According to a report in Daily Variety, the FX cable channel has signed up documentarian R.J. Cutler ("American High," "The War Room"), reality producer Tom Lassally ("Totally Hidden Video") and comedy director Jay Roach ("Austin Powers," "Meet the Parents") for a two-year project that would allow viewers to choose a "people's candidate" for president of the United States in 2004.
Cutler said "American Candidate" would be like a cross between "The War Room" and "American Idol."
"We will be making available to every American who is qualified, by virtue of the Constitution, the opportunity to run for president," he said. "We're trying to see if there's a young Abe Lincoln out there, somebody whose vision could turn on the public in an exciting way."
FX entertainment president Kevin Reilly told Variety the series will try to identify "the Jesse Venturas of the world, finding messages people want to hear."
Applicants will fill out questionnaires, send in videotapes of themselves explaining why they should be president, and find 50 people from their community who are willing to sponsor their campaign. The application process is expected to get started next January, with a panel of "experts" narrowing down the field to about 100 candidates who would be featured on the show.
The producers envision episodes originating from scenic and historic American locales, such as the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. Candidates will compete in various electoral exercises -- including debates -- and viewers will decide from week to week which candidates should be voted off the show and which should continue on the road to the White House.
The final episode will be staged as an "American Candidate" convention on the Mall in Washington around July 4, 2004. It's envisioned as a live episode, with viewers choosing the "people's candidate" from among three finalists. It will be up to the winner to decide whether to wage an official campaign for the White House.
NO WRITE-IN FOR ARNOLD THIS YEAR
Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to terminate speculation that he might be a write-in candidate for California governor in November.
The star of "True Lies" and the "Terminator" movie series has been busy promoting Proposition 49, a ballot initiative that would increase state funding for before- and after-school programs in California. With polls showing California voters disenchanted -- or worse -- with the two major party candidates for governor, speculation has grown around a possible write-in campaign, but the big guy told The Fresno Bee newspaper he isn't going for it.
"I can only focus on one thing at a time," Schwarzenegger said.
The Bee reported that supporters of Proposition 49 -- who have been polling on behalf of the initiative -- have been asking voters whether they would support Schwarzenegger as a write-in candidate for governor on Nov. 5. He told the paper's editorial board the question was designed to gauge how much of the support for the initiative is based on its own merit and how much is related to his own popularity.
Schwarzenegger considered running this year against incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, but decided against it. Instead he filmed "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."
NEW WRITER FOR 'SPIDEY' SEQUEL
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon ("The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," "Wonder Boys") is the latest writer to take a crack at the sequel to this year's blockbuster "Spider-Man."
Chabon will rewrite "The Amazing Spider-Man," planned for a May 2004 release. The sequel will reunite most of the principals from "Spider-Man," including stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and director Sam Raimi.
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar ("Shanghai Noon," "Showtime") had been signed to write the sequel, and David Koepp -- who wrote "Spider-Man" -- had also taken a whack at the project.
CLEESE GETS HIS WINGS
When John Cleese joined the cast of "Charlie's Angels 2," playing the father of Lucy Liu's character, Alex, it was a whirlwind assignment.
Cleese -- who will appear in two of the upcoming holiday season's highest-profile releases, "Die Another Day" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" -- said he got the "Angels" assignment on a Monday and finished his work on it in a one-day shoot the following Friday. From the sound of things, he wasn't the first choice to play the character.
"When I got the script," said Cleese, "the character was still a New York socialite -- Jewish. What was surprising was that she was still a woman."
Cleese, of course, is not from New York, is not Jewish and is not a woman -- although he did play in drag countless times with Monty Python's Flying Circus. He said the script was not fully revised until about 20 minutes before he and "Charlie's Angels 2" director McG started to block his scenes.
Cleese will exploit his fatherly image in another upcoming sequel, doing the voice of Princess Fiona's father in "Shrek 2."
ONE DIRECTS, THE OTHER ACTS
Charles Dutton says acting is a piece of cake compared to directing, so it's ironic that after two decades in the Hollywood trenches, Dutton finally won an Emmy for acting -- just as he has begun to stake a claim as a top-flight director.
Dutton -- whose acting resume includes "A Time to Kill" (1996), "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1995) and "Alien³" (1992) -- picked up the Emmy last Sunday for outstanding guest actor in a drama series, for his performance in an episode of ABC's "The Practice." It is his second Emmy, but only his first for acting.
Dutton won the Emmy for directing in a miniseries or movie in 2000, for an episode of "The Corner," the HBO miniseries based on David Simon's book about the narcotics trade in Baltimore. Previously, he had been nominated for lead actor in a miniseries or movie for "The Piano Lesson" (1995), and for guest actor in a drama series for "Oz" (1999).
The artist formerly known as Charles S. Dutton sounded amused at finally getting a top acting prize just as he is shifting his energies to directing.
"Acting is the easiest money you will ever make in your life," said Dutton. "Directing is washing a battleship with a Q-tip."
Dutton is currently in post-production on his feature directing debut, "Against the Ropes," starring Meg Ryan. It's based on the story of promoter Jackie Kallen's struggle to make it in the male-dominated sport of boxing.
KIDMAN, A WITCH?
Nicole Kidman is reportedly in talks to star in a movie version of the classic TV comedy "Bewitched."
The Hollywood Reporter said Kidman hasn't been presented with an offer, but has expressed an interest in playing Samantha, the witch who marries a mere mortal and tries her best to keep a promise never to use her magical powers. The TV show (ABC, 1964-72) starred Elizabeth Montgomery, who was nominated five times for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
The Reporter also said Mike Myers is the producers' "top choice" to play Darren, Samantha's befuddled husband.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the cameras to roll on this one, however. No director has been signed and the project is just being put out to writers to come up with a new approach to the story.