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Elston Gunn's WEEKLY RECAP: News on Minority Report, George Romero, Blade 2 and much more!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with another fantastic update from Elston Gunn! Quite a few confirmations of stories run on AICN over the past month or so in this week's update. Check it out, quite alot of casting. Meanwhile, here's Elston...



* Timothy Hutton is in talks to star opposite Angela Bassett and Edie Falco in GOLD COAST for writer/director John Sayles. Production begins in April.

* Samantha Morton (SWEET & LOWDOWN) will play the female lead in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi drama MINORITY REPORT, opposite Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, for Fox/DreamWorks. Morton will also star in MORVER CALLAR for director Lynne Ramsay (RATCATCHER).

* Kurt Russell will star in THE PLAGUE SEASON for which Ron Shelton will direct for Intermedia. James Ellroy wrote the script, with a rewrite by David Ayer, about a L.A. detective and his investigation into a racially-motivated robbery-homicide during the week leading up to the riots from that commenced after the acquittal of the cops who battered Rodney King.

* Alex D. Linz (HOME ALONE 3) will star in Disney's MAX KEEBLE'S BIG MOVE. Tim Hill directs. It's about a seventh grader who wreaks havoc at his school when he thinks his family is moving. However, when his dad's new job falls through, the boy must face the consequences of his actions. Jonathan Bernstein, Mark Blackwell and Jim Greer scripted, based on an idea by David L. Watts.

* Ben Kingsley is in talks to star in Disney/Beacon Communication's TUCK EVERLASTING for director Jay Russell (MY DOG SKIP), based on the popular 1975 children's book by Natalie Babbitt. It's about a little girl who finds out that her neighbors have a spring which stops aging. Production begins in April in Baltimore.

* Leonor Varela ("Cleopatra") will star opposite Wesley Snipes in BLADE 2: BLOODLUST for director Guillermo del Toro and New Line Cinema. Varela will play the daughter of a vampire overlord who teams with Snipes to get rid of a mutant strain with threatens humans and vampired. Shooting begins next month in Prague. (HARRY NOTE: As reported over a month ago on AICN)

* Ali Landry,will star in THE COURIER for Kingsize Entertainment about college student who is the courier of a package that entangles him with the FBI and the mob. Lorena Davis will direct.

* Harry Connick Jr. is in talks to star in MICKEY for Hugh Wilson (THE FIRST WIVES CLUB), who will direct from an original script by John Grisham. Wilson and Grisham will also produce. It's about a father and his son who go on the run from the IRS and end up in Las Vegas under new identities. There, the boy plays for the Little League World Series and receives national attention which leads to the discovery of who they really are. Shooting is expected to begin April 18 in Richmond, VA.

* Billy Bob Thornton and Wes Bentley will star in Lions Gate's MONSTER'S BALL for director Marc Forster. Milo Addica and Will Rokos wrote the script about three generations of men: racist Buck, his son Hank, and his grandson Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for a local prison where they prepare the electric chair for a black inmate. Hank falls for the prisoner's widow while Sonny is psychologically affected by his job. Buck gets his ultimately gets his comeuppance as well. Production begins May 1.

* Amanda Peet, Jared Harris, Kieran Culkin, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman join Susan Sarandon, Claire Daines and Ryan Phillippe in the comedy IGBY GOES DOWN for writer/director Burr Steers. Shooting begins Wednesday. It follows a smart, sarcastic teen in a dysfunctional family, who flees to New York and falls for a dropout.

* Carl Reiner joins OCEAN'S ELEVEN for director Steven Soderbergh. Reiner will replace Alan Arkin as Saul Bloom. Arkin left for personal reasons.

* Lucy Liu, Saffron Burrows, Burt Reynolds, Chiara Mastroianni, Ornella Muti, Max Beasley and Rhys Ifans join Salma Hayek, David Schwimmer, Danny Huston, Valeria Golino, Julian Sands, Valentina Cervi, Mia Maestro, George DiCenzo and Stefania Roccafor in the dark comedy HOTEL. Mike Figgis is directing the indie pic, which features four frames of simultanouse action (a la TIMECODE) that include: the production of a period film, a documentary about the film, a murder plot and a strange maid service. The climax takes place during the Venice Carnival.

* Tim Curry and Tori Spelling join the cast of SCARY MOVIE II for Dimension Films and director Keenan Ivory Wayans.

* Roger Rees has been cast in the Frida Kahlo biopic, FRIDA, starring Salma Hayek. Julie Taymor directs for Miramax. Rees will play Kahlo's father, Guillermo. Shooting starts in April. Antonio Banderas, Geoffrey Rush, Alfred Molina, Ashley Judd and Edward Norton also star. (HARRY NOTE: As reported months ago in LATIN AICN)

* Stellen Skarsgard joins James Caan, Natasha McElhone and Gerard Depardieu in BENEATH THE BANYAN TREES, starring first-time director Matt Dillon, who also co-wrote the script with Barry Gifford (LOST HIGHWAY).

* Dan Futterman ("Judging Amy") will star alongside Jennifer Lopez and Bill Campbell in Columbia Pictures' ENOUGH for director Michael Apted. Nicholas Kazan wrote the script about a woman who marries a violent man and takes matters into her own hands to save her life and her daughter's.

* Ed Burns will star in, produce and direct from his own script ASH WEDNESDAY, a gangster drama about a guy who has to save his younger brother from gangsters in 1980s New York. Rosario Dawson and Oliver Platt are in talks to co-star. Burns is also in negotiations to star opposite Angelina Jolie in the romantic comedy LIFE, OR SOMETHING LIKE IT.

* Al Pacino will star in INSOMNIA for Alcon Entertainment and director Christopher Nolan (MEMENTO). The psychological thriller is a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name. Shooting starts in April in Vancouver. (HARRY NOTE: As we reported 2 weeks ago)

* James Spader, Lesley Ann Warren and Maggie Gyllenhaal will star in Double A Films' dark indie comedy SECRETARY for director Steven Shainberg. It's about a young woman who gets a secretarial job after a stay in a mental hospital. She then starts to date a nerdy high school chum, but falls for her older boss.

* Pop singer Samantha Mumba will star opposite Guy Pearce in the TIME MACHINE for director Simon Wells and DreamWorks/Warner Bros. Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory and Mark Addy will also star. John Logan adapted the script. (HARRY NOTE: As revealed weeks ago by Moriarty)

* Stephen Dorff, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Christian Slater are in talks to star in THE I INSIDE, a time-travel thriller about a guy who wakes up in a hospital with amnesia and finds out the can go back in time, change his future and solve his brother's murder case. It's based on "Point of Death," the upcoming stage play by Michael Cooney.

* Ralph Fiennes will star in FEAR ITSELF, where he'll play a brilliant paranoid schizophrenic who uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the White House. Patrick Cirillo penned the script to be produced by Wolfgang Petersen.


* John Hughes has resumed directing duties for the Revolution Studios romantic coemdy CHAMBERMAID, which he scripted. Hilary Swank is attached to star as an American chambermaid who falls for a British gentleman.

* Xavier Koller (JOURNEY OF HOPE) will direct THE RUSSIAN GIRL from his script adapted from the novel SABINA by Karsten Alnaes. It's set in the early 1900s and follows a story of a married psychiatrist who has an affair with a mentally disturbed teenager. This is the first feature greenlit by production/financing co. Blue Vision Media.

* George A. Romero will direct THE ASSASSINATION for Highland Crest Pictures. The project is based on the assassination of Dominican Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961. Ed Harris, James Coburn, Anthony Quinn and Ricky Martin are in advanced talks to star.

* Colin Nutley is attached to direct three films based on the crime novels of Liza Marklund. THE BOMBER, the first of project, begins shooting this month for an October release. THE PARADISE will come next and will shoot in the fall. PRIME TIME will soon follow. Helena Bergstrom will play crime reporter Annika Bengtzon in all three films.

* Melvin Van Peebles in in talks with K.B. Prods. to direct and potentially adapt COQ AU VIN, based on the mystery by Charlotte Carter. It centers on an African American female detective, who plays the sax on the streets of New York and Paris.

* Les Mayfield (BLUE STREAK) will direct FLYING TIGERS for Morgan Creek Prods and Trilogy Entertainment group. The World War II epic is based on a group of American volunteers, who were asked by China to help fight the Japanese a couple of years before the Pearl Harbor attack. Pen Densham and John Watson (ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) wrote the script with a rewrite by John Rogers (upcoming AMERICAN OUTLAWS).

* Amy Heckerling is in talks to direct a remake for Fox 2000/Industry Entertainment of the 1998 Japanese drama AFTER LIFE, adapted by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. It's set in a station between Earth and heaven where angelic counselors help new spirits choose a solitary memory from their lives to keep with them through the afterlife.

* Director Mimi Leder will help develop LAZARUS with producer Wendy Finerman for Columbia Pictures. Sid Quashie penned the script.

* Reginald Hudlin is attached to helm Jackie Chan's next project, HIGHBINDERS, for Emperor Multimedia Group. The film is said to be "a cross between LETHAL WEAPON and GHOST set in the world of smuggling" and will mix Chan's martial arts skills with special effects. Producer Alfred Cheung will produce the project, which is based on his own idea.

* Brett Ratner is in talks to direct PEPPERMINT LOUNGE for Jersey Films and Columbia Pictures from a script written by Richard LaGravenese. The project is based on a true story and centers on an aspiring music producer who marries a mobster's daughter and ends up managing the nightclub where the Twist is born.

* Paul Greengrass (THE THEORY OF FLIGHT) will direct BLOODY SUNDAY from his own script for Granada Film and Jim Sheridan's company Hell's Kitchen.

* Second unit director Alexander Witt (HANNIBAL) will make his feature directorial debut on the indie pic PUERTO VALLARTA, about an expatriate American writer, his Mexican lovera and a mercenary on the run.


* Spyglass Entertainment Group mentioned in its IPO plans and current film slate their intentions of producing a sequel to THE SIXTH SENSE. Thus far, however, none of the original actors or filmmakers have made any deals with the company to reprise their roles in the project.

* Universal is moving the release of CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, from April 27 to August. Postproduction couldn't meet the original date and the studio wants more time to market the film, given its more "adult" themes. The film is based on the novel by Louis de Bernieres.

* Warner Bros., John Wells Prods. and Gaylord Films are developing a feature based on THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK, the upcoming novel by Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter. It's about an an African-American law professor who finds himself in a deadly web when he investigates the bizarre death of his father, a legendary conservative judge.

* Miramax Films is in final talks to pick up domestic rights to the Chinese-language pic LEGEND OF ZU, directed by Tsui Hark (ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA) and currently in post-production. It's about a warrior princess who joins a war against an evil lord and his soldiers. Zhang Ziyi (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) stars with Sammo Hung. Wuen Wo Ping choreographed the martial arts sequences.

* Lawrence Bender will produce DIRTY DANCING 2 for Artisan Entertainment and Miramax Films. No cast is yet attached to the project. Bender once studied dance and toured with the Ralph Robertson Ballet Company before working under "Fame" choreographer Louis Falco. His career was cut short by an injury.

Casting casting galore. Everybody is trying to squeeze in projects before the threatening strikes--some are trying to squeeze into one film (several big ensemble casts out there). Lots of promising projects too, partly thanks to the names attached: GOLD COAST (Sayles!), MINORITY REPORT (Spielberg!), THE PLAGUE SEASON (Ellroy!), THE ASSASSINATION (Harris AND Romero!), etc. I hope MONSTER'S BALL and IGBY GOES DOWN deliver the goods. Same goes for HOTEL, HIGHBINDERS and PEPPERMINT LOUNGE. More remakes with INSOMNIA and AFTER LIFE. Not sure about a SIXTH SENSE sequel. I'm curious how they'll approach it.

Until next week...Happy Ash Wednesday and have a good March!

Elston Gunn

E-ME or I'll blow your friggin head clean off.... punk!

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