Plus: Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal in talks for ''Brothers,'' CBS debuts controversial ''Kid Nation'' at elementary schools, Emmys telecast draws second-smallest audience on record, and more...

By Mike Bruno
September 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jamie McCarthy/

HBO doing Barrymore, Lange project
HBO Films is moving ahead with Grey Gardens, a feature starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, based on the 1975 documentary about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ eccentric cousin and aunt. The project has been in the works since 2006, though HBO was not involved at that time. Albert and David Maysles’ documentary follows the relationship between the mother-daughter duo of ”Big Edie” (Lange) and ”Little Edie” Beale (Barrymore), who spent most of their lives in a decaying mansion known as Grey Gardens on New York’s Long Island. The two made national headlines in 1971 when the local health department raided the home and found more than 50 cats, raccoons, fleas, piles of garbage, human and cat excrement, and no heat or running water. The department was going to kick the pair out of the 28-room mansion until Kennedy Onassis stepped in and paid to help clean it up. In spring 2006, Grey Gardens opened as a musical at Playwright Horizons before moving to Broadway in November at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show earned Tony Awards for actresses Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson. It ended its Broadway run in July. The HBO movie will be directed by commercial director Michael Sucsy, who will co-direct from his own script along with Patricia Rozema (This Might Be Good, Tell Me You Love Me). It is unknown whether the movie will open in theaters before heading to HBO. Barrymore’s upcoming projects include He’s Just Not That Into You and South of the Border. Lange was most recently seen in CBS’ Sybil and the movie Bonneville. (Hollywood Reporter)

Maguire, Gyllenhaal in talks for Brothers
Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal are in negotiations for starring roles in Brothers, which Jim Sheridan (Get Rich or Die Tryin’, In the Name of the Father) is directing for Relativity Media. The project is a remake of Susanne Bier’s 2004 Danish-language war drama. The story is about a man (Maguire) who is sent to fight in Afghanistan while his black-sheep younger brother (Gyllenhaal) cares for his wife and child. Shooting is scheduled to start in November. Gyllenhaal most recently starred in Rendition, which debuted last week at the Toronto Film Festival. Maguire starred in Spider-Man 3 this summer and also recently appeared in The Good German. (Variety)

CBS quietly debuts Kid Nation at elementary schools
Rather than reach out to the skeptical media in hopes of garnering positive publicity for the upcoming Kid Nation, which has its series premiere this Wednesday (Sept. 19), CBS has quietly screened the first episode of the unconventional reality show in elementary schools across the nation. Grade schoolers in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver, Miami, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles got a sneak peak last week at the show, which put 40 kids in an abandoned New Mexico ghost town and asked them to build a functioning community. One of the schools was the New Foundations Charter School in Philadelphia, where 125 kids from grades four through eight saw an episode. ”We were a little apprehensive first,” admits Principal Bill Schilling. ”We did hear negative things about the show and how some parents involved were not happy.” As a result, Schilling required that all of his students get parental approval before seeing the episode. Surprisingly, he said, everyone said yes. ”The students overwhelmingly liked it,” said Schilling. ”They cheered at the end. It’s like Survivor for kids.” CBS is ultimately hoping that word of mouth on the playground will prompt young parents — the Holy Grail for advertisers — to check out the show in spite of skeptical press reports suggesting the show exploited the kids and violated labor laws because the participants behaved like actors (ultimately, CBS avoided any penalties, but the state has since closed loopholes). Some of the kids reportedly said they ”worked harder than they ever had in their lives” but would happily do it again. A network spokesman declined to speak about the screenings. Auditions have already begun for Kid Nation 2. (Reporting by Lynette Rice) (Variety)

2007 Emmys draws second-smallest audience on record
Sunday (Sept. 16) night’s Primetime Emmy Awards on Fox drew the event’s second-smallest audience on record, averaging 13.1 million viewers. That is a significant drop-off from the 16.2 million that watched NBC’s late-August telecast a year ago and the 18.7 million that watched on CBS two years ago. It also places the Emmys well behind the most recent Oscars, on ABC (40.2 million), the Grammy Awards, on CBS (20.1 million), the Golden Globe Awards, on NBC (20.0 million), and the Country Music Assn. Awards, on ABC (16.0 million). In adults 18-49, this year’s 4.3 rating/11 share is believed to be the lowest on record and didn’t even make the Emmys Sunday night’s most-watched program, with NBC’s New England-San Diego NFL game expected to produce roughly a 6.7 rating/17 share. The one bright spot is that this year’s Emmys beat out the lowest Emmy audience on record: 1990’s Fox telecast, which drew just 12.3 million viewers. (Variety)

Saldana cast as Uhura in Abrams’ Star Trek
Zoe Saldana (Guess Who) will play Uhura in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie for Paramount Pictures. Uhura — which means freedom in Swahili — was a member of the Enterprise’s bridge crew who rose to the rank of commander. Nichelle Nichols played the role in the series. The movie, which revolves around the crew’s early days at the Starfleet Academy, is set to premiere on Christmas Day 2008. Saldana is also filming James Cameron’s upcoming movie Avatar. (Variety)

Freeman, Walken, and Macy starring in indie comedy
Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy will star in Yari Film Group’s comedy The Lonely Maiden. The movie, a co-production with Macy’s Dog Pond Prods., Paris Film Inc., and Revelations Entertainment, is about three museum security guards who that learn their most beloved pieces are about to be transferred to another museum and concoct a scheme to ”steal” them back. Peter Hewitt (Garfield) is directing from a script written by Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree). Lori McCreary and Freeman, co-founders of Revelations Entertainment, will produce with Bob Yari and Rob Paris. Shooting is scheduled to start on Nov. 12. (Variety)

Gilmore Girls‘ Graham lands development deal at NBC
Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai on the WB/CW’s Gilmore Girls from 2000 until this past year, has landed a seven-figure development deal with NBC, one of the most lucrative TV talent deals of the year. NBC will develop a series around Graham, who was being courted by several networks and studios. The network is already considering several writers to pair with the actress. Graham will soon appear with Greg Kinnear in the movie Flash of Genius and star with Matthew Perry in Laws of Motion. Her past feature credits include this summer’s Evan Almighty, as well as Bad Santa and Because I Said So. (Variety)

Process Media acquires rights to Eggers’ Velocity
Process Media has picked up movie rights to Dave Eggers’ novel You Shall Know Our Velocity! and set it up with Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Chuck and Buck) to direct. The story is about two childhood friends who come upon a large sum of money and embark on a weeklong around-the-world journey to give it away. New Line optioned Eggers’ first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. (Variety)

Blades of Glory directors in final talks for Baster
Blades of Glory directing duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck are in final negotiations to helm Columbia Pictures’ comedy Baster. The movie is based on a short story by Middlesex author Jeffrey Eugenides about a 40-year-old unmarried woman who inseminates herself using a turkey baster and sperm from a married friend. The Farelly Brothers were initially attached to direct. Little Miss Sunshine’s Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa are producing. Gordon and Speck also directed the new comedy series Cavemen, which premieres on ABC Oct. 2. (Variety)

Seagal doing straight-to-DVD project
Steven Seagal is starring in A Higher Form of Learning, a direct-to-DVD action thriller that he also wrote. He will play a detective who travels the world in pursuit of serial killers and finds himself in Memphis hunting two murderers while chasing his own demons. Shooting is scheduled to start this week. (Hollywood Reporter)

Potts cast alongside Macy in TNT pilot Family Man
Annie Potts (Any Day Now, Joan of Arcadia, Designing Women) has been cast as the wife of William H. Macy’s character in the upcoming TNT drama pilot Family Man. The story is about a respected member of the community (Macy) who heads a dysfunctional gang of burglars at night. Other additions to the project include Jennifer Aspen (Mr. Woodcock) and Sean O’Bryan (Private Practice). Martin Mull is already on board and will play Potts’ character’s brother-in-law. (Variety)


Reuters: A former bodyguard for Britney Spears, who offered to testify at a custody hearing on Monday about nudity and drug use at the singer’s home, was not questioned by attorneys in the case and, instead, had his comments filed with the court as evidence.

Rush & Molloy: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was appalled that Fox bleeped Sally Field’s comment during her Emmys speech about the ”godd— war.” “Archie Bunker said ‘godd—‘ 35 years ago on All in the Family and we can’t say it now? It’s this terrifying resurgence of Puritanism.” Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker has adopted a daughter from Africa. She also has a 3-year-old son, Will, with actor Billy Crudup, who left her before the child was born.

Page Six: Rosie O’Donnell declined an invitation to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s show to talk about her book, Celebrity Detox, which bashes Barbara Walters, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Donald Trump and others, and will do an interview with Diane Sawyer instead. O’Donnell’s rep said, ”Rosie has always been booked with Diane. We gracefully declined Oprah’s offer. I’m sure Rosie will do Oprah’s show another time.”