After a weeklong halt, production has resumed on United Artists' "Bright Lights, Big City," with major cast changes and costly re-shooting planned for the film.
Production came to a standstill May 11 with the dismissal of director Joyce Chopra, screenwriter Tom Cole and cinematographer Jim Glennon after four weeks' shooting on locations here.
Citing the possibility of a strike by the Directors Guild of America and the need for more experienced hands, UA replaced the creative team with director/writer James Bridges and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
Peggy Siegal, a publicist for the film, confirmed that shooting resumed Monday at the downtown Manhattan location where production was halted last week, and that a "still-uncertain amount" of film footage shot by the Chopra team is expected to be re-shot.
But Siegal said the film, which started shooting here April 13, is still due to wrap June 30, the date that the current Directors Guild contract with the major film studios expires. She noted that a six-day, rather than a five-day, work week has been scheduled for the duration of production.
The film stars Michael J. Fox as a New Yorker-style magazine writer on a hedonistic binge through New York night life. Based on Jay McInerney's 1984 novel of the same title, it is scheduled to be released in early 1988. In addition to Fox, previously announced actors still on the film include Dianne Wiest, Phoebe Cates and Kiefer Sutherland.
Siegal declined to comment on any cast changes. However, talent agents and sources close to the production said that Bridges has made significant changes and additions in casting--bringing in actors who are more recognizable to moviegoers. Frances Sternhagen has replaced Shirley Knight as a magazine fact-checker, and John Houseman (star of Bridges and Willis' film "The Paper Chase") has been brought in as the oracular editor of the magazine. Negotiations are under way for Jason Robards Jr. to play a heavy-drinking editor.
In another re-casting resulting from a major rewrite by Bridges of Cole's screenplay, Swoosie Kurtz and Tracy Pollan (seen during the 1985-86 season as a girlfriend of Fox's character on the long-running TV series "Family Ties") have been hired in two roles--romantic interests for Fox's character--that had been condensed into one in the Chopra-Cole version. It was to have been played by Megan Mullally.
Both Siegal and UA spokespersons in Los Angeles declined to comment on the cost to the production brought about by the changes in cast and shooting schedule. The film's original budget was estimated at between $12 million and $15 million.
But officials at the Mayor's Film Office said that the overtime costs alone for shooting in New York City on Saturdays could add as much as $1 million to the movie's price tag by the end of June. And the actors who have been replaced, like the creative team, must be paid off according to their contracts.
The film's spokespersons also declined to comment on any changes in style and content anticipated by the change in director. Bridges, director of such films as "The China Syndrome" and "Urban Cowboy," has worked on a far larger scale than Chopra, whose first feature was the intimate 1985 coming-of-age film, "Smooth Talk."
Said one production source, who has reported "troubles" on Chopra's set since mid-April and who asked not to be identified: "It's a whole new movie."