Guy Ritchie has delayed post-production on his latest movie and ordered a series of last-minute rewrites to the as-yet-untitled period drama.
Industry insiders had previously praised Ritchie for his "change of direction", when it was announced that the film would be a "loose adaptation" of EM Forster's A Room With a View, but sources close the project have revealed the final cut may be closer to the British director's notoriously gangster-themed back-catalogue.
One of the key alterations is said to involve the setting for the movie - with much of the sumptuous footage of rolling Tuscan countryside replaced by a darkly-lit ghetto in the East End of London where villainous cockney mafia types roam the streets and pop superstars are subjected to brutal torture and slow agonising deaths.
Ritchie's heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, has also undergone some extensive reworking.
"In the Merchant Ivory version she is a naïve, spoilt little rich girl who discovers the meaning of life and love in a Florentine cornfield," Ritchie explained. "But I wanted to play around with it a bit - deconstruct all that youthful innocence. So in my film Lucy is an ageing, blonde, femme fatale, Kaballah-worshipping whore who is stalked by hitmen, beaten, humiliated and finally disembowelled by a large pick axe."
Many of the film's original actors have seen great chunks of whimsical dialogue and skipping through meadows hit the cutting room floor, as Ritchie strips down his original vision. Simon Callow's return as the bumbling Reverend Mr Beebe has been binned completely in favour of a new character called Mad Barry (played by Vinnie Jones) who specialises in the ritual slaying of annoying women in leotards.
"I've shifted my focus a bit," Ritchie admitted from the closed set in Hertfordshire. "I think you can get too bogged down by continuity and historical accuracy when you shoot a period drama."
"I like my movies to be more freeform," he continued before bellowing orders through a loud-hailer at a production assistant who had sloshed the wrong kind of fake blood over the animatronic corpse of a recently beheaded starlet in a conical bra.
Ritchie was quick to play down suggestions that the recent breakdown of his marriage to Madonna had influenced the revamping of his movie, insisting that the controversial inclusion of a futuristic, dreamlike sequence where devout followers of a cult Jewish religious sect are crushed to death by a steamroller was "merely a coincidence."
"I like to think of this as an apocalyptic version of Forster's coming of age saga," Ritchie concluded. "We are both telling a classic story of love overcoming staid social convention - I'm just using more metaphors involving slutty old women getting their faces caved in by industrial sanders."