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Mel Gibson May Try Lean Thing

As a follow-up to his directorial debut “The Man Without a Face,” Mel Gibson will likely direct a 13th-Century Scottish epic, “Brave Heart,” for Alan Ladd Jr. at Paramount. Gibson and Ladd recently braved near-blizzard conditions in Scotland’s Highlands searching out locations for the film.

“Brave Heart” recounts the story of Sir William Wallace, who led three crusades defending Scotland against British control in the 13th Century. Wallace began his battle at age 21 and was killed by his British foes at age 37. To this day, Wallace is revered among Scots as a hero, much as Abraham Lincoln is for Americans.

The production has a tentative start date of June 6 and will probably take four months to shoot throughout Scotland and England. It is set for a summer, 1995, release.

While Gibson hasn’t firmly committed to playing Wallace in addition to directing the film, he has expressed a strong interest.

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Gibson could not be reached for comment but sources close to the star say several issues have to be resolved--including the film’s budget--before a final commitment is reached.

For his part, Ladd says he feels very comfortable with the project’s prospects.

“This is the type of film that David Lean would do,” Ladd says. “It is an epic, a romantic, action period piece. It is true we haven’t firmed up a budget yet, but I am not worried at this point.

“I have never seen a star so careful with money,” he adds, saying Gibson insists on using cabs and minivans instead of limos. “He wants to put the money on the screen, not in a limousine.”

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History will be tweaked a bit, with three key battle scenes probably combined into one. The film also calls for two strong female roles: Wallace’s wife, Marion, and the Princess of Wales, whose name has been changed to Genevieve. Neither has been cast yet, although Ladd says the choices are narrowing.

Ladd was impressed with “The Man Without a Face.” "(Gibson) has a very simple, elegant style that I felt would work with this picture,” he said.

“Brave Heart,” written by Randall Wallace, was one of two bigger projects Ladd took with him when he left MGM as chairman last year and became an independent producer at Paramount. The other is “Bounty Hunter,” a comedy about a female bounty hunter, which will star Geena Davis.

On his return trip from Scotland, Ladd stopped in New York to meet with writers on other pending projects, including: Marshall Brickman, who is adapting “The Old Neighborhood"; Jeb Stewart, writing the remake of the “Jericho Equation,” and novelist Nelson DeMille, who is finishing “Spencerville.” A screenwriter has not been tapped for that project.


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