No wonder Atom Egoyan breathed a sigh of relief when he learned Devil's Knot got the green light.
The Victoria-raised filmmaker has been having such a busy year that early uncertainty about the shooting schedule for his West Memphis Three project starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth made him consider resorting to desperate measures.
When he realized he might be filming in New Orleans the same time he was to stage Guo Wenjing's Chinese opera Feng Yi Ting for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, he thought he might have to direct the singers via Skype from The Big Easy.
"Thank God that didn't happen," laughed Egoyan. "I don't know what I was thinking. That would have been ridiculous."
"It was the first time I was double-booked," recalled Egoyan, whose opera will move to New York's Lincoln Center for its summer arts festival after its North American première May 20. The Oscarnominated Mount Doug grad's stagecraft was also recently showcased in his production of British playwright Martin Crimp's Cruel and Tender for the Canadian Stage Company.
Thanks to delays in securing financing for Devil's Knot, which now begins shooting June 25 in Atlanta, Egoyan was able to direct his Chinese opera stars live in Charleston.
"I found it to be such a creative playground and I really wanted to be there," said Egoyan, now in pre-production on his film, based on Mara Leveritt's 2002 bestseller about the murder of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993.
It's being financed by Worldview Entertaiment, and shopped to foreign buyers at Cannes by The Weinstein Co.
Two of the three teenagers released from prison 18 years after being wrongly convicted - Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin - are executive producers on the film, which explores the human drama behind the case, fraught with legal complications.
"It's a really powerful piece of American mythology," said Egoyan, who helped rework the screen adaptation by Paul Boardman and Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose).
"It's so interesting that two documentaries have come out [Joe Berlinger's and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost films] and so great I get to do my dramatic take. It's about a community that loses three of its young sons and sacrifices its other children in the name of justice. It could happen in any community, so I'm trying to make it seem as tangible and real as possible."
Devil's Knot will be a reunion of sorts, since Egoyan will reconnect with Firth, his Where the Truth Lies star. Firth plays Ron Lax, the private investigator who works pro bono for the defendants. He also reunites with longtime cinematographer Paul Sarossy, who the day after they wrap flies to Hungary to continue as director of photography on Neil Jordan's TV series The Borgias.
Witherspoon, who plays Pam Hobbs, the devastated mother of one of the victims who begins to believe the teenagers were wrongly convicted, is also reuniting with Firth a decade after they did The Importance of Being Earnest.
"She's very interested in this role as a southern person," said Egoyan, noting the New Orleans-born actress spent a lot of time with her character's family. "She has a very clear idea of who this person is."
Because of delays, Egoyan has pushed filming of his next project to 2013.
Titled Queen of the Night, it's a psychological thriller about two detectives and a couple whose child has gone missing.
"It's about the relationships between these four characters as the missing child re-emerges in a mysterious way."
HOUSE HUSBAND: As if there wasn't enough going on in David Foster's life, he's being pulled back into the world of reality TV.
Yolanda Hadid, the former Dutch supermodel the Victoria-born music producer wed last November, has just replaced Kelsey Grammer's ex-wife Camille on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
"She did a show like that for three years in Holland, so she's not new to it," Foster said, adding the producers wouldn't have chosen the clean-living Yolanda if they were looking for a train wreck like some of the show's wilder characters.
"They've started filming the third season and it's pretty crazy," he said.
"She's going to be the voice of reason."
An upside, jokes Foster, is TMZ tabloid reporters might leave him alone now.
"Now, when we come out of restaurants, instead of being on me, they'll be on her."
Foster will be in his hometown next weekend for a series of star-studded events marking the 25th anniversary of his foundation, which raises money for families who have a child in need of an organ transplant.
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