General News

UNSPOOLED: Lucas Strikes Back

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Jar Jar Binks bending to the P.C. police? Don't hold your breath. As casting for the second installment of the new "Star Wars" trilogy continues, Lucasfilm is refuting reports that had George Lucas is seeking a more culturally diverse cast in response to accusations of racist stereotyping in "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace".

The original Daily Variety article, published last Wednesday, said the new, politically correct roles would include "a Native American character, said to have a forceful, spiritual nature; an Indian or Hispanic character; and an Asian character, possibly trained in martial arts."

But in a post on the official 'Star Wars' (www.starwars.com) Web site, Lynne Hale, Lucasfilm's director of communications, labels the Variety report "completely false," saying that no character descriptions have been decided on since Lucas is still working on the script.

"The descriptions reported would never be appropriate for a 'Star Wars' film," Hale writes in the message. "'Star Wars' movies have always been populated with a rich cast of characters that make up this fantasy world."

Currently the only role casting directing Robin Gurland is holding auditions for is that of Anakin Skywalker.

Names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and James Van Der Beek have been tossed around -- rather jokingly -- as possible candidates for the future Darth Vader, as have lesser-known names like Jonathan Jackson. But despite the "inside" claims that one blondish actor or another has the edge, Lucas' camp is saying it's all baloney.

"Robin [Gurland] has seen 700 tapes and submissions and met with 300 candidates," says Hale on the site. "She does not have a short list yet and is still exploring many possibilities. I know there have been many reports of actors saying that they have met with George Lucas and have done readings for him, or are the number one choice for Anakin. These are false rumors (but fun to read!)."

Recently rumored to be leading the race is 26-year-old Paul Walker, a little old to be romancing Natalie Portman, we think, especially since her Queen Amidala character looked considerably older than Jake Lloyd's Anakin in "Episode I." But Walker's a veteran of teen films "She's All That" and "Varsity Blues," and according to a source close to his family, he interviewed with Lucas and is the No. 1 choice for the part so far.

"Paul has another movie role in the works that might damper scheduling for 'Episode II,' but Lucas assured him that they could work something out," the source said.

Another name added to the pot is Eric Christian Olsen, of Fox's "Get Real". The college-age Olsen reportedly came to Lucas' attention when he guest-starred on NBC's "ER" as a severely burned patient. Olsen confirmed to IGN Movies that he was "stoked" at meeting Lucas at Skywalker Ranch to discuss the part.

"We'll see what's up, man. I'm stoked. Even no matter what, man, I still get to meet [George Lucas]," Olsen gushed to IGN.

Judging from his vernacular, dude, we've got, like, a bad feeling about this.

LEO'S 'PLUM' DEAL: It's the picture Leonardo DiCaprio would rather forget, but "Don's Plum," an underground movie shot in 1996 starring DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, has been bought by Danish director Lars Von Trier's production company. Von Trier's Zentropa has bought the international sales rights to the film, meaning it'll be released everywhere but North America.

'DUETS' LOSES BACKUP: Gwyneth Paltrow's karaoke film "Duets" is being shopped around to other studios after Disney decided to remove it from its release schedule, the Hollywood Reporter says. The film, directed by Gwyneth's father Bruce Paltrow, was in the can and scheduled to open May 5. But Disney is reportedly removing "Duets," which follows characters across the country to a karaoke competition in Nebraska, due to its "violent content." Which leaves us wondering what on earth could be violent about a movie in which people sing off-key tunes to a Muzak-style accompaniment. Death by microphone-cord strangulation? Barroom brawls over another rendition of "Hey Jude"?

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