Splendid Pictures' $38m thriller Without Apparent Motive is not going ahead, certainly in its latest incarnation with director Bille August and stars Richard Gere and Julianne Moore. All three have left the project.

The film, which was scheduled to start production in the next few weeks, had secured both Gere and Moore ' both exceedingly hot after their turns in Oscar-nominated films Chicago (Gere) and The Hours and Far From Heaven (both Moore) ' in the lead roles. By all accounts, however, Splendid was unable to raise the full financing for the film despite healthy pre-sales on the picture scored at last year's MIFED and before. Gere was asked to defer $6m of his salary, according to one source close to the picture, and agreed, although subsequent financing difficulties led him to depart. A spokesman for Gere could not be reached at time of going to press.

August has now returned to Denmark, while Moore, who is nominated for two Academy Awards this year, is moving on to her next picture Laws Of Attraction for Stratus Film Co and Intermedia in July. As for Gere, he has nothing confirmed, but after Chicago, for which he won a Golden Globe, he is hotter than ever and is known to be circling several projects.

Ironically, producer Bob Yari, who is a partner in Stratus and has snared Moore to star in Laws Of Attraction with Pierce Brosnan, has long been involved as a producer on Without Apparent Motive and came up with a refinancing plan, working with a German film fund, which would have salvaged the project, but it was too late to regroup all the talent.

Neither Yari nor Splendid CEO Glasser was available for comment on Friday, although when reached on Wednesday at the American Film Market, Glasser said he was still trying to get the picture going. Legal ramifications of the project's demise are as yet unclear, since Gere reportedly had a pay-or-play deal on the picture and international distributors had already stumped up advances.

Splendid had opted not to close a domestic deal before the picture was made - a curious move, as it turned out, considering the precarious nature of the financing and the marketability of the two stars attached. The absence of a domestic deal hindered not only the financing but also certain foreign deals which were unable to trigger lucrative studio pay-TV output deals without a domestic deal in place.

Without Apparent Motive was to have been August's first film set in the US after a career making films in Scandinavia such as Pelle The Conquerer, The Best Intentions, Jerusalem and A Song For Martin as well as international productions in English like The House Of The Spirits, Smilla's Sense Of Snow and Les Miserables. The project, scripted by Eric Blakeney, is the story of a police detective who investigates the murders of three businessmen and falls in love with the mysterious widow of one of them.

Splendid principals Andreas Klein and Glasser were executive producers, with Yari, Mary Apick and Amedeo Ursini producing, although one of the original producers Faye Schwab had exited the project late last year.

Splendid has international rights on Stratus' upcoming film of The Painted Veil which is set to star Edward Norton and Naomi Watts; Yari is also involved in other Splendid pictures such as U-Boat, Heaven's Pond and Agent Cody Banks which MGM is opening this month.

Glasser first teamed with Klein when Splendid Medien bought Glasser's old company Cutting Edge Entertainment in Jan 2002.