STAY CLEAR Ignore the bleak business news all you want, but here’s a harbinger of recession you can’t miss: Director Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor), a man with such a taste for the colossal that even his two dogs weigh a combined 460 pounds, is starting a low-budget division of his production company, Bay Films. Bay is negotiating with Ted Field’s company, Radar Pictures, to back the project, which the director estimates would cost a bit less than $1 million a year. ”The object is low overhead,” says Bay, who isn’t ponying up the money himself because, ”Hey, Spielberg never uses his own money.” In addition to producing smaller fare, Bay says — with the enthusiasm of one who’s never had the privilege — that he’d also like to direct ”a movie you could shoot in 20 days. That sounds like so much fun.” In the meantime, Bay is also developing the Regency Enterprises thriller Stay (Nicolas Cage has expressed interest), and batting around ideas with Will Smith, including Bad Boys 2. ”Bad Boys was such a horrific experience,” says Bay. ”The studio was so mean to me. If we shot more than 12 hours, they shut the generator down. There was no script. There was a scene [a producer] refused to shoot, so I actually used $25,000, a quarter of my fee, to shoot the scene. The studio did [eventually] give it back to me.” No wonder other people’s money sounds like the way to go.
MEOW NIX We’d just like to point out that Julia and Gwyneth are total copycats — the real fat-suit trendsetter is Tim Allen, who seems quite taken by his costume: The actor has dropped out of Universal’s Dr. Seuss project, The Cat in the Hat, saying he wants to pay full attention to The Santa Clause II, which is now in preproduction. ”I couldn’t do two icons,” explains Allen, calming our fears about his career choice — Grinch made $260 million, Clause a mere $145 million — by adding that Clause will now be going ”to the North Pole in a really big way.”