Making independent films always comes with a certain set of challenges, but Natalie Portman’s planned Western Jane Got a Gun is starting to seem like it might actually be cursed. Before we give you the latest news, here’s a brief history of the project, including its recent series of disasters.

Things looked positive when the project was first announced last spring, with Portman attached to produce and play the lead, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Lynne Ramsay all set to direct, and a script written by Black Listed screenwriter Brian Duffield. A few months later, Michael Fassbender was lined up to play protagonist, Jane’s ex-lover, who is called upon to help her fight off the bandits that shot her husband. Then, three months ago, Joel Edgerton signed on to play the leader of the bandits.

The foundations began shaking a couple of weeks ago, when Fassbender was forced to drop out of the project due to scheduling conflicts. The cast underwent a hurried reshuffle, with Joel Edgerton taking on the role that Fassbender had vacated and Jude Law agreeing to take Edgerton’s place as the antagonist. The film seemed to be back on track, until the first day of production came around and Lynne Ramsay failed to show up. After the director quit without a word, Jude Law also abandoned Jane Got a Gun, since he’d only agreed to the role on the basis that he’d be working with Ramsay. Producer Scott Steindorff did not take the news well, saying of Ramsay’s decision to leave:

“I’m shocked and so disappointed someone would do this to 150 crew members who devoted so much time, energy, commitment and loyalty to a project, and then have the director not show up. It is insane somebody would do this to other people.”

Things began looking particularly ugly later in the week, after FilmDrunk received an anonymous e-mail from someone who’d been contacted by Steindorff’s assistant – begging them to leave positive comments on a Jane Got a Gun news article. The assistant added, “My boss will kill me if it’s not at least 40 comments!” This advertising technique, known colloquially as astroturfing, is often used to create a false impression of grass roots support for a project. Unfortunately for Steindorff, though somewhat predictably considering Jane Got a Gun‘s current run of luck, the attempt at astroturfing backfired and has only led to further bad publicity for the film.

For what it is worth, however, Steindorff and Portman are striving on despite the setbacks. Within hours a replacement director was found in the form of Gavin O’Connor, who previously directed Joel Edgerton in the boxing drama Warrior. Now, the LA Times is reporting that Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges are on the list of actors that O’Connor is chasing to fill the role that Jude Law so suddenly vacated. It’s unclear at this point whether filming has begun or whether the producers are waiting for a full cast before continuing. With the crew, props, locations and equipment already organized, however, every extra day on hold will mean punishing damage to the available budget.

This latest news is somewhat encouraging for those who are looking forward to seeing Jane Got a Gun struggle on towards completion. Westerns have been scarcely produced of late, and Westerns that have a tough female lead are even rarer, so an independent film with such an interesting premise and a great deal of talent already attached is definitely worth keeping an eye on. I can’t help but wonder if they’re filming on a Native American burial ground, though.

Are you rooting for Jane Got a Gun, or do you think the fates are trying to tell us something? Let us know your thoughts on the ongoing drama in the comments.

Jane Got a Gun is currently scheduled for release in 2014.

Source: The LA Times