Well, the new nameplates are all in place over at Twentieth Century Fox, but still a question seems to linger: Who the hell is in charge around here? You recall, of course, that Joe Roth, chairman of Fox’s movie division, left for Disney last month, and that former Fox TV head Peter Chernin took his place. That’s clear, right? So why does it look like everyone from Fox owner Rupert Murdoch to Macaulay Culkin’s dad, Kit, is really calling the shots?
Murdoch’s fingerprints are said to be all over Fox’s eleventh-hour decision to drop Man of Honor, which was to have marked Steven Seagal’s directorial debut. The mob drama was canceled after its budget rose to $32 million from $20 million. Because Seagal reportedly shelled out about $1 million of his own money in preproduction costs, he’s threatening a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. ”Roth green-lighted the movie, and it was his departure that led to coitus interruptus,” says Seagal’s attorney, Buddy Monasch, who blames Murdoch’s professed tightfistedness for the decision. Not so, insists one Fox insider: ”The Man of Honor thing was something everyone was freaked out about. It was never a Murdoch issue.”
Meanwhile, score one for Kit Culkin. The Good Son, a new thriller starring Macaulay, 12, as a bad kid, is now filming in Gloucester, Mass., but only after Kit reportedly pressured Fox into hiring Mac’s sister Quinn, 8. And in its most surprising post-Roth move, Fox has also surrendered its rights to Madonna’s next movie, Angie, I Says, a comedy-drama about Italian-Americans in Queens. When newcomer Chernin passed on the project last week, after its producer rejected the studio’s request for a rewrite, the producer quickly called Roth, who’ll make it his first film under his new deal at Disney, with shooting scheduled to begin next March.
But little Foxies say the changing-of-the-guard confusion is over, Chernin is in charge, and everyone is feeling more comfortable. They should. Fox’s Home Alone 2 made $31 million in its first weekend. Numbers like that quell a lot of anxiety.