Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Elston Gunn's WEEKLY RECAP

Father Geek here wishing all our readers a very Happy New Year filled with Femme Fatales, Fractured Flicks, and Fave Films... This New Year's Day I'm happy to bring you the latest edition of AICN's longest running featured column still written by its original writer-editor ELSTON GUNN...



Happy New Year!


* Robert Duvall and Katie Holmes have joined Aaron Eckhart in the cast of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Jason Reitman is directing the indie satire, which is being produced by David O. Sacks' Room 9 Entertainment and ContentFilm. The comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of the embattled tobacco industry while trying to remain a role model for his 12-year-old son.

* Kristin Davis and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are in talks to star in Halo Entertainment's SELLEVISION, based on Augusten Burroughs' novel of the same name. Plot revolves around characters at a fictional home shopping net, dubbed Sellevision, that's facing a scandal after one of its hosts snaps.

* Hilary Swank will play a femme fatale in THE BLACK DAHLIA, the Brian De Palma-directed adaptation of the James Ellroy novel. Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson also star. The story revolves around two boxers-turned-cops investigating the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short, a crime that rocked 1940s Los Angeles. Swank's character is a dead ringer for the victim who became known as the Black Dahlia and proves a dangerous seductress to the cops.

* Sean Bean has joined the cast of THE ISLAND for DreamWorks and director Michael Bay. Bean will take on the part of Merick, the chief antagonist in the film, which stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. The script by Caspian Tredwell-Owen centers on a harvested being who becomes self-aware and tries to escape the utopia where he lives. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci co-wrote the script.

* Chris Cooper has been drafted to play the commander of an elite Marine sniper unit in the bigscreen adaptation of Anthony Swofford's Gulf War memoir JARHEAD for director Sam Mendes and Universal. Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard also star. William Broyles scripted.

* Michael J. Pagan (HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK) has been cast in the WWE FIlms and Lions Gate horror thriller EYE SCREAM MAN. Story is about youths from a juvenile corrections facility who are assigned to renovate an old hotel and are terrorized by a serial killer living on the hotel's upper floors.

* David Carradine, Wyclef Jean and Kurupt, are set to star in Jean-Claude La Marre's CLICK. Set at the end of the Civil War, the Western follows a group of outlaws in their quest to rob the town bank. The gang runs into trouble when a scheming cattle baron, a ruthless bounty hunter and a female sheriff stand in the way of the biggest heist. Antwon Tanner, Clifton Powell, Raymond Cruz, Glenn Plummer, Gabriel Casseus, Kenya Moore and Idalis DeLeon also will star.

* Jimmy Bennett (DADDY DAY CARE) joins Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany in THE WRONG ELEMENT.

* James Roday ("Miss Match") has nabbed the role of racing star Billy Prickett in Warner Bros.' and Village Roadshow's THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.

* Harrison Ford is attached to play one of the key characters in an ensemble drama that marks the first major feature project about the current war in Iraq. Universal-based Double Feature have optioned the upcoming book NO TRUE GLORY: THE BATTLE FOR FALLUJAH, written by Bing West, an ex-Marine and former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs who is now a foreign correspondent covering the Iraq war. West will write the script with son Owen, a longtime Marine rifleman who left the service to become a trader at Goldman Sachs but returned to fight in Iraq for a year. The project will use the Fallujah assault as a way to explore the dangerous intersection of war and politics, depicting the drama from the viewpoints of soldiers, military leaders and politicians.

* Annette Bening will star in RUNNING WITH SCISSORS for TriStar Pictures. Plan B will produce the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' bestselling memoir recounting a bizarre childhood overseen by a bipolar and monstrously selfish mother. "Nip/Tuck" creator Ryan Murphy wrote the script and will direct.

* Sarah Polley and Chris O'Donnell are in talks to star in COCK & BULL, a bigscreen adaptation of the novel by Brit scribe Will Self for writers/directors Matt Nix and producers Evan Astrowsky, Mikkel Bondesen and Rachael Horovitz. It's a "dark comedy about an ordinary middle-class woman who, while in a stifling marriage to an alcoholic husband, transforms into a man." Nix is also adapting the kids' book CHASING VERMEER, by Blue Balliett, for Warner Bros.

* Zhang Ziyi will star in MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3, a co-production between China Film Group and South Korea's Hyun Jin Cinema. Cho Jin-gyu will direct. The final part of the trilogy will have the female organized crime boss, played by Shin Eun-kyung in the first two installments, heading to China to take revenge for a murder, where she will encounter Zhang's character, the boss of a triad.

* Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton will star in an untitled Fox 2000 (formerly known as HATING HER) romantic comedy written and to be directed by Thomas Bezucha (THE BIG EDEN). Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney and Luke Wilson also star. The comedy revolves around the annual holiday gathering of an eclectic bohemian family that's thrown into turmoil when the fair-haired son introduces his fiancee, a high-strung, self-absorbed Gotham socialite whom the family hates.

* Amanda Brooks and Patricia Rae will star in TAKING CHARGE, a feature that is intended as the first of a slate of projects from newly formed Vine Entertainment. The project is scheduled to shoot next month in Arizona for director Dick Fisher. The drama is described as a cautionary tale of a spoiled girl who takes matters into her own hands after she is cut off by her billionaire father. Brooks plays the girl, while Rae plays a paramedic.

* January Jones will star in Tommy Lee Jones's THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA. She plays a wife who was popular in high school but is now having a hard time adjusting to life in a boring Texas border town where her husband has found work.

* Matt Keeslar has joined the cast of Mia Goldman's independent feature OPEN WINDOW alongside Elliott Gould and Robin Tunney. Keeslar will play the central role of a character known as "Rapist" in the tale of a couple who are shocked out of the predictability of their relationship by an event that challenges them to either love more deeply or lose each other for good.

* Howard Hesseman joins the cast of Mike Binder's MAN ABOUT TOWN, starring Ben Affleck. Hesseman will play the father to Affleck's character in the indie feature about a top Hollywood talent agent who finds his cushy existence threatened at home and professionally.

* Joe Reitman (AMERICAN PIE) is on his way to meet BANDIDAS, starring Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek, for directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg. In the action comedy, Reitman plays an evil sidekick to Dwight Yoakam's character.

* Jessica Cauffiel (D.E.B.S.) has caught THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN for filmmaker Roger Donaldson. Cauffiel is portraying Wendy, an American woman who befriends Burt Munro in his quest to set the land-speed world record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

* Katharine Kramer (GOING SHOPPING) has been cast in Henry Jaglom's indie feature HOLLYWOOD DREAMS. In the tale of an Iowa girl trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles, Kramer plays a fellow actress.

* Willem Dafoe will star in THE WIDOW'S LOVER for Millennium Films, penned by Dafoe and girlfriend Giada Colagrande. Colagrande will direct and star; a January start is slated in New York. Story concerns a young Italian widow who returns to her deceased husband's home away from home to settle his affairs and becomes romantically embroiled with the house's caretaker with tragic consequences.

* Uma Thurman is in talks to join THE PRODUCERS, the feature adapted from Mel Brooks' musical. Susan Stroman directs.


* The Maloof brothers, owners of Las Vegas' the Palms and the NBA's Sacramento Kings, are launching Maloof Motion Pictures. At work on their first slate of projects, the Maloofs are teaming with Penny Marshall on a period basketball feature. The film, which Marshall will produce and direct, is based on an idea by Xavier Mitchell and concerns New York City's basketball court, Rucker Park. James Ellroy, meanwhile, is on board to adapt a crime drama based on the real-life experiences of noted LAPD firearms expert Richard Smith. The Maloofs have acquired Smith's life rights. Smith's story has been featured in a number of articles and television magazines.

* The Mount Film Co. picked up HIGH TIMES, a spec by Jason Mundy and Gregg Moscot, with Graham Aldis attached to direct. Project chronicles the lives of two Valley teens who become cocaine dealers in the 1980s.

* Luke Greenfield will produce and direct an untitled dramedy from editor/writer Stewart Schill for Regency Enterprises. It's based on a pitch developed with Greenfield and his producing partners at WideAwake, Matthew Siegel and Juan Castro. Storyline follows an egocentric, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist who bequeaths to his estranged son his life's work -- a 12-year-old clone of the scientist. The son must raise his father's lab-created clone.

* Twentieth Century Fox has set Sheldon Turner (THE LONGEST YARD, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR remakes) to write MAGNETO, an action-thriller based on the villainous character played in the first two X-MEN films by Ian McKellen. Pic most likely will be produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Avi Arad. The original X-MEN film began with a prologue that showed his character as a child being led to a concentration camp by Nazis, and that is the period in which the Magneto film will take place. This setup will allow a future villain to at least flirt with the designation of protagonist. Storyline will heavily involve Professor X, the wheelchair-using X-Men leader played in the films by Patrick Stewart. That character was a soldier in the allied force that liberated the concentration camps. The professor meets Magneto after the war, and while they bond over the realization that they are alike in their special powers, their differences soon turn them into enemies.

* John Landis is attached to direct EPIC PROPORTIONS, based on the Off Broadway show by David Crane and Larry Coen, for Endgame. Todd Berger is rewriting the script. Comedy set during the Great Depression follows two ne'er-do-well brothers who begin as extras and move up the ranks on an expensive yet ultimately doomed movie shoot about the biblical plagues.

* Rob Letterman (SHARK TALE) will write THE UNPROFESSIONALS for Universal. The military comedy is described as being in the vein of STRIPES.

* Writer/director Austin Chick is adapting Arthur Nersesian's novel MANHATTAN LOVERBOY with an eye to direct for Cherry Road Films. Nersesian's novel follows a young Columbia U. student who must deal with the consequences of angering a powerful CEO, leading to a quasi-existential battle between individual and corporation.

* Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck will write Columbia Pictures' BRONZE GOD, a comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell who would play a lifeguard who realizes his dream by securing a wildcard entry into a beach volleyball tournament.

* MGM has hired Nick Pileggi to write a script for producer Arthur Sarkissian based on the experiences of Ralph Lamb, a cowboy who became sheriff of Las Vegas and cleaned up the town when casinos became big business.

* Director Robert Greenwald said he'll produce a sequel to OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH'S WAR ON JOURNALISM targeting Sinclair Broadcasting if the station group doesn't give liberal groups a chance to rebut its nightly commentary "The Point," with Mark Hyman.

* Noam Murro is directing an adaptation of Stephen Amidon's novel HUMAN CAPITAL for Elevation Filmworks producers Lemore Syvan and Andrew Lang. Amidon is adapting his book for the bigscreen. The contemporary social novel concerns two intertwined Connecticut families whose emotional bankruptcy and willingness to speculate financially with human lives lead to tragic consequences.

* Radar Pictures and Plan B have won a heated auction for THE GIFT, a New Yorker article by Ian Parker about a man who, after giving away his $45 million real estate fortune to charity, went a step further by donating one of his kidneys to save the life of a stranger. Zell Kravinsky has sold his life rights as part of the package for a movie that will be written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes (MEAN CREEK).

* James Bobin ("Da Ali G Show") will direct DreamWorks' THE HEARTBREAK KID, replacing Barry Sonnenfeld, who withdrew when the studio decided to make the film on a smaller budget. The romantic comedy is a loosely inspired remake of the 1972 pic written by Neil Simon and directed by Elaine May. Story concerns a man who hastily weds a local girl whom he thinks is perfect -- until he falls in love with another girl during the honeymoon. Script was written by Scot Armstrong (OLD SCHOOL), with the most recent drafts by Armstrong and Leslie Dixon (FREAKY FRIDAY).

* Fox picked up the comedy pitch THE ONLY CHILD from "King Of The Hill" writer/exec producers Sivert Glarum and Michael Jamin for Barry Josephson to produce. Story revolves around the coming-of-age experience of a 30-year-old man.

* Platinum Studios and Relativity Management have teamed with Vancouver's the Shop Animation Studios to develop and co-produce the CG thriller DYLAN DOG: THE FOURTH KINGDOM, based on an Italian comicbook series by Tiziano Sclavi. Ian Pearson will direct, based on a script he co-wrote with Gavin Blair. Pic follows the latest case of nightmare investigator Dylan Dog, who must stop a supernatural serial killer before the forces of heaven and hell unleash Armageddon.

* Broadway director John Rando ("Urinetown") has agreed to direct the campus comedy THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE for Warner Bros. Project is a mother-daughter comedy, centered on a spoiled Beverly Hills socialite who's forced to join her daughter in college after finding herself newly divorced and broke. The daughter initially hates that her mother becomes the life of the party, but eventually they reconcile. Dax Shelby and Robert Stevens wrote the script.

* John Herzfeld will write and direct an untitled film that taps into the no-holds-barred world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Station Casinos owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who also own UFC, will exec produce via their Insomnia Entertainment banner. UFC matches boxers, wrestlers and martial artists from every discipline. The gladiators square off in an octagonal ring in five-minute rounds. They pound, kick and half-nelson each other until one is KO'd or quits. Padding is minimal, and blood is common.

* Revelstone Entertainment and the Mark Gordon Co. are getting into the epic fantasy business, teaming up to produce a feature film version of Stephen Donaldson's THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT. Revelstone has optioned the rights to the first six books in the series, which John Orloff ("Band of Brothers") will adapt. The books revolve around a shunned author who is magically transported to the Land, a mystical world where he discovers he is the incarnation of a great hero. Covenant thinks it's all a dream. But he's the bearer of a magical talisman, and is enlisted to help save the Land from Saturn and his representatives.

* Working Title is picking up SUICIDE SQUAD, a spec by Christopher Dean Johnston. The comedy centers on an ex-con who scores a job at a suicide crisis hot line. Looking for respect and a healthy payday, he recruits a ragtag group of suicidal outcasts to help him knock over a horse track.

* Paramount has acquired film rights to Tom Clancy's videogame SPLINTER CELL and hired Peter Berg (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) to direct. Berg is penning the script along with vidgame writer J.T. Petty and John J. McLaughlin (MAN OF THE HOUSE). It follows the adventures of government spy Sam Fisher as he's dispatched to infiltrate an international terrorist syndicate and stop a high-tech threat.

* David Goyer has committed to write, produce and direct a feature adaptation of the story of DC Comics hero THE FLASH for Warner Bros. Pictures.

* Director Jon Amiel and producer David Foster have made a deal to turn the life of Olympic downhill skier Picabo Street into a feature. The pair are looking to land a writer and will then take the project to studios. Street will be involved in drafting her remarkable story for the screen. Born and raised in a hippie commune, Street overcame great odds to become a champion skier. Street won the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, but it was uphill from there. Street shattered her leg into pieces just weeks after the Games. While doctors predicted she would never walk again, Street spent four years retraining herself to walk and ski again. The biggest victory in her life came when she worked her way back and qualified for the U.S. Olympic team once again.

* Bruno Barreto (VIEW FROM THE TOP) has teamed up with screenwriter Braulio Mantovani (CITY OF GOD) on WICKED CHILDHOOD, about the real-life hijacking of a Rio de Janeiro bus that ended with the deaths of a hostage and the hijacker. Hijacking became the subject of docu BUS 174 by helmer Jose Padilha.

* Simon Crane will direct Intermedia's ADRENALINE. Penned by Mike Finch, the project is an action tale set in the world of thrill seekers who use their death-defying skills to pull off seemingly impossible heists.

* Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned feature rights to Karl Iagnemma's short story ON THE NATURE OF HUMAN ROMANTIC INTERACTION, which Heyday Film and Plan B Entertainment will produce. In the story, a young academic tries to formulate a series of mathematical equations that will force his randy girlfriend to make a commitment to him. Kiernan and Michele Mulroney (upcoming PAPER MAN) will script.

* Keoni Waxman directs POOLHALL PROPHETS for Seven Arts Pictures. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ving Rhames star in the story of a street smart pool player who joins a group of pool hustlers. He gains some notoriety in the underground world until he finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes match between his boss and a corrupt cop. Pic also stars Callum Keith Rennie.

* Writer/director Vincent Ward is back at the helm of his historical drama RIVER QUEEN, directing post-production in London. Ward was dumped from the shoot in late October at the insistence of completion guarantors. Lensing had been dogged by delays caused by illness, bad weather and reported tension between the director and star Samantha Morton. Director of photography Alun Bollinger was the director during Ward's absence.

* Brazilian scribe Paulo Coehlo has sold rights on his bible-inspired book THE FIFTH MOUNTAIN to indie shingle Capistrano Films. The story follows the life of Old Testament prophet Elijah. Antonio Soave is writer and producer on the project.


* Phobos Entertainment has picked up all media rights to Ursula K. Le Guin's sci-fi novel THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. The book is set on Winter, a lost planet whose inhabitants defy standard gender roles and even physically change genders. Story follows a human emissary who must bridge a cultural gulf to fulfill his mission to bring the planet back into the galactic fold.

* Producer Chuck Gordon has acquired film rights to Tim McGraw's Grammy-nominated song "Live Like You Were Dying" for his Daybreak Prods. shingle. Song, penned by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, is the story of a man who begins to live life to the fullest -- opting to skydive, climb a mountain and ride a bull -- after discovering he has a fatal illness.

* Venture Management has acquired film rights to the story of college writer-for-hire Elena Martinez. Martinez was the USC freshman roommate of Wal-Mart heiress Elizabeth Paige Laurie, who paid Martinez to write one paper for her freshman year. Martinez -- who had to drop out of USC for financial reasons -- eventually began doing all of Laurie's schoolwork and was paid about $20,000 for her services, most of which went to pay her USC student loans. ABC News' "20/20" broke the story in November. That led the Laurie family to remove their daughter's name from the recently opened Paige Sports Arena at the U. of Missouri, where the family had donated $25 million. Laurie graduated this year from USC, which is investigating. Martinez hopes to transfer her community college credits to UCLA or Cal State San Bernardino.

* Revelstone Entertainment has optioned film rights to Clifford D. Simak's sci-fi novel WAY STATION about Civil War veteran Enoch Wallace, who mysteriously hasn't aged since 1865. Since then, he has secretly manned a waystation for a galactic federation's transit network, acting as Earth's unassuming diplomat to the stars.

* Mandeville Films has lined up a slate of new pics under its deal including a remake of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON to go next summer and a feature version of Disneyland theme park ride JUNGLE CRUISE. Shingle is also expected to start production in February on the long-in-the-works ANTARTICA, a Frank Marshall-directed remake of the 1983 Japanese film. Greg Poirier wrote a first draft of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, while Josh Goldstein and John Norville (TIN CUP) have inked to pen the script for JUNGLE CRUISE.

* Sunrise Entertainment has optioned the rights to ADMISSIONS, Nancy Lieberman's comic novel on private-school admissions. The book follows a family that gets caught up in the antics that occur every September in New York's prestigious private-school circuit as parents do everything imaginable to get their children admitted.

* The Frank Capra classic MEET JOHN DOE has been bought for remake by Paul Mason, a longtime Viacom and Showtime executive who will produce through his Barstu Prods. banner. In the original, Gary Cooper played a drifter who is groomed as a political candidate and pawn of a powerful group, who try to ruin him when he wises up. One of the manipulators, a newspaper reporter played by Barbara Stanwyck, falls in love with him and helps him navigate the mess

* Chris Weitz has exited as director of New Line Cinema's first installment of Philip Pullman's celebrated fantasy trilogy, HIS DARK MATERIALS: THE GOLDEN COMPASS, due to the "technical challenges of making such an epic." Both Weitz, who remains on board as a writer, and the studio said his departure was not because of any creative differences. New Line plans to move ahead with the script penned by Weitz.

* Dan Klores is launching Shoot the Moon Prods. to produce film, TV and legit projects. Klores has been passionate about sports stories, and Tribeca-based Shoot the Moon's slate includes a biopic of Leo Durocher, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants baseball manager who famously declared, "Nice guys finish last." Another feature project in development for Klores to direct a drama based on the lives of Burt and Linda Pugash, a couple who shared an obsessive relationship that ended in one partner blinding the other.

* Red Dog Entertainment, Vin Di Bona Prods. and Moving Pictures DPI division are working on a feature adaptation of David Morris' nonfiction book STORM OVER THE HORIZON, about a Marine who was captured by Saddam Hussein's army during the Gulf War in 1991 and died in an Iraqi prison.

* Columbia Pictures and producer John Calley acquired screen rights to a series of seven mystery novels by Edgar Award-winning author Harlan Coben. Film pact begins with DEAL BREAKER, the 1995 Coben novel that introduced protagonist Myron Bolitar, a jock-turned-sports agent who proves as adept at solving mysteries as he is in closing athlete deals. In DEAL BREAKER, Bolitar tries to unravel a crisis concerning his star quarterback client who learns the girlfriend he thought was dead might still be alive. The agent navigates that mess as he learns that another of his clients is being poached by the mob.

* Mobius Entertainment has acquired the comedy pitch ROCKIT, which centers on the competitive world of rock, paper, scissors tournaments. In the vein of DODGEBALL, pic will expose the burgeoning sport in a narrative style that would follow a small-town toy factory worker on his way to the final tournament.

* MGM moved back the release date of its THE PINK PANTHER from July 22 to Sept. 23.

* Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment is developing HOOKED, the true story of Jay J. Armes, described as "the world's most successful and colorful crime fighter." Armes lost both his hands in an accident at age 12 and functions with claws that have the power to cut through steel -- or to perform delicate surgery. Jay lives on an estate with tigers, chimps -- and his beautiful wife and family.

* Argentinean animated blockbuster PATORUZITO is spawning a toon studio in the South American nation. Co-producer Jorge Rodriguez of Red Lojo Entertainment has drawn up plans to exploit fully the franchise about Patoruzito, a boy who fights to claim the title of cacique (chief) of his tribe in Patagonia. A sequel and TV series is in the works, and Rodriguez plans to spin off characters from the adventure yarn.

* Intuition and S2 Intl. have created a project-by-project production alliance. Their first film is Euro co-prod toon feature AZUR ET ASMAR, directed by Michel Ocelot (KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS).

Until next year... Auld Lang Syne and stuff.

Elston Gunn

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus