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What’s George Clooney, Madonna, Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin Spacey, Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe doing – or about to do? Nick Roddick reports.

The Life of David Gale, director Alan Parker’s first movie since Angela’s Ashes, has survived the departure of George Clooney from the title role and looks to have snared a more than suitable replacement in the shape of Kevin Spacey.

Clooney reportedly left because of those pesky ‘creative differences’ over the film, which tells the story of a college professor and anti-capital-punishment activist who finds himself on Death Row for murder. Spacey is expected to do the film soon after the equally troubled The Shipping News, which he has just wrapped for Miramax and Lasse Hallström, and on which he replaced Billy Bob Thornton who had himself replaced John Travolta.

There is talk of a role in Gale for Nicole Kidman. And Nicolas Cage, whose Saturn Pictures joins InterMedia and Universal in the production team, is also expected to play a cameo.

The remake syndrome is becoming endemic. A quartet of Euro production companies (Pathé Pictures, TF1 International, Sky and Assassin Films) and the producer of East Is East, Leslee Udwin, are planning to remake Den eneste een (The One and Only), the film which beat out all the trendy Dogme movies and exportable auteur flicks at the Danish box office in 1999. A romantic comedy which lured 850,000 Danes to the local box office, The One and Only is currently being remade in the UK, shooting in Newcastle with Patsy Kensit in the lead and Simon Cellan Jones directing.

And, on a rather more celebrity-conscious note, it appears that Guy Ritchie, who is at least as well known around the world for marrying Madonna as he is for directing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, is planning to combine his day job with his home life by directing his missus in a remake of Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away. The Italian flick, whose original title was Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto (and whose full English title is Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August), was a 1975 melodrama about a Sicilian deck-hand (played by Giancarlo Giannini) and a yacht owner’s wife (Mariangela Melato). Cast adrift in a dinghy, they end up playing sexual games with one another on a desert island before being rescued, whereupon the games come to an end and normal, class-ridden behaviour resumes.

All of which sounds ideal for Mrs R, who is one of the world’s richest women. Ritchie, for his part, reportedly wants to get away from the all-boy, guns ‘n’ stuff world of the movies he has made so far - a decision which I imagine his other half strongly supports. As to who will play the lucky (hapless?) deck-hand, that has yet to be decided; but shooting is expected to begin some time this year.

It was probably all the column inches surrounding the soon-to-be-seen Gangs of New York that did it. Here was Martin Scorsese, best-known for claustrophobically intense dramas, suddenly going all epic. What else was Francis Ford Coppola to do?

The answer? Not explore the rank world of 19th-century New York, but create a future city which would be more or less a microcosm of humanity. Quizzed recently by Daily Variety’s Army Archerd, Coppola declared he had a budget - not more than $80 million - for the film, which will be called Megalopolis. There are also, he said, roles for a lot of actors who had worked with him in the past, like Robert De Niro and nephew Nicolas Cage, and a few others who haven’t, like Paul Newman and Russell Crowe. There are even hints that he will be able to raise the money to make the movie on his own - just like he did with, er, One From the Heart.

Crowe, meanwhile, has reportedly been turning down all manner of high-profile projects because he is so determined to make The Long Green Shore, which is expected to shoot mid next year for InterMedia. Oh, and you won’t be surprised to hear that he also plans to star in it.

Given the phenomenal success of Rush Hour 2, it’s not surprising that there are quite a few Jackie Chan projects currently floating around in the Los Angeles inversion layer.

Perhaps the most intriguing is the suggestion that he should star in a remake of the Jerry Lewis comedy, The Bellboy (1960). Actually, there’s nothing especially new about the idea: it has been in development at MGM since long before Rush Hour 2 was even made. But, with that film’s record-breaking opening, it has gone onto a fast(er) track. It doesn’t have a director yet, but it will be set in Las Vegas where, of course, MGM owns a rather large hotel.

Dating back to a month or so before the early-August release of Chan’s latest movie, meanwhile, is a plan to put him together with one of Hollywood’s other recently imported Asian stars, Jet Li, who scored a pretty sizeable hit this summer with Kiss of the Dragon. The film in which they will both star doesn’t have a title yet, but it will be made by Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios some time in the second half of next year. The two stars will executive produce - an indication of the extent to which, over the past couple of years, both have moved to the heart of the Hollywood establishment.

And both, by the way, are being kept pretty busy. Chan has already completed The Accidental Spy; is preparing a DreamWorks comedy called The Tuxedo; and is scheduled to do a Shanghai Noon sequel called Shanghai Knights (clever, eh?). Li has been making a Chinese movie, Hero, with Zhang Yimou this summer, and is next expected to take the lead in a Miramax action title in which he plays a Tibetan monk in New York.

Following on from New Line’s Lord of the Rings and FilmFour’s Charlotte Gray, Cate Blanchett was scheduled to play the lead in a movie version of Margaret Atwood’s novel, Alias Grace, to which UK-based production company Working Title has acquired the rights after Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures couldn’t get it together.

The novel is a fictional version of the 19th-century case of a Canadian housemaid accused of the murder of her employer and his mistress. This will be the first screen version of an Atwood novel since Volker Schlöndorff’s underwhelming crack at The Handmaid’s Tale in 1990.

And Emilie Dequenne, the teenage newcomer who won the Palme d’Or for Best Actress at Cannes in 1999 and has since starred in local French hit Le pacte des loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf), is to play the title role in a French TV miniseries version of Thérèse Raquin. Emile Zola’s turn-of-the-century novel - a tale of passion set in the provincial city of Lyon - occupies a position in French literature somewhat akin to Gone With the Wind, albeit on a higher literary plain. It has been filmed at least twice before, once in 1928 by Jacques Feyder (although no prints of that version have survived), and once in 1953 by Marcel Carné, with Simone Signoret in the title role.

Published October 25, 2001

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