Steven Spielberg reportedly has won the race to bring Harry Potter to the big screen.
The Times of London says Spielberg will direct and produce "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," based on the hit children's book series about a schoolboy wizard.
Warner Bros., which owns the Harry Potter screen rights, dictated that Spielberg must make the film his next movie. Spielberg, whose docket also includes an adaptation of the best seller "Memoirs of a Geisha," had two possibles in the works: "A.I." and "Minority Report," both produced by his own studio, DreamWorks. "A.I" (the acronym for artificial intelligence) is based on a story outline by late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. "Minority Report" is a possible project for megastar Tom Cruise.
As for "Harry Potter," the Times says the search is now on for a British child to play the title role, although Spielberg reportedly might be considering a computer-animated version of the story.
THORNTON "SHIPPING" OUT: "The Shipping News" for Billy Bob Thornton isn't good.
The actor-filmmaker has dropped out of the Columbia Pictures film and might opt instead for Universal/Miramax's "Cinderella Man." He will most likely direct the latter film -- probably with Ben Affleck as the lead.
Daily Variety reports that Bon Jovi will co-star alongside acting heavyweights Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and "The Sixth Sense's" Haley Joel Osment. The pic, about a young boy's attempt at world peace via random acts of kindness, is being directed by "Deep Impact's" Mimi Leder and co-financed and distributed by Warner Bros.
IN KEY: Hollywood director-in-exile Roman Polanski hopes to return to his Polish homeland after acquiring the rights to "The Piano," an autobiographical book about a musician's survival in Poland during World War II. Polanski told Daily Variety that he plans to start shooting the $20 million feature in December. The story, detailing Wladyslaw Szpilman's experiences in Warsaw from 1939 through 1945, is said to be reminiscent of Polanski's own turbulent coming-of-age in war-ravaged Krakow.
GANDHI MEETS THE POPE: If he's good enough to play Gandhi, why not Pope John Paul II?
"Gandhi" director (and fellow Oscar winner) Richard Attenborough is being considered for a role, as well. Reuters reports that talks are under way with both actors about the project, which is in the planning stage and has not yet received official approval from the Vatican.