With feathery angel appendages cropping up in a number of recent movies, Hollywood is literally winging it. Posters for the comedy Dear God pose Greg Kinnear in front of a pair, Claire Danes wears a set of opaque white ones in Romeo & Juliet, and early ads for next month’s cherubic movie Michael show John Travolta coyly hiding his with an overcoat. But at least one movie with a celestial theme plans to buck the flighty trend. Even though Denzel Washington plays a heavenly messenger in Disney’s The Preacher’s Wife (Dec. 13), ”there’s not a wing to be found,” says a spokeswoman for the studio; instead, Washington’s wardrobe will be all gray, right down to his Hush Puppies. Not to worry: Wings apparently don’t guarantee box office blessings. In the films’ first three weeks, Romeo & Juliet has earned $31.4 million, while Dear God has made only $6.5 million. Guess it takes a wing and a prayer.
— Casey Davidson
You would expect a film about a down-on-his-luck sports agent to score with the testosterone set. But when Tom Cruise’s Jerry Maguire debuts Dec. 13, TriStar wants to be sure it plays as a date movie as well (the film’s romance teams Cruise with newcomer Renée Zellweger). During a recent test screening in Santa Ana, Calif., single women and women with girlfriends were turned away at the door. That’s right: no date, no seat. Though a studio spokesperson declines to comment on the screening, one private marketing consultant who has jockeyed many such test audiences says: ”They definitely do stuff like that. You’re trying to fill the audience with the kind of energy you’re trying to play to.” Meanwhile, Maguire costar Bonnie Hunt thinks that drawing the ESPN crowd and their dates won’t be such an impossible mission. ”For guys, there’s the sports thing,” says Hunt. ”And for women there’s … Tom Cruise.”
— Tricia Laine
E.T. did it for Reese’s Pieces. But can The Mirror Has Two Faces do the same for Sno Balls? The coconut-and-marshmallow-covered cakes (in pink or white) are ”American icons,” says Mark Dirkes, a spokesman for Sno Ball maker Hostess, which hopes their cameo in Barbra Streisand’s film will bring back childhood memories for moviegoers. But Mirror screenwriter Richard LaGravenese says the pink domes were basically chosen for aesthetics. ”I think Barbra thought [they] would look good in the shot with her in a blue face mask,” says LaGravenese. ”I don’t eat them, I don’t like them, but they’re visually interesting.” Unfortunately, the balls struck out at Mirror‘s New York City premiere. Served alongside cheesecakes and chocolate mousses, the gooey heap remained untouched at evening’s end. ”I haven’t seen one person take one,” said one waiter. ”But they are pretty.”
— Jessica Shaw
NO AVERAGE JOE
First, Hollywood went gaga for Jane Austen. Then movie producers couldn’t get enough of Henry James. Now comes the next Lit 101 staple to take over the big screen: Joseph Conrad. In addition to the recently released The Secret Agent, with Bob Hoskins and Patricia Arquette, at least three other Conrad adaptations are in the works. Miramax has acquired Victory, with Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, To Wong Foo‘s Beeban Kidron is currently directing Amy Foster for Sony, and the BBC has produced a miniseries based on Nostromo, starring Albert Finney. Though Conrad, who died in 1924, had fleeting fame when Francis Ford Coppola turned his Heart of Darkness into Apocalypse Now, Agent scriptwriter-director Christopher Hampton believes the author’s time has come. ”His stories lend themselves very well to dramatic treatment,” says Hampton, who describes The Secret Agent — about an Englishman posing as an anarchist who is forced to bomb a public place — as ”a remarkably prophetic book. When you look around today and see the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber, it’s clear that Conrad was looking forward to the new century and what dangers it held.”