The new issue of the Hollywood Reporter, which hits newsstands Thursday, features producer-financier Avi Lerner who talks about his $70 million gamble on the new Conan the Barbarian film, his crushing split with longtime partner Danny Dimbort and the A-list stars, from Katherine Heigl to Nicole Kidman - who are now on his payroll.

The cover of the magazine features Lerner alongside Katherine and Robert De Niro, who both star in "The Big Wedding" a.k.a "The Wedding", a film which he is executive producing and financing. Timothy White photographed the trio at the Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut on July 29th.

In the feature, the mogul explains how he got involved with the project, an extract of which is reproduced below:

Producer Avi Lerner: The Most Unlikely Movie Mogul

By Stephen Galloway

When its producers at Two Ton Films approached him, they were in a rut; their investor had just died, and so had their funding. Told of the story - about a divorced couple that has to fake being married for their daughter's wedding - Lerner was hooked. "I always like stories from life," he says.

Once he said yes, the project was cobbled together in weeks, despite complications involving the rights.

"The producers made a deal [with the makers of the French film on which Wedding is based] and bought it for very little money, as long as the budget didn't pass $40 million," he explains. "When the French producer found out it has De Niro, Katherine Heigl, they wanted more." Even though contracts were in place, one crucial element was still needed: the original writer's approval, mandatory according to France's droit morale, by which a writer has the authority to veto any changes made to his script. "I didn't have any choice," Lerner acknowledges. "So I gave them more money."

This is Lerner's third film with De Niro, after Stone and Righteous Kill; and with Heigl and Keaton already on board, he knew they in turn would draw Williams - all at a fraction of their usual salaries. Add younger stars like Seyfried and Grace to the mix, and you have Lerner's beau ideal for foreign sales.

Avi Lerner, Katherine & Robert De Niro (Photo: Timothy White) Avi Lerner, Katherine & Robert De Niro (Photo: Timothy White)

To read the article in full please visit The Hollywood Reporter or pick up the latest issue of the trade magazine tomorrow.