Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Robert Rodat made movie news the week of September 18, 1998

PEAK PERFORMANCE Tony Scott has directed plenty of cliff-hangers (The Fan, Crimson Tide), but now the director’s gearing up for the real thing: He’s talking with Matt Damon about starring in Oh Baby Sky, a study of extreme climbers. ”It’s not about rock climbing, it’s about the insanity of the guys who do it,” says Scott, who conquered Yosemite National Park’s grueling El Capitan last year. ”They do it on acid or pot. They’re insane.”

THE GAMBLER Speaking of going out on a limb, maverick James Toback is following his acclaimed Two Girls and a Guy with a breathless plunge of his own: He’s shooting Black and White — a $1.5 million indie about white New York kids infatuated with hip-hop culture — without a complete script. Using just character sketches, a plot outline, and a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller, Edward Furlong, Casey Affleck, boxer Mike Tyson, hip-hop impresario Power, and rap stars like Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, Toback hopes to capture spontaneous on-set surprises. ”If it works, it’s going to be extraordinary, because so many different kinds of people will be revealing themselves in it,” he says. ”But it’s going to be a leap into the void.” So far Chris Blackwell’s Palm Pictures, the company putting up the cash, backs the experiment. Executives, says Toback, ”have basically said, ‘Fine, anything you want, just deliver a movie.’ That’s just about unheard of.”

FURTHERMORE While World War II movies are hotter than shrapnel right now, the next wave of Hollywood combat could renew the vogue for muskets and tricornered hats. Saving Private Ryan’s writer Robert Rodat and producer Mark Gordon are polishing off a script set in colonial times. ”We can’t get into too much detail,” Gordon demurs, ”but we’ve just finished an American Revolution project, which will be as powerful, in its own arena, as Ryan.”