"Memento" starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano is a movie that people discuss and dissect frame by frame after seeing. The convoluted thriller about a man who witnesses his wife's murder and suffers an ensuing bout of severe short-term memory problems is directed by 29-year-old English director/writer Chris Nolan, based on his brother Jonathan's short story.

The film is so intriguing that when it was shown last May at the Cannes Film Festival to Miramax's Harvey Weinstein; Bill Block, president of Artisan Entertainment; Russell Schwartz, president of USA Films, and other major studio execs, they all wanted to buy it.

"But they wanted to buy it cheap and didn't take it seriously or respect it and would have sent it right to video," said Pantoliano.

After it opened the Sundance Film Festival, Weinstein and the others clamored to buy it again, but the bids were still considered too low.

Beverly Hills-based Newmarket Capital Group, the financing company that spent $5 million producing the film, has decided that it has a good thing on its hands and is going to release the film itself. A Newmarket representative said the company hoped that a limited release in New York and Los Angeles would ultimately produce good box-office numbers. "It just needs the buzz," the rep said.

Financing companies don't usually release their own films, and Newmarket will probably have to spend another $5 million on the release and advertising.

Assuming Moss got between $500,000 and $1 million for her role in "Memento," as Pearce and Nolan did, very little would have been left for production costs. "We had to work very fast," said Nolan, "but the actors are such consummate professionals they didn't mind working at that pace and had the confusing script all figured out the first day on the set."

Nolan's next gig is a big-budgeted thriller called "Insomnia."

Moss, the hottest female action star in Hollywood outside of Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") hit paydirt with the "Matrix" sequels starring Keanu Reeves, which she will spend the next two years shooting in San Francisco.


According to Haley Joel Osment, the young star of Steven Spielberg's upcoming mega sci-fi film "A.I." (Artificial Intelligence), the film is "in the can." But when Spielberg was recently asked about it at the Producers Guild Awards, he replied cryptically, "nothing is ever finished with me."

That may mean its original release date in June as a summer blockbuster will be moved back.

Nancy Wilson, the composer who scores her Oscar-nominated director-husband Cameron Crowe's films ("Almost Famous") is also scoring his current Paramount big-budget project "Vanilla Sky" starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz.

Wilson said Crowe is currently writing two scripts at once. "He likes to leave one script in the middle and distract himself with another, then he comes back to the first one," she said.

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