HOLLYWOOD – NEXT UP: PART 1
Nick Roddick casts a glance at the casting couch and
some projects coming up next from Hollywood: is George Clooney
going to Bat again? Will Sandra Bullock be a Wonder ful woman? Is
Christopher Walken into the Bears’ den?
Elemental; that’s the only word for it - ‘it’
being the link between Wolfgang Petersen’s last film, The
Perfect Storm, and the one he is preparing now, Endurance. Of
course, ever since he became internationally famous with Das
Boot, Petersen has had a fondness for films about men battling
the elements. And for those who might think I’m being
politically incorrect, it has always tended to be men. In Storm,
for instance, much play is made of the fact that Mary Elizabeth
Mastrantonio’s character is every bit as good a skipper as
George Clooney’s. Probably better, in fact. But did she
battle the big one on the Banks? No, she did not.
Zaillian’s most recent high-profile collaborations have been
with Steven Spielberg (he won an Oscar for the Schindler’s
List script) and Martin Scorsese, for whom he worked on The Gangs
of New York before teaming up with Ridley Scott on Black Hawk
Anyway, like The Perfect Storm and Das Boot, Endurance is a story
about chaps doing desperately brave (and sometimes just plain
desperate) things under extreme circumstances. True things, as
well: the film tells the story of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s
disastrous expedition to the South Pole in 1915. The project has
been hanging around (tempting to say ‘on ice’) for
quite a while, with Columbia never quite convinced that there was
an audience for a group of people dying of cold in a featureless
landscape. But, if Perfect Storm proved anything, it’s that
you didn’t need a happy ending to have a hit.
What is more, Endurance’s prospects warmed up considerably
in early April 2001. National Geographic Films’ new feature
production arm came on board to partner Columbia on the project,
and screenwriter Steven Zaillian was hired to do a final polish.
“a historical epic about
which no one is saying anything at the moment”
The story of Endurance centres on how the British explorer’s
ship was crushed in the ice, leaving him and his crew to attempt
to escape Antarctica on a small, self-built boat in the middle of
winter - an undertaking which makes conditions on board the
‘Andrea Gail’ sound almost luxurious.
No cast members or start dates have yet been mentioned, and even
Petersen is apparently keeping his options open: he is reportedly
working with screenwriter David Franzoni - who, just to tie up
the loose ends, wrote Ridley Scott’s last movie but one, the
Oscar-winning Gladiator - on a historical epic about which no one
is saying anything at the moment. Except, of course, that it’s
“Clooney is rumoured to be
returning to what we all thought was his least favourite role”
Meanwhile Perfect Storm star Clooney is rumoured - nothing more
than that at this stage - to be returning to what we all thought
was his least favourite role: that of the caped crusader, which
he played in the unrapturously received Batman & Robin.
The whole Batman franchise is busy being renewed by enfant
terrible Darren Aronofosky as a follow-up to his addiction saga,
Requiem for a Dream. And it was Aronofosky who told someone (who
then told Le Film Français) that George would be playing Bruce
Wayne in his Batflick, which bears the title Year One. Let no one
say I don’t source my rumours.
My What Paul Verhoeven Is Doing Next report: having interviewed
the Flying Dutchman myself this time last year at the time of
Hollow Man, I can attest to the fact that he always has several
answers ready for the inevitable, end-of-interview ‘So what’s
Last July, top of the list appeared to be a movie about American
suffragette Victoria Woodhull - a role which Nicole Kidman was
lined up to play. But that has now apparently joined a whole slew
of projects - Houdini; Crusades; a biopic about Adolf Hitler - on
the back-burner as a new one comes to the fore. It’s called
Official Assassins, and its subject matter is only slightly less
controversial than the Hitler pic.
It apparently tells the story of the race, in the months
immediately following World War II, by the Americans and the
Soviets to recruit the top German scientists who had developed
some of the Führer’s most deadly weapons. Knowing
Verhoeven, it is unlikely that the central moral question - why
were some Nazis executed for war crimes while others were given
well-paid jobs in New Mexico and Novo Sibirsk? - will be passed
over in silence.
The script for Assassins is by Michael Beckner, who wrote the
upcoming Brad Pitt/Robert Redford movie, Spy Game. And Verhoeven
reportedly committed to it in early May 2001. The film, sources
say, will be made for Mike Medavoy’s Phoenix Pictures and
could start shooting in Berlin this (Northern) autumn.
But there’s a hitch. Only a week after Official Assassins
was ‘confirmed’, producer Jeremy Thomas announced in
Cannes that Verhoeven would be returning to Europe, not to shoot
a Hollywood movie in Berlin, but to make a Dutch film - his first
for two decades - in Holland, France and Italy.
“..he ain’t getting any
Verhoeven’s next film, said Thomas, would be The Source,
which he would produce alongside fellow Brit (but long-time
Hollywood resident) Alan Marshall. The script, based on a story
by Guy de Maupassant, will be by Gerard Soeteman, who wrote many
of the director’s best Dutch films, including The Fourth Man.
But what is less than certain is whether or not this will be
Verhoeven’s ‘next’ film: the earliest Thomas hopes
to shoot it is next (Northern) spring, which would give the
director a chance to make Official Assassins first. Only problem
is, Verhoeven’s average turnaround time between pictures
has, of late, been around two years. And, like the rest of us, he
ain’t getting any younger.
What’s the connection between Simone Simon, Nastassja Kinski
and Ashley Judd? Well, since French star Simon made only one
really memorable movie during her five-year stay in Hollywood,
that shouldn’t be too difficult for the movie buffs among
No? Well, the picture she made was Cat People, the classic horror
flick directed by fellow French person Jacques Tourneur at RKO in
1942. And Kinski, of course, starred in Paul Schrader’s 1982
remake, which made sexually explicit all the things that Tourneur’s
film only hinted at.
Before you start imagining the rather unfeline Judd transforming
into a claw-wielding moggy, however, I should point out that the
Catwoman currently being developed at Warner Bros with Judd in
the starring role is an original, not a remake. And although
precise plot details have yet to be revealed, it would appear
that the actress - seen most recently in Someone Like You and
just off The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, in which she
co-stars with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn - will be playing
a character more in the mould of a superhero (think Batman,
Wonder Woman and so on) than a supernatural being. The catch, of
course, is that she uses her superpowers for a little light
stealing. Denise DeNovi will produce and John Rogers is writing
"Walken has toned down the
threatening side of his public persona, developing an interesting
sideline in cookery programmes”
Oh, and by the way, the real Wonder Woman (as it were) is on her
way back, this time to the big screen, with Sandra Bullock in
talks to don the star-spangled corset for Warner Bros.
ONCE, A LONG time ago, I sat at the next table to Christopher
Walken in a Los Angeles restaurant. No big deal, admittedly. But
it did make quite clear that the vaguely cool sense of threat
which the actor has made his stock-in-trade since The Deer Hunter
(if not before) was pretty much part of his real-life persona. It
didn’t encourage you to ask him to pass the salt.
Walken, of course, is now nearly 60 and looks slightly different
from his seventies heyday. I’d say The Dead Zone was the
definitive Walken performance - a wonderful mixture of aggression
and paranoia - although his cameo in Pulp Fiction still carried
much the same kind of charge, as did a recent rock video
appearance. More recently, though, Walken has toned down the
threatening side of his public persona, developing an interesting
sideline in cookery programmes (his father was, after all, a
But none of these developments quite prepared me for the
announcement that the prince of unease was to play the lead human
character in Disney’s upcoming Country Bears movie. For
those of you who have never been to Disneyland, I should point
out that the ‘Country Bear Jamboree’ is (along with
‘It’s a Small World’) the one attraction to which
you can safely take anybody, from very small kids to elderly
relations riddled with the kind of complaints they warn you about
at the entrance to high-speed rides.
The Country Bears are a group of fiddle-and-jug-playing
animatronic musicians who specialise in the sort of country music
to which no one would ever think of applying the word ‘new’:
in their world, even Hank Williams would be too radical. And they
are quite simply the last group of entertainers with whom anyone
would ever associate Christopher Walken.
But the attraction has been running since the original California
park first opened, and Disney obviously felt it was time to
introduce the Country Bears to a wider audience. So the film,
using animatronics and live action, went into production on March
12, 2001. Walken plays Reid Thimple, a banker who is looking to
foreclose on the Country Bear Hall. Well, at least he is the bad
The bears, meanwhile, are being voiced by the cuddlier likes of
Haley Joel Osment and Charles Dutton.
Published August 2, 2001
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George Clooney - Back in Bat?
Julia Roberts & Adam Sandler?
Toni Collette & Hugh Grant?
Wolfgang Petersen - a test of Endurance
Sandra Bullock - Film's Wonder Woman
Ain't getting any younger - Paul Verhoeven
Christopher Walken - toned down the threatening side of his public persona