Richardson expected to replace Basinger in Altman film

April 19, 1995|By Kansas City Star

Miranda Richardson, an Oscar nominee this year for "Tom & Viv," is the probable replacement for Kim Basinger in "Kansas City," the Robert Altman film that began shooting in Kansas City, Mo., yesterday.

Ms. Richardson already is in town preparing to assume the role, according to crew members working yesterday on the set.

"We're very interested in her. We're talking to her," the film's publicist, Annjela Hynes-Porter, said of the British actress. "But nothing's been signed yet."

Ms. Richardson first made a splash in 1985 in "Dance With a Stranger," in which she played the real-life murderer Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain. Aong her other films are "Damage" (for which she received her first Oscar nomination), "The Crying Game," Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" and "Enchanted April."

Ms. Richardson's most recent film, "Tom & Viv," was a look at the troubled marriage of poet T. S. Eliot and his first wife.

Ms. Basinger was to star with Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Kansas City," set during the tumultuous 1934 municipal election in which a group of reform-minded citizens challenged boss Tom Pendergast's political machine.

Ms. Basinger's publicist on Monday announced that the 41-year-old actress and her husband, actor Alec Baldwin, were expecting their first child. Ms. Basinger had hoped to complete her role in "Kansas City" but was forced to drop out after discussions involving the film's insurance company.

Replacing a star just before filming begins -- or even after it's been under way for several days -- "isn't all that unusual, though it's nothing we like," said Hollywood casting director Mike Fenton in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. Mr. Fenton was not involved with the Altman movie. Nor does an actress's pregnancy automatically rule her out for a role, Fenton said.

"We did a film last summer called 'Dr. Jekyll & Ms. Hyde' in which we cast Sean Young," Mr. Fenton said. "It turns out she was pregnant but didn't tell us until we'd completed the deal. So we considered that she wasn't going to appear naked or do any stunt work, and the production company decided to go ahead and not replace her."

Ms. Basinger's age may have been a factor in this case, Mr. Fenton said. "The insurance company may very well have told the moviemakers that they were going to exclude Basinger's pregnancy from the film's coverage. If she became ill or miscarried during filming, the movie company could be held liable. It could be sued and wouldn't be compensated for the loss of its star. Probably the insurers said to the company, 'It's your choice.'

"Pregnancy has been used as an excuse for a performer or a film company to sever an unhappy relationship, although since Altman and Basinger have worked together before that doesn't seem to be the case here."

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