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Witherspoon quits her own production

The actress cites the emotional toll of her divorce in pulling out weeks before filming.

March 09, 2007|John Horn and Sheigh Crabtree | Special to The Times

She's single, she's undergone a glamorous red carpet makeover, and now she's unemployed.

Just weeks before Reese Witherspoon was to star and produce "Bunny Lake Is Missing," the "Walk the Line" Oscar winner has abruptly pulled out of the movie and the production has been shut down indefinitely.

Joe Carnahan ("Smokin' Aces") was on board to direct the remake of the 1965 Otto Preminger film about an American woman whose daughter goes missing from a new nursery school in England. She is then confronted by police who suggest her daughter never existed.

Witherspoon, 30, told the film's makers that she was pulling out of the project just weeks before the movie was supposed to start filming. Cast and crew, who have been in active pre-production for the past month in Los Angeles, have been encouraged to look for other projects.

Witherspoon is amid a divorce from actor Ryan Phillippe and told filmmakers that she did not feel emotionally invested in the role, according to sources on the production who did not want to be identified.

To accommodate the actress' desire to be close to her family, the producers had planned to shoot for two weeks in England with the balance of the production to be filmed in Los Angeles.

One person who worked on the film, who declined to be identified, said Witherspoon's decision was surprising because she had developed and was producing the movie herself.

It was unclear whether the movie would be able to recast on such short notice, though scripts have gone out to Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron, according to sources at the production. Carnahan has a short window in which to rewrite "Bunny Lake" for another star since he is scheduled to start production on "White Jazz," starring George Clooney, in July.

Witherspoon recently wrapped New Line's "Rendition," with Meryl Streep and Jake Gyllenhaal. Last month, she jumped ship from Endeavor to join CAA.

Calls to CAA, Witherspoon's manager and Carnahan were not immediately returned Thursday.

Horn is a Times staff writer. Crabtree is a special correspondent.

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