th Century Fox if it gets made inside the News Corp. empire."Now, let's remember. In the original trade news piece, the script was not completed yet and Fox Searchlight was where the film was expected to land, because of Payne's first-look deal there, but nothing was really set in stone and even Variety said, "no deals in place for the three principals, and no negotiations will take place until Payne finishes his screenplay." Even during that report it was early days (and truthfully, it seems like the trade wrote that report so it didn't seem like Hollywood Elsewhere had beat them to the punch).
But perhaps the script is complete now — Goldstein calls the film a, "Dr. Strangelove"-style futuristic social statement comedy, so perhaps he's read it — and since the suits have presumably paid their interns to parse it, some are maybe thinking: "yeah, we can't afford this."
Sure, if it was an Eddie Murphy vehicle, any studio would probably green light it. But Payne with Giamatti starring, plus an exorbitant budget? Yeah, we can understand the difficulties there. They don't play as wide as the sufficient dollars needed. Hmm, hopefully more surfaces soon. Whatever happens, we want Payne back (who's coincidentally directed the pilot episode for HBO's "Hung"). Goldstein says he's taking a breather which suggests he's finished the script and waiting to see what people think of it and if it can move forward. We'll see. Keep your ears tuned to the ground.
*Yes, he directed a segment of "Paris J'Taime" and did some scriptwriting, ghostwriting and re-writing including Adam Sandler's "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry."