Rebecca Ascher-Walsh and William Keck
March 15, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

— GOLDEN HANDCUFFS When screenwriter-director Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City) decided to cast a pair of unknowns to star in Night at the Golden Eagle, a film about an evening in an L.A. crack den, he knew his dreams of studio support would go up in smoke. Rifkin had been searching for the leads — to play two 65-year-olds — for years, but when he met best friends Vinny Argiro, an ex-businessman, and Donnie Montemarano, who had recently served 11 years for racketeering, he immediately hired them. Despite the supporting talent of Natasha Lyonne, Vinnie Jones, and James Caan, studios wouldn’t bite at the dark drama, so Rifkin and his partner, producer Steve Bing, ponied up the $1 million budget themselves. Still, as Rifkin points out, there are big names behind the film (which opens April 26). ”I used the money I made writing Mouse Hunt and Small Soldiers,” while Bing kicked in his writing fee from the upcoming Down and Under. ”We have Geffen and Spielberg…and Bruckheimer to thank,” adds the director, who is currently writing the children’s movie Where’s Waldo? ”Those guys financed the movie.”

— DRESS FOR SUCCESS Speaking of mature neophytes, Dustin Hoffman is cowriting the screen adaptation of Scott Turow’s 1999 thriller Personal Injuries, with the intent to both star in the film and make his directorial debut. ”I play a womanizing, corrupt lawyer who falls in love with a lesbian,” says Hoffman. One role he won’t be taking on is the female lead, despite his familiarity with cross-dressing, thanks to Tootsie. Jokes the actor, ”I’d never fit in that dress.”

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