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HOLLYWOOD NOTES: JUNE 1999

NICK RODDICK reports on the latest jostling in Hollywood.

Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones are set to share more than just middle and last initials: they’re finally doing their first film together - Rules of Engagement, which recently rolled under William Friedkin at Paramount.

Based on a script by former US Secretary for the Navy James Webb, the film is about a soldier (the part played by Jones) whose military career comes to an end when he is wounded in Vietnam. He retains as a lawyer, then finds himself defending the man who saved his life in ‘Nam (Jackson, natch). The latter’s character is still in the army, and is charged with violating the rules of the title, thereby inciting an incident which results in several demonstrators being killed.

Jones also looks likely to join Clint Eastwood in his intergalactic horse opera, Space Cowboys, where he will play one of four members of a veteran crew hired to fly a crucial space shuttle mission. Eastwood will be another and the other two have yet to be hired. If John Glenn can go into space, reckon the producers, why not Eastwood (69 at the end of May) and Jones (a mere 53 come September)?

Jackson, meanwhile (who just turned 50), is set to star in a remake of what is possibly the most famous blaxploitation picture of all: the 1971 hit Shaft, directed by Gordon Parks and starring Richard Roundtree as the afro-haired super shamus who spent a lot of his screen-time in the sack. The new version is to be directed by John Singleton from an updated script by Richard Price. "I loved the original and think it will be a very cool thing to do almost 30 years later," Jackson told Variety.

The movie, incidentally, is back at Paramount (Singleton was set to take it to MGM), with Scott Rudin as producer. Other blaxploitation remakes allegedly in the pipeline include Superfly and Cleopatra Jones.

Where There’s a Will...

Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Will Smith... Pretty soon, they will all have played the title role in a movie adaptation of a 1932 Adela Rogers St John story called What Price Hollywood? Of course, it became better known when Gaynor starred in what had, by then, been retitled A Star Is Born in 1937, and became best known of all in George Cukor’s 1954 version, when Judy Garland rose to fame while James Mason sank into alcoholism.

A Star Is Born is now due for its fourth remake at Warner Bros, but with the genders switched: Smith will play the newcomer who is taken under the wing of a famous female singing star (yet to be cast, but multiple Grammy-winner Lauryn Hill is reportedly top of the list), whose career tumbles as a result of substance abuse.

The film will be produced by Jon Peters who holds the rights, having handled the most recent remake with his then girlfriend, Barbra Streisand, in 1976. Smith, soon to be seen in Barry Sonnenfeld’s Wild Wild West, may well make the film after he has played the title role in a biopic about Muhammad Ali.

One More Night

Thirty-five years after John Huston chose a sleepy little Mexican fishing town called Puerto Vallarta as the location for his Tennessee Williams adaptation, Night of the Iguana, at least one member of the original team - veteran producer Ray Stark - is returning for the remake.

In the meantime, of course, Puerto Vallarta has become the tourist-trap of Mexico - a process which began when Elizabeth Taylor (at the time still married to Eddie Fisher) began visiting Iguana star Richard Burton on the set (and, it is reliably reported, elsewhere). As a result, the remake will be shot near Puerto Vallarta, on a part of the coast where there are still fishing villages and not high-rise hotels, with Dennis Quaid in the Burton role of a New England clergyman who is defrocked because of a sex scandal and becomes a tour guide south of the border.

The director of the new Night will be Bosnian film-maker Peter Antonijevic, with whom Quaid made the much-praised (but little-seen) war drama Savior a year or so ago.

Quaid is also set to star opposite The Thin Red Line’s Jim Caviezel in a time-travel thriller called Frequency, which Gregory Hoblit is directing for New Line. Caviezel plays a cop who finds he has a line of communication with his father (Quaid), who died in 1969 when Caviezel’s character was only seven.

Yabba Dabba Done

Readers will be glad to hear that The Flintstones in: Viva Rock Vegas rolled on April 12. The sequel has an all-new cast, headed by Mark Addy, the guy who tried to slim with shrink-wrap in The Full Monty and was Michael Keaton’s buddy in Jack Frost, as Fred. Kristen Johnston from the first Austin Powers movie is Wilma. Also along for the trip to the prehistoric desert oasis are Stephen Baldwin as Barney; Jane Krakowski (Shut Up and Dance) as Betty; and toast-of-Broadway Alan Cumming as The Great Kazoo, an alien who occasionally shows up to help Fred.

Joan Collins swings into town in the mother-in-law role which was patented by Elizabeth Taylor the first time around; and Thomas Gibson from TV series Dharma & Greg plays Chip Rockefeller, the richest man in the world. Steven Spielberg again executive produces, while Brian Levant directs for the second time. Universal will be opening the movie around the world next summer.

Minority Interest

Tom Cruise continues to keep all the bases covered. Having moved from the auteurist universe of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut to planet popcorn (aka Australia) for Mission: Impossible 2, the Cruiser is now looking to team up with Steven Spielberg on sci-fi thriller Minority Report.

Having apparently put Memoirs of a Geisha on hold until next April, the director is looking to make what, for him, must qualify as an in-between movie. Neither blockbuster nor issue picture, neither mega-budget nor relatively cheap, the US$80-million film is based on a story by Philip K Dick, who has already provided the inspiration for such sci-fi classics as Blade Runner and Total Recall.

Cruise will play a cop in some future society where crime prevention has become just what it says it is: his job is to arrest criminals before they commit the crime. With Cruise due off Mission by late summer, production on Minority Report could start as early as this autumn.

Spielberg is also rumoured to be involved in a new version of HG Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, which will be made under the joint aegis of DreamWorks and Warner Bros (the first time the two studios have worked together). The last feature-film version of Wells’ story of a Victorian scientist who invents time-travel was made in 1960, with Rod Taylor in the lead.

They’re Back

James Cameron is reportedly in talks with both star Arnold Schwarzenegger and Fox for a third assault on box-office records with the big T.

The rights to the Terminator franchise have been drifting around for a while, having been split between Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar (who produced Judgment Day at their now defunct Carolco) and Gale Anne Hurd, who produced the cyborg’s first outing. But it was apparently Cameron who insisted that any sequel be made at Fox.

When Cap’n Jim gets to make the film is anybody’s guess, since he is also toying with the idea of a movie which has similarly just emerged from almost a decade of litigation: Spider-Man. And if either of the two mooted stars - Jim Carrey or Leonardo DiCaprio - sign on for that one, finance should not be all that hard to raise.

MORE NEXT WEEK

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Clint Eastwood


Will Smith


Dennis Quaid


Jim Caviezel


Tom Cruise


Arnold Schwarzenegger


Jim Carrey

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