Rival slavery film rides Amistad's coat-tails into theaters

STOWAWAY With all the controversy about Amistad‘s origins, another new movie starring Djimon Hounsou as a mutinous African slave has beaten Steven Spielberg‘s film to the screen. The low-budget Ill-Gotten Gains recently opened in one Manhattan theater, and though writer-director-producer Joel Ben Marsden emphasizes the films’ differences—his fictional tale is set on a ship off the coast of Africa (even if it is the same ship used in Amistad), while Amistad focuses on the U.S. courts’ response to a real-life revolt—Gains‘ release schedule smacks of coattail riding. Hounsou refuses to talk about Gains, which he shot in 1995 and early 1996, believing, says the actor’s publicist, that Marsden was ”trying to lump it [in with] Amistad to try to get his project sold. Obviously Djimon has a serious ethical problem with that.” DreamWorks, Amistad‘s studio, declined to comment. —Caren Weiner

AQUARIUS FALLINGUniversal Pictures has just put the brakes on The Age of Aquarius, a wartime romance that was to have starred Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. Facing a budget of more than $80 million—Ford earns $20 million per picture and the Bosnian location shoot could have driven costs even higher—the studio developed cold feet. Though director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) is still hoping to arrive at a budget that will satisfy the studio, sources close to the project admit it faces a narrowing window of opportunity, since Ford could opt for another role. ”It’s a sign of the times,” says a source with knowledge of the Universal negotiations. ”There are still going to be plenty of expensive movies made, but the financial pressures on some of these movies are going to break them.”