Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Aug. 6, 2002 at 5:13 PM
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While state and local governments and entertainment unions in the United States search for solutions to the runaway production problem -- the loss of film and TV production to overseas locations -- filmmakers in Canada are having problems of their own.

According to a report in Daily Variety, the Canadian film industry is mired in a slump, with only half as many projects shooting now as there were just 15 months ago.

The slowdown is being blamed on a combination of factors -- including fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rescinded tax breaks for producers, campaigns in the United States to fight runaway production and a newfound infatuation among networks with low-cost reality programming and documentaries.

The paper said production of U.S. TV movies and Canadian series -- usually a staple of Canadian film and TV industry during the summer -- have been "almost completely missing" this summer. Canadian productions have been hit hard by cutbacks in federal government funding, and Variety said U.S. producers have encountered higher location fees and substandard work by inexperienced crews in Canada.

One of the principal motivations for taking production north of the U.S.-Canadian border has been the prospect of getting roughly equivalent workmanship for less money that it costs to make movies and TV shows in Hollywood.


Miramax, HBO and LivePlanet are going forward with a second installment of "Project Greenlight" -- the filmmaking contest that shows wannabe feature filmmakers getting their big break and then trying to make the most of it.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are executive producing the series with their LivePlanet partners Sean Bailey and Chris Moore. The film will be released by Miramax Films and the "making-of" series will air on HBO.

The contest, scheduled to begin on Sept. 19, will feature two winners, unlike the first contest, which had just one winning writer-director. Judges will choose one amateur writer and one amateur director, who will then collaborate on making the winning movie.

Miramax has guaranteed a minimum budget of $1 million for the project, with Affleck, Damon, Bailey and Moore executive producing the picture. The first contest attracted more than 10,000 entrants. Pete Jones won for his screenplay "Stolen Summer," which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and released by Miramax last March.


Rob Cohen -- whose directing resume prior to last summer's hit "The Fast and the Furious" was distinguished by the ultra-hip "The Rat Pack" (1998) and the fantasy-adventure "Dragonheart" (1996) -- is turning into one of Hollywood's leading action picture specialists.

Cohen's second collaboration with "The Fast and the Furious" star Vin Diesel -- the extreme sports spy-thriller "XXX" -- is due in theaters this weekend, and Columbia Pictures is so confident that "XXX" will be a hit that that has already signed Diesel for a sequel.

Now there is word that Cohen is in talks to direct Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in an upcoming project.

Like Diesel, Johnson is busy establishing his bona fides as a leading player among Hollywood's new crop of action stars -- with appearances in "The Mummy Returns" and "The Scorpion King." Cohen, 53, is reportedly in negotiations to direct Johnson in "King Kamehameha," about the 16th century warrior who consolidated the various tribes that held power in the Hawaiian Islands and made himself the king.


ABC is planning a TV version of the "Home Alone" movie franchise that made a superstar out of Macaulay Culkin.

Plans call for Barbara Babcock ("Space Cowboys"), Jason Beghe ("Chicago Hope"), Missi Pyle ("Galaxy Quest") and French Stewart ("3rd Rock from the Sun") to star in "Home Alone 4." Mike Weinberg ("Life as a House") will play Kevin McCallister, the role that Culkin originated in the 1990 blockbuster movie.

Stewart is set to play Marv Merchants, the comic villain originally played by Daniel Stern. Pyle will play Marv's new partner Vera.


Susan Sarandon, who won the best-actress Oscar for "Dead Man Walking" (1995), has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sarandon's star -- next to fellow Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg's in front of the new Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. -- was dedicated on Monday.


According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, People magazine and Us Weekly waged a bidding war for nine photos of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez sitting in a Bentley convertible -- with People coming out on top.

The paper said the magazine agreed to pay $75,000 for the pictures.

Affleck and J. Lo are a "hot item" in the aftermath of Lopez's recent split from her husband, but some photo experts question whether People got its money's worth.

One expert told the New York Post that under normal circumstances, the photos might fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000. People said it paid a reasonable price, considering that the photos featured two A-list celebrities.

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