Jodie Foster's played an English schoolteacher, an FBI agent and a rocket scientist. Now she'll stretch further as a one-legged nun in "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys."
Reports today say the two-time Oscar winner has agreed to play a supporting role in the $15-20 million film for Initial Entertainment Group. She'll also produce.
Shooting's scheduled to begin May 1. Commercial director Peter Care will helm the script by Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni. Based on Chris Fuhrman's novel, the story's about a group of Catholic youths who get caught drawing an obscene comic book. Next, they outdo themselves by planning a heist that will make them legends.
NOW, STOP ASKING! The speculation is over. (Really.) Steven Spielberg has officially said thanks but no thanks to Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" -- the planned big-screen adaptation of the insanely popular "Harry Potter" kids' books. Although Spielberg never actually was on board, a London Times report (and lots of subsequent media coverage) indicated that the movie was high on his to-do list. With Spielberg out of the picture, new names being tossed around include Robert Zemeckis, Chris Columbus and Brad Siberling.
IN THE RING: And the winner is ... "The Insider's" Michael Man, who will coach Will Smith to boxing glory as Muhammad Ali in the Columbia biopic "Ali." The project, which has been in development for eight years, could start shooting in July for a summer 2001 release, Hollywood trade papers say. The script by "Nixon's" Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele covers the boxer's early days as Cassius Clay, his rise in sports and politics, his refusal to fight in Vietnam and his comeback bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
BACK IN 'BLACK': While he waits to become Ali, Will Smith will don the suit and ray gun again to star in the Universal Studios Florida attraction "Men in Black Alien Attack." Complete with monitors, ride cars, 30-foot bugs (but minus crusty ol' Tommy Lee Jones), the interactive adventure allows Agent Jay (with a little help from Rip Torn) to save the day -- and start prepping for the next episode. The ride debuts in April.
'TROUBLE' AHEAD: Attempting to put "Wild Wild West" behind him, director Barry Sonnenfeld has signed up for Disney's "Big Trouble." The ensemble comedy's set to begin shooting this summer in Miami, which means Sonnenfeld's out of the loop for Warner Bros.' "The Ugly Truth," a starring vehicle for ex-sweethearts Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.
OUT FOR BLOOD: Look a little closer at "American Beauty's" Wes Bentley, and check out his molars. The hot supporting player might get the call of the wild as lead vampire Lestat in Warner Bros.' "Queen of the Damned," based on Anne Rice's novel. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bentley would take over the role played by Tom Cruise in 1994's "Interview with the Vampire." This time, Lestat's a rocker whose tunes turn on the Queen of all vampires. He's also chased by a vampire hunter who's smitten by his bloodcurdling ways.
DECK THE HALLS WITH LAUREN HOLLY: Lauren Holly's set to complete the threesome in Paramount Pictures' "What Women Want." According to The Hollywood Reporter, she'll star opposite Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in the romantic comedy that begins shooting this week. Directed by Nancy Meyers, it's the tale of a male chauvinist (Gibson) who suffers a freak accident that gives him the power to read women's thoughts.
NOT WILD FOR 'JUMANJI 2': Ken Ralston, the special-effects wizard responsible for the F/X in the first "Jumanji," has decided not to play with the animals as director on "Jumanji 2." Unlike the action-packed kids' pic, The Hollywood Reporter says the long-awaited sequel wasn't moving fast enough for Ralston, who parted on good terms with Columbia Pictures.
There's a new player in Disney's executive game of musical chairs. Chief Michael Eisner has named ABC chief Robert Iger as president, filling the hole left by Michael Ovitz when he jumped ship in 1996, says The Associated Press.
Iger's appointment, along with other managerial promotions, is expected to help the entertainment giant overcome its recent troubles, which included sagging stock prices and the departure of Disney studio chief Joe Roth. Seems things are already in turnaround: Disney also announced a 7 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.
INDUSTRIAL COUPLE: Time Warner, which already seems to own everything, is making another deal -- this time with British music giant EMI. It was announced today that the two would merge music businesses to create a new monster -- er, company, worth $20 billion.
Time Warner, whose labels include Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic and Rhino and is home to Madonna and Alanis Morissette, will now be able to add EMI's Garth Brooks, the Beastie Boys and legacies such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to its family.
The new giant will be called Warner EMI Music, according to Daily Variety. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year. No word if this marriage will result in some new duets: for instance, guitar crooner Jewel giving props with rapper Master P, or the Spice Girls with that other seasoning group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
GOLDEN COUPLE? The most intriguing pair at Sunday's Golden Globes was Jodie Foster and Russell Crowe, who arrived at the ceremony cozily hand-in-hand. Those who watched the broadcast through its credits also caught a glimpse of Crowe, 35, pointing and smiling at the camera, then pulling Foster, 37, in for a whisper or nuzzle, we couldn't tell. Was it staged?
"That was the intention," the best dramatic actor nominee ("The Insider") told the New York Daily News of the sensation they created. Foster joked, "He paid me."
For the record, Foster's rep says the two are friends and might be pairing up for a film. Well, let's hope it's a love story, because they did look mighty fine together.
GOLDEN COUPLE, PART II: We told you last week the rumor about Jim Carrey, 37, giving Renée Zellweger, 30, a $200,000 diamond "friendship ring." The couple was asked about the ring -- and their status -- at the Golden Globes. "Yeah, wasn't it nice?" Zellweger said on the red carpet, holding out her hand -- only to show no ring in sight. The two laughed about it but would only say that they're "friends." Still, 22 million people saw the Golden Globe winner (for "Man on the Moon") give his "friend" a big smooch on the lips before accepting his award.
LITTLE MAN FARROW: Mia Farrow's son might be heading off to college. But she'll have to drive him, since he's only 12 years old. Seamus Farrow has applied to attend Columbia University in the fall and already takes college classes in Massachusetts. But his mother worries about it; not the difficulty level, but the arduous commute to New York City from their home in Bridgewater, Conn.
"It's such a long ride," she told the New York Daily News. "Part of me would like to put it off, but he's intent on going."
CELTIC PRIDE: Gabriel Byrne is proud to be an Irishman -- so proud, in fact, that he's taking shots at everyone else going Irish.
The 49-year-old actor, who last played Satan in the actioner "End of Days," is a bit perturbed about his homeland's use in Hollywood and speaks his mind in an interview in Irish America magazine. "I don't think it's necessarily a good thing that Mel Gibson and Steven Spielberg came to Ireland to shoot 'Braveheart' and 'Saving Private Ryan,'" he said. "Spielberg shot there because it was cheap, and he got to use the Irish Army. I don't like to see the country being used as a cheap location for huge multi-million dollar movies."
He also isn't keen on non-Irish actors playing Irish characters. "There are a lot of really brilliant Irish actors and actresses that never get a chance to do anything." Despite his love for Frank McCourt's book "Angela's Ashes," he fired off about the film adaptation. "An Irish movie?" said Byrne. "It's directed by an Englishman, Alan Parker. The screenplay is by an American writer (Laura Jones). It has a Scottish actor (Robert Carlyle) playing the father and an English actress (Emily Watson) playing the mother." We're just glad no one asked him to rate Brad Pitt's much-criticized brogue in "The Devil's Own." --
Finally some good news for Jason Priestley.
The ex-"Beverly Hills 90210" star's directorial feature debut, "Barenaked in America," a documentary about pop-rock's Barenaked Ladies ("One Week"), has been selected to play the Slamdance Film Festival.
"Barenaked in America" is one of six films chosen to play the Special Screenings section of Slamdance, the chief alternative venue (and Park City, Utah, neighbor) to Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival. Slamdance is scheduled to run Jan. 22-29. (Sundance will play Jan. 20-30.)
Whether Priestley is able to attend his own screening may depend on what happens in a Los Angeles courtroom. The actor turned director is facing felony drunken driving charges for a Dec. 2 crash that trashed his Porsche and left his passenger with a broken arm. Priestley is currently free on $50,000 bail. He pleaded innocent to the charges Dec. 21.
Priestley's car misadventure came just days after the 30-year-old star revealed he had separated from his wife, makeup artist Ashlee Peterson, after less than one year of marriage.
"Barenaked in America" premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival.
Also in today's news:
FUN-COUPLE WATCH: Is Jerry Seinfeld inching closer to the aisle? Today's Daily Variety says the 45-year-old comedian will wed fiancée Jessica Sklar, 28, "between Christmas and New Year's." The two, who announced their engagement Nov. 9, began dating in 1998 shortly after Sklar, a public-relations executive, returned from her honeymoon with another man (theater scion Eric Nederlander).
JAMES BOND'S GOOD KNIGHT? Oscar-winning actor Sean Connery may finally be able to add a new line to his resume: British knight. The 007 screen veteran, 69, was up for the honor two years ago when his ties to a political party group that campaigns for an independent Scotland (the actor's beloved homeland) reportedly doomed the bid. The actor also came under fire for his supposed tax-exile status. (Connery lives most of the year outside the United Kingdom.) At the time, Connery termed critics' barbs a "character assassination." Fellow U.K. celebrities to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth include Elton John, Anthony Hopkins and John Gielgud.
MASTERFUL: Hopkins, meanwhile, has been tapped to receive the lifetime-achievement award treatment in the form of the Modern Master Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 2-12 in California. The 62-year-old star will next be seen on screens in the Shakespearean drama "Titus," opening Christmas Day.
THUMBS DOWN: Just what box-office dud "Anna & the King" needs -- fewer potential moviegoers. An official for Thailand's film board tells Reuters it's "unlikely" the film based on the 19th century tale of an English schoolteacher imported to tutor the children of Siam's king will be allowed to play in the country. Censors have found "several inappropriate scenes" involving Jodie Foster as the teacher and Chow Yun-Fat as the monarch. "Anna & the King" opened to just $5.1 million business in theaters last weekend.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.