There isn’t a producer in Hollywood who doesn’t hate at least one film critic. But few of them have had the nerve to name a villain after one. Mark Johnson, currently producing the DreamWorks sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest (which stars Tim Allen), has called the movie’s evil alien ”Sarris.” As in the New York Observer‘s Andrew Sarris? ”You said it, not me,” says Johnson. ”It was either Sarris or Haskell” (writer Molly, Sarris’ wife). Although Johnson wouldn’t elaborate, the enmity may stem from Sarris’ pan of The Natural, which the critic called ”a pathetic strike-out.” For his part, Sarris doesn’t seem fazed. ”It probably won’t make enough money for me to sue for $10 million,” he deadpans. ”I’m 70 years old. This guy wants to insult me? Oh, boohoo. As long as they spelled my name right, I’m okay.”
Not even a movie about Richard Nixon can escape scandal. Presidential speechwriter-turned-game-show host Ben Stein claims the idea for Columbia’s Dick was stolen from him by first-timer Sheryl Longin. ”I was working on a treatment based on two Valley Girls working in the White House,” says Stein, for whom Longin did research during college. ”I would question whether [she] could say there’s no connection between her script and the one I was working on.” Longin, who shares a writing credit with Dick director Andrew Fleming, insists she is not a crook: ”Frankly, I don’t know what Ben is talking about.” Longin says that Dick is loosely based on a childhood incident, when she threw ice cubes at Nixon’s Secret Service men. ”I can’t imagine he’s seen the movie,” she says. ”I mean, it’s really anti-Nixon and he’s a staunch Republican.” For now, the courts won’t be involved. ”I have no plans to sue her at this point,” says Stein. ”It would have been a different story if she called to say she’s sorry. But sadly, this is just typical Hollywood behavior.”
Fox has been trying to find a good connection for its thriller Phone Booth — about a man inside the eponymous enclosure who’s in a sniper’s sights — ever since the script by Maniac Cop‘s Larry Cohen was reportedly bought for mid-six figures back in December. Although Michael Bay (Armageddon) says he was close to directing a rewrite by Brian Helgeland (Payback), and actors like Will Smith and Nicolas Cage had expressed interest, no deals were struck. ”They wouldn’t let me blow up the booth,” jokes Bay. Now Allen and Albert Hughes (Dead Presidents) have signed on, says Zucker-Netter Productions president Gil Netter, who’s looking for a writer to do ”a quick little polish” before he sends it off to the A-listers. ”We’re eyeing the usual suspects,” says Netter. ”I’m sure we’ll get one of them.”
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me‘s Jay Roach, whose Mystery, Alaska opens this fall, will next direct Meet the Parents, a comedy about a guy and his in-laws, which may star Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro…. Music video ace McG, 28, will make his feature directorial debut with Charlie’s Angels, starring Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz…. Soon to be seen in Blue Streak, Martin Lawrence will next star in the Fox comedy Big Momma’s House, playing an undercover cop who impersonates, among others, a Southern grandmother.