Plus: Nic Cage starring in Hany Abu-Assad's ''Vanished,'' USA taking Messing's ''Starter Wife'' to series, Judd Apatow joins Will Ferrell, Adam McKay's ''Funny or Die'' website, and more...

By Mike Bruno
Updated July 30, 2020 at 12:26 PM EDT
Credit: Steve Granitz/

Star Wars series to focus on ”minor characters”
George Lucas said on Tuesday (Oct. 16) that he is developing a live-action TV series based on the Star Wars franchise, confirming previous reports that such a project was in the works. The filmmaker told the Los Angeles Times that the series would not include the Skywalkers or Darth Vader but instead focus on ”minor characters.” ”It’s completely different,” Lucas said. ”But it’s a good idea, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to do.” He would not reveal any other details about the plot. In addition to the live-action series, Lucas Animation is already developing a weekly series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a computer-animated episodic series. EW’s Hollywood Insider blog reported last week that Lucas was coming to L.A. to meet with writers about the live-action series. According to one agent familiar with the project, Lucas’ plan is to recruit several freelancers — aka ”writers of real significance” — to spend a week at the Skywalker Ranch in November to come up with story ideas for the series. The writers would then pen 13 episodes that would be produced and financed by Lucas. (Los Angeles Times)

Cage starring in The Vanished
Nicolas Cage will star in Focus Features’ The Vanished, a thriller about a father who goes in search of his American-born Muslim son when he turns up missing overseas. The film will be the first studio project for Palestinian-born director Hany Abu-Assad, who previously helmed 2005’s Oscar nominated, Independent Spirit Award winner Paradise Now, about two Palestinian boys drafted to become suicide bombers. Shooting on Vanished will begin this spring. Cage will first star for director Darren Aronofsky in indie drama The Wrestler in January before moving on to The Vanished in April. Cage most recently wrapped a remake of Bangkok Dangerous, as well as the sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets, alongside Helen Mirren, which Disney opens Dec. 21. (Variety)

USA takes Messing’s Starter Wife to series
USA Network is turning last summer’s six-episode miniseries The Starter Wife into a weekly series with Debra Messing set to reprise the starring role. The story, based on the novel by Gigi Levangie Grazer, is about a woman, Molly, who is redefining herself after getting divorced from a Hollywood studio head. The series will focus on the Molly’s post-divorce adventures as she begins a new chapter in her life. Messing earned an Emmy nod this year for her portrayal of Molly. USA has given a 10-episode series order following the miniseries’ successful run. Starter Wife debuted May 31 on USA, averaging 5.4 million viewers in its premiere. It was nominated for 10 Emmys, including best mini and writing nominations for Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott, who will return to write and executive produce the series. Messing will also executive produce, as will Grazer. No other casting announcements have been made. Shooting is scheduled to start in March for a summer 2008 debut. (Hollywood Reporter)

Apatow joins Ferrell, McKay’s Funny or Die
Judd Apatow is partnering with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on the comedy website Funny or Die. Apatow will help produce original content, such as the shorts already appearing on the site based on the Apatow-directed movie Knocked Up and Apatow-produced Superbad. Apatow says he’s shot additional original content with Ferrell and McKay that has yet to appear on the site. The trio is also working together on the movie Step Brothers, a Ferrell vehicle that McKay is directing and Apatow is producing for Sony. Since Ferrell and McKay launched Funny or Die in April, the site has attracted more than 3.6 million unique visitors, who have logged on to view its user-generated comedic shorts and original short bits from Ferrell and McKay. The site’s breakout hit was a short called The Landlord, which features Ferrell being harassed and cursed at by his mean, insulting landlord, played by McKay’s two-year-old daughter Pearl. To date, The Landlord has been viewed some 47 million times. (Variety)

Wayans tapped for new ABC comedy
Damon Wayans, star of ABC’s long-running comedy My Wife & Kids, will star in another multicamera comedy series for the network as a recent widower who has to take in a 19-year-old stepson he never knew. Wayans will also write and executive produce the project, which is said to be edgier than Wife & Kids, with Don Reo, who also co-wrote and executive produced Wife with Wayans. My Wife & Kids went off the air in 2005 after five seasons. (Hollywood Reporter)

NBC’s green initiative to kick off at North and South poles
NBC Universal’s ”Green is Universal” initiative will launch Nov. 5 with simultaneous live broadcasts on Today from the North and South poles and the equator. Matt Lauer will broadcast from the Arctic Circle in Greenland, Ann Curry will be live in Antarctica, and Al Roker will report from equatorial Mindo, Equador. The reports will broadcast Nov. 5 and 6 as part of Today‘s extensive reporting on the condition of the planet and climate change. It will be the first time any show has broadcast from all three points on the earth at the same time and will take at least three days each for the anchors and their crew to arrive and set up. (Hollywood Reporter)

Tony Scott directing movie about maker of the cigarette boat
Tony Scott is directing a movie about Don Aronow, the inventor of the cigarette boat, for Fox 2000. Aronow was a self-made millionaire businessman and powerboat racing’s world champ for 10 straight years. His cigarette boat became a favorite of Colombian drug smugglers looking to import product into Miami in the 1980s. Aronow got a $20 million contract to build boats for U.S. Customs agents to catch the smugglers. He was eventually gunned down in 1987 in a mob-style hit in Miami. (Variety)

Kid Rock splits with manager
Kid Rock’s manager, Detroit-based Ed ”Punch” Andrews, has resigned after seven years of working with Rock. Andrews, who also manages Bob Seger, helped Rock with his latest record, Rock N Roll Jesus, which just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the artist’s first chart-topper. Rock has reportedly replaced Andrews with Nashville-based Vector Management, which handles Bon Jovi and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others. (Billboard)


Page Six: A lawyer for the rescue agency that took back the dog adopted by Ellen DeGeneres says the talk show host’s publicist has been threatening the agency. Yesterday (Oct. 16), DeGeneres made a tearful plea on her show for the dog to be returned to her hairdresser’s family, to whom she gave the animal because it could not get along with her cats. The agency says DeGeneres violated her agreement by giving the dog away, and that it cannot stay with the hairdresser’s family because of a rule that families with children under 14 are not allowed to adopt small dogs. The agency’s lawyer said DeGeneres threatened to destroy the agency in the media. DeGeneres’ publicist denied the allegations, saying, ”I have not left any threatening messages at all…. The agency threatened to go to the media and I said that wouldn’t be a good idea. I told them there’s just no need to escalate this.”

Rush & Molloy: In an interview with GQ magazine, Francis Ford Coppola had less-than-flattering words for Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson.