What's going on with those projects that got press, and then simply faded

By A.J. Jacobs
Updated February 02, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

As Apollo 13‘s Jim Lovell might say, ”Hollywood, we have a problem.” When we first heard about the projects below, they were rocketing toward a high-profile release. Now they’re lost in space. Entertainment Weekly scans the skies for signs of life.

Project: Roseanne‘s Stateside version of the politically incorrect Brit hit Absolutely Fabulous, starring Carrie Fisher and former Bond villain Barbara Carrera. Status: According to an ABC spokeswoman, the network rejected the show’s original sex-and-drugs-packed script and that now ”Roseanne has given up her plan to bring the racy Absolutely Fabulous to ABC.” Currently, HBO is talking with Roseanne about picking up the show. ”It’s definitely not dead,” says Roseanne’s publicist, Marleah Leslie. ”It’s just in the early development stages. She’s got a lot of other projects [including a comedy/variety show on Fox], so it’s on hold.” Prognosis: Put the champagne back on ice.

Project: Guns N’ Roses’ next CD. Status: In the three years since their last album, 1992’s ”The Spaghetti Incident?” Axl Rose & Co. seemingly lost their illusion. Rose was busy jamming with ex-wife Erin Everly’s lawyers in a messy annulment, while also getting over a bitter breakup with ex-fiancee and Victoria’s Secret model Stephanie Seymour. Meanwhile, Slash released It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere last year, a critically and commercially weak solo effort. But with such worries behind them, Guns’ publicist, Bryn Bridenthal, promises a new album will hit shelves by the end of ’96, adding that the band members are currently working on new songs and occasionally playing together. ”People are saying that music’s changed since their last album,” says Bridenthal. ”But they’ll do whatever they want.” Prognosis: ”In their world, they’re right on schedule,” says Bridenthal.

Project: A live-action Speed Racer starring Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage, and directed by Gus Van Sant (To Die For). Status: Exec producers Richard Donner and Joel Silver‘s adaptation, reportedly budgeted at $35 million, is mired in development at Warner Bros. (Both Donner and Silver declined to comment.) Depp and Cage were initially attracted to the project’s kitsch cachet last year, but without a script, they proved gun-shy about signing on. Problem is, there’s still no script, and even though Van Sant says he would still consider the project, both Depp and Cage seem to have moved on. Prognosis: Go, Speed Racer? No.

Project: Dolly Parton‘s sitcom. Status: An early incarnation called Heavens to Betsy didn’t turn out so divinely. Planned for CBS and coproduced by Disney, the show was shelved last year after delays and even a reported fistfight between two producers. Parton then switched to Paramount Television with new producer Mort Nathan. ”I think nobody was happy with [Heavens],” says Nathan. ”Creatively, Dolly wasn’t happy. The Disney people weren’t happy.” But now even Nathan’s sitcom, tentatively called Dolly (with the singer playing the owner of a Beverly Hills hair salon), has fallen off the roster at CBS. Prognosis: There she goes again.

Project: Veda Land, a nearly $1 billion New Age theme park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, headed by longhaired magician Doug Henning and former Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Status: In 1987, this metaphysical pair announced plans for a spiritual wonderland that would include a levitating building, a 120-seat Magic Flying Carpet, and a restaurant with robotic waiters. But according to Niagara Falls mayor Wayne Thomson, Henning and the yogi were unable to conjure up the cash. “We’re a little disillusioned,” says Thomson, who adds that Veda Land’s 700 acres remain empty. “They’ve been scurrying all over trying to get major investors. Prognosis: Maybe in their next lives.

Project: Director Stanley Kubrick‘s return to moviemaking. Status: Kubrick is supposed to start shooting the Tom CruiseNicole Kidman erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut this summer. But the mercurial auteur’s last flick, Full Metal Jacket, was nine years ago, and since then he’s been nearly impossible to pin down on any one project — both his World War II drama Aryan Papers and the sci-fi epic AI (“artificial intelligence”) have been languishing in development. However, Warner Bros. promises AI, which was scheduled to begin shooting in 1994, is in the final stages of set design and effects development and is on deck after Eyes. Prognosis: ETA on Kubrick’s return—how about 2001?

Project: BookNet, a 24-hour cable channel devoted to author interviews, book sales, and all things literary. Status: Conceived in 1993 by Ragtime author E.L. Doctorow, this Nickelodeon for novelists has yet to uplift the airwaves. Among other things, the folks at BookNet blame the lack of space on the cable dial for the delay. But now, with Congress possibly auctioning off a bunch of new bandwidths, BookNet plans to launch in October ’96. “We’re on the fast track now,” says BookNet president Burt Pines. Prognosis: Bound to happen.

Project: Whitney Houston‘s Cinderella, an adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein made-for-TV musical. Status: This CBS venture, which Houston’s publicist says she wants to do as a present for her 2-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, is supposedly slated to begin filming by the end of ’96. Movie-of-the-week scribe Robert Freedman (In the Best of Families) has finished the modernized script. “Cinderella will not be a victim as she was in the old tale,” says producer Neil Meron. “She won’t be admired by the prince just because she’s good-looking. She’s evolved.” Meron says Cinderella will have to wait until “Whitney’s schedule is free—probably after she shoots The Preacher’s Wife.” (Director Penny Marshall‘s remake of the 1947 angel drama The Bishop’s Wife, costarring Denzel Washington, is currently shooting.) Prognosis: Just waiting for Houston to exhale.