Walden Media has denied widespread rumours that Nicole Kidman is poised to take a major role in the forthcoming The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

Early this week, several New Zealand newspapers - including The New Zealand Herald, The Sunday Mail and The Dominion Post - reported that Kidman spent time in Christchurch, New Zealand, and toured potential locations by helicopter for the fantasy epic.

"It was a false story that came out of New Zealand," said Alison Lehrer, vice president of PR for Walden Media. "It's a project that we're all very excited about, but unfortunately this is just not true. Hopefully we'll have some exciting news soon."

"The tall, pale, imposing Kidman was thought to be perfect for the role of The White Witch," said The New Zealand Herald. In the book, the White Witch puts a spell on Narnia so that it is always winter and never Christmas.

The live action film, based on the book by C.S. Lewis, will be directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek) and produced by Mark Johnson. It is expected to start shooting this summer in New Zealand and the Czech Republic for a Christmas 2005 release.

The film's budget is reported to be $100 million, with Walden co-financing 50/50 with Walt Disney. Disney will retain worldwide rights, including homevideo, licensing and merchandising rights.