Plus: Spike Lee doing big-budget World War II movie, Sean Connery says he won't be part of ''Indy 4,'' Naomi Watts tapped for ''We Are All the Same,'' and more...
Spider-Man creator signs with Disney
Stan Lee, creator of major Marvel comics superheroes like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and X-Men, has signed an exclusive, multi-year development deal with Walt Disney Studios. Details have not been released, but Lee and his production company POW! Entertainment are expected to develop and produce all forms of entertainment for various platforms for Disney. Home entertainment is said to be a major component of the new deal. To date, POW! has created a Sci Fi Channel movie as well as two direct-to-DVD movies, Mosaic and The Condor. Lee also created the 2003 Spike TV cartoon series Stripperella, featuring the voice of Pamela Anderson. More importantly, however, is that so many of Lee’s superhero characters and stories have gone on to become major tentpole movies. (Hollywood Reporter)
Spike Lee doing big-budget WWII drama
Spike Lee is making a big-budget movie based on Miracle at St. Anna, U.S. author James McBride’s World War II novel about black American soldiers fighting the German army in the mountains of Tuscany. McBride will write the screenplay. It will tell the true tale of four men in the U.S. Army’s 92nd Division of all-black soldiers, who in 1944 became trapped in a Tuscan village as they contended with racist, incompetent commanders and Nazis. Lee sought out and attached Italian producers Luigi Musini and Roberto Cicutto to oversee the project. The movie will be shot in Italy but use an American cast. Lee announced the project in an Italian newspaper on Wednesday (June 6), saying ”I met a black veteran who fought at Iwo Jima, and he told me how disappointed he was that there was not even one Afro-American [soldier] in Clint Eastwood’s two films.” Shooting is scheduled to get underway next year. (Variety)
Sean Connery won’t be in Indy 4
Sean Connery has confirmed that he will not reprise his role as Indiana’s father in the upcoming ”Indy 4.” Connery played Indy’s father in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third installment of the franchise directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas. ”I love working with Steven and George, and it goes without saying that it is an honor to have Harrison [Ford] as my son,” Connery said. ”But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun.” The as-yet untitled fourth Indy movie will start shooting on June 18 for a May 22, 2008 release. The story is being kept under tight wraps, though Ford has acknowledged that it will take place sometime after World War II. The first three movies were set in the mid- to late 1930s. (AP via Yahoo!)
Naomi Watts tapped for We Are All the Same
Naomi Watts will star in the Bureau of Moving Pictures’ adaptation of We Are All the Same. The movie will be based on Nightline correspondent Jim Wooten’s 2004 book about Gail Johnson, a white South African woman who adopted a black child with AIDS, then traveled the world with the child to raise awareness about his plight. Hotel Rwanda co-writer Keir Pearson is adapting. Watts next appears in Focus’ thriller Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg. (Variety)
Paris Hilton to finish her sentence at home
After spending just three days behind bars, the heiress has been reassigned to home confinement for the remaining 40 days of her sentence. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department cited a ”medical condition” as the reason for Hilton’s reassignment, though details of that condition were not disclosed. Hilton, whose sentence springs from a probation violation, will now wear a monitoring device. (People.com)
Tyler Perry directing/starring in film adaptation of his play
Tyler Perry will direct and star in a feature comedy adaptation of his stage play Meet the Browns for Lionsgate. The story, reminiscent of Perry projects Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion, is about a single mother who finds new life after meeting the fun-loving family of her father, whom she never knew. Although Perry’s signature character Madea did not appear in the stage version, she will appear in the film. Shooting will start this summer for an early 2008 release. Lionsgate will release the fourth installment in Perry’s film franchise, Why Did I Get Married?, on Nov. 16. Perry’s first three movies grossed more than $200 million worldwide, and Lionsgate has sold more than 15 million DVD units. (Variety)
Sam Raimi original content launches on horror website
Ghost House Pictures, a joint venture involving director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), launched Devil’s Trade, the first of two planned series being developed for horror and thriller website and video provider FEARnet, on Wednesday (June 6). The series follows three teenagers who are cursed after buying an item online. The Web shows return Raimi to his roots as the director of cult horror classics Evil Dead and The Grudge. (Hollywood Reporter)
House‘s Morrison tapped for Lifetime movie
Jennifer Morrison (House, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) will star the Lifetime original movie The Murder of Princess Diana. The movie is a fictionalized account Noel Botham’s book, which claimed that the Paris tunnel car crash that killed Diana was a conspiracy. Morrison will play an American journalist who witnesses the crash and starts her own investigation after becoming suspicious about the official version of the events. Some 31 percent of British citizens polled in a recent BBC survey said they believe that Diana’s death was not an accident. Lifetime plans to premiere the movie in August, coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of the fatal crash. (Variety)
Deal, Talent win Tuesday for NBC
NBC beat the competition on a repeat-heavy Tuesday night (June 5) led by a special episode of Deal or No Deal (10.1 million total viewers, 2.7 share/9 rating in adults 18-49) and the two-hour season premiere of America’s Got Talent (12.9 million, 4.3/12), which was the top-rated series of the night. Meanwhile, Fox’s On the Lot continued to struggle, averaging just 3.1 million viewers and a 1.4/4 in adults 18-49, less than half of the audience from its premiere episode last month. (Hollywood Reporter)
HBO acquires Autism: The Musical
HBO has acquired the feature documentary Autism: The Musical, planning a limited run in theaters some later this year before heading to the pay channel in 2008. The movie, which received considerable attention at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, centers on a group of five autistic children who are given the chance to explore their creativity by putting on a musical under the instruction of a pro acting coach. Producer Sasha Alpert describes the film as ”intimate and joyful. And it shows in a very honest way how difficult it is to raise a child with autism.” (Variety)
LOTR actors sue New Line over profits
New Line Cinema’s legal woes surrounding the Lord of the Rings trilogy continues as 15 actors from the films are now suing over claims that they did not receive their share of the $100 million profits from the movies’ merchandise sales. New Line said it does not comment on pending litigation. The suit follows a lawsuit filed against the distributor two years ago by director Peter Jackson’s production company, which claimed it, too, was shortchanged on profits. Producer Saul Zaentz reached an out-of-court settlement with New Line in 2005 after he claimed he was owed an additional $20 million in royalties from the films. (Hollywood Reporter)
CBS gives The Captain midseason order
CBS has picked up single-camera comedy pilot The Captain with a six-episode midseason order. The show stars Fran Kranz as a young writer whose life changes when he moves into a legendary Hollywood apartment building. Co-starring are Jeffrey Tambor, Raquel Welch, Chris Klein, Joanna Garcia, Al Madrigal, and Valerie Azlynn. (Hollywood Reporter)
IN THE GOSSIPS
People.com: Singer Akon says he’ll work with police investigating him for tossing a 15-year-old audience member from the stage into the crowd at a show last weekend, but claims he didn’t break any laws. No files have been charged yet.
People.com: Nicole Richie told Letterman on Wednesday (June 6) that she’s afraid of being sent to jail for her pending DUI charges, but that she’s ”willing to face whatever consequences come my way, and I take responsibility for what I’ve done.” Richie pleaded not guilty in February to charges stemming from an arrest on Dec. 11, when police stopped her for driving the wrong way on a Los Angeles highway. The officers say she said told them she had smoked marijuana and taken Vicodin.
Page Six: Billy and Katie Lee Joel are hurt by rumors that their marriage is on the rocks, says a source.