spielberg-chicago-7.jpgEXCLUSIVE: I’ve just been told that the famed director has backed off setting an April start date for his pic The Trial Of The Chicago 7 and won’t finalize a new start date until the Screen Actors Guild and AMPTP agree on a deal. ”It’s a de facto casualty of SAG. He’s still working on it with producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and still keenly interested. But because of the uncertainty over a SAG strike, he has to push the date,” an insider explains.

chicago7.jpgEarlier today, one Internet site erroneously claimed Spielberg “has decided to move on and will not be making the movie.” But I know there’s no doubt Speilberg is still as enthused as ever about the pic; he discusses it with showbiz folks and journalists every chance he gets. It’s only that, according to my sources, Spielberg felt he couldn’t push the start date by even a few weeks because SAG’s contract expires in June. ”Knowing that he had to be finished by July left him too much up against it, so he had to make a decision whether to give the pic a firm state date of April which he didn’t feel ready for,” an insider told me.

cohenabby.jpgOne reason why is because the script, while “great”, still needs more work, and Spielberg will continue meeting with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin every day. Spielberg also has been holding a cast and crew together on the movie and felt the need to release them now so they could get other gigs. “He was looking at a situation where people may find themselves with no spring work,” a source said. The only name actor confirmed is Sacha Baron Cohen who’ll play Abbie Hoffman and, to keep this a lower-budget movie, I’m told the rest of the Chicago defendants will be played by non-marquee names. But Spielberg also had behind the camera big-timers like Rick Carter and Janusz Kaminski on hold. “Unless the SAG contract will be resolved within the next two or three weeks, Steven felt he couldn’t go forward. It’s really not about lack of interest in the material. He can start this movie on August 1st,” an insider assured me.

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