Talk about a location shoot. Russian director Yuri Kara wants Tom Hanks to star in his film about a cosmonaut who won't leave the Mir space station--and he wants to film the Oscar-winner onboard the orbiting junker.

Kara, director of successful Russian films such as 1994's Master and Margareth and 1989's The Night With Stalin, has a movie idea about a cosmonaut who refuses to leave Mir once the Russian Space Agency shuts it down--as planned--in 1999. Both the Russian and American space agencies try everything to get him to come home, finally resorting to sending up his love interest to convince him.

Kara has already been turned down by Emma Thomson for the female lead. Hank's publicist, Heidi Schaeffer, hasn't heard anything about the project and doesn't think her client--who might be understandably skittish about an on-the-cheap space flight after playing the captain of a damaged craft in 1993's Apollo 13--would be interested. "It's just wishful thinking on the part of a Russian director," she says. No problem: Kara has also mentioned casting John Travolta, a licensed pilot who has expressed interest in space travel, in the lead.

But besides procuring big American actors, whom Kara believes will enhance the international marketing appeal of the English-spoken film, a lot of things have to work out before he can make his movie. For one thing, the Russian Space Agency has to agree to it--and its officials are seriously considering it. (Heck, for the right price, the ruble-rummaging agency would stuff an elephant in a rocket for an Operation Dumbo Drop sequel.)

"You don't have to go to space to film a space flight," space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov told the Associated Press. "But if Kara wants to make it in space, and he's got the money, well, it's his choice."

Next, of course, is cash. It will cost Kara $20 million just to send two actors to Mir and film them for two weeks. The actors would blast up to the orbitor via a three-man capsule, under the guidance of a real cosmonaut. Kara would direct from Mission Control.

Still, as far-fetched as it all might seem, Kara seems determined. "In the next century, directors will shoot films on the moon and maybe even Mars," he told the AP. "Someone has to be the first to film in space. Why not me?"

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