Surprising news today, as Deadline bring word that director Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar) has abruptly exited ‘Jane Got a Gun,’ and yesterday didn’t shown up on set for the first day of production. I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more about this news in the coming days, but for now we only have comments from the film’s producer Scott Steindorff. Just last week it was announced that Michael Fassbender, who was to have played the male lead in the revenge-driven western, exited the movie, while Joel Edgerton, who was on board to play the villain, stepped into Fassbender’s hero role. Jude Law, in the meantime, has signed on for the villain. It was reported that the actor rotation came about due to Fassbender’s schedule conflict with his upcoming shoot for ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ Deadline’s report about Ramsay’s exit is as follows:

When the cast and crew of the indie drama Jane Got A Gun showed up for the first day of production Monday in Sante Fe, they learned that director Lynne Ramsay was a no-show and had abruptly dropped out of the film. Among those who learned of her exit yesterday were Natalie Portman, who stars in the film and is producing with Scott Steindorff, Joel Edgerton, Jude Law and Rodrigo Santoro. Steindorff, who is financing the picture through his Scott Pictures label, confirmed the crisis and said they are determined to hold the picture together until they set a new director. He said that would happen imminently.

A lot of filmmakers step off projects and we chalk it up to creative differences, but I can’t remember a situation when a filmmaker who developed a film didn’t show up for work on the day it starts production. Clearly there was drama the weekend before, but this is pretty shocking. Not surprisingly, Steindorff indicated that there is a high level of acrimony here. He said that Ramsay has a pay or play deal, and that he has also retained litigator Marty Singer to keep his options open. The crew is still showing up to work and the project is still being cash flowed, with actors rehearsing scenes.

“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.” As for the prospect of legal ramifications, Steindorff said: “She was pay or play, and Marty Singer has been retained. My focus is on making this movie, but I will protect all my rights. This comes down to an irresponsible act by one person.”

Expect more ‘Jane Got a Gun’ news and Lynne Ramsay’s side of the story soon. The film centers on Natalie Portman’s titular character, a woman whose outlaw husband returns home riddled with bullet wounds and barely alive, betrayed by criminal confederates that are hot on his heels. When her husband’s gang eventually tracks him down to finish the job, she is forced to reach out to an ex-lover and ask if he will help defend her farm. Joel Edgerton will play the ex-lover while Jude Law will be the leader of the gang that lays siege to the homestead. Written by Brian Duffield, ‘Jane Got a Gun’ made the 2011 “Black List,” a compilation of the best unproduced scripts making the rounds of Hollywood, as voted on by hundreds of film executives. Lynne Ramsay was the filmmaker responsible for the much-acclaimed adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel, ’We Need to Talk About Kevin,’ unquestionably one of my favourite films of 2011. The official synopsis for ‘Jane’s Got a Gun’ can be read below.

Young and pretty with a soul of pure steel, Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a good girl married to one of the worst baddies in town.  When her husband Bill turns against his own gang, the vicious Bishop Boys, and returns home barely alive with eight bullets in his back, Jane knows it’s time to ditch the dress for a pair of pants and strap on her own gun.  As the relentless leader John Bishop gears up for revenge, Jane’s best hope for her family’s survival rests with her old love Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) – a gunslinger whose hatred for Bill is only slightly overshadowed by his love for Jane.  Together Jane and Dan spring clever traps, luring Bishop’s men to certain death just as their old feelings for each other resurface amidst the flying bullets.

With director Lynne Ramsay (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, MORVERN CALLAR) at the helm, the rich dimensions of these characters find their best ally with Jane out in front, taking her fate into her own hands with the kind of bravado legends are made of.