Maybe Hollywood has seen too many Oliver Stone movies. Ever since the town’s foremost conspiracy theorist bulled the plug on his Noriega, citing — of all things — budget concerns, insiders have been wondering what really sent the movie into exile. Bickering between the director and Al Pacino, who was supposed to star? Or pressure over a script that would have questioned the roles of Oliver North and Beorge Bush in the Panamanian dictator’s ascent? “It’s strictly a matter of budget,” says Stone’s spokesman. “I told Oliver no one would believe it, but it’s true. Noriega was a big complicated undertaking. In the end, [Oliver] decided he couldn’t justify the costs.”
Apparently there is a smoking gun in Noriega’s demise. According to one source, there was a clause in the director’s contract that made him personally liable for cost overruns if the project didn’t finish within its $40 million-$50 million budget — an unlikely scenario, given Stone’s plans to shoot in Miami and Panama with a cast of thousands. “This movie was never budgeted realistically,” says an insider. “When you bring in an actor of Pacino’s caliber you push the price tag into the stratosphere. Remember, you still have to build sets, hire the rest of the cast, and you need thousands of extras for the 1989 U.S. invasion. And then there’s Oliver’s fee.”
But the fall of Noriega allows Stone to work on another movie about a dictator. He’s moved up plans to shoot Evita, reportedly starring Michelle Pfeiffer, which is tentatively scheduled to go before the cameras in ‘95.