To the long list of amazing-sounding films that almost but did not got made, add “The Idol’s Eye,” which was to be French filmmaker Olivier Assayas’ first big American film — a 1970s crime thriller starring no less than Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson and Rachel Weisz. Filming was ready to begin in Toronto (and later Chicago), but Deadline has reported that it has been abruptly shut down.
“Due to the criteria for financing not being met by producers, Benaroya Pictures has formally decided to discontinue financing the motion picture titled Idol’s Eye,” revealed the production company in a statement released today.
The film, which had been financed in May, would have been Assayas’ second film in a row with major English-speaking actors. His latest, “Clouds of Sils Maria,” starred Pattinson’s “Twilight” cohort Kristen Stewart, as well as Juliette Binoche and Chloe Grace Moretz. That film is due in American theaters in March of next year. Indiewire reported in May that “The Idol’s Eye” might possibly be based on the 2007 Playboy article “Boosting the Big Tuna” by Hillel Levin, which reported on a group of regular criminals who inadvertently robbed a porn shop owned by Chicago mob king Tony Accardo.
“The company cannot continue to put its investment at risk and has been forced to stop cash flowing the production,” continued Benaroya Pictures’ statement. “This is something all of us wanted to avoid, but due to the producers missing a number of financing criteria deadlines that were mutually established by all parties, we were left with no other options. Benaroya Pictures plans to retain the rights of the film and move forward with production on the picture after we generate a revised script and assemble a new filmmaking team.” Evidently it is highly unlikely it will be reborn with Assayas and the cast in tact.
Metro talked to Assayas in October while he was promoting “Clouds of Sils Maria” at the New York Film Festival. Boyishly excited about the film, here is what he said: “I’m approaching it the way I approached ‘Carlos.’ The reason I got interested in this project is because it’s a very exciting story, but it’s a real story, one which is not completely researched. The work I did on the story and on the characters put to light stuff that hasn’t really been documented before. So it’s a little bit like ‘Carlos.’ In ‘Carlos’ there was a lot of research I did for the film. This is different because it’s a mafia story, there’s nothing political about it. But it’s trying to have a historical approach on the material and trying to turn that historical approach into cinema.”
Assayas is one of France’s most accomplished and acclaimed filmmakers, for whom an action thriller would have been a thrilling departure — especially one that shared some key DNA with “Carlos,” his 2010 miniseries about Carlos the Jackal. His version of “The Idol’s Eye” can only live on in dreams, and we imagine it would, like his other films, have featured lots of handheld, a mesmerizing study of process and several great uses of pop music — one thing he does better than almost anyone, as witness 1994’s “Cold Water” and in 1997’s “Irma Vep.”