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Elston Gunn'sWEEKLY RECAP

Father Geek here, just returned to Geek Headquarters here in Austin from THE ALAMO... well, its not nearly as bad as I feared, but its not very good either. I rank John Wayne's ALAMO, Sterling Hayden's THE LAST COMMAND, Fess Parker's DAVY CROCKETT, and Alan Ladd's THE IRON MISTRESS ahead of it... didn't care about anyone in or out of the famous mission, the music is very forgetful, and most for the battle scenes are just plain uninspired... Sorry, as a native Texan who lived in San Antonio from age 3 to 20 I was really pulling for it, but it left me flat... Now on to Elston's regular weekly report...

THE WEEKLY RECAP...

TAKEN FROM VARIETY AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

CASTING

* Jennifer Aniston has committed to star in GAMBIT, the remake of the 1966 British caper film that starred Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, for Universal Pictures and director Bo Welch. Story revolves around a British thief who comes up with a fool-proof plan to steal an expensive statue from one of the richest men in the world.

* Eddie Griffin is set to star in IRISH JAM for writer/director John Eyre about an Irish village that pawns the local pub to save itself from a takeover. When the villagers find that their hometown is up for sale, they set up a poetry contest offering the local pub as a prize as a way to raise money. It comes as quite a surprise when a rapper/con man from L.A. wins.

* Julianne Moore is attached to star in THE PRIZEWINNER OF DEFIANT, OHIO for writer/director Jane Anderson ("Normal"), Imagemovers, DreamWorks and Revolution Studios. Fact-based story concerns a mother of 10 who saved her family when she entered and won a contest to think up a song for a commercial product. She then supported her kids by becoming a jingle writer in the 1950s.

* Al Pacino will play Napoleon Bonaparte in THE MONSTER OF LONGWOOD, an adaptation of a Staton Rabin novel about the French dictator's last days and his relationship with a young British girl who befriended him after he was exiled to the isle of St. Helena. Patrice Chereau (QUEEN MARGOT) is set to direct and is overseeing a polish of Michael Tolkin's last draft with scribe/author Paul Auster. Shooting begins this fall on the Isle of Man and Fiji. This project is different than Lions Gate's NAPOLEON AND BETSY which has Scarlett Johansson attached to star. Screenwriter Rebecca B. Kennedy has been involved with both projects.

* Jane Seymour has been tapped to play Christopher Walken's wife in New Line comedy THE WEDDING CRASHERS, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, for director David Dobkin.

* Kathryn Hahn ("Crossing Jordan") joins the cast of Beacon Pictures' romantic comedy A LOT LIKE LOVE, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, for director Nigel Cole and Buena Vista. Ali Larter and Moon Bloodgood also star.

* Delroy Lindo, Steve Zahn and William H. Macy have been added to the cast of the Paramount action pic SAHARA, starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, for director Breck Eisner and Crusader Entertainment.

* Jason Lee, Crispin Glover, Xander Berkeley, Audrey Marie Anderson and Joseph Reitman have teamed to star in DROP DEAD SEXY for helmer Michael Philip. The dark comedy centers on a financial scam gone awry in which the main characters end up kidnapping a dead body in an attempt to blackmail their target. Pruitt Taylor Vince, Lin Shaye, Suzanna Urszuly and John Benjamin Martin round out the cast.

* Jack Black and Adrien Brody have been in cast in Peter Jackson's remake of KING KONG, starring Naomi Watts, for Universal Pictures and WingNut Films. Black will play Carl Denham, an adventurous filmmaker and showman trying to make a name for himself in 1930s New York, while Brody is Jack Driscoll, a former World War I fighter pilot who is the love interest for archaeologist Ann Darrow (Watts).

* Keanu Reeves will star in A SCANNER DARKLY, based on the Philip K. Dick novel, for Warner Independent Pictures, Section 8 and director Richard Linklater. The project will employ the same technology Linklater used in WAKING LIFE: It will be shot live-action, then animated. Story takes place in the future, where undercover agents change their faces along with their identities. Reeves plays one such officer, and his liberal ingestion of the drug Substance D causes him to develop a split personality.

* Michelle Pfeiffer is attached to star in the drama CHASING MONTANA, written by her husband David E. Kelley, for Focus Features and director Susanne Bier (OPEN HEARTS). The story follows a father and his daughter -- both doctors -- whose rustic Montana vacation becomes a poignant and at times amusing voyage of self discovery.

* Anne Hathaway and Randy Quaid are joining Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams in Ang Lee's cowboy love story BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN for Focus Features. Adapted by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana from a short story by author E. Annie Proulx, the story centers on two men who meet one summer as sheepherders in Wyoming and form a bond and love that spans 20 years.

* Rapper Ja Rule has joined the cast of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 for Focus Features and director Jean-Francois Richet.

* Ryan Pinkston ("Punk'd") is in talks to star in SLAY THE BULLY for New Line Cinema and director Dennis Lee. The movie centers on an eighth-grader who moves to a new town. He is immediately mistaken for having beaten the resident bully to a pulp, and a rematch is set for the wrestling ring.

* Laura Dern, Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe and Johnny Galecki are poised to join Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lisa Kudrow, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale and Steve Coogan in Don Roos' HAPPY ENDINGS for Lions Gate Films. Shooting starts next week. The ensemble project is described as a contemporary comedy set in Los Angeles involving three intertwining stories among 10 characters. Kelly Preston also might join the cast.

* Ellen Burstyn joins Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood in the indie pic DOWN IN THE VALLEY for writer/director David Jacobson.

* Carla Gugino will take a role in Dimension Films' SIN CITY for director Robert Rodriguez, playing a lesbian parole officer. Film is an adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel series.

* Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Jessica Biel, Paula Deen and Loudon Wainwright III are in negotations to join Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in Cameron Crowe's romantic comedy ELIZABETHTOWN for Paramount. Production is expected to begin this summer. Described as a love letter to the resilience of the life force, the story centers on an unexpected romance that develops against the backdrop of the elaborate memorial for a Kentucky patriarch.

* Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway's HAIRSPRAY) will star in and produce New Line's ALWAYS A BRIDESMAIND based on Nina Colman's romantic comedy pitch about three bridesmaids. Winokur would play a quirky East Village girl who is a perennial bridesmaid until she finds love in the unlikely form of a Connecticut blueblood lawyer.

* Killer Films and HBO will team on THE BALLAD OF BETTIE PAGE, starring Gretchen Mol, about the 1950s pinup girl, with Mary Harron directing. Lili Taylor and David Strathairn also star, with Jonathan M. Woodward, Cara Seymour, Tara Subkoff and Kevin Carroll. The most successful pinup model of the 1950s, Page's kinky bondage pics made her the target of a Senate pornography investigation.

* Trevor Blumas is set to star opposite Michelle Trachtenberg in the ice skating movie ICE PRINCESS for Disney. Shooting is scheduled to begin next week with Tim Fywell directing.

* Lauren Graham and Faith Ford join Vin Diesel in Adam Shankman's THE PACIFIER for Disney and Spyglass Entertainment. Graham will star opposite Diesel's character as the principal of the school where he's working undercover, with Ford starring as Julie, the mother of the kids that his character is protecting.

* Maya Rudolph and Dax Shepard are close to lead roles in director Mike Judge's comedy 3001 opposite Luke Wilson for 20th Century Fox. Penned by Judge and Etan Cohen, the film centers on Joe Bowers, an average American who is selected for a top-secret hibernation program that finds him waking up and living among a society 10 centuries in the future. He finds that civilization is so dumbed-down that he is the most intelligent person alive. Rudolph, who is still in negotiations to join the cast, would will play a prostitute with Shepard starring as Frito, a defense attorney.

* Willem Dafoe has joined the cast of Revolution Studios' sequel XXX: STATE OF THE UNION, starring Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson, for director Lee Tamahori. Dafoe will play George Deckert, a five-star general and secretary of defense.

* Pink will make her screen starring debut as Janis Joplin in a Penelope Spheeris-directed indie film that is eyeing a summer start date. The Pink buzz is building because her screen test has begun to circulate. She shot it last year, acting in two scenes and singing Joplin standards in two others, replicating the late singer's growling vocal style so convincingly that it was decided she will sing the songs live in the film. A soundtrack deal is now in the works with Pink's label Artista, whose head, Clive Davis, signed Joplin to her first major record contract. Pink is inked to the label.

DIRECTOR/WRITER ATTACHMENTS

* Disney has picked up RUPRECHT, a broad comedy pitch by Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley ("The Simpsons") for Andrew Gunn to produce. The story recounts how, in Victorian times, Santa Claus left presents for all the good children and Ruprecht was responsible for leaving switches and coal for the naughty ones. Ruprecht went away when the partnership soured, and kids eventually stopped getting coal. The story picks up in the present day when Ruprecht resurfaces.

* Chuck Wilson (SOUL PLANE) will write and direct MEET THE MO'FOCKERS for Maverick Entertainment, based on a story he created with actor/comedian DeRay Davis about a high-society African-American man falls in love with a beautiful woman whom he believes possesses a social pedigree similar to his own. As he prepares to ask for her hand in marriage, he discovers his would-be in-laws are straight from the 'hood -- and that he had a one-night stand with the woman's mother.

* Disney grabbed J.T. Saladin's pitch ORPHAN'S CLUB for Jane Startz and Beacon Entertainment to produce. The project revolves around an underground network of kids orphaned after the first World War, which produced more than 80 million orphans. The aim of the secret international organization is to prevent all future wars and, in turn, the creation of more orphans. The club follows highly structured rules outlined in the Orphan's Club Handbook.

* Gold Circle Films has acquired Todd Stein's script 2:22 about a creatively frustrated artist who begins to notice that the random events in his life have formed a pattern that is repeating itself daily. He soon connects this to a murder that took place on the day he was born. He begins working desperately to keep history from repeating itself.

* Landscape Entertainment has set up BARRY AND STAN GONE WILD, a comedy scripted by "Election" author Tom Perrotta (ELECTION author) and Rob Greenberg ("Frasier"), at New Line. It revolves around an uptight dermatologist and his newly divorced brother. For spring break they travel together to Daytona, where they must rescue the doc's son, who has been arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.

* Universal is in talks with Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (2 FAST 2 FURIOUS) to adapt Mark Millar's comicbook WANTED for Marc Platt Prods. The dark tale centers on an angry young man who discovers that he's the son of the most powerful supervillain on Earth.

* New Line Cinema picked up Mark Bailey's true crime pitch THE ZENITH MAN, about McCracken Poston, a lawyer in small-town Ringgold, Ga., who in 1997 was recovering from a failed run at Congress and a failed marriage. At the same time, Alvin Ridley, the town recluse, was charged with the murder of his wife, who had not left the inside of their home for 30 years. Poston agreed to defend Ridley, who was being vilified by the small town and media.

* Clint Eastwood will next direct and star in MILLION DOLLAR BABY for Malpaso, Lakeshore and Warner Bros. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman are expected to take the other lead roles. Written by Paul Haggis from short stories by F.X. O'Toole, the film will tell the story of an ex-fighter who runs a gym in Los Angeles with a fellow former boxer. They are approached by a young woman who's determined to become a fighter.

* Alexandre Boury (DIDI THE GOOFY CUPID) will direct DIDI QUER SER CRIANCA (DIDI WANTS TO BE A KID), comedian Renato Aragao's 43rd pic and the latest entry in one of Brazil's longest-running franchises. Shooting begins April 5.

* Erica Beeney (THE BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS) is writing the script for GIDGET, a remake of the 1959 Sandra Dee pic, for Red Wagon Entertainment and Columbia Pictures. Beeney is also rewriting NEW SENSATION about a high school dropout who adopts a new identity at a prep school.

* 2929 Productions optioned the Mark Borrowcliffe novel INFIDELITY FOR FIRST TIME FATHERS with R. Lee Fleming Jr. (SHE'S ALL THAT) set to write the script. The book is about an immature man in his late 30s who faces the ultimate crisis for a philanderer: Both his fiance and his college-aged girlfriend have gotten pregnant at the same time.

* Sanford Bookstaver will direct THE TINY PROBLEMS OF WHITE PEOPLE, written by Will Aldis, for Maverick Films.It's a comedy about a grieving former sportswriter haunted by the ghost of a man who claims to have written the works of Shakespeare.

* Universal Pictures has optioned David Schickler's upcoming novel SWEET AND VICIOUS and has set the author to pen the script. It's about a diamond thief hiding out in a small Wisconsin town and the girl at the car wash who falls in love with him.

* Jason Rothenberg and Bill Robinson sold a thriller pitch in the vein of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE to Focus Features for Platinum Dunes to produce.

* Stuart Beattie and John Enbom will adapt the Tom Clancy novels WITH REMORSE and RAINBOW SIX, respectively, for Paramount. The studio is looking to develop a franchise based on the CIA character John Clark.

* Twentieth Century Fox purchased Ari Schlossberg's untitled occult pitch.

* MGM and producer Jennifer Klein picked up the urban classroom comedy F+ about the unlikely friendship between the nastiest teacher in high school and a student who makes his life a living hell.

* Albert Hughes is set to direct ART CON, an MGM film being developed by Michael Douglas' Furthur Films as a potential star vehicle for the actor in which he'd play a charming con man who masterminds ambitious art fraud scandals.

* Producers Kathleen Kennedy, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen will make a movie about how the power of rock 'n' roll helped oust the repressive regime of Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, optioning the Matthew Collin book GUERRILLA RADIO: ROCK 'N' RADIO AND SERBIA'S UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE. Zach Helm will write the script titled THIS IS SERBIA CALLING and will tell the story of the war in Yugoslavia and how the workers of one radio station risked their lives to defy a brutal government.

* Peter Paige ("Queer as Folk") will direct and star in the satirical comedy DONUT HOLE based a script he wrote about a young artist who goes on a desperate search to replace the relationship with his godson, who has moved to Japan with his family. He tries a baby-sitting business, works in a toy store and spends his free time playing with kids at nearby playgrounds until catching the attention of a neighborhood mom who determines that Johnson is a danger to the community. Kathy Najimy is in talks to co-star.

* Hillary Seitz (INSOMNIA) has sold a pitch to Paramount Pictures. The thriller pitch is said to take a reverse approach to one of Paramount's hit films from the '80s -- though the studio is trying to keep the exact details under wraps.

* Disney has snapped up THE REINVENTION OF KATE from writers Amy Rardin and Jessica O'Toole for Storyline Entertainment to produce. It's described as a comedy thriller about a young woman who works at a U.S. patent office. Everything in her life changes when someone applies for a patent that people around her are killing for.

* Burr Steers (IGBY GOES DOWN) will rewrite and develop the action/comedy THIS MEANS WAR for the Robert Simonds Co./Fox. The original pitch revolved around two best friends who both fall in love with the same woman and then wreak havoc on Manhattan.

* Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami and Ken Loach will direct TICKETS, a film set on a train traveling from Northern Europe toward Rome. The directors will each shoot one part, but the film will have the same main characters throughout. The three helmers penned the screenplay, though with each working on a section individually.

* Oren Moverman (JESUS' SON) has been attached to write the period drama CONCORDIA for Tiny Dancer Films. Character-driven story is set in rural Kansas during the final months of WWII.

* Universal has acquired a "middle-aged coming-of-age" pitch by Steve Carell and Judd Apatow, and Carell will star in the film. The two will co-write the script for Apatow to direct.

* Disney has purchased the comedy pitch POWDERPUFF GIRLS from Cindy McCreery for Tapestry Films and producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to produce. Family comedy centers on an NFL coach who's fired, and ends up moving back to his small town in Texas, where he coaches his tomboy daughter's all-girl football team in an all-boy's league.

* Alonzo Brown and Kim Watson (HONEY) will write an untitled feature focusing on the men and women who work at a car customizing shop, culminating in a competition at a car show. It's based on a pitch by Michael Rapaport and Andre Harrell who will produce for MTV Films and Paramount.

* Jerry Stahl (PERMANENT MIDNIGHT) will script a remake of the Burt Reynolds film SHARKY'S MACHINE for Warner Bros. and Basil Iwanyk.

* Steven Soderbergh will replace Terrence Malick as the director of CHE, based on the life of Che Guevara, to star Benicio Del Toro. Production is expected to begin in South America in August 2005, and he will supervise the writing of a new script. The producers also hope that Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Ryan Gosling and Franka Potente will remain involved if their schedules allow them to be in South America next year.

MISCELLANEOUS PRODUCTION TIDBITS

* Walt Disney Co. studio chief Dick Cook said he was leaning toward making the third installment of TOY STORY 3 as a feature movie rather than a direct-to-home video project in a few years.

* Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned the feature film rights to Julia Donaldson's novel THE GIANTS AND THE JONESES for David Heyman to produce. It's a reverse Jack and the Beanstalk story about a young girl giantess who kidnaps three children and hides them in her giant's playhouse in the sky. The kids then have to use all their wits to survive and figure out a way to leave the magical world and return home to earth.

* Lisa Marie Butkiewicz and financier Steve Delaportas have secured movie rights to G.P. Taylor's SHADOWMANCER for Fortitude Films to produce. The book is an 18th-century ghost story about three children's battle against an evil vicar out to control the world who has the ability to enlist the dead as his forces.

* Universal has greenlit THE GOOD SHEPHERD, which is scheduled to begin production this fall. Robert De Niro is set to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in the project, written by Eric Roth, about a Yale grad who was recruited as one of the founders of the CIA. Story spans the character's 40-year career through the Cold War and details the emotional toll it takes on the man and his family.

* Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and his son John Goldwyn are teaming up to produce the remake of the 1947 Samuel Goldwyn production THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY for Paramount Pictures. Jim Carrey has a first-look option to star.

* Harry Knowles will co-produce PRINCESS OF MARS, Paramount Pictures' adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs book that Robert Rodriguez is directing. Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel of Alphaville are producing the project along with Rodriguez and his wife and producing partner, Elizabeth Avellan.

* Venture Management has optioned feature rights to Marcus Gray's THE CLASH: THE RETURN OF THE LAST GANG IN TOWN. Novel, published in 2002, follows the history of the band from its origins in London basements in 1976 and the release of its first album the following year. The book explores class issues, the punk scene and the Clash's strong political edge.

Until next week...

Elston Gunn

elstongunn@hotmail.com

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