Plans for a strike -- Potential strikes send stars and studios' schedules into turmoil

By Daniel Fierman
December 01, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Plans for a strike

”If the strike happens,” says Ben Affleck, ”it’ll throw everybody into a tizzy.” Memo to Ben: In effect, it already has. Since late summer, studios and stars have gone into overdrive lining up films in advance of writers’ and actors’ strikes that could paralyze the industry (see EW #559). Because producers won’t dare start a film after April 1 — or else they might find themselves without actors when the current SAG/AFTRA contract expires June 30 — studios are desperate to nail down talent. As a result, Hollywood is spinning like an out-of-control Tilt-A-Whirl. Even the smallest change can set off a massive casting chain reaction, putting newcomers on the A list and gangsters on the hit list. Here’s a look at some of the behind-the-scenes dramas:

THE PLOT A-listers are making waves by falling in and out of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven.
STATUS Soderbergh has reshuffled his Rat Pack remake more often than a Harrah’s blackjack deck. Right now George Clooney is slated to star as a casino-heist ringleader (played by Frank Sinatra in the 1960 original). Also dealt in are Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Alan Arkin, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Bernie Mac. ”It’s like playing in an all-star game,” marvels Mac (The Original Kings of Comedy). But some players have opted out of the lineup. Michael Douglas, who was reportedly on tap to play the Peter Lawford role, will instead star in the kidnapping thriller Don’t Say a Word. Soderbergh also rolled snake eyes with Bruce Willis (doing the World War II drama Hart’s War), Denzel Washington (playing a corrupt cop opposite Ethan Hawke in Training Day), Mark Wahlberg (who made room for Damon when he joined Planet of the Apes), and Owen and Luke Wilson (attached to The Royal Tenenbaums) — who were all at one time reportedly linked to the project.

THE PLOT A star — Irish walk-on Colin Farrell — is accidentally born.
STATUS After debuting to a 12-gun critical salute in Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland, Farrell, 24, is the industry’s new Dustbuster — picking up parts others have left behind. He snapped up Schumacher’s thriller Phone Booth, taking a role that had been slated first for Will Smith (who’ll soon start shooting Michael Mann’s Ali) and then Jim Carrey. (”Jim was signed, we were down to costume fitting,” says Schumacher, who lost Carrey to creative differences.) After Booth, Farrell will grab the lead in Hart’s War originally earmarked for Edward Norton — who decided to do Danny DeVito’s comedy Death to Smoochie. As a finale, the newcomer is reportedly in talks to step in for Matt Damon in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report next spring. Farrell’s rep declines to comment on Minority, and all Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy says is: ”At this time, the only person officially cast is Tom Cruise.”

THE PLOT Schedule-crippling injuries to stars like Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman have producers on medic alert.
STATUS With June 30 hovering like a guillotine, even a paper cut can be problematic. Crowe, the star of Jodie Foster’s period circus drama Flora Plum, injured his shoulder two weeks before shooting was to begin in September and required surgery. Foster’s publicist says the actress is still ”weighing all options” for Plum, but in the meantime she and the film’s costar, Claire Danes, have been left in limbo. (Imagine’s A Beautiful Mind, Crowe’s next planned project, is still on track to start prestrike.) Then there’s poor Terry Gilliam. His film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was already under way when star Jean Rochefort herniated a disc in his back — forcing all involved, including Johnny Depp, to twiddle their thumbs for at least two months. No word yet whether Depp and Gilliam will try to squeeze in another film during this break. There is some good news: After Kidman cracked a rib on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, early reports had her dumping David Fincher’s suspense flick The Panic Room. Not so. According to reps, she’ll hit the Panic button this January.

THE PLOT Low-key drama about producers left idle while Oscar winner Paltrow picks her next projects.
STATUS Paltrow’s prestrike dance card is already full. With Neil LaBute’s Possession in the can, she’ll start the dark comedy A View From the Top in December. Then the Bounce star will play a genius alongside the Wilsons in The Royal Tenenbaums, which takes her to March, when she’s signed for the Farrelly brothers’ Shallow Hal. Among those left at the altar: Warner Bros.’ The Ugly Truth and Paramount’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — both of which she won’t film until after the labor dispute is resolved, if at all.

THE PLOT Suspense builds as Leo and Co. go overtime on Gangs of New York.
STATUS News that the shooting of Martin Scorsese’s mobster flick would stretch into January, three months after its planned wrap date, set off a titanic casting shift for Leonardo DiCaprio. His highly anticipated crime caper — DreamWorks’ Catch Me if You Can — was scheduled to begin in March, and now is in danger of sleeping with the fishes. Leo’s camp says he’s not likely to shoot anything post-Gangs and pre-strike. That’s bad news for James Gandolfini, who had signed to play the FBI agent in Catch Me during his Sopranos hiatus. ”We’re looking for other stuff,” says a rep for Gandolfini. ”The problem is he has to go back to The Sopranos (next spring). We only have a short window.” Strike or no strike, does Hollywood really want to tick off Tony Soprano?

Additional reporting by Scott Brown, Clarissa Cruz, Dave Karger, and Ann Limpert