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Tracking the new projects through Hollywood, our UK correspondent NICK RODDICK reports on who stars in the horror spoof, Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween, which of America's nightmares is about to be let loose on the screen, and what the director of Elizabeth is doing next (not what you expect); and more.

Texas-born Shannon Elizabeth played a foreign exchange student, and perhaps you assumed that, like Nadia (her character name), she was East European. But Elizabeth, who was the only object of desire not surrounded by short-crust pastry in American Pie, comes from Waco, Texas, and is currently headed for the big-time.

As a result of the attention she received in this summer’s gross-out grosser, Elizabeth has been cast in the lead female role in horror spoof Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween, which the Wayans clan - director/star Keenen Ivory Wayans, plus writers Shawn and Marlon Wayans - are making for Miramax’s genre division, Dimension Films.

Elizabeth is not a complete newcomer - previous big-screen credits include indie dramas Evicted, directed by Michael Tierney; and Dish Dogs, in which she co-starred with Matthew Lillard - but the Wayans’ movie is by far her biggest role and is scheduled to be the first of three films for Miramax in a non-exclusive deal.

Lowering his sites a little from his last outing, in which the whole world came close to being destroyed, Armageddon director Michael Bay has signed on the dotted line to make a movie about one man’s crusade to prevent Kenya’s elephants going the same way as bits of Manhattan did in the space-rock movie, albeit without the benefit of a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack.

Bay, a former music-video director who moved into features with Bad Boys and The Rock, is to tackle Africa, a film notably lacking in the special effects and street cred which have characterised his first three films. The movie is based on the true story of wildlife expert Richard Leakey (brother of Gorillas in the Mist protagonist Dian Fossey), who first went to Kenya as an archaeologist, then discovered a two-million-year-old human skeleton and ended up - for reasons that are too complicated to go into here - looking after the country’s game reserves.

Against strong local opposition, Leakey took on the ivory poachers, instituting a shoot-to-kill approach which did a lot to solve the elephant problem but was even more instrumental in getting Leakey embroiled in local politics.

Africa, scripted by Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth (whose tobacco-industry whistle-blower story The Insider is out this autumn), will reportedly add a little romance to the story, which will be told through the eyes of a female New York journalist who heads off, ‘Crocodile’ Dundee-style, to write a profile of Leakey and ends up falling in love with him. Neither of the two lead roles has yet been cast, nor has a start-date been set for the movie, which Bay will make at Sony.

Citing clashing schedules - a considerably less inflammatory excuse than ‘creative differences’ - Nicolas Cage earlier this summer pulled out of the movie version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin due to be directed by Roger Michell. The hunt was briefly on for an actor of sufficient stature for (and, some might say, more suited to) the role of the gentle, romantic musician who enlisted in the Italian army to have more time to play his instrument. But then the schedule clash evaporated at the end of August and Cage is currently on track again.

He’s Middle America’s worst nightmare and has so far been kept under control, if only because his shows are put on in well-policed stadiums and his records played behind the firmly shut doors of teenage bedrooms. But, if all goes well at New Line, the leering, mascaraed face of Marilyn Manson will soon be invading the malls and the multiplexes.

Plans are afoot for the heavy metal rocker to star in a movie called Marilyn Manson’s Hollywood [sic], which is still being written but which New Line confidently expects to get into production before the end of the year. No word yet on what the story will be, beyond the suggestion that it will be ‘visual’ - which puts it in the potential company of Prince’s Purple Rain and Pink Floyd’s The Wall rather than, say, the screen appearances of Sting or Mick Jagger.

Also making his movie debut in the next few months will be the equally controversial Snoop Dogg (he dropped the ‘Doggy’ a couple of years ago). The Long Beach-based rapper will play a ghost who wakes up from a 20-year sleep and sets out in search of his murderers in Bones, which is also being made for New Line.

The movie will be directed by Ernest Dickerson, who worked with Spike Lee as director of photography on a number of films then made his directorial debut with Juice and Surviving the Game

Any future PhD student looking to put together an auteurist thesis on director Shekhar Kapur will have his or her work cut out establishing a link between the film-maker’s most recent movies. Having grabbed international attention with Bandit Queen, a violent and politically controversial action/drama set in his native India, Kapur followed it up with the art-house hit and Oscar-nominee Elizabeth. Now, he has signed to make an action/adventure movie at DreamWorks.

Air Pirates is based on the colourful real-life exploits of aircraft salvage specialist Gary Larkin, whose style was distinctly gung-ho. But the film’s story is about one of Larkin’s least typical assignments: to discover what happened to a WWII flyer who disappeared on a secret mission.

The film is still at the script stage, and casting announcements are some way off. It is also not clear whether Air Pirates will be made before another project to which Kapur is attached: the Anant Singh-produced Nelson Mandela biopic, Long Walk to Freedom.

You would have thought Postcards From the Edge - actress-turned-writer Carrie Fisher’s bitter (if comic) account of an actress whose career is constantly overshadowed by her attention-grabbing mother - would have done it as far as collaboration with her own real-life mother was concerned.

But Carrie’s Mom, the not noticeably publicity-shy Debbie Reynolds (whose on-screen equivalent was played in Postcards by Shirley MacLaine), is all set to take a leading role in another of her daughter’s screenplays.

Nor does the title seem designed to flatter Ms R - or, for that matter, either of the other two senior female stars set to appear alongside her in the film: Lauren Bacall and Shirley MacLaine. Those Old Broads is still at an early stage, but is reportedly on the roster at Disney, with the possibility that Elizabeth Taylor may sign up as Broad No 4. "It’s a charming story - great characters, all actresses and it would be a scream," Reynolds told Daily Variety’s Army Archerd.

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Shakhar Kapur

Nicolas Cage



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