November 06, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST


— Director Steven Soderbergh will finally move forward with his planned biopic of Che Guevara — revolutionary, iconoclast, and poster-subject of choice for lefty college students everywhere — splitting the Argentinean Marxist’s life into two independently financed pictures to be filmed back-to-back. Both will star Benicio Del Toro as Guevara; Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside), Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity). and Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) are currently negotiating to join the projects. The first film will be titled The Argentine, focusing mostly on Guevara’s pivotal role in Fidel Castro’s Communist takeover of Cuba in the 1950s; the second film, Guerrilla, will follow Guevara’s exploits as a media darling during a 1964 world tour and his subsequent disappearance into the Bolivian rain forest, where he was killed while trying to foment more revolution. (Variety, 10/31)

Julia Roberts will produce and star in The Friday Night Knitting Club, a drama based on a forthcoming book by Kate Jacobs, about a single mother who owns a New York knitting store and invites her best customers to a regular stitch-and-bitch group. No director or screenwriter is yet attached to the Universal project. ((Variety, 11/2)

Matrix directors Andy and Larry Wachowski have finally found their next directing project, an adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon series Speed Racer. Longtime producer Joel Silver is also on board, as well as several members of the Matrix creative team, including F/X savant John Gaeta, the inventor of ”bullet time.” (Hollywood Reporter, 11/1)

— In this week’s most unique casting news, Robert De Niro and rapper 50 Cent are close to signing on to New Orleans, a thriller set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. De Niro would play a veteran cop who investigates his son’s murder; 50 Cent would be the veteran’s new partner. Tim Hunter (River’s Edge) is on board to direct the independent film. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/2)

— Yes, grasshopper, the Kung Fu movie is alive and kicking. Allen and Albert Hughes (From Hell, Menace II Society) have signed off to direct the film version of the ’70s TV classic; Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures will finance. Shooting is set to begin next year. (Variety, 11/2)


— The creators of Will & Grace, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, are developing a comedy pilot with CBS about their relationship as gay (Mutchnick) and straight (Kohan) writers in Hollywood. The show would also give each of the loosely autobiographical characters attractive assistants. Naturally. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/2)

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