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HOLLYWOOD NOTES : November 2001

A whistle stop through Hollywood movies planned or pre-planned or almost made is a ride from the sublime to the ridiculous; Nick Roddick provides the tour guide services.

HERE’S A CASTING story that could end up being almost as good as the film it’s about. It has to do with a movie called The Antwone Fisher Story, which Denzel Washington is due to direct at Fox, where it will mark his first stint behind the camera.

The real Antwone Fisher was a security guard at the Sony studios in Hollywood who got chatting one day to producer Todd Black (most recent credit: A Knight’s Tale). Fisher told Black about his abusive childhood, which he had written up into a memoir called Finding Fish. Black was so impressed with what he read that he got Fisher to convert the memoir into a screenplay.

Fisher did so, the results were every bit as impressive as Black had expected, and a whole range of A-list stars, including Cuba Gooding Jr and Will Smith, started showing interest. Then another fairytale began.

One day, Fisher was in the gift shop on the Sony lot and started talking to one of the sales assistants, Derek Luke. Turns out Luke, who hails from the projects of New Jersey, had relocated to Pasadena, wanted to become an actor, and was working an early shift so he could get to all the necessary auditions. More to the point, it turns out his background was very similar to Fisher’s.

Beginning to see where this is heading? Well, that’s exactly where it ended up: Luke went on so much to Fisher about wanting to read the screenplay that the writer finally showed it to him. And the gift-shop assistant was so impressive in that particular audition that he got the role, ending what was shaping up into a nationwide search. The Antwone Fisher Story, meanwhile, is currently in production at Sony.

BORDERING ON THE DECISIVE
FIRST IT WAS
going to be Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kevin Costner. Then, in a casting switch noted on these pages in the summer of 2000, it was going to be Meg Ryan and Kevin Costner. A little later on this, too, fell apart and re-emerged as Meg Ryan and Ralph Fiennes. Each time the casting changed, one half of the pairing didn't. Then even that stopped being a constant. Now - or at any rate for the time being - the female lead in Beyond Borders is set to be played by Angelina Jolie.

The film, which was at one stage due to be directed by Oliver Stone, is based on the true story of a New York socialite who volunteered to become a nurse for an international relief agency. She then ended up falling in love with the doctor alongside whom she worked on and off for a 10-year period in such places as the Sudan, Bosnia and the Far East.

Exactly who will play the male lead has yet to be determined, but the directorial baton has now apparently passed to action specialist Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit) - who, ironically enough, directed Zeta-Jones in her breakthrough role in The Mask of Zorro. And they’re all going to have to make their minds up pretty soon, since Beyond Borders is due to start production (for Mandalay and Paramount) before December 15, 2001.

TAKING THE MICHAEL
IT MAY NOT
have been part of the plan, but it does seem to be turning out that movies made under the banner of Michael Douglas’Furthur Films end up starring Michael Douglas.

According to director Harald Zwart, the boss hadn’t really wanted to be in One Night at McCool’s, the company's debut picture, but was rather taken with the role of Mr Burmeister and ended up playing it to great effect. And then there is the current hit, Don’t Say a Word. Again, Furthur Films is on the credits; again, Douglas is the star.

He must surely, however, have been a great deal more central to the planning of The Ride Down Mount Morgan, which Furthur Films is co-producing in association with Artists Production Group and StudioCanal +.

The film will, of course, be the screen version of Arthur Miller's play, a satire on marriage which had its stage premiere in London in 1991 but took a further seven years to reach Broadway, where the lead role was played (to great acclaim) by Patrick Stewart.

The movie, meanwhile, looks like being directed by Milos Forman, who had one of his greatest Hollywood successes (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) with Douglas producing. No start date has yet been set, however, for The Ride Down Mount Morgan.

GOOD VIBRATIONS
I’M SURE HE
has his dark moments like everyone else, but it’s hard to stop thinking of Terry Gilliam as the essence of irrepressible youth, even if he is now a year the wrong side of 60 and the long hair has finally gone.

Mind you, the collapse this time last year of one of his longest-held dreams - The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which fell apart when title actor Jean Rochefort severely damaged his back a couple of weeks into the shoot - must have hit him almost as hard as it hit Rochefort.

Moreover, Spanish director Manuel Gutierrez Aragon has reappropriated the Don Quixote story, and started shooting his own version, El caballero Don Quixote, in Spain in mid-August.

Nonetheless, Gilliam was in his usual form at Cannes, where he turned up for the official jury photocall wearing a tee-shirt bearing the legend ‘CAN BE BOUGHT’. And, as the viewing marathon moved well into its second week, he could be heard leading the other jury members in a hum-along rendition of the piece of Debussy that accompanies the ‘Festival du Film’ logo before each film.

Finally, though, Gilliam is back on the road where he belongs: behind the camera. And, bearing in mind that many of his earlier movies have featured plumbers with mythical powers (Brazil), winged galleons that fly through the air (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and fire-breathing horsemen on the night streets of Manhattan (The Fisher King), it should come as no surprise that the next one is about an epic battle between two angels for the survival of mankind.

The film is called Good Omen and Gilliam wrote the screenplay himself, focusing on a couple whose history contains the key to the future of humanity. Production is reportedly due to start as early as next March, although no details of cast, financing or distribution arrangements are yet available.

The director could, however, be observed taking a very detailed tour of the facilities at Studio Babelsberg outside Berlin over the summer, so Omen might turn out to be another of his European shoots.

ALL TOOLED UP
IN CASE YOU
were wondering whether New Line could get any more tasteless in their Austen Powers titles, they just did. The third episode in the saga of the swinging sixties superspy, which already has its release date set (July 26, 2002), is a James Bond spoof called Goldmember.

The screenplay has been written by Mike Myers (who will, of course, star in what he claims will be the last of the Austen Powers movies), again in collaboration with Michael McCullers, and Jay Roach will again direct. Such favourite characters as Dr Evil and Fat Bastard - both, of course, played by Myers - will reportedly return, as will Verne Troyer (Mini-Me), Seth Green, Robert Wagner and Rob Lowe.

I won’t upset you by telling you how much Myers will get paid for this one (oh alright, $25 million and 21% of the gross). But it does look as though the Meet the Parents sequel which Roach was going to direct - the equally tastefully titled Meet the Fockers - is going to have to be postponed, as is Myers’ mooted reincarnation of Inspector Clouseau in a Pink Panther remake.

But, with that much money at stake, who would dare to kick against the pricks?

Published 15/11/2001

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Angelina Jolie


Milos Forman


Mike Myers


Denzel Washington







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