MTV isn’t saying that David Cronenberg isn’t directing the Ludlum adaptation The Matarese Circle. But they are saying that he’s not doing it yet, because he says he’s not doing it yet.

“Nobody has signed on. The Hollywood is term is ‘attached.’ Nobody actually knows what that means. It’s a very abstract, almost religious concept,” Cronenberg says, playing right into Devin’s recent article about Hollywood dealmaking. “It’s not green-lit because we all have to say, ‘We love this script and here’s a budget we feel is correct.’ Then it would be green-lit. You’d have to make the stars pay-or-play at that point to go forward because it would be a very expensive movie.”

So what about that script? Cronenberg re-wrote the original draft by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt to create his own take that incorporated elements of the original novel, but updated the context to sidestep Ludlum’s outdated Soviet-era espionage. But his draft isn’t ready to give out yet, and that’s the crux.

According to the director, Denzel Washington is keen on working with him and Tom Cruise, and that all parties and studio MGM love the project. It’s just that script issue — once that’s finalized and Denzel and Cruise channel Siskel and Ebert with their thumbs-up, it’ll happen.

I wonder exactly how gung-ho MGM is about this movie, and what leverage the studio might exert to keep Denzel on the hook if something else (or a string of something elses) comes up before the script is finalized. You’ve got to assume the idea of Denzel and Cruise toplining a film by a master director is like fried gold to the studio, but how much time can Cronenberg take with this one before the window of opportunity closes?