Production on The Bridges of Madison County is scheduled to begin Sept. 12, but yet another defection may keep the cameras from rolling. The newest twist came last week when director Bruce Beresford abruptly departed the film, set to star Clint Eastwood. The Australian director, sources say, disagreed with script changes requested by Steven Spielberg (whose Amblin Entertainment is producing), as well as with the casting of the leading lady. Beresford had recently screen-tested Catherine Deneuve, Lena Olin, Sonia Braga, and Isabella Rossellini, convinced the book's Italian war bride should be played by a foreign-born actress. According to sources, Warner Bros., no doubt hoping to turn out a megawatt movie, prefers Americans Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, and Jessica Lange, with Lange surfacing as the top contender, despite denials from the studio. At press time, there was no replacement for Beresford, but given Bridges' mandate to shoot in Winterset, Iowa, before the weather turns cold, the production is now left with few choices: either (a) find a new director fast, (b) delay the movie until next year, or (c) call on Eastwood to direct.
At least one person is eyeing the Bridges tribulations with detached amusement. ''As far as I'm concerned, I sold the rights [and] took the money,'' says author Robert James Waller, who admits a fondness for Rossellini. ''She made me weep when I heard her reading the book's audiotape.'' Reporting by Dana Kennedy, Anne Thompson, and Jeffrey Wells