Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)has withdrawn from the currently shooting Civil War epic Cold Mountain, leaving Miramax Films with the whole burden of the$80m-plus budget. Miramax is already in negotiations with other potentialpartners to co-finance the production which has now returned to Romania againafter a stint in North Carolina. Miramax confirmed that it was sole financier"for the moment" yesterday, while MGM did not return calls atpresstime.

The two studios reportedlynever agreed on the budget of the film which is being produced by MirageEnterprises and Bona Fide Productions, and had yet to conclude theirnegotiations when the film started shooting. According to the deal with MGM,Miramax retained domestic rights, and had set the film for a major awards-timeopening in the US on Dec 25 next year.

Potential partners includeParamount Pictures, which partnered with Miramax on the last film from ColdMountain director Anthony Minghella- The Talented Mr Ripley,as well as on this year's The Four Feathers and The Hours. Miramax also has a strong relationship with Universal Pictures withwhich it was involved on Working Title movies Bridget Jones's Diary, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and 40 Days And 40 Nights.

Cold Mountain is based on the bestselling novel by Charles Frazierand tells the story of a wounded confederate soldier on a perilous journey tohis mountain community hoping to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, whoherself is trying to survive in his absence with the help of a young drifter.

The glittering cast includesJude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellwegger in the lead roles with NataliePortman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Kathy Baker, Ray Winstone,Ethan Suplee, James Gammon, Charlie Hunnam, Lucas Black and EileenAtkins in the supporting cast. Producers are Sydney Pollack and William Horbergfor Pollack and Minghella's Mirage and Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa forBona Fide.

Ironically itwas MGM which first housed the project, when Lindsay Doran was head of UnitedArtists. Pollack took Cold Mountain to Doran, who formerly ran Mirage for him, and Miramax onlybecame involved when Minghella boarded the picture.

The film is using the ruggedmountainous region of Transylvania to double for the American South of 150years ago.