Actors and directors are known for attaching, detaching and occasionally even re-attaching themselves to projects during pre-production, but producer and star Natalie Portman’s western Jane Got a Gun (which began shooting yesterday) has found itself in an unprecedented situation: its director has abandoned ship on the first day of production, without even a warning.

Last week there were signs that all might not be going well on Jane, in the form of an update revealing that Michael Fassbender had left – due to a scheduling conflict between the film and X-Men: Days of Future Past – and Jude Law had joined the cast. In hindsight, such a major casting change-up being announced so close to the beginning of filming, well… it might’ve been a warning flag for trouble ahead.

The mystery right now concerns why, exactly, director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) failed to show up yesterday and begin filming Jane Got a Gun in Santa Fe. Scott Steindorff (The Lincoln Lawyer) is financing the movie and has kept crew members working, as well as the cast rehearsing – all while the search (or, if you will, scramble) for a replacement director takes place.

Jane has been taking shape as a unique variation on the generally male-dominated western genre (save for something like True Grit). Ramsay was fresh off earning a healthy amount of critical praise for adapting We Need to Talk About Kevin, while the script from Brian Duffield had earned a spot on the Hollywood Black List of best un-produced screenplays.

Joel Edgerton costars in ‘Jane Got a Gun’

Portman is co-headlining the film with Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), who’s taking Fassbender’s previous spot as her ex-lover – the man who comes to her aid when Jane’s (dead? Near-dead?) husband’s old gang threatens her homestead. Law is playing the ruthless leader of those bandits; meanwhile, the supporting cast is rounded out by people like Rodrigo Santoro and Kristen Rakes (The Last Stand).

Here is the statement about Ramsay’s departure, issued by Steindorff:

“I have millions of dollars invested, we’re ready to shoot, we have a great script, crew and cast,” Steindorff told Deadline. “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. I feel more for the crew and their families, but we are keeping the show going on, directors are flying in, and a replacement is imminent.”

Ramsay has a pay or play deal on the project, so her withdrawal of her own accord prevent any due payment demands (Steindorff is keeping the litigator Marty Singer onboard, just in case things get ugly). Whatever the reason for Ramsay leaving – be it creative differences or unexpected personal problems – it’s a difficult situation for all concerned.

If nothing else, at least the rug hasn’t been completely pulled out from beneath the collective staff’s feet (translation: they still have a job).

More on the Jane Got a Gun situation as the story develops.

Source: Deadline