MGM and Phoenix Pictures are moving ahead with plans for a screen adaptation of "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade" -- James Reston Jr.'s 2001 book about the epic battles between English King Richard I and Kurdish sultan Salah ad-Din for control of the Holy Land in the late 12th century.
Christopher Crowe ("The Last of the Mohicans") will write the screenplay for "Warriors of God." He told Daily Variety the story is particularly relevant in 2002.
"The events that took place back then are so absolutely cogent now," said Crowe. "What happened before is a very good tutorial in explaining today's events."
As it is now, the Holy Land was a battlefield -- the subject of fierce warfare between Muslims and Christians. Reston wrote that the Third Crusade, a five-year campaign, pitted the brilliant but mistake-prone Saladin against the extraordinarily skilled but irresolute Richard -- in a contest that ended with the English army losing Jerusalem.
SAME PICTUERS, NEW VOICES
BBC Worldwide and CBS have struck a deal allowing CBS to televise the British Broadcast Corp.'s "Robbie the Reindeer" Christmas specials, beginning next month.
Both "Robbie" specials will feature new voice casts, with such U.S. stars as Jim Belushi, Britney Spears, Jerry Stiller and James Woods -- as well as sportscasters Dan Dierdorf and Dick Enberg -- and Ben Stiller as Robbie.
"Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire" first appeared on British TV in 1999, directed by Richard Goleszowski ("Wallace & Gromit: The Aardman Collection"). It featured the voice talents of Jane Horrocks ("Chicken Run") and pop star Robbie Williams, and music by veteran rocker Mark Knopfler.
"Hooves of Fire" and its 2002 sequel "Legend of the Lost Tribe" are scheduled to air on CBS on Dec. 13, following the perennial Christmas favorite "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
BBC Worldwide said it will donate all net profits from the sale of "Robbie" to Comic Relief U.K.
Hemingway's novel told the story of an American fighting in the Spanish Civil War and the young refugee who wins his love.
David Benioff -- one of the hottest new writers in Hollywood -- will write the screenplay and executive produce the project.
Benioff wrote the screenplay for "Troy," the upcoming Wolfgang Peterson ("The Perfect Storm") movie version of Homer's epic poem "The Iliad." He also wrote adapted his own novel "The 25th Hour" for the upcoming Spike Lee movie about a man trying to make the most of his last two days of freedom before he begins to serve a seven-year prison term.
Benioff is also booked to adapt the George P. Pelecanos crime novel "Right as Rain" for director Curtis Hanson ("8 Mile," "L.A. Confidential").
VANESSA WILLIAMS' NEXT
Vanessa L. Williams ("Shaft," "Soul Food") is developing a half-hour comedy series for NBC, in which she would play an actress who leaves Broadway to teach high school drama and raise her own family in her hometown.
Williams knows something about Broadway -- having starred in "Into the Woods" and in a TV movie version of the Broadway hit "Bye Bye Birdie."
GRACE SAYS 'YES'
The 100th episode of "Will & Grace" -- "Marry Me a Little, Marry Me a Little More" -- will have Grace (Debra Messing) impulsively accepting a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) at a mass wedding in Central Park.
NBC announced that the episode, scheduled to air on Nov. 21, will run one hour instead of the usual half hour, and will feature guest appearances by Debbie Reynolds as Grace's mother, Bobbi Adler, and Katie Couric ("Today") as herself.