Matt Damon, Universal, and ''Superman Lives'' made movie news the week of May 1, 1998

Yea and neigh

So how did Matt Damon unsaddle Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead in the movie version of Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses? After months of flirting with the Mike Nichols-produced/Billy Bob Thornton-directed period drama, DiCaprio finally agreed to star but asked Columbia and Miramax for $15 million. Since DiCaprio’s reps had been informed that the film’s entire budget would be around $20 million, the studios didn’t even propose a counteroffer. Rather, they went directly to Damon, who — in 20 minutes — agreed to star for $5.5 million. ”The lead is a rugged cowboy who beats people up,” says a source involved in the project. ”From a creative standpoint, Damon fit much better than DiCaprio anyway.” Cameras will roll next spring.

Universal soldier

Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s bloodletting at Universal — the dismissals of four executives in two weeks preceded by a slew of firings in the merchandising division — has led to speculation that DreamWorks would be folded into the studio and that Jeffrey Katzenberg or Barry Diller would run a new Universal. Both DreamWorks and Universal deny these rumors. ”If we would [ever] entertain a scenario like that,” notes a Seagram exec, ”it would be a long way down the road.” Asked if there would be any more high-level changes, the source says, ”It depends on who [Bronfman] finds.” Currently left standing are CEO Frank Biondi, president Ron Meyer, and motion picture chairman Casey Silver: Biondi’s power had already been undercut by Bronfman when Seagram sold off most of Universal’s TV arm to Diller last fall; Meyer is seen as Bronfman’s one insider who can negotiate through Hollywood’s minefield; Silver recently signed a new five-year contract. The last three execs to fall were production president Marc Platt and the well-respected marketing duo Buffy Shutt and Kathy Jones. The firing of the ”scapegals” — as they’re being called around town — has led some to question Bronfman’s credibility: Only one day after he announced to the Advertising Club of Los Angeles that he was ”comfortable” with the people in the movie division, Shutt and Jones were ousted.

From hero to zero

The postponement of Warner Bros.’ Superman Lives may end up giving the studio a much-needed event film for Christmas 1999. The project, from Batman producer Jon Peters and director Tim Burton, was to start filming July 6, for a summer ’99 release. Insiders say that the studio halted production because the troubled script didn’t merit a budget that could go as high as $150 million (which would include star Nicolas Cage’s $20 million fee). Warner Bros. is now looking to two other movies to lead its summer ’99 slate: The Wild, Wild West, starring Will Smith (also a Peters project), and the Jim Carrey fantasy The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Sources say that production on Superman Lives may resume in September for a winter ’99 bow.


A sequel to Get Shorty is being talked about on the MGM lot as Elmore Leonard finishes an as yet untitled follow-up novel.

Ralph Fiennes is considering starring in From Hell, New Line’s Jack the Ripper thriller directed by Allen and Albert Hughes (Dead Presidents).