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What's the holdup on postponed movies?

What’s the holdup on postponed movies?–We track stalled projects like ”Memoirs of a Geisha,” ”Chicago,” and Macaulay Culkin’s career

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Hollywood has a serious case of attention deficit disorder. One minute everyone’s talking about plans for a juicy project with this or that huge star and heavyweight director attached. Next thing you know, it’s disappeared into the L.A. smog. Here, we catch up with notable no-shows.


Project
The big-screen adaptation of the best-selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha.

Status
Soon after Arthur Golden’s book hit shelves in 1997, producer Doug Wick (Girl, Interrupted) snatched up movie rights for a reported $1.25 million. A few months later, Steven Spielberg announced his intention to helm the Japanese epic. But in March, the director said his next project would be the sci-fi thriller A.I., followed by Minority Report starring Tom Cruise. So what’ll happen to Geisha with Spielberg tied up until 2002? ”Several high-profile directors have been circling this movie,” says a source, who declines to name them. ”And we just hired a very fancy writer, so we’re moving ahead fast.” The fancy writer is Akiva Goldsman (Practical Magic), who’s rewriting a draft by Ron Bass (My Best Friend’s Wedding). Other promising signs: The cast is chosen (Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung will star), and location scouting in Japan has begun.

Prognosis
The sun is rising.


Project
Mel Gibson’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s 1953 sci-fi novel, which became a Francois Truffaut-directed film in 1966.

Status
Once hot on this project, Gibson seems to have cooled considerably. Back in 1996, the $25 million man planned to star in the tale of a book-burning dystopia. In 1998, after his Braveheart directing triumph, Gibson wanted to helm but not star. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were both approached to take the lead role — and both passed. ”Right now, it’s on hold,” says Gibson’s publicist. But a source says Gibson’s production company — which has been busy with ABC’s The Three Stooges TV movie — will soon put Fahrenheit on the front burner, only this time, ”I think Mel will probably be a producer, but won’t direct or star.”

Prognosis
More like Fahrenheit 32.


Project
NBC’s Onion show, based on the cult satirical newspaper.

Status
Last year, highbrow humor fans wept for joy when NBC announced an Onion special and possible series. Then the project started vegetating. The snag, says the paper’s founding member Scott Dikkers, was that key Onion-friendly execs departed NBC. Other endeavors — including a possible film deal — have been discussed, but Dikkers says the paper is in no rush to be exploited, National Lampoon-style. ”We don’t want the brand to be raped repeatedly until it doesn’t mean anything,” he says. Instead, look for projects that will play down the paper’s participation. ”It might be like the devil — he does little things, but his name isn’t on them all,” Dikkers muses.

Prognosis
Sounds like something funny’s going on.


Project
The career of former child star Macaulay Culkin.

Status
The cheek-slapping cherub — who hasn’t appeared on screen since 1994’s Richie Rich — has been threatening a comeback for years. One report linked Culkin, now 19, to an upcoming biopic of murderous Manhattan club kid Michael Alig; another had him playing a drug addict in a black comedy called Body Piercer; yet another said he’d enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design. ”Those were all rumors,” dismisses his spokesman. ”He’s just reading scripts…. He’s been offered 30 scripts, but he’s going to take his time. When he goes back in front of the camera he wants to do something he’s passionate about.”

Prognosis
By the time he decides, he’ll be ready for Nursing Home Alone.


Project
The Chicago movie, Miramax’s adaptation of Bob Fosse’s jazzy 1975 musical.

Status
This one’s been high-kicking around Hollywood over 12 years, with names like Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Charlize Theron, Rosie O’Donnell, and Nicole Kidman mentioned to star. But last year, a key player, producer Laurence Mark (Jerry Maguire) dropped out; he had complained Chicago‘s story was too sprawling and messy to streamline into a script. Says Mark: ”I wish Miramax the best in making this movie.” Miramax says it still wants to go to town with Chicago, but admits there’s no star or director attached. The only good news (or not so good, considering The Next Best Thing‘s grosses) is that Madonna’s publicist says she’s still interested.

Prognosis
As likely as a White Sox World Series championship.


Project
The eyebrow-raising $16 million TV deal landed by former SNL-er Brad Hall.

Status
On the heels of his critically dismissed but decently rated NBC sitcom Single Guy, creator Hall snagged one of TV’s heftiest paychecks in 1997 from Big Ticket Television (the company behind Moesha). Hall — who’s married to Seinfeld‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus — did produce a 1999 sitcom pilot for CBS starring Sara Gilbert (Roseanne). But in the end, the network didn’t pick it up. So last year he walked away from the pact, returning less than $6 million to Big Ticket and firing his agent: ”He blamed me that I put too much pressure on him for making such a large deal,” says Endeavor’s Marty Adelstein. Hall, who says he doesn’t blame Adelstein, ”walked away from the deal because I wanted to do movies” and edgier fare.

Prognosis
As bleak as Elaine’s love life.

(Additional reporting by Caryn Ganz, Brian M. Raftery, and Lynette Rice)