In Hollywood, the only thing bigger than Show Business is the No-Show Business. Think of all the high-profile, A-list projects that Tinseltown announces proudly and loudly — only to have them languish for years, lost in the entertainment equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. We take an inventory of Hollywood’s unchecked To Do list.
PROJECT The remake of ’50s game show What’s My Line? — which was to have been Miramax’s first foray into TV
Hoping to entice Miramax regulars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon to slum it on the small screen, the indie studio announced in 1996 it would help relaunch the classic Q&A show. (For those of you born after the poodle-skirt era, the series featured a panel of celebrities trying to guess the occupation of a mystery guest.) CBS committed to six episodes for its fall 1999 schedule, but according to Miramax TV president Billy Campbell, the deal crumbled because the network decided the show was too costly and ambitious. (CBS has no comment.) Miramax has since scaled back — it plans to tape the show instead of airing it live from New York — and is now shopping a new version to networks and syndicators. The pilot’s celeb guests include … Al Franken and Betty White. Yes, they know Betty White didn’t win an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, but Miramax still swears Paltrow and her ilk might cooperate down the road.
PROGNOSIS Could be big — if they added Regis and a few lifelines.
PROJECT The Janis Joplin biopics
The drug-addled singer’s life was so ripe with Behind the Music turmoil, no fewer than three companies have been trying for years to bring her story to the big screen. Redeemable Features’ (Kiss Me, Guido) $15-20 million version — which has Lili Taylor on board — is stalled for lack of funding. Lakeshore Entertainment’s (The Next Best Thing) $30-40 million effort — which once had Melissa Etheridge attached, and now may star Brittany Murphy (Clueless) — is suspended as producers search for a director. But a $5 million indie looks to beat them both to the punch. ”It’s the battle of the giants — and they can keep doing that,” says producer Joel L. Freedman (Brainstorm), whose version will star relative unknown Laura Theodore.
PROGNOSIS With the indie a go, the biggies will have to try more than just a little bit harder.
PROJECT The next Fletch flick
Since the Vacation franchise has been milked within an inch of its life (what’s left? Arbor Day Vacation?), it’s high time Hollywood tapped that other pratfall-filled Chevy Chase ’80s standby, Fletch. In 1998, Universal hired director Kevin Smith to pen a fresh Fletch, but the deal expired while Smith was pulling Dogma duty. There’s hope yet, though. In June, Smith struck a new deal — this time with Miramax — to adapt author Gregory McDonald’s 1985 prequel novel Fletch Won, which traces the early career of the slapstick investigative journalist. Who’d play fledgling Fletch? ”We got a call from Matthew Perry’s people and John Cusack’s people,” says Smith, who prefers either Ben Affleck or Jason Lee. ”Even Chris Rock’s manager called; anything’s possible.” Smith can’t work on Fletch until he finishes a yet-to-be-titled Jersey-set film, meaning a 2001 release at best. As for Chase, he might make a cameo.
PROGNOSIS You don’t have to be Dr. Rosenrosen to know this one’s looking healthy.
PROJECT Gretchen Mol’s career
The year was 1998. Monicagate was just getting under way. Seinfeld was signing off the air. And a fair-skinned starlet named Gretchen Mol was the Next Big Thing, gracing the cover of Vanity Fair on the eve of her breakthrough role in Rounders. Cut to 2000: Gretchen? You mean that girl from Survivor? After Rounders made barely a ripple, Mol played forgettable roles in The Thirteenth Floor and Cradle Will Rock. What went wrong? It was, says one casting director, ”a case of overexposure before anybody knew what was being exposed.” Mol’s publicist, Leslie Sloane-Zelnik, says, ”Hollywood is fickle. They want the next girl,” though she adds that ”Gretchen’s made more than a dozen movies; she’s never stopped working.” Mol next appears in the Jason Alexander-directed Just Looking (due out in October); currently, she’s in Ireland filming the TV version of A&E’s Magnificent Ambersons.
PROGNOSIS From Fair to middling.
— Additional reporting by Corey Takahashi