NEXT FROM HOLLYWOOD – PART 2
Nick Roddick continues his report on Hollywood’s
latest moves, shakes and casting concepts – like maybe Julia
Roberts & Adam Sandler and Mel Gibson & M Night
Shayamalan and Toni Collette & Hugh Grant.
Who is the second most unlikely on-screen partner you can think
of for Hollywood’s current favourite female star, Julia
Roberts? (I modified the question to ‘second most unlikely’
after it occurred to me that the most unlikely had to be MTV
gross-out guy Tom Green, star of this summer’s Freddy Got
Fingered, the most critically reviled movie in living memory).
Speaking of the Melster, he is reportedly in talks with
Pittsburgh wunderkind M Night Shyamalan to take the lead role in
his third film, Signs. Bruce Willis took the lead in the other
two, each time playing it straight opposite a potential scene-stealer:
the diminutive Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense; and Samuel L
Jackson as a clairvoyant with a stick and an afro in Unbreakable.
Whether Shyamalan, Willis or his co-stars should get the credit,
the two films grossed just under a billion dollars between them
But second to Green could well be Adam Sandler, whose style of
comedy is not that different from Green’s and is not really
the sort of thing that Ms Roberts does - or did. But Sandler and
she look likely to co-star in an as-yet untitled movie based on a
netzine article called Genie in a Bottle: The Sex Drink That’s
Rocking Little Rock. The drink in question is apparently called
Niagara, and is the female equivalent of Viagra - or rather, it
produces many of the same sensations. And they can’t get
enough of it in the title (Arkansas) town.
Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison (which is based
at Revolution Studios), has bought the article, commissioned a
screenplay and approached Roberts. I’ll let you know if she
The actress, meanwhile, is about to start work on Tracks, based
on the true story of a woman who crossed the Australian outback
alone but for a trio of camels. And she reportedly wants Mel
Gibson to direct her.
“Disney execs reportedly read
the script on a Saturday and had a deal set up before the weekend
The new movie is going to be the first Shyamalan opus with a
rural setting: a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where some
mysterious crop circles appear. No prizes for guessing that they
are not the work of some prank-playing kid with a tractor.
Disney execs reportedly read the script on a Saturday and had a
deal set up with the writer/director before the weekend was over.
Gibson - who is currently at work on Vietnam drama We Were
Soldiers Once, directed by Braveheart writer Randall Wallace -
apparently didn’t take much longer to get interested. Also
likely to co-star is You Can Count on Me discovery Mark Ruffalo.
How long it will all take to come together, however, is anybody’s
“classic Aldrich stuff: tough
underdogs facing up to tough overdogs in a trial of strength and
Fans of the late Robert Aldrich will be pleased to know that
there are plans to remake one of his best late-period movies, The
Longest Yard, a 1974 sports saga hailed by at least one eminent
French critic as an enduring masterpiece. The original, you may (or
may not) recall, was about a football match between prisoners and
prison guards. It was classic Aldrich stuff: tough underdogs
facing up to tough overdogs in a trial of strength and endurance.
The ‘football’, of course, was the gridiron variety.
The remake will be different, however. Paramount is relocating
the action to a British prison, and the game will, as a result,
still be football. Only it will be soccer, as the Americans
insist on calling it. Best of all, the Burt Reynolds role - the
tough old football pro who co-ordinates the prisoners’ team
and leads them to victory - will be played by Vinnie Jones. And
Vinnie, non-Brits may need reminding, was the hard man of the
British football pitch before he flew off to Hollywood to become
a movie star (if you can call a supporting role in Gone in 60
Seconds being a movie star).
The new film will be directed by Barry Skolnick, with Vas
Blackwood and Jason Stathem (who appeared with Jones in Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) also appearing.
“an ordinary guy who ends up
doing some corporate espionage”
The progress to solo stardom of Ally McBeal regular Lucy Liu -
from a dodgy supporting role in Payback, via the triple-headed
Charlie’s Angels and Mike Figgis’ ensemble piece, Hotel
- looks like reaching fruition with the upcoming The Company Man.
Liu, who stars opposite Jeremy Northam, plays a mysterious woman
who seems to be the only source of salvation for Northam’s
character, an ordinary guy who ends up doing some corporate
espionage. The film will be the first directorial outing for
Vicenzo Natali since his cult hit, Cube, and is also the first
film to be announced by Pandora Films since it relocated from
Paris to Burbank. Production began in Toronto on May 7.
“two powerful people have the
same idea at much the same time”
That old Hollywood curse - the one that says that two powerful
people have the same idea at much the same time, and end up
making movies on the same subject which come out in the same
month - looks like it has struck the life story of Harry Houdini.
A biopic of the famous escape artist and illusionist was one of
the projects being developed by Ang Lee. Now along comes another
‘illusionist’ movie, admittedly not about Houdini, but
about a French magician with a very similar name: Robert Houdin.
It is called Smoke and Mirrors, and has cropped up in dispatches
a few times in the past, with both Sean Connery and Mel Gibson
mentioned as possible stars.
Now, however, it seems to be on the fast track. And, if you want
a powerful cast, you don’t get much more powerful than this,
at least in terms of Hollywood royalty: Michael Douglas in the
lead, with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones co-starring, and a possible
cameo role for father Kirk. John McTiernan was at one stage going
to direct, but has since backed out again.
Just to complete the family picture, the film - which is set in
the 1850s - is being produced by Michael’s older brother,
Joel, together with Catherine’s brother, David Jones (who,
unlike his sister, hasn’t incorporated his grandmother’s
name into his own).
“the life story of a fellow
Italian with even more of the myth about her”
Of late, the directorial career of Franco Zeffirelli has
alternated between semi-autobiographical period pieces like Tea
With Mussolini and operatic movies such as Otello. Now, however,
the flamboyant Italian maestro is in the final stages of pre-production
on Callas Forever, the life story of a fellow Italian with even
more of the myth about her.
The film will not, however, tell the whole of Callas’ story:
instead, it will focus on the last month of her life (July 1977),
most of which she spent alone in an apartment in Paris. The title
role was originally to have been played by Greek soprano Teresa
Stratas, but she was recently replaced by the somewhat more
bankable Fanny Ardant (although it is not clear who will do the
singing). Jeremy Irons plays a theatrical agent who attempts to
coax Callas out of retirement. Production has just started, in
Irons has been busy this (Northern) summer, since he has also
taken over from John Malkovich in Claude Lelouch’s new film
And Now Ladies and Gentlemen, which is being made in both French
and English and began shooting in Paris at the beginning of May.
Irons plays a gentleman thief-cum-international yachtsman - a
part which has gone through quite a few modifications since it
was first penned. The role was reportedly originally tailor-made
for Dustin Hoffman, then reshaped for Malkovich. But, with
production delays on Liliana Cavani’s Ripley’s Game -
in which Malkovich plays the title role - and the (then) looming
actor’s strike, Lelouch decided to recast, in the process
rewriting the role entirely to turn the central character from an
American into an Englishman. Whence Irons.
“horror movies whose budgets
were substantial by local standards, minimal in international
In the 60s and 70s, when making films about contemporary reality
in Spain was a tricky option given the energetic activities of
Franco’s censor, a number of
directors developed a nice little line in international revenue
with English-language (or dubbed) horror movies whose budgets
were substantial by local standards, minimal in international
For a while, thanks to the work of genre masters like Jesus (Jess)
Franco, Spain was home to a certain kind of horror flick:
stylish, gory and erotic in equal measure. Now, some 30 years
later, expanding Spanish mini-major Filmax has returned to the
source, putting together a stylish package which stands a pretty
good chance of getting international distribution.
The highest-profile film in the package, set in a dark and
brooding house in a remote part of the Spanish countryside, went
into production in April 2001. It is called Darkness, and is
directed by Jaume Balaguero, whose last film was a stylish, scary
little number called Sin nombre (Nameless).
That film, however, didn’t boast much in the way of name
cast. Darkness does. Heading the line-up are Oscar-winner Anna
Paquin (seen most recently in X-Men) and Lena Olin, who recently
appeared in husband Bille August’s Chocolat. Also cast,
along with a number of Spanish actors, are Iain Glen and
Giancarlo Giannini, whose most recent international outings have
been Tomb Raider and Hannibal respectively.
Miramax’s Dimension Films - which recently took a step up
the status ladder itself with Spy Kids - will be distributing
Darkness in all English-speaking places.
“collapsed from exhaustion
with three weeks of principal photography to go”
When Another Director is called in, it’s usually because the
original one turns out to be useless, has gone way over budget or
has fallen out with the star. Those who remember The Double will
know that even helmers of the stature of Roman Polanski are not
immune to this fate.
But with the new version of The Time Machine, this is apparently
not quite the case. The original director - Simon Wells, great
grandson of HG Wells, who wrote the original novel - has indeed
been temporarily replaced, but that is reportedly because he
collapsed from exhaustion with three weeks of principal
photography to go. Warner Bros and DreamWorks had to bring in
Gore Verbinski (a real chameleon director, having come to Time
Machine by way of Mouse Hunt and The Mexican) to finish shooting
for him. Wells will be back for post-production, according to the
The film, which stars Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons and Mark Addy,
began shooting on February 5, 2001, paused at the beginning of
May and wrapped in early June. It is expected to be a Christmas
… JUST TO RECAP on the casting of About a Boy, about which
this boy seems to have been spreading rumours since (at least)
Christmas. The Working Title film - which went into production in
mid-April with the Weisz brothers (American Pie) behind the
camera - stars (as it has always been going to) Hugh Grant as the
serial womaniser who forms a bond with the 12-year-old son of one
conquest, then finds it hard to move on to the next.
The former (the mum) is being played by Toni Collette (not Emma
Thompson), with Rachel Weisz segueing from her derring do
exploits in The Mummy Returns and her harrowing wartime
experiences in Stalingrad in Enemy at the Gates to play the girl
with whom he falls in love.
There will now be no further mention of this film until it
qualifies for the ‘Coming Soon’ section.
Published August 9, 2001
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Julia Roberts and Adam Sandler?
Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers Once
Lucy Liu fought her way to the top in Charlies Angels
Toni Collette - about to star in About a Boy