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What's this, JR shooting Dallas in Louisiana?
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
(Filed: 21/02/2006)

It is a betrayal as galling as anything cooked up by JR Ewing, the arch schemer of the 1980s soap opera Dallas.

The Texan oil city that spawned the sex-drenched drama could be ignored as a backdrop for a big-screen update of the soap in favour of Florida or Louisiana.

Catherine Zeta Jones
Catherine Zeta Jones as Pam Ewing ...

Producers of the long-awaited film, which has been in development since 2002, say the Lone Star State cannot compete with the financial incentives offered to film productions elsewhere.

And as much as they would love to film in the Big D, budget pressures are forcing them to look elsewhere, including Jacksonville, Florida, where producers recently approached the city's film commission.

"We're not out to try to steal Dallas from Texas," Paul Sirmons, the Florida state film commissioner, told The Daily Telegraph yesterday. "They came to us."

He said the state offered an enviable package to film productions - a refund of 15 per cent of all money spent on location up to a budget of $2 million dollars.

Brad Pitt
... and Brad Pitt as Bobby Ewing

"Also, the actor being cast for the lead, John Travolta, lives in Florida," Mr Sirmons added. "And the person who designed or built Southfork [the Ewing ranch] built a duplicate near Jacksonville."

The loss of the production would not only be a slap in the face for Dallas but deprive the city of about $30 million (£17 million) which the film makers are expected to spend on site.

As well as Travolta as JR, the role originally played by Larry Hagman, Catherine Zeta Jones is tipped to revive Victoria Principal's Pam Ewing, while the Texan native Matthew McConaughey is tipped to be Bobby Ewing. There is even a rumour of a part for Brad Pitt.

Michael Costigan, who is producing the film with David Jacobs, the show's creator, said they were considering several states.

"Honestly, Dallas was never high on the list, because it didn't seem like a feasible, economic place to do the movie," said Mr Costigna, the executive producer of the award-winning Brokeback Mountain.

Bob Hudgins, the director of the Texas Film Commission, said: "Texas doesn't have an incentive to give film makers."

Janis Burklund, the head of the Dallas Film Commission, said: "It will be a horrible black eye to the state if Dallas isn't made in Dallas."

She is building a package of perks before pre-production begins in May that could yet tempt the producers to the city.

But the signs are not good. Mr Sirmons pointed out that Chicago, New York Minute and the Wyoming-set Brokeback Mountain were all filmed in Canada.

31 October 2001[Arts]: Happy as larry

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Related links
Catherine Elsworth's Los Angeles blog