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City of Angels

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”What does a woman want?” Freud wondered. Judging from Hollywood’s development slate, a general proficiency in firearms. Girl-gunpower projects are the properties du jour, and the hottest of the bunch is Sony’s Charlie’s Angels, a big-screen remake of the classic ’70s show. In addition, there are a slew of other pistol-packin’-mama films in the works around town. ”Girl action films like Barb Wire used to be real B movies,” says producer J.C. Spink, who’s developing New Line’s Danger Girl. ”But lately they’re becoming A movies with A-list stars. These aren’t damsels in distress. These women are kicking ass and taking names.”

Clearly, Hollywood has been touched by the Angels. Sony has tentatively scheduled the Charlie-and-company flick for next summer and is already viewing it as a potential franchise starter. Drew Barrymore will coproduce (with her Flower Films’ partner Nancy Juvonen and original-series producer Leonard Goldberg) in ad- dition to starring with Cameron Diaz. (According to a source close to the picture, Diaz will receive roughly $12 million for the role, while Barrymore will get about $9 million.) The third Angel has yet to be cast: Lauryn Hill was a top choice, but apparently she’s leaning toward a pass. Now sources say two of the final contenders are Thandie Newton (Beloved) and newcomer Penelope Cruz (who stars opposite Matt Damon in Sony’s upcoming All the Pretty Horses). Meanwhile, Bill Murray has been offered the role of Bosley but has yet to commit. As for Charlie himself, despite rumors that Marlon Brando was interested, the man behind the original disembodied voice, John Forsythe, is close to reprising the role. ”My agent is talking to [Sony],” says Forsythe. ”I did a special with Drew when she was 10, and I said, ‘We’ve got to act together when you grow up.”’

As for the plot … well, the situation here is murkier than Charlie’s identity. Although Sony has lined up hotshot music-video auteur McG to direct, the film still lacks a finished script. Screenwriters Ed Solomon (Men in Black) and Ryan Rowe wrote the original, a straightforward action-adventure story about three female spies who, says Solomon, ”are incredibly intelligent, speak dozens of languages, and know every type of martial art. We weren’t trying to write a jiggle movie.” But insiders say that Sony, though happy with the general direction of the story, wanted a snazzier ending and ordered up a series of polishes. Screenwriter John August (Go) has taken a shot, but the studio is now looking for someone else to hit the keyboard.

Sony needs to get a script in shooting order, since Angels will soon be fending off competition from other sisters-in-arms. Besides Danger Girl (based on a popular comic book about four sexy adventurers), New Line is also developing Sugar and Spice (about a group of cheerleaders-turned-bank robbers). Paramount is getting started on Tomb Raider, a big-screen version of the smash videogame featuring action babe Lara Croft (Elizabeth Hurley has been mentioned to star). And though her reps won’t acknowledge that she’s attached to the project, insiders say Sandra Bullock has been talking to producer Joel Silver about a feature version of Wonder Woman.

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