Rumors no more ... "The Mask of Zorro" star Antonio Banderas is definitely the odds-on finalist to don the disguise in a new film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" ... and, yes, Mike Myers will earn his first $20 million paycheck for Universal/Imagine's "Sprocket," based on the German movie critic and talk-show host character Dieter from the old "Saturday Night Live" sketches.
Both names had been attached to the projects, but their involvement is now close to a done deal. Reuters reports that "Phantom" director Shekhar Kapur is currently on the prowl to find a "stunning girl" to play opposite Banderas. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the "Sprockets" script by Myers and Michael McCullers begins shooting this summer.
No start date has been set for "Phantom," and a director has yet to be named for "Sprockets." Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce the latter, which is set for release in early 2001.
THE INCREDIBLE 'SHRINKING' EDDIE: "Dr. Doolittle." "The Nutty Professor." And now "The Incredible Shrinking Man." Eddie Murphy is quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to guy when it comes to remaking family-friendly fare. (And to think he shot to fame as a potty mouth in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop")
Universal/Imagine's liked his '90s makeover in "Life," "Bowfinger" and the upcoming sequel "Nutty 2: The Klumps." They'll hope to continue the streak with the new version of "Shrinking." Murphy's committed to the project, in which he'll play a guy who shrinks after being exposed to a weird mist.
The project's set to begin after the comedian finishes Castle Rock's "Pluto Nash," which starts shooting next month.
BLANCHETT 'LIVES' FOR ACTION-THRILLER: Maybe it just wasn't the right FBI agent role (or maybe it was the whole cannibal thing) ... whatever the reasons, actress Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to play a character that sounds awfully familiar. In director Tony Scott's "Taking Lives," set to start shooting this summer, she's a female FBI profiler tracking down a serial killer who assumes the identities of his victims.
That assignment comes after the Oscar nominee passed on picking up where Jodie Foster left off in the upcoming "Hannibal," the sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs."
Blanchett's not the only A-lister who expressed interest in the "Lives" script, written by Jon Bokenkamp and based on a book by Brit Michael Pye. Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is also a potential lead.