Redford Pulls Out of ‘Zone,’ Fueling Production Rumors


In a crushing blow to 20th Century Fox, actor Robert Redford has pulled out of the $55-million virus-run-amok movie, “Crisis in the Hot Zone.”

Redford’s departure triggered speculation that the production, which Fox had pushed back last week from Aug. 15 to the end of the month, may have to be shelved altogether. Fox was not commenting Monday, but sources said efforts were under way to find a replacement.

“We’re trying to figure out who else to get in the movie,” a source close to the talks said. “A lot of names are being discussed.”

For weeks, Redford has been teetering on whether to stay with the project. Director Ridley Scott and producer Lynda Obst have been trying desperately to put together a script acceptable to Redford. At one point, the actor even sought help from screenwriter Paul Attanasio, who worked with Redford on “Quiz Show,” a film that Disney’s Hollywood Pictures will release this fall about the 1950s quiz show scandals.


Then, last week, the producers brought in Tom Topor (“The Accused”) to polish the script. Fox’s “Hot Zone” was also dealt a blow last month when Jodie Foster--citing script problems--bowed out, setting off a scramble to find another lead actress. Among those considered were Holly Hunter, Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone and Robin Wright. Late last week, Meryl Streep, who also was considered, signed to star with Clint Eastwood in Warner Bros.’ “The Bridges of Madison County.”

For months, Fox had been in a frantic head-to-head race with rival Warner Bros. to see which studio would be first to release its own movie about a deadly virus. Producer Arnold Kopelson (“The Fugitive”) is currently shooting in Eureka, Calif., his own virus movie for Warners called “Outbreak,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo and directed by Wolfgang Petersen. It is scheduled for release in late January. The Fox film was to be based on a New Yorker article about the U.S. Army’s real-life attempt to curtail a virus from spreading from laboratory monkeys to an East Coast city, the rights to which Kopelson had earlier tried but failed to buy.