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Egoyan 'Goes Hollywood' with big-budget sex thriller

Egoyan gets the call to direct big-budget sex thriller

Yes, Atom Egoyan says, it's true. He's going Hollywood and this time it's on his own terms.

Egoyan, 48, will direct Chloe, an erotic thriller starring Oscar nominees Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!). The script was penned by one of Egoyan's favourite writers -- Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary).

Described as "a smart, sexy thriller in the vein of Fatal Attraction," Chloe, which starts filming in Toronto Feb. 9, centres on a successful doctor (Moore) who inadvertently endangers her family when she hires an alluring young escort (Seyfried) to seduce her husband (Neeson), whom she suspects of cheating.

"It's a really intelligent script," Egoyan said. "It's incredible because the prostitute comes back with these amazing erotic stories about a man his wife thought she knew. She gets addicted to them and they enter into a complicated relationship."

The escort's seductive behaviour begins to obsess Moore's character, reawakening her sexual desire.

Chloe is being fully financed by StudioCanal, the French production company behind the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading.

It's being produced through Montecito Picture Company, co-founded by Ivan Reitman and former Universal chairman Tom Pollock, who developed the film. Their company has produced a string of hits including Old School, Eurotrip and Disturbia.

Juno director Jason Reitman is an executive producer, and Joe Medjuck and Jeffrey Cllifford will also produce.

"Working with Liam is what really made it come together," Egoyan explained.

The Victoria-raised filmmaker directed Neeson last summer in an acclaimed Lincoln Center remount of Eh, Joe, a mixed-media production of Samuel Beckett's teleplay.

Ironically, Neeson had been approached to do an earlier incarnation of the film, but declined.

"He said he wanted us to work together again, so I implored him to read it again," Egoyan said.

After making his mark internationally with a dozen indie features exploring themes including alienation, incest, genocide and technology, Egoyan said the timing was right for him to branch out with a film regarded as more mainstream.

"It will be liberating," said Egoyan, whose 12th feature -- Adoration, an exploration of deception in the Internet age -- is being released this spring.

"Chloe is an interesting hybrid," he said. "Even though there's this aspect of storytelling about people getting caught up in histories and projections they don't understand -- a study of certain needs and desires -- it is, unlike my own scripts, quite linear."

He said he was impressed that Seyfried, whom he saw in open auditions in Los Angeles before Mamma Mia opened, was fearless in taking on her challenging role. "She has this extraordinary combination of sincerity and drive and endless depths of emotional reserve," he said.

Laughingly describing Ivan Reitman as "Mr. Hollywood," Egoyan said he's enjoying working with the veteran Toronto producer and director (Animal House, Ghostbusters) who was a fan of his 1999 drama, Felicia's Journey.

He looked at several genre options before joining the creative team behind Chloe, he said. "It's full of psychological nuance. It's very much in my world even though it's written by someone else."

He said this Hollywood experience is far more satisfying than his first unpleasant foray in 1995 when he spent a year "wasting time in L.A." waging polite battles with Warner Bros. executives who invited him to direct the thriller Dead Sleep.

The studio resisted Egoyan's casting choice of Susan Sarandon, who then became unavailable after her Oscar win for Dead Man Walking.

Disillusioned and with his option about to expire on The Sweet Hereafter, Egoyan walked away from the studio deal to make his masterwork based on the Russell Banks novel. It brought him Oscar nominations for best direction and adapted screenplay.

"I have more of a sense that everything feels right this time," said Egoyan, who says he's a genre enthusiast despite his reputation as an auteur. "It's subject matter I feel I can serve because I've had time to work on the script and I'm thrilled that I got my dream cast."

Although Chloe was originally set in San Francisco, he persuaded Reitman to relocate to Toronto, where he could work with his own team, including director of photography Paul Sarossy and composer Mychael Danna.

"It's a wintry film," he said. "I tried to make the point, for better or worse, that most Americans are familiar with Toronto."