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HOLLYWOOD NOTES 2: JUNE 99

NICK RODDICK continues his report on the latest jostling in Hollywood.

Singing, Shipping and Scientology

He hasn’t sung since Grease, and he’s hardly danced - not counting a few self-parodic moments in Pulp Fiction - since Staying Alive. But John Travolta should be doing both in Standing Room Only, in which he will play real-life lounge singer Jimmy Roselli.

The latter may not be a household name to you and me, but he was apparently much appreciated by the mob, who packed his engagements at Vegas and elsewhere. Then Roselli changed his mind, declared he wanted nothing more to do with organised crime, and ended up with a price on his head.

That shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anybody. What is surprising, though, is the director of Standing Room Only: Gus Van Sant, who was apparently the choice of both Travolta and his manager (who is also the film’s producer), Jonathan Krane. Van Sant’s days as a maverick indie look like being definitively over, what with Good Will Hunting, Psycho and now this.

Co-starring in Standing Room Only is Kelly Preston, who will be working with her husband for the first time since a long-forgotten 1989 flick called The Experts, which came right at the lowest spot of Travolta’s decade in the wilderness. At least he met his wife on it. The couple look like co-starring again later in the year in the somewhat delayed movie version of Annie L Proulx’s bestseller, The Shipping News.

In between, Travolta is expected to realise his decade-long dream of turning Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi tale, Battlefield Earth, into a movie. The US$70-million film (which Roger Christian is to direct for Franchise Entertainment) is about an alien invasion which drives the earthlings underground - until, that is, they are rallied to a fightback under the command of a rebel leader.

Strangely enough, however, the rebel leader is not the role Travolta has marked out for himself. He will play the big baddie: bad in that he is the leader of the race of the aliens; big in that he is 10-foot-tall.

No More Mrs Nice Guy

Having departed sharply from her Merchant-Ivory image with last year’s The Theory of Flight, in which she played a terminally ill wheelchair-bound woman determined to lose her virginity before she dies, Helena Bonham Carter looks like maintaining her hold on offbeat material with her next movie, Women Talking Dirty, currently shooting in Edinburgh.

The film, which marks the long-awaited debut of Elton John’s production company, Rocket Pictures (launched with a lot of fanfare at Cannes two years ago), is about the unlikely friendship between two young Scottish women who support one another whenever life deals either of them a problem - which is fairly frequently. It is being directed by Coky Giedroyc, whose debut feature was the much-acclaimed 1996 low-budget Brit flick, Stella Does Tricks.

Above Him the Waves

Matthew McConaughey recently donned naval uniform to take command of Universal’s U-571. This is not - as those familiar with studio methods of listing projects may suspect - some far-distant future movie, but the actual name of the German U-boat in the frequently delayed action flick with which writer/director Jonathan Mostow is finally following up his hit thriller, Breakdown.

McConaughey plays the US navy captain who is sent to retrieve a decoding device hidden aboard the stranded German submarine. Others aboard U-571, on which production began in Rome and Malta at the turn of the year, include Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, David Keith and Jake Weber.

Strange Diaz Indeed

Cameron Diaz has had a broad range of roles in recent times, but she’s never played dead before. And that’s just what she is doing in Fine Line’s Invisible Circus, which is shooting in France. The film is about a young woman heading off to Paris to find out what happened to her sister (Diaz), who committed suicide there. Invisible Circus will be directed by Adam Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay (adapted from a novel by Jennifer Egan).

Carrey on Jim

Jim Carrey recently wrapped the Andy Kaufman biopic, The Man on the Moon, directed by Milos Forman. He will be reteaming with the Peter and Bob Farrelly (who directed him in Dumb and Dumber and did the same for Diaz in Mary) for a film called Me, Myself and Irene, in which he will play a Long Island cop with a dual-personality problem. As long as he keeps taking the pills, he’s OK. But, when he forgets, he becomes someone else. Trouble is, both his original self and the someone else he turns into fall in love with the same woman: the eponymous Irene, a role which has yet to be cast.

And he will follow Irene with the Dr Seuss movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which Ron Howard will direct and which should be out for Thanksgiving 2000. Carrey’s other pipeline project, The Incredible Mr Limpet, has been on hold, however, ever since Steve Oedekerk dropped out as director.

Updates....

RKO 281, the story of the making of Citizen Kane that hovered on Ridley Scott’s wish-list for a year or so - with American X Oscar nominee Edward Norton suggested as a possible candidate to play the young (and, in those days, relatively sprightly) Orson Welles, has finally transmogrified into an HBO movie.

So it won’t be Norton. Nor will it be Marlon Brando as William Randolph Hearst, Madonna as Marion Davies, Dustin Hoffman as Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz or Meryl Streep as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper... OK, OK, I know. But, since no contracts were signed, what was the sense in them not dreaming? No, it’ll be the same screenplay (by John Logan, inspired by the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Battle Over Citizen Kane), but with a slightly lower-key line-up. Still tasty, though. James Cromwell will play Hearst; John Malkovich will be Mankiewicz; Brenda Blethyn will take the Hedda Hopper role; and Liev Schreiber will play Welles.

Production got under way in London last month, with young British director Ben Ross at the helm.

Having waited three years for the iron to cool, meanwhile, the first version of the life-story of murdered Irish journalist Veronica Guerin is finally about to go in front of the cameras.

Within a couple of months of Guerin’s murder, apparently at the hands of a Dublin crime syndicate, on June 26, 1996, two separate versions of her life were in the pipeline. One was going to be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney. The other one was called Though the Sky Falls, and Guerin herself had been collaborating on it prior to her death.

The latter is the one that is finally about to roll, with the journalist being played by Joan Allen (as was originally proposed back in 1996), alongside Pete Postlethwaite, Patrick Bergin and Liam Cunningham. The script is by Michael Sheridan; the director is John Mackenzie.

And finally, a couple of megamovies - Kevin Costner’s Cuban-missile crisis drama 13 Days and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s medieval epic, Crusade - seem to be back on the rails again.

13 Days looks likely to be directed by Francis Ford Coppola, after a brief period which would have seen either Martin Campbell or Roger Donaldson at the helm came and went in February (original director Phil Alden Robinson quit over ‘creative differences’, as is wont to happen with Costner projects).

And Schwarzenegger has been talking to producer Arnon Milchan, about rescuing his film, which has been put on hold so many times (the first was so original director Paul Verhoeven could make Showgirls) that the title Crusade could well be applied to Arnie’s campaign to get it made.

Plus...

File this under ‘Unconfirmed’: having worked for the kiddie market for the first time in his life (albeit only in a vocal capacity) on Antz, Woody Allen is now likely to team up with those aforementioned poets of pubescence, the Farrelly Brothers, on a movie called Stuck on You.

The part lined up for him is that of a Siamese twin who, because his sibling has the liver, is ageing at a hell of a rate. His other half will be played by someone like Matt Damon or Jim Carrey, so you get the picture.

The Farrellys are also involved as producers in a couple of romantic comedies - Say It Isn’t So (the ‘It’ being the rumour that the new love of the hero’s life is, in fact, his sister), plus Me, Myself and Irene - and a sports comedy called Basketcase, starring Denis Leary.

Last but not least, although his reputation as high priest of angst took a bit of a knock with The Idiots, Danish director Lars von Trier is the last person you’d associate with a musical. But that’s what’s next on the cards for him in the form of Dances in the Dark, which is supposed to shoot in Iceland some time this year. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Icelandic singer Björk, and features not only songs but tap-dancing. Will this be one for your millennial line-up, Monsieur Jacob?

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John Travolta


Kelly Preston


Kevin Costner


Stella Does Tricks


Cameron Diaz


Citizen Cane

See Part 1







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