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Benjamin Walker, Tom Hiddleston, Lily Collins, Bella Heathcote & Jessica Brown Findlay Testing For Akiva Goldsman’s ‘Winter’s Tale’

Benjamin Walker, Tom Hiddleston, Lily Collins, Bella Heathcote & Jessica Brown Findlay Testing For Akiva Goldsman's 'Winter's Tale'

While he may draw the critical scorn of fanboys everywhere with even the mention of his name, and rightfully so after penning the screenplays for the weak “Batman Forever” and disastrous “Batman & Robin,” screenwriter Akiva Goldsman still holds a lot of clout in Hollywood. That’s what one earns when they write behemoth blockbusters that span multiple genres, such as “I Am Legend” or “A Beautiful Mind,” as well as help usher in franchises with the likes of “The Da Vinci Code.” It was reported all the way back in February of 2011 that Goldsman would be lensing his directorial debut “Winter’s Tale,” but at the beginning of this month it looked as if Goldsman called in some favors to his famous friends after the production hit some budgetary speed bumps, landing “I Am Legend” star Will Smith and “A Beautiful Mind” actor Russell Crowe in supporting roles. About $20 million was shaved off the budget and the project gained some much needed steam, so it pays to have friends in high places.

Things are becoming all the more serious for Goldsman’s directorial debut, as it looks like some reports from back in November in 2011 were true, with THR reporting a slew of Hollywood’s top talent is coming out to test for the feature in front of Warner Brothers‘ watchful eye. Apparently WB is making test deals for Benjamin Walker (who’ll be carving up vampires this summer as “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) and Tom Hiddleston (the baddie Loki in “Thor” and “The Avengers”), who will be testing next week in New York for the male lead of Peter Lake. “Mirror, Mirror” star Lily Collins must have dropped the “Evil Dead” remake for greener career pastures, as she joins Australian actress Bella Heathcote (“Dark Shadows,” “Cogan’s Trade“) and Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”) as they line up to try for the role of female lead Beverly Penn during the week of March 12.

For those who don’t recall, this long-gestating passion project of Goldsman’s is based on the acclaimed 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, also entitled “Winter’s Tale.” Trying hard not to sound completely absurd, the plot follows a thief who breaks into a wealthy man’s home, sparking a relationship with the man’s terminally ill daughter. Oh wait, the absurd part is that the story deals heavily with reincarnation, a flying horse, and a time-shift of 100 years. According to many, this works well in the book, but we can’t imagine how the guy who adapted airplane-ready reading material like “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” into even more innocuous films will handle all this. Regardless of Goldsman’s involvement, he’s certainly reaching into a pool of talented performers, but it has been said that this book reads as unfilmable. Perhaps Warner Brothers is feeling less nervous after Smith and Crowe joined in supporting positions, with roles as a judge and ruthless mobster in talks, but this still feels like a gamble with an untested helmer and spotty writer being the creative mastermind at work here.

This is still a ways off — filming won’t start until the fall at the earliest — but we’re certainly eyeing this with some anticipation, even if it’s mostly out of morbid curiosity.

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