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Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen in final talks to join Schepisi’s Words and Pictures

EXCLUSIVE: Schepisi’s future projects also include The Secret River, Burnt Piano, The Drowsy Chaperone.

Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen are in final negotiations to join Fred Schepisi’s Words and Pictures, which will start shooting in January 2013. The US-set film will potentially shoot in Rhode Island.

“It’s set in a high school, an art teacher arrives – she was an up and coming artist who has arthritis preventing her doing what she wants to do — and an English teacher who has lost his mojo,” Schepisi tells Screen. “So for different reasons they are in a tough place, they fire off one another. They start a competition that they engage the students in, about what’s worth more, words or pictures? It’s very good.” California-based Gerald Di Pago wrote the script.

Australia-born, New York- and Melbourne-based director Schepisi has a busy slate of future projects, including an adaptation of Kate Grenville’s 2005 bestseller The Secret River. That historical novel is about an early 19th century Englishman sent to Australia as punishment for theft.

Schepisi is also moving ahead quickly with Burnt Piano, based on a script that Justin Fleming adapted from his own stage play. “It’s about a woman who has had a tragedy in her life and goes to Paris seeking out [Samuel] Beckett, who she thinks has the answers about why bad things happen to some people. But Beckett’s wife just wants peace and is tired of everybody coming to him. The woman persists and her little boy wiggles his way in. It sounds ‘highfalutin’ but it’s very funny, it’s a beautiful piece.”

“That has a has a good draft now and it’s about to go out to actors,” he told Screen.

He will also direct the big-screen version of musical The Drowsy Chaperone, and is in final negotiations to join Icon’s Australia-set The Drowner, adapted from Robert Drewe’s 1890s-set novel about a young British engineer who travels to Western Australia to help build a pipeline from the coast to the country’s gold fields

Schepisi, who directed HBO’s Empire Falls in 2005, says he’d also like to do a miniseries based on EL Doctorow’s The March, about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Civil War march through the South. He also says he’d like to adapt Doctorow’s Homer & Langley, about New York’s eccentric Collyer brothers, into a film.

His projects also include Last Man, his long-gestating project about Vietnam.

Schepisi’s credits include The Devil’s Playground, Last Orders, Six Degrees of Separation and A Cry In the Dark.

Schepisi spoke to Screen at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, where his family drama/dark comedy The Eye of the Storm was the closing film on Sunday night. That film, with a cast led by Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling, will be released Sept 7 in the US theatrically and on VOD by Sycamore Entertainment/Gravitas Ventures.

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