Maximum Russell Crowe

Flora Plum: In Print

|| Trio of Stars || Looming strike || Film Project On Shelf || Next Stop: The Screen || Foster Scouts Plum Locations ||

Trio of stars set for ‘Plum’ roles in Foster feature
By Zorianna Kit
The Hollywood Reporter
November 22, 2002

After being shelved two years ago, the Jodie Foster-helmed “Flora Plum” is coming back to life, with Ewan McGregor taking the role that was once to be played by Russell Crowe. Additionally, Meryl Streep has committed to appear in the circus-set film, while Claire Danes, who was originally attached to star in the project, is back to take on the title role, sources confirmed.

Production will begin in fall 2003 or January 2004 with original producers Barry Mendel and Meg LeFauve of Foster’s Egg Pictures back on board and currently in the process of packaging the project and finding a home for it as an independent feature or a studio project.

“Plum” was originally set up at USA Films and was to start production in September 2000. During preproduction, however, Crowe suffered a shoulder injury while training for the film in Austin, Texas, and subsequently dropped out of the project. Crowe initially signed on to star in “Plum” shortly after he and Foster engaged in a public display of affection at parties after the Golden Globe Awards in 2000, where Crowe was nominated for his role in “The Insider.”

“Plum” would have been the first feature film Foster directed since “Home for the Holidays” in 1995.

With an available slot in her schedule, the actress ended up taking on the starring role in “Panic Room” when that film’s original star, Nicole Kidman, withdrew because of the effects from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Crowe, who at the time of his injury was in Austin recording with his band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, went on to star in “A Beautiful Mind,” which earned him an Oscar nomination.

“Flora Plum” is a love story set during the Depression about a circus freak (McGregor) who takes pity on a penniless waif (Claire Danes), with whom he falls in love while helping her achieve fame.

The following is an excerpt from:
Looming strikes cause A-list cast shuffles
By Michael Fleming
Variety, September 11, 2000

The race to sign stars to A-list projects that can be completed before anticipated summer Hollywood guild strikes has led to shuffling lineups for some of the hottest ensemble features. . . .

The need to finish production by next summer also has USA Films sounding taps for ``Flora Plum,'' the Jodie Foster-directed picture that was shelved when Russell Crowe injured his shoulder.

Sources said that USA is in talks with its insurers to settle up on pre-production costs for the film, though the studio said that no final decision has yet been made.

Crowe's injury was especially unfortunate because production of ``Flora Plum,'' a film without a commercial premise, was made possible as Crowe booked the film at a very low price before his star soared with ``Gladiator,'' which has moved his salary to the $15 million level.

Crowe is expected to next star in ``A Beautiful Mind'' with Ron Howard at the helm, and likely wouldn't be able to do the highly physical ''Flora Plum'' role for at least nine months, at which time Hollywood could be at a labor standstill.

The ''Flora Plum'' debacle is also problematic for Crowe's co-star Claire Danes, who took a semester hiatus from Yale to star in the passion project. It's unclear whether she will return to her coursework or book another film instead. (© Copyright, Variety, 2000)

Crowe-Foster film project on shelf for now
By Roger Moore of The Sentinel Staff
The Orlando Sentinel (September 8, 2000)

Russell Crowe isn`t O-town bound, after all. Not soon, anyway. The plug has been pulled for now on Flora Plum, the film he was to star in for director Jodie Foster.

Foster`s drama about 1930s circus performers was supposed to go before the cameras in Central Florida this month.

"Russell hurt his shoulder while he was in training for the film," Barry Mendel, producer of Flora Plum, said Thursday. Crowe has been in Austin, Texas, recording a record with his band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, while preparing to begin filming Flora Plum. "One of the acts he was doing in the film was a Spanish Web act" -- similar to the curtain-climbing act at Cirque du Soleil -- "and in rehearsing it, he hurt his shoulder."

The postponement has an indefinite time frame because of Crowe`s injury, which sources with the production describe as an aggravation of an injury the actor suffered while filming Gladiator. Mendel said the delay could last a few months, "or longer. He`s a very physical actor, and he wants to be able to do his own stunts."

"We`re re-evaluating what to do about the film," said Angela Johnson, a spokeswoman for USA Films, the studio slated to distribute Flora Plum.

Crowe was to play a circus performer who befriends a waif who joins the troupe, only to discover that the girl (Claire Danes) is not as innocent as she seems.

There are conflicting accounts about when Crowe hurt himself. Some sources with the film said he hurt his shoulder on Tuesday. But the Orlando production office told the Sentinel last week that the production was being delayed. Sources close to the Orlando production told the Sentinel that the film`s spiraling costs and ever-changing script were the reasons that they had heard for the production`s being halted. They also said that the film is -- at this stage -- canceled and not postponed. Both Johnson and Mendel denied this.

The film, originally budgeted at less than $24 million, was to useWinter Garden and Ocoee settings. The production had tracked down circus tents and antique vehicles from California to Wisconsin and had planned to rent a steam engine from Mount Dora. Mendel said that very little had been built for the production. Foster has been in town for more than a month, scouting locations and working on pre-production.

"What we do now, is we store some things we`ve already prepared, and keep in touch with our cast to see when Russell`s well," Mendel said. "We talk to the insurance company, the production company, and then we`ll find a safe time to restart the film."

There`s also another deadline playing into production. With contracts about to expire, there is a possible actors` strike looming next June. And Crowe is already slated to do a Ron Howard film, A Beautiful Mind, before that deadline.

"Will he heal fast enough to make that deadline? We hope so," Mendel said. "We want to do it with him, because he`s perfect for the part. The studio agreed with us that we should wait until Russell`s ready. And when he`s ready, we want to make the film here."

"While it`s unfortunate that the project is being pushed, we look forward to having them back in the region as soon as a new start date is determined," said Kathy Ramsberger, senior vice president of the Metro Orlando Film Commission. (Leslie Doolittle of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.)

© Copyright, The Orlando Sentinel, 2000.

By Anthony Colarossi
Copyright 2000 Sentinel Communications Co.

MOUNT DORA-- After nearly two months riding the rails of Lake County, the Mount Dora Cannonball remains right on track.

Despite making its first runs during Central Florida's slow tourism season, the train billed as the state's only true steam engine has seen steady ridership all summer, according to its operators.

From families to rail fanatics, people have gone out of their way to find the vintage Baldwin train built in 1913. Olivia and Jason Walters traveled from Vero Beach to Mount Dora just to ride the train Sunday. They missed the 1:30 p.m. excursion, but they planned to stick around for a later departure.

"It's just like the kind of train I started out on," said Jason Walters, a veteran of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, who did a bit of everything when he worked on the trains -- "from engineer on down."

People such as the Walterses, rolling into downtown Mount Dora by the hundreds, have made the Cannonball an early success. "We're meeting our expectations for this time of year," said Steve Torrico, co-owner of the Mount Dora Scenic Railway Co., which operates the train.

Before long, however, the Cannonball will be picking up even more steam. Starting in October director/actress Jodie Foster plans to use the train extensively in the filming of her new movie, Flora Plum.

The movie revolves around a Depression-era traveling circus. Torrico figures the train will play a big role in the cinematic tale.

The film is slated to feature Russell Crowe, of Gladiator fame, as a circus "freak" who takes on a waif played by Claire Danes, known for her movie work and her role in television's My So-Called Life.

"The train is an integral part of the story," said Torrico, who has been marketing the Cannonball as "Florida's movie train" because of its many feature-film and television appearances.

The train is perhaps most often recognized for its appearance in the 1997 film Rosewood, shot in Lake Jem.

The Cannonball's availability on weekdays and the permitted use of Florida Central Railroad track helped bring the filming of Flora Plum here instead of a California location, Torrico said.

"They'll use the train Monday through Friday, and we'll have use of the train during the weekends," he said.

Even Torrico, who has made a career gambling on his railroading dreams, was surprised that the train landed another major film role so soon after moving to Mount Dora. The train started making its regular weekend runs between Mount Dora and Tavares in July.

"We're very happy this happened so quickly," Torrico said of the film work. "They're here doing preproduction. They'll start filming Oct. 1."

Torrico expects the production to boost the local economy somewhat as the crew seeks out area services and, perhaps, local residents for extras. Torrico himself may appear in some shots. He'll be taking the train to the shoots.

"I'm pretty sure they'll be filming in the Lake Jem area as one of the locations," he said.

The Cannonball likely will be painted in the bright colors of a circus train, and Torrico's regular weekend passengers will get a chance to ride the colorful train.

The Cannonball, which includes two early 1900s coaches, has been averaging 100 to 130 passengers for the five nearly 90-minute round-trip runs it makes each weekend, said conductor Roland Fontaine.

"People are excited about a steam engine, the only one running in Florida," Fontaine said.

And though some downtown business owners claim the train's passengers only patronize their stores to escape the heat while waiting to board, others say whatever brings visitors downtown in the middle of August is a good thing.

"Long-term, I think it benefits everyone," said Richard Rogers of Lost & Found Antiques & Collectibles, which sits a few feet from the train station.

"We've had a lot of first-time visitors as a result of the train," Rogers said. "I can only imagine what it's going to be like in season. Anything that brings people to town, how can that hurt?"

Foster Scouts Plum Locations for Next Film
By Leslie Doolittle, Sentinel Columnist
The Orlando Sentinel (8/20/00)
Copyright 2000 Sentinel Communications Co.

Flora Plum is ripe for the picking -- of locations to be featured in Jodie Foster's latest project.

Foster, director of the film that will star Russell Crowe and Claire Danes, has flown to Orlando a couple of times during the month to scout for possible backdrops in Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties. Movie types seeking 1930s-looking locales are talking to city officials in several areas, including Winter Garden. The local soundstage work will be done at Universal Studios.

Foster is moving into a rental home here this week, where she will be based while working through December on the tale of a Depression-era circus owner who takes in a waif.

Crowe and Danes aren't expected until early September.

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