Role Call: Eminem and Murphy rock “Detroit”

Everyone is hot on the trail for the new miss thang in Hollywood–Brittany Murphy (Girl, Interrupted). She’s got ’em all talking about Oscars and what not, especially in her new movie, Don’t Say a Word, with Michael Douglas, in which she once again plays a trouble lass stuck in a mental institution. She’s also costarring with Drew Barrymore in Penny Marshall‘s Riding in Cars with Boys, due in Oct. And now she’s signed up to join Mekhi Phifer (O) in The Untitled Detroit Project directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and also starring rapper Eminem, in his first feature film.

This is what I read in the Hollywood Reporter about the film: “An honest and provocative fictional examination of a critical month in the life of a young man named Jimmy (Eminem) as he searches for identity and a sense of purpose. Against the familiar backdrop of indifference and community decay, he learns to express his anger, fears and frustration as he struggles to transcend his bleak circumstances.” In other words, Eminem plays a street punk who tries to break out. Why can’t they just say that? Geez, they’re trying to make it sound like an Ivory/Merchant film. Murphy is going to play Eminem’s girlfriend. Lucky girl.

Vin Diesel: Part I

The buff star of The Fast and the Furious is banking some serious bucks lately. He’s going to do the sequel to his claim-to-fame film Pitch Black for a reported $11 million. Not bad. The sequel is called The Chronicles of Riddick, in which Diesel will reprise his role as Riddick, a brooding convict who was being transported as part of a space mission that got shipwrecked on a mysterious planet. You remember, where the big bad bug-things came out at night and ate most of the cast? Sure. But Diesel‘s big payday didn’t come easy. Apparently the studio brass had a difficult time shelling out the dough to get Diesel, but hey, he keeps making movies that do well at the box office. So, he’s got the clout.

Vin Diesel: Part II

And that’s not all Diesel is doing. He’s also got a new film starting production in November called XXX. I don’t believe there’s any porno in it, but I could be wrong. Samuel L. Jackson is in negotiations to join the film as a government agent who recruits and trains Diesel’s character for an undercover operation designed to infiltrate a Russian crime ring. Apparently, Diesel is playing one tough mother in XXX, a cross between James Bond and Limp Bizkit’s lead singer Fred Durst, and will be performing some death defying stunts. And his asking price is only $10 million for this one. OK. Whatever.

Travolta and Jackson’s “Basic” instinct

Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson…Pulp Fiction fans have a new reason to rejoice: John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson–who both starred in Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 hit–are pairing up again for Phoenix Pictures’ new military thriller Basic, set to begin production in November. Hold on-didn’t I just say XXX was shooting in November? How is Jackson going to manage that one? Oh, who knows. He’s Samuel L. Jackson; he can do anything he wants. In Basic, he and Travolta will play the leads in a drama centering on a Drug Enforcement Agency officer’s investigation of the mysterious disappearance of a famed U.S. Army drill instructor and a group of cadets. John McTiernan (The Thomas Crown Affair) will direct Basic based on the screenplay by newcomer James Vanderbilt.

A date with Cool J

LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea) and Gabrielle Union (Two Can Play That Game) are going to star in the USA Film’s Deliver Us From Eva about three guys who pay a smooth ladies’ man (LL Cool J) $5,000 to go out with their meddling sister-in-law, Eva (Union). However, after a disastrous first date, the unlikely pair begins to fall for each other, while the three men are left without much help. Sorry, LL and Gabrielle, you two are interesting up-and-coming actors, but this script sounds pretty lame.

On Broadway

Just a couple of quick tidbits about movie actors going back to the thee-a-tar: First, Jason Biggs, that lovable goof ball from the American Pie series is going to be recreating the immortal Benjamin Braddock in the Broadway stage production of The Graduate. Of course, Ben was brought to life so vividly by Dustin Hoffman in the classic 1967 Mike Nichols‘ film, so Biggs has some big shoes to fill. Kathleen Turner is taking on the Anne Bancroft role of Mrs. Robinson and Alicia Silverstone will play daughter Elaine Robinson, played by Katharine Ross in the film. This casting choice makes me cringe a little.

And second, the lovely and talented Vanessa Williams (who would have thought a Miss America would turn out so well) will be reviving the role of the witch in an updated stage production of the James Lapine/Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods. The part was originally played by Bernadette Peters in 1987, who simply wowed them as the main foil to the travails of some fairy tale bigshots. But no matter, I’m sure Williams will give it her all.