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Ewan McGregor Will Direct ‘American Pastoral,’ Phillip Noyce Out

Ewan McGregor Will Direct 'American Pastoral,' Phillip Noyce Out

McGregor will replace previously tapped Phillip Noyce to helm this ambitious adaptation of the 1997 Roth novel for Lakeshore Entertainment. This will mark the actor’s feature film debut.

With a screenplay by John Romano, filming is slated to begin in Pittsburgh in September 2015 — pushed back from March now that Noyce is no longer on board. The cast includes McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning who, for those familiar with the novel about Vietnam-era malaise in America’s upper middle class, will play the pivotal role of Merry Levov.

McGregor plays her father, Swede, a postcard-perfect patriarch whose life in New Jersey is shattered by his politically radical daughter’s sudden, violent act of terrorism. 

Intercut with fragments of Swede’s life are dispatches from Rothian alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, who encounters the grown-up Levov at a high school reunion in the mid-90s.

Like another high-minded literary property, Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections,” this adaptation has been in the trunk for over a decade. But it’s finally seeing the light. The film will be produced by Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi. 

Anyone who has read a Philip Roth novel knows that its true textures lie in the prose, not the plot, and that sentences as crushing as “Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive” don’t easily translate. Previous Roth adaptations, however sexy, have not been successful, from “The Human Stain” to “Elegy.” (Comedy “Goodbye Columbus” was possibly Hollywood’s best stab at a Roth movie.)

McGregor recently played Sundance as both Jesus and the Devil in Rodrigo Garcia’s “Last Days in the Desert.”

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