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October 10, 2001

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Bandits has a field day

Arthur J Pais

A still from Bandits For Ashok Amritraj, co-producer of the $90 million romantic crime caper, Bandits, it's glad tidings.

The film, starring Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton, has replaced John Woo's $140 million World War II drama Windtalkers in a centerpiece gala screening at the London Film Festival opening on November 7. And the influential trade publication, Variety, has given the film a good review, especially praising the performances of the principal artists.

Amritraj, who has been making films in Hollywood for nearly two decades, says Bandits is his most ambitious film yet.

"We have very big stars, an intriguing story, and a wonderful director," he says.

Barry Levinson, who won an Oscar for Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, has directed the film. He has also co-produced it with Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment.

Amritaj says that his Hollywood-based firm will continue making four to five films a year, with the budgets ranging from $ 30 million to $ 100 million.

A still from Bandits Bandits, which rolls out across America on October 12, was to be shown at the London fest. But the film was upgraded when distributor MGM decided to push the Windtalkers premiere into next year.

Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage, was originally scheduled to open on November 9 in North America but Hollywood press believes MGM doubted if the public has an appetite for war films in the aftermath of World Trade Center devastation on September 11. The film will open in mid June 2002, MGM announced early this week.

Cage, who starred in Woo's Face Off, a $ 300 million grossing hit in 1997, plays a marine in Windtalkers who is assigned to protect Navajo Americans, who use their ancient tribal codes to relay U S military orders.

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