Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  July 12, 2002 at 5:34 PM
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Box-office analysts will be watching this weekend to see if the movie business can keep its hot streak going, with "Men in Black II" expected to continue performing well and four new releases arriving at theaters.

"MIB II," which grossed $87.2 million in its five-day Fourth of July holiday weekend opening, is expected to remain at No. 1 this weekend, with an anticipated gross of about $26 million.

"Reign of Fire," starring Matthew McConaughey in a tale about fire-breathing dragons that emerge from the beneath the surface of the earth and try to take over the planet, is expected to gross abound $20 million on 2,629 screens.

The new Depression-era drama "Road to Perdition" is not expected to contend for the top spot -- despite the presence of screen legend Paul Newman and screen legend-in-the-making Tom Hanks in the cast. The movie is getting mostly good reviews, but its downbeat tone makes it an iffy proposition as a major summer release.

Besides that, it's only being released in 1,797 theaters. Analysts expect it to gross in the neighborhood of $15 million.

"Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" -- starring Australian adventurer Steve Irwin in a story about a legendary crocodile in need of protection from poachers -- is playing at 2,525 theaters, but analysts do not expect it to do more than $10 million.

"Halloween: Resurrection," starring Jamie Lee Curtis in the latest in the never-ending series of "Halloween" slashers, is expected to do slightly better than "Crocodile Hunter."


Following months of speculation, Mel Brooks has confirmed that Jason Alexander will play the lowdown Broadway producer Max Bialystock and Martin Short will play the feckless accountant Leo Bloom when "The Producers" plays next year at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.

Both are Tony-winners for best actor in a musical -- Alexander for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway"(1989) and Short for "Little Me" (1999).

"This is a dream cast," Brooks told the Los Angeles Times. "Both these guys are dynamite."

Brooks said both Alexander and Short have agreed to stay with the L.A. production during its entire run. Previews are scheduled to begin May 2, and the show is set to open on May 29.


Before he takes on Max Bialystock in the Los Angeles production of "The Producers," Jason Alexander will star in the CBS TV movie "The Man Who Saved Christmas."

It's based on the true story of New Haven, Conn. toy-maker A. C. Gilbert, who persuaded the federal government not to cancel Christmas due to World War I in 1918.


Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro ("Traffic") is set to star in the second movie version of Ernest Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not."

Former New York Times reporter Tod Williams will direct the project from his own screenplay. Plans call for the new take to update the Hemingway novel, but remain closer to the writer's original story than the 1945 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall screen adaptation.


Rod Lurie ("The Contender," "The Last Castle") is set to direct another politics-theme movie, only this one is a romantic comedy.

"Beat the Eagle," written by Oscar-winner Tom Schulman ("Dead Poet's Society"), imagines what would happen if a popular ex-president agreed to run for mayor of the small town where he has retired to write his memoirs -- and is challenged by a local businessman.

Schulman also wrote "What About Bob?" (1991) and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1989).


CBS is moving ahead with a TV movie about the Enron scandal, with Brian Dennehy ("A Season on the Brink," "Death of a Salesman") in talks to star for director Penelope Spheeris ("Wayne's World," "The Beverly Hillbillies").

The screenplay is being written by Stephen Mazur, whose offbeat sense of humor was previously on display in "Heartbreakers" (2001) and "Liar Liar" (1997).

"The Crooked E: The Inside Story of Enron" -- based on the upcoming Brian Cruver book "Anatomy of Greed" -- is described as both horrifying and funny. Cruver based the book on his experience as a trader for Enron as the company was collapsing under the weight of mismanagement and financial shenanigans.


Executives at Columbia Pictures are making plans for a project that would see Dwayne Johnson -- also known as pro wrestler The Rock -- make the transition from action star ("The Scorpion King") to comedy-action star.

The Hollywood Reporter said the studio has bought a pitch from TV writers Mitchel Katlin and Nat Bernstein ("Cursed," "The Weber Show," "The Gregory Hines Show"), described as a buddy action picture with a comedic take on "Witness" -- the 1985 drama starring Harrison Ford as a cop who goes into hiding in Amish country to protect a boy who witnessed a murder.

Johnson's next project is a movie based on the life of Hawaiian King Kamehameha.

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