It took more than four years for The Tourist a psychological thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor to emerge from the noirish shadows of development hell. In 2002, producers began working on the story of an everyday number cruncher (McGregor) who gets ushered into the underground world of New York sex clubs by a charismatic colleague (Jackman). It bounced from Revolution to MGM before finally dead-ending at Fox. ''If you look at Fox's slate, they've got tent poles and comedies,'' says the film's producer, Arnold Rifkin. ''But this is not a movie where you go get popcorn three times.''
Enter Jackman in 2006. ''Every actor wants to play the bad guy,'' explained a grinning Jackman during EW's November visit to the film's Wall Street set. ''Even when my character is manipulating people, he's having a blast. I feel like Alan Rickman in Die Hard.'' Once the actor joined the project,McGregor and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) jumped aboard. Bolstered by the star power, the producers and first-time feature director Marcel Langenegger were able to secure independent financing. Now, says Rifkin, the once-floundering film is being eyed by several studios and he expects to have a domestic distribution deal within a few weeks.
Despite the story's seemingly lurid premise, don't expect some cheap boobs-and-babes movie. ''Marcel kept telling me, 'Yes, we have to work under the constraints of a thriller, but I'm interested in making a love story,''' says Williams, who plays a siren bent on seducing McGregor. ''And that's a language I speak.''
(Additional reporting by Hannah Tucker)