In the wake of Pedro Almodovar signing on to The Paperboy, several major directors are leaving their home countries to make their first English-language films. At the end of the year, Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes) will begin shooting The Others, the story of a young mother (who may be played by Nicole Kidman) whose home is inhabited by ghosts. Japanese auteur Takeshi ”Beat” Kitano (Fireworks) will direct Brother, about a yakuza gangster and his African-American hustler friend who become East L.A. drug lords. Partnering with Oscar-winning scripter Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs), China’s Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) will take on Rose, which follows an adventurer in Victorian England.
Warner Bros. may be hoping Osmosis Jones, the Will Smith animated adventure set inside the human body, will be its next big franchise, but what about the studio’s established ‘toon stars? Among the animated projects from big-name producers presently jockeying for a green light: Barry Levinson’s What’s Up, Bugs?, which has the wisecracking hare competing with an action star for a role in a Hollywood picture; Scott Rudin’s Coyote vs. Acme, in which the perpetually thwarted canine sues the company that makes all those dangerous products; and Mark Canton’s Taz, about the animated Tasmanian Devil’s visit to the real world. ”It’s a huge priority for us,” says Canton Co. exec John Goldstone. ”There’s a big push for [Taz] on behalf of many wings of the company.” Warner has also signed director Brad Bird (this summer’s Iron Giant) to an untitled animated adventure about how heroes are treated in contemporary society. The watchword, however, for all of these projects is caution. ”When you have a treasure trove of properties like we do, you have to be very careful that what you do will meet everyone’s expectations,” says Dan Romanelli, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products, which licenses such franchises as Looney Tunes, Batman, Superman, and Scooby-Doo. ”You want to do it right.”
Andrew Gurland may know a thing or two about cheating. His 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, Frat House (which he codirected with Todd Phillips), was yanked off HBO’s schedule after it was alleged that portions were staged. But the 27-year-old filmmaker isn’t shying away from the C-word. New Line Cinema just bought Cheaters, Gurland’s first ”fictional” script, for mid- to high six figures. Gurland will also direct the drama, about a high schooler who runs a cheating ring. Next, he’ll shoot a documentary called Mail Order Bride, which may again upset documentary purists. ”I’ll be extending the boundaries,” he says. ”I contend there is no such thing as a ‘true’ movie because filmmakers control that truth. There’s always something left on the cutting-room floor.”
(Additional reporting by Jeff Jensen)