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Taymor in talks to helm Hayek's "Frida"

By Michael Fleming

NEW YORK (Variety) - Julie Taymor, best known for her Broadway staging of "The Lion King," is negotiating to direct Salma Hayek in the Miramax biopic "Frida Kahlo."

Antonio Banderas and Ashley Judd have already agreed to appear in supporting roles, and Edward Norton in a cameo. Hayek has long been committed to the title role as the Mexican painter, with Alfred Molina circling the male lead as muralist Diego Rivera, who was Kahlo's husband.

Taymor made her feature-helming debut with last year's Anthony Hopkins starrer "Titus." Getting the visually gifted director would be a coup for Miramax in the wake of the recent revelation that Luis Valdez ("La Bamba") will shoot a rival Kahlo biopic, starring Jennifer Lopez, for producer Francis Ford Coppola at United Artists.

Franchise Films principal Elie Samaha has recently been in talks to handle the bulk of the financing for that film, slated to go into production around the same time.

Hayek, who has been shepherding "Frida Kahlo" through her Ventanarosa shingle, has a script by Rodrigo Garcia ("Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her"). The two projects are similar in that both focus on Kahlo's relationship with Rivera and their place in high society in Mexico.

Banderas, who starred with Hayek in "Desperado," will play David Siqueiros, a painter who is Rivera's rival on the art scene. Judd will play Tina Modotti, an Italian photographer who was part of Kahlo and Rivera's social circle, and Norton will do a cameo as Nelson Rockefeller, who had Rivera paint a mural in Rockefeller Center, only to remove it when Rivera refused to change an image of Lenin, which Rockefeller felt went against the capitalist designs of the facility.

Molina has long been circling the film, but his availability is dependent upon scheduling for his CBS series "Ladies Man."