Industry buzz had it that Charlize Theron would likely become a female lead in ”Pearl Harbor,” Disney’s WWII epic whose $135 million preshooting budget makes it the most expensive film ever greenlit. But the increasingly hot Theron, who next stars opposite Ben Affleck in John Frankheimer’s ”Reindeer Games” (opening Feb. 25), tells EW Online that she’s passing on the project. Instead she’ll join Keanu Reeves in a remake of the ’68 romantic drama ”Sweet November,” which starts shooting at the same time as ”Harbor.” ”Whomever is in it [”Harbor”] will probably become a huge star and the movie will do extremely well,” says Theron. ”But I know I’m here [in my career] because I’ve always made decisions based on what felt right to me and what felt challenging to me.”
Theron denies that her choice was influenced by the negative hype surrounding ”Harbor”’s initial price tag, which dwarfs the greenlighted budgets of both ”Titanic” (less than $100 million) and ”Waterworld ($65 million). ”I made my decision based on the character in ‘Sweet November,”’ she says. (We can see why: In the original version, Sandy Dennis plays a woman who takes a new lover every month.) So while ”Pearl Harbor” still has ”Armageddon” director Michael Bay at the helm, and lots of stunt people, pyrotechnics, and ”Titanic”’s water tank to re-create the infamous Dec. 7, 1941, attack, it’s now short one soon-to-be A-list actress. But, then again, with a $135 million budget the producers can surely afford a new one. Renée Zellweger, perhaps?