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Sony will have to scramble to put ''Angels 2'' in flight

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Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, ...
Charlie's Angels: Darren Michaels

When ”Charlie’s Angels” beat the Beelzebub out of Adam Sandler’s ”Little Nicky,” bringing the second week gross of Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu’s T&A blockbuster to a heavenly $75 million, the triumph of seraphim over Satan seemed divine. And in true Hollywood tradition, the next question wasn’t ”How do I thank thee, Lord?” but rather ”How fast can we make a sequel?” For Sony, it’s not going to be a piece of angel food cake:

(1)GOOD MORNING, CHARLIE. WHERE’S MY MONEY? Reuniting the joined at the halo comrades could be very pricey. Barrymore — who earned more than $9 million for starring in and producing the film — and her Flower Films partner, Nancy Juvonen, will likely be looking for a raise to take on another angelic mission.

”If we could calmly put together a sequel, we would like to do it,” Juvonen says. However, Diaz, this franchise’s Farrah, could really cash in: Her fee might balloon from $12 million to $15 to $20 million. Liu — originally considered to play a villain, but promoted to Angel when Thandie Newton dropped out — earned $1 million plus for the first installment but may command a bigger paycheck to return. Factor in salaries to secure director McG and mercurial Bosley Bill Murray, and you’ve spent $40 million before a single crook is drop kicked.

Even if millions of pennies do rain from heaven, these Angels’ schedules are as tight as their leather pants, meaning a sequel might not happen until 2002. That’s grim news for Sony’s Columbia Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal, whose authority was recently diluted after a string of box office disappointments. A fast track Angels sequel could be a silver lining after a cloudy season. ”You bet there will be sequels,” says Pascal. ”I hope that they can be done with the same cast.” Paging Cheryl Ladd!

(2)WHAT ABOUT BILL? Judging from Murray’s evasive behavior throughout production, counting on him to hit ”redial” for Charlie may be risky. Barrymore tried to hunt Murray down for months to offer him the role, finally reaching him by sitting in the audience of last fall’s ”Saturday Night Live” 25th anniversary special. (At one point, a cryptically cocky Murray, who by then knew Drew wanted him, serenaded her with ”don’t go chasing waterfalls.” ”We spent days trying to figure out what it meant,” Juvonen says.)

After signing, Murray was just as elusive, with no one knowing when he would first arrive on the set: He finally showed up with no warning, announcing, ”I want to make changes.” Recalls Juvonen, ”We could not have been faster to sharpen pencils and do what he needed.” But the actor has since vanished again into his gopher hole without indicating whether he’d return for more Angel antics. Though he left a polite message on Barrymore’s answering machine before the film opened, he skipped premieres on both coasts. ”We never talked to Bill about the sequel,” Juvonen says. ”It would have been less than humble to make an assumption on the sequel given what we were going through during shooting.”

(3)TALK ISN’T CHEAP. At a cost of at least $92 million, the original ”Angels” went over budget, which producers blamed on the unfinished script. Since the actresses were pressed for time, everyone took ”a calculated risk” to greenlight first, type later, says original series producer Leonard Goldberg. ”Once you start shooting, it’s like a train, and we had to try to keep laying enough track so it didn’t derail.” By production’s end, 17 writers had cobbled the story together, including a group of comedy scribes from ”Seinfeld.”

For the sequel, Pascal says Sony is now hiring only one writer. According to sources, the assignment will likely go to ”Go” scribe John August, who shared writing credit for the movie. (August didn’t return calls for comment.)

Despite these challenges, Juvonen says, ”The sequel couldn’t possibly be harder than the first one.” Former commercial director McG sounds ready for another tour of duty. ”I’d drop everything to work with Cameron, Lucy, and Drew again,” he says. ”I’m sure Drew will cook up some sort of getaway where the team gets together to discuss it — like a walk through the Amazon jungle.” Who knows? Maybe they’ll find Bill Murray.

(Additional reporting by Josh Wolk)

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