— EASY DOES IT Last year’s Project Greenlight competition, conducted by HBO, Miramax, and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s production company LivePlanet, named writer-director Pete Jones’ Stolen Summer the winner of its first $1 million prize. (HBO’s documentary series tracking Summer’s production has just snagged an Emmy nomination.) But urban legend has it that the real first choice was Brendan Murphy, who declined the honor, telling the judges he didn’t want his directorial bow tracked by cameras. ”I did say that I didn’t think it behooves anybody [to be filmed making their debut] but I wouldn’t say I necessarily won,” says Murphy. (For the record: A LivePlanet spokesman says Jones won.) Still, the 25-year-old was offered an unofficial runner-up’s prize: $1 million to direct his recently wrapped character piece Speakeasy, starring David Straithairn, Boston Public’s Nicky Katt, and In the Company of Men’s Stacy Edwards. (Summer, which rushed into production in 2001, grossed a paltry $120,000.) ”It’s like the biggest little movie in the world,” says Murphy. ”It’s a $1 million movie with [so many] resources behind it.” While Miramax is not obliged to distribute the film, Murphy is hopeful. ”It’s lovely to be able to do your job,” he adds, ”and not have all eyes on you.” The second Project Greenlight winner will be announced in August.
— FURTHERMORE Steven Soderbergh, who will direct a biopic on Che Guevera starring Benicio Del Toro, says that a visit with the late revolutionary’s wife in Cuba yielded the ultimate stamp of approval: ”She came up to me and said, ‘[Del Toro’s] the guy.”’ Who’s the guy to play Castro? ”Oh, Will Smith or Brad Pitt,” Soderbergh says, adding, ”I’m kidding!” Well, it’s a revolutionary idea.