Role Call: DiCaprio the Great

There’s been a bunch of activity since the last Role Call, which I suppose is a good sign that Hollywood is not shutting down under the terrorist threat. I’ll lead off with a project that has me frothing at the mouth.

After collaborating on the upcoming Gangs of New York, Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese are teaming up again to make a movie about Alexander the Great. Alex, you’ll recall, was crowned King of Macedonia (DiCaprio‘s role) after his father, Phillip, was murdered, and then tried to conquer the rest of the known world.

The spec script was co-written by Oscar-winning Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and will be produced by Initial Entertainment Group. No start date has been set yet. Let’s just hope the film lives up to the power of the story.

More on that darn “Exorcist” prequel

I guess the idea of doing a prequel to The Exorcist hasn’t made anyone stop and ask, “Why are we doing this again?” Irish actor Liam Neeson (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) has just signed on to play the young Father Merrin. The story revolves around the young Merrin, as he encounters the evil horned one for the first time, in post-World War II Africa. The past life of Merrin, played by Max von Sydow in the original, is referenced in The Exorcist, so hey, why not make a movie about it? It sounds silly, that’s all. The other shaky element to the film is that its being directing by John Frankenheimer, who, God bless him, is getting a little long in tooth and really hasn’t had a really good film since The Manchurian Candidate in the late ’60s. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Freeman catching up with his dreams

The talented Morgan Freeman will star in Castle Rock Entertainment’s Dreamcatcher, an adaptation of the latest Stephen King novel. Ah, the one King novel I have yet to read (because I’ve read them all, being such a HUGE King fan). Freeman will play one of four former childhood pals who come together on a hunting trip and end up fighting off extraterrestrials and one evil Army colonel in the woods. While I’d rather cut off my left foot than bad-mouth my Stephen (or let Annie Wilkes from Misery do it for me), Dreamcatcher sort of sounds like a cross between It, which was a really terrifying book and Tommyknockers, which wasn’t one of King’s best. Thus, I have my reservations.

However, director Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill) had an interesting thing to say about doing the film, which he told Variety: “We start out with four friends who are burned out and unhappy, and who get together once a year to go hunting. The fact that it starts out like I>The Big Chill was an attraction, but it then gets taken over by a terrific Stephen King narrative.” Maybe I’ll see the movie.

Travolta, Jackson get down to “Basics”

Royale with cheese, please. Those two wacky guys–John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson–of Pulp Fiction fame are working together again. Lucky us! But their new film Basic sounds somewhat predictable and uneventful. Travolta will play a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who comes to an Army basic training camp to investigate the disappearance of an Army Ranger instructor played by Jackson. They’ve both kind of done similar movies already. Travolta did The General’s Daughter where he plays an undercover detective investigating the death of a promising cadet and daughter of the Army base commander. OK, got the Army thing going. And Jackson made Rules of Engagement, where he plays an Army leader accused of killing innocent people in a battle during the Gulf War. Right. Well, I guess they just like to put on Army fatigues.

Comic book Cage

Nicolas Cage has been eyeing comic book fodder for his next project for a while now. First, he thought about doing an updated Superman, but that was a long time ago and it fell through pretty quickly. Next he was looking at doing a film based on the Marvel Comic Ghost Rider. But now Cage has settled on the film Constantine, an adaptation of the DC-Vertigo comic Hellblazer for Warner Bros. Apparently, the character Constantine is described as a Dirty Harry type who dabbles in the occult and teams with a female investigator to fight evil forces. Oh sure, Cage could do this in his sleep, but, I tell ya, he needs to look at who has been representing him because he really hasn’t had any luck in movies in a long time. And Constantine doesn’t sound like one to put in the books either.

Hopkins goes black–again

In Anthony Hopkins newest film project, The Human Stain, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Philip Roth, Hopkins will be playing a “light-skinned black college professor who spends his life passing himself off as Jewish and then becomes a victim of political correctness when he refers to absentee students as ‘spooks’ and gets labeled as a racist.” At least, that’s the description in the Hollywood Reporter. Gosh, I hate it when that happens. Nicole Kidman is also on board, playing a troubled yet strong-willed woman with whom the professor falls in love. While the drama sounds interesting, in a slow, character-driven kind of way, Hopkins has a thing about playing a black person. He donned full makeup once to play Othello in a BBC production of the Shakespeare play in the ’80s. You go, Tony!