Millennial fever hits the movies -- Upcoming films look to the end of the millennium for inspiration and drama

Somebody notify The Artist Formerly Known as Prince: Hollywood’s started partying like it’s 1999. All right, so maybe the entertainment world isn’t boogying down just yet, but there’s no question that millennial fever has begun to set in. Witness:

·Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed to battle the devil at the turn of the century in a supernatural thriller tentatively called End of Days. Shooting on the Universal picture, reportedly budgeted at about $100 million, will begin this summer.

·Universal has also signed Will Smith to star in The Mark, a sci-fi thriller set in the last week of 1999. Smith will play an everyday schmo who discovers an ancient talisman that grants him special powers. Production begins this summer.

·In the upcoming TV movie Police 2000, a cop tracks a serial killer through the streets of Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Ridley Scott developed the concept for producer Larry Thompson. William Shatner is reportedly in discussions to play the city’s mayor.

·And in perhaps the most ambitious of the turn-of-the-century endeavors, Hallmark Entertainment has tapped nine noted playwrights, including Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, August Wilson, Terrence McNally, and Wendy Wasserstein, to write individual teleplays in which they ”ponder the issues that have the most relevance to them,” says executive producer David Picker. The plays will make up a miniseries with the working title The Millennium Project and are scheduled to air in November 1999 on ABC.

Why the sudden rush to fin de siecle works? Unlike last month’s hysteria-sparking earth-bound asteroid, the next millennium will arrive in a relative heartbeat. And Hollywood has never passed on an opportunity to cash in on a bona fide cosmic event. ”The millennium is a great backdrop for dramatic storytelling,” says writer-artist and Image Comics cofounder Rob Liefeld, who sold the script for The Mark to Universal for $1.5 million. ”Personally, I think a lot of people will get pretty nutty.”