Zentropa now claims Nicole Kidman has signed on the dotted line to star in Lars von Trier's Dogville after all - an agreement clearly hastened by noises from the film's producers earlier this week that a new lead was being sought because of the Australian actress' apparent hesitancy to commit.

Zentropa Entertainment's ever colourful frontman Peter Aalbaek Jensen, whose company is producing the film, admits to being an "hysteric" when he issued a statement on Monday that all concerned were tired of waiting around on the Hollywood actress to star in the somewhat experimental $9.5m English-language production that is scheduled to start shooting early next year.

Back-pedaling on Wednesday, Aalbaek Jensen says the ink is drying on a contract that is now with Dogville producer Vibeke Windeloev who is currently vacationing in Italy.

"I have to accept that I have acted hastilyonce again and ask Nicole Kidman's forgiveness, and, with Vibeke Windeloev andLars von Trier look forward to the collaboration," he announced in a short statement that was signed Peter Aalbaek Jensen - Hysteric.

Hysterical or not, Zentropa once again succeeded in capturing headlines, despite the fact that the casting of Nicole Kidman was among the worst kept secrets in recent film history.

Lars von Trier has spent the best part of six months flirting with Kidman - and had got to the point of a verbal agreement, but nothing actually in writing until now. Things reached boiling point over the weekend when an impatient Aalbaek Jensen exclaimed: "If Lars von Trier can't execute sufficientfirmness with his actresses then he has to intervene to avoid Bjork-like incidents," a reference to von Trier's famously stormy relationship with the Icelandic singer who starred in his last film, Dancer In The Dark

As it happens Kidman and von Trier have yet to meet in person although they have discussed the film several times over the phone. Nor was Kidman necessarily the first choice for Windeloev, who had anticipated problems dealing with a such a high-profile (and pre-occupied) figure as Kidman when she went to Cannes this year in the hope of returning with her signature.

The fact that the production's start date has kept being pushed back - first from early autumn to late autumn this year, and now to early next year - has actually little to do with Kidman's dithering and hectic acting schedule of late and more to do with financial considerations.

Not that money has been necessarily slow in coming. Many of Dancer In TheDarks co-producers have linedup to back Dogville, Kidman ornot, convinced by the director's track record and by a $300,000 test that von Trier shot earlier this year to demonstrate both his concept for the psychological drama and to test the HDTV equipment he intends to use.

Again set in the US, where the director has yet to set foot, Dogville represents another leap forward in the artistic journey that von Trier has been embarking on since making Breaking The Waves, fathering the Dogme movie and winning the Palme d'Or with Dancer In The Dark. The latest conceit is to focus solely on the characters. lighting and sound, leaving the physical backdrop as just a theatre-like piece of scenery.

With no exterior scenes, the entire film will be shot on a soundstage at the Trollhattan studios in Sweden, where a small 1930s mountain village will be built. Two of vonTrier's acting regulars, Stellan Skarsgaard and Katrin Cartlidge, both of whomappeared in Breaking The Waves, are among those already penciled in to support Kidman.

Sweden's regional fund Film i Vast and Memfis Film will co-produce along with partners from France, Holland, Germany, Norway, UK and Finland. Other backers include Eurimages and the Danish Film Institute. Zentropa's Trust Film Sales is handling international sales.Even by von Trier's standards, this week has been a surreal one for him and ZentropaEntertainment. While the Kidman affair was reverberating across the world's media, another Hollywood adventure was beginning for the Danish director as news broke that the ABC network has given the greenlight to a US television remake of von Trier's cult 1994mini-series, The Kingdom to be written and executive produced by horror-meister Stephen King.

ABC has now given an initial 15-hour commitment for a weekly drama series based on The Kingdom, kicking off with a two-hour pilot and continuing with one-long episodes thereafter all scheduled to air late next year.

King, said ABC Entertainment co-chairman Stu Bloomberg, is obsessed with the project and is presently devoting himself to writing the pilot, and possibly the whole series as well. Zentropa will have no direct influence over the series, which is beingdeveloped for ABC through Sony's Columbia TriStar in association with the TV production arm of Disney's Touchstone.

"We are just happy to take the money and run," says Aalbaek Jensen, who admits tobeing proud about King's involvement. "His books are literature on my level."

Zentropa originally sold the remake rights to Sony some four years ago. The originalDanish mini-series, which went under the local title of Riget, is a verite-style TV soap that has been described as Twin Peaks meets ER. Set in aCopenhagen hospital that is situated over a graveyard and haunted by the unsettled spirit of a murdered girl, the mini-series was shown theatrically overseas as four-hour theatrical picture together with a sequel. Both featureswere released in the US by October Films (before that company was absorbed intoBarry Diller's USA Films).