Actor Javier Bardem is in talks to portray Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes on the big screen in a film project that has been shelved for over 45 years. Former blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo came up with the script for the movie in the 1960s, and reportedly wanted Kirk Douglas to lead the cast.
Schindler's List scribe Steve Zaillian has been hired to revamp Trumbo's work and produce the film, according to Deadline.com.
Movie bosses are hoping to bring Steven Spielberg onboard to direct the movie, which will centre on the battle between Cortes and Aztec emperor Montezuma.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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The Rosemary's Baby moviemaker has been confined to his chalet in Switzerland since December (09) following his September (09) arrest in Zurich - more than 30 years after he fled America and skipped sentencing on a charge of unlawful sex with a minor.
He is currently fighting extradition back to the United States, where prosecutors plan to hand him his punishment.
Polanski's attorneys recently requested that testimony from the case's original prosecutor, retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, be unsealed and handed over to Swiss authorities to help them decide whether the director should be sent back to the U.S.
The request was denied by a judge and Polanski's lawyers, Douglas Dalton, Brad Dalton and Chad Hummel, are fuming over the decision - they have released a statement calling the process unfair and insisting the extradition will not be legal unless Swiss officials know all the facts.
The statement reads, "Roman Polanski is determined to assure that the United States' extradition request submitted to the Swiss Government is based on a complete and truthful statement of the facts of his case. Presently, it is not... (The) extradition is not legally justified. If, after a fair hearing in Switzerland at which the entire record of this case is truthfully presented, the Swiss determine that extradition is justified, Mr. Polanski will of course comply with a lawful extradition order and return to California to... be finally sentenced under the law. Such a lawful order should be based on the entire record of the California proceedings, not the misleading and incomplete record provided to date.
"We stand fully prepared immediately to discuss this issue with representatives of the Swiss or U.S. governments and to present all the evidence."
The Rosemary's Baby director is being held behind bars in Switzerland following his arrest in September (09) on an international warrant relating to a 1977 charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski pleaded guilty to the crime but fled the U.S. in 1978 before he could be sentenced.
U.S. authorities formally requested his extradition last month (Oct09) but Swiss officials have yet to decide whether to grant the motion.
French lawyer Herve Temime has been keeping the press updated on Polanski's progress and wellbeing in jail, and told local newspaper Le Figaro last week (ends20Nov09) the filmmaker plans to fight any attempts to send him back to the U.S. to face his punishment.
Temime said: "We maintain that Mr Polanski did not face a fair trial in Los Angeles. For all these reasons, among others, his position remains unchanged: he will not accept being extradited to the United States."
But Polanski's Los Angeles-based attorneys Douglas Dalton, Bart Dalton and Chad Hummel have dismissed Temime's comments, insisting he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the director.
In a statement, they say, "Any statements made in the press to the effect that Mr. Polanski will not accept lawful orders of the courts, including relating to extradition, are not true."
The trio added that Dr. Lorenz Erni in Switzerland and Polanski himself are the only others "authorised to speak on his behalf" regarding the unlawful sex charge.
Polanski, who has been deemed a "flight risk", has seen three bail attempts refused and is expected to remain in jail for several more months until Swiss authorities rule on the U.S. extradition request.
Roman Polanski's achievements in filmmaking (The Pianist, Rosemary's Baby) will always be overshadowed by the fact that he's an accused sex offender -- now, he's ready to clear his name.
The director, who, decades ago, had pled guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, has asked the Los Angeles County Superior Court to dismiss the charges.
Polanski fled the U.S. before his sentencing in 1978. Since then, there have been several attempts to resolve the case. The victim, Samantha Geimer, has repeatedly requested that the charges be dropped. In the past, Polanski has been reluctant to revisit the case but now appears eager to clear his name, reports Variety.
Marina Zenovich’s recent documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, was cited by the filmmaker’s attorneys who said "extraordinary new evidence" had surfaced with the release of the film.
The complaint focuses on interviews in which then-deputy District Attorney David Wells admits discussing the case with Judge Lawrence Rittenband during legal proceedings and further charges the current District Attorney's Office with misconduct in statements made upon the documentary’s release last June.
The complaint charges that Polanski "was and continues to be the victim of repeated, unlawful and unethical misconduct on the part of the LA District Attorney's Office and LA Superior Court."
New attorneys have taken up his case since Douglas Dalton, his longtime attorney, has retired. Chad Hummel of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Bart Dalton (Douglas' son) of Cauley Bowman Carney & Williams filed the complaint on behalf of the director.
The attorneys issued a joint statement alluding to Zenovich’s film, but declined to comment further. "The release of the documentary film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and its aftermath have revealed a pattern of misconduct and improper communications between the Superior Court and the District Attorney's Office, in violation of the rule of law and without the knowledge of the defendant or his counsel," they said. "This case serves as a classic example of how our justice system can be abused, and defendants' rights trampled, by an unholy alliance between courts and criminal prosecutors."
For its part, the court declined comment on the case itself, says The Hollywood Reporter, but said its position for several years has been "if Mr. Polanski wants to resolve this matter, he must appear in person. Should he do so, he would be taken to Dept. 100 for sentencing - which is where this all left off. At that point, his attorneys would be free to pursue whatever legal strategy they choose."
In general, fugitives do not have a right to demand such review, but judges have a wide berth when it comes to overturning convictions if they find that the court system has been abused. A hearing has been set for Jan. 21.
Read this story and more on Hollywood Wiretap
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Nicky Hilton's marriage to Todd Meister annulled
To think they had appeared so happy. Hotel heiress Nicky Hilton's flash-in-the-pan marriage is officially over--after less than three months. Hilton, 21, married New York hedge fund manager Todd Meister, 33, in an unexpected shotgun wedding in Las Vegas on August 15. Reuters reports a judge granted the annulment Monday. Representatives for the couple have been quoted as saying: "Both parties have ended their marriage amicably, and they remain good friends." Us Weekly reported first Hilton was seeking an annulment last month. The magazine quoted unnamed friends as saying Hilton thought she was too young to be married and her relationship with Meister had been essentially platonic. But in the November issue of Stuff magazine, Hilton claimed that her August wedding was planned and that her sister "Paris orchestrated everything."
Zellweger plans break from acting
Renee Zellweger, who stars in the upcoming Bridget Jones sequel, said she is taking an extended break from acting. Zellweger told Reuters in a recent interview she wants to step away from the limelight and learn what it is like to be just a regular person. "I don't see myself climbing into a makeup chair any time soon and taking another role. I feel like I need to take a minute and have a little bit of life experience," she said. The 35-year-old star, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar earlier this year for her role as farm girl Ruby Thewes in U.S. Civil War drama Cold Mountain, declined to say how long her break from filming would last. She next appears in Ron Howard's The Cinderella Man, which opens June 3, 2005.
Minnelli sues former chauffeur
Liza Minnelli filed a breach-of-contract suit Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court against her longtime personal assistant, Reuters reports. The lawsuit comes one month after M'hammed Soumayah, Minnelli's former chauffeur, reportedly accused the entertainer of beating him during alcohol-fueled rampages. Minnelli is seeking at least $250,000 in damages and a court order against Soumayah and accuses him of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Soumayah, 56, filed suit against Minnelli last month but the case that was immediately sealed by a judge.But according to media reports at the time, his attorney was quoted as saying Soumayah was repeatedly assaulted by Minnelli when she was drunk.
Cat Stevens receives apologies form Americans
Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, says he has received numerous apologies from Americans who are embarrassed the U.S. government deported him over potential terrorism links. "I have got more apologies from Americans since that time than you can count," Islam, 57, said in an interview with Reuters Wednesday. "So, I'm quite satisfied with the spirit of most people and probably it was a mistake." Islam, who received a peace award in Rome from a group of Nobel Prize winners, was traveling on a commercial plane from London to Washington when it was diverted to Bangor, Maine. U.S. Homeland Security deported him after his name turned up on U.S. "no fly" lists because of activities they said could be potentially linked to terrorism.
ABC looking good in TV sweeps
Backed by Desperate Housewives, Lost and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC won the coveted 18-49 year old demographic in the first ratings "sweeps" month of the new season, the AP reports. CBS won the week, averaging 12.9 million viewers followed by NBC (11.3 million); ABC (11 million); Fox (6.3 million); the WB (4.1 million); and UPN (3.6 million). The top 10 shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS; Desperate Housewives, ABC; Without a Trace, CBS; Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC; Lost, ABC; Cold Case, CBS; 60 Minutes, CBS; ER, NBC; The Apprentice 2, NBC.
Douglas, Lewis earn medal for blacklist fight
Their courageous stand against the Hollywood blacklist has earned veteran actor Kirk Douglas and producer Edward Lewis the Freedom of Expression Medal from the Institute of Modern Letters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the pair received a standing ovation Monday when they accepted the honor in recognition of their decision to let blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo use his real name in the screenplay credits for Spartacus in 1960, which, at the time, was a serious risk for Douglas, who starred in the film and helped produce it with Lewis. "The most precious thing in our land is freedom," Douglas told a receptive audience at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.
Patty Duke recovering from heart surgery
Actress Patty Duke, who won a best-supporting Oscar in 1963 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, was released from an Idaho hospital after undergoing single heart bypass surgery earlier this month, the AP reports. Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Johnson said Duke, 57, was released on Tuesday--six days after the Nov. 3 surgery. "She's looking forward to recuperating at home for a few weeks," a message posted on Duke's Web site said. Duke, who was married to John Astin from 1973 to 1985, is the mother of Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.