Looks like Brad Pitt spent all those months growing that long, scruffy beard for nothing. Variety reports that he's dropped out of the starring role in ''The Fountain,'' the sci-fi saga for which he grew the shaggy whiskers. Instead, he's looking to jump to another epic, ''Troy,'' in which he'd star as Achilles. According to Variety, Pitt's departure stems from concerns over the complexity of ''Requiem for a Dream'' filmmaker Darren Aronofsky's ''Fountain'' screenplay, though there may be other issues.
He'd reportedly agreed to a $6 million salary, a third of his usual fee, in order to keep costs on the effects-heavy film manageable (Warner Bros. budgeted it at just $70 million, a relative bargain price for this kind of film), but on ''Troy,'' Warner would be more likely to meet his asking price. (It's a huge spectacle as well, but the studio is apparently willing to gamble more money on a well-known story under a proven big-budget director, ''The Perfect Storm'''s Wolfgang Petersen.) Plus, for ''Fountain,'' which was to shoot this fall, Pitt would have had to spend months in Australia, away from wife Jennifer Aniston, working in Hollywood on ''Friends.'' ''Troy'' won't start shooting until 2003.
''Fountain,'' which is a story spanning a thousand years, from the time of the conquistadors to 500 years in the future, is a long-troubled project that, without Pitt, may shut down for good. The film had been delayed before over budget concerns and costar Cate Blanchett's pregnancy, as well as Aronofsky's preparation for another Warner Bros. project, ''Batman: Year One.''
Ironically, it was Petersen's announcement in early July that he would direct the studio's ''Batman vs. Superman'' that enabled Aronofsky to shelve his Batman project and go ahead with ''Fountain.'' Weeks later, however, Petersen did an about-face and jumped to ''Troy,'' putting ''Batman vs. Superman'' on the back burner. So now, if Warner fails to find a replacement for Pitt, and ''Fountain'' is shut off yet again, Aronofsky may end up doing ''Batman: Year One'' as his next project after all.