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Reel World

This week in Hollywood

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JONESING FOR JONES Warner Bros. and actor Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights) are in negotiations to remake Cleopatra Jones, the latest in a string of proposed big-studio blaxploitation updates. Cheadle, who was approached to write the script and hopes to direct, says the only similarity between the original and his version will be that the heroine is a black secret agent. (Cheadle envisions Vivica A. Fox or Jada Pinkett for the lead, originally played by Tamara Dobson in the 1973 actioner and its 1975 sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold.) ”We’re going to revamp it and put it in new clothes,” says Cheadle, who also insists that he’s going to play it straight. ”The original may be seen as campy now, but I don’t think [the filmmakers] meant it to be. But who knows? In 30 years, they may think mine is campy, too.”

MARLON’S CATCH A virtually unknown Canadian can have an edge over high-profile Hollywood directors, at least with Free Money, a $30 million comedy starring Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, Mira Sorvino, and Charlie Sheen and now shooting in Montreal. Under the terms of their financing agreement, writers Tony Peck and Joseph Brutsman say that the producers had to hire a certain amount of Canuck talent. But with the Americans already cast, the only major vacancy was in the director’s chair. Peck says that even though the actors weren’t very familiar with Yves Simoneau (whose last big gig was the 1994 thriller Mother’s Boys), ”everyone wants to tell their kids they worked with Brando.” Peck slipped the actor the script with the help of Brutsman’s girlfriend, a former Brando aide. Apparently, Brando was inspired by the title: ”He’s being paid his usual chunk of change,” says Peck. ”What is it — a million a week?”