Cinefile; Foster joins WB ‘Maverick’

Jodie Foster will star opposite Mel Gibson in “Maverick,” a production for Gibson’s Icon company to be released by Warner Bros. Based on the popular 1950s television series that established James Garner’s career, “Maverick” will begin filming in late August under the direction of Richard Donner.

Garner also has a pivotal role in the film, but not as a member of the Maverick family. He’ll play Cooper, a rival gambler and arival suitor for the Foster character’s attention

With the current success of “The Fugitive,” the folks at the Burbank lot are pumped about the commercial potential of this television refugee. However, the “Maverick” history to date has been fraught with telling problems. Wrinkles are still being ironed out.

Gibson’s interest in reinventing the charming scamp put the film on a fast track. Donner was seen as the likely candidate to direct, but he had other projects on his card, including the on-again, off-again “The Witching Hour” with Michelle Pfeiffer. Regardless of who would wind up behind the camera, “Maverick” was clearly seen as a star vehicle and a potential franchise.

With that in mind, William Goldman was hired to write the screenplay — an apt choice considering his work on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and his views on writing for stars. His first script apparently was perfectly tailored to that end.

According to sources close to the production, it was perhaps too perfect. This started to become clear when the casting began for the other key roles.

Cooper was originally envisioned as about the same age as Gibson. However, availability and chemistry forced a rethink. When Paul Newman was sought for the part, he expressed interest contingent on Goldman’s next draft which, presumably , would be more tailor-made for him and would make the character more intrinsic to the plot.

The custom job was done but Newman decided to pass in favor of the upcoming Robert Benton-directed family drama, “Nobody’s Fool.”

Similarly, the female lead role has been evolving. She’sbeen a Southern belle as well as specifically a gambler and maybe a cardsharp. Meg Ryan seemed to have nailed the part but, depending on who you believe, either the company could not make her deal or a personal tragedy caused her to beg off work for a few months.

Foster met with Gibson and Donner last Friday and there was a lot of discussion on how to address her role in an upcoming rewrite. The deal was cemented Monday. Specific changes are in the works, but for the moment the studio press release ambiguously refers to the character as “a resourceful and spirited young woman.”

SON OF A BEACH! Back about a million years ago, Kevin Costner made his film debut in the quickly forgotten “Malibu Hot Summer.” Well, not too quickly.

After the actor’s ascension, producer Eric Louzil rechristened the sex romp “Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.” and made a video deal for it and another early Costner, “Shadows Run Black.” Both did very nicely, according to distributor Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Inc.

Louzil says Kev would like to forget a lot of those early films. He says the actor even inquired about buying up the negatives and inviting everyone over for a celebration barbecue, with the films as the main course. But is this B-minus past about to disappear?

Not hardly, for Louzil has managed to pull the “Sizzle-ing” footage of Costner’s first sex scenes to insert in his latest effort, “Silent Fury.” The new film is an action romance that stars L.P. Brown III, Tai Collins, former child star Dana Plato and famous widow Malika Kinison.

According to the filmmaker, the vintage footage — a love scene in front of a blazing fireplace — will be watched on video by Brown and Collins in the film. The former will “humorously” deal with who’s the better lover. Collins will have to decide between live or Memorex, so to speak.

Has the producer/director gone too far in exploiting this relic?

Perhaps, but not in the more obvious way. Though he says he’s cleared its usage in “Silent Fury,” Troma’s Kaufman was unaware a request had been made for its inclusion in the indie effort. The head of Troma’s business affairs department said: “I’m sure it’s an oversight. If the request had been made I would know. This is all new news to me.”

DIRECTOR PAUL MAZURSKY was perusing the New York Times months back when he read a piece by Aljean Harmetz about Carol Ann Francis, an actress who posed as her own agent and actually landed work. He thought what a great idea for a movie.

So, with writer David Freeman, he worked up a two-page treatment and presented it to the folks at Columbia, where he has a first-look deal.

At the pitch meeting he attempted to work up a frenzy by suggesting that Barbra Streisand would be perfect for the role. But the execs failed to see its entertainment potential. Mazursky had to shrug as he threw in the towel.

However, life is rife with coincidence. About two months later the trades were ablaze with the news TriStar had bought the property. Not only that but the yarn was bought specifically for — add drum roll here — Babs!

Mazursky thought providence might still be smiling down on him. TriStar and/or the multitalented Ms. S shared his enthusiasm for the project. He marched directly to the source and told Barbra’s head of development about the brick wall he encountered at Columbia and his continuing ardor for the material.

For a brief moment it looked like everything might click. But a couple of weeks later he was told a decision had been made that this was one project that would involve women in all the key creative spots, including his. Obviously the folks at Barwood missed the filmmaker’s stellar work in “Moon Over Parador.”

IT’S BEEN BOTHERING US just a little that the cop on the trail in “The Fugitive” was renamed Sam, as opposed to Philip Gerard in the television series. Isn’t that just a tad niggling?

Not at all, says director Andy Davis. The production, as is standard, submitted names, etc. for the studio to clear and Philip Gerard bounced back; apparently there’s someone out there with that same name who poses a legal problem. A lot can change in 25 years, so Sam Gerard was tossed back and cleared the hurdle.

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