Simpson-Bruckheimer fish for stars of sub pic

DYNAMIC DUO TURN “TIDE” AT DISNEY: Some two years after they joined Disney, “Top Gun” tandem Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer once again have a slew of projects the town’s talking about. Aside from the S-B produced Denis Leary comedy “The Ref,” which Touchstone opens March 11 to strong word of mouth, and the Hollywood Pictures pic “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” which starts shooting with Michelle Pfeiffer next week, the duo has two other projects ready to be cast.

Furthest along is “Crimson Tide,” a project that has caught the fancy of “Top Gun” director Tony Scott and is eyeing a spring start. Scripted by Michael Schiffer (“Colors”), it’s a taut thriller described as a cross between “The Hunt for Red October” and “Failsafe.” A hardline Russian pol who’s seized some nuclear subs has threatened to start a war with the U.S. Two commanders on a nuclear-armed U.S. Trident sub in the area are ordered to launch missiles, but just as they’re attacked by a Soviet sub, they receive a second message too garbled to understand. Two sub commanders then fight over whether or not to engage in nuclear war, dividing the crew and whipping up a mutiny.

Tommy Lee Jones was first choice for the veteran commander, but he just passed, so they’re talking to other A-level stars. The likes of Val Kilmer and Andy Garcia are keen to get the other role — Garcia so much so that Dish hears he’s offered to do a “Posse” cameo.

The other Simpson and Bruckheimer project generating heat is “Max Q,” an action/adventure they’ve developed with “In the Line of Fire” director Wolfgang Petersen. Based on a Marty Kaplan (“Distinguished Gentleman”) script, it’s about an attempt to rescue the crew of a space shuttle that has gone awry in outer space. The timing of this project depends largely on whether Petersen makes WB’s “Outbreak”– for which he has a few weeks left on a holding deal. If Petersen gets freed to make “Max Q,” both new Simpson/Bruckheimer projects could well be in production by year’s end.

LIES AND TRUTHS: Though the New Yorker seems redfaced in labelling “Last Action Hero” a $ 100 million money loser based on net profit statements — since when has a net profit statement had any basis in reality? — it clearly illustrates the added pressure behind a big-budget film.

Currently getting scrutiny is a guy who’s never flinched at a large budget — James Cameron — who’s busy readying the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer “True Lies” for its July 1 opening date. In it, Schwarzenegger plays a secret agent who tries to keep his espionage activities from his wife, and the studio’s done a good cloak-and-dagger job keeping quiet the pic’s rising budget. Dish hears the budget has ballooned north of $ 100 million to as high as $ 120 million, and that it has fallen eight weeks behind schedule and racked up at least 140 shooting days so far.

And they’re still shooting, though rumor is they’re close to wrapping principal photography. But given the high action content, other distribs are wondering if the pic will make its date. They’ve given “Lies” a wide berth for the July 4 weekend, but Warner Bros.’ “Wyatt Earp” and MGM’s “Blown Away” might move right in if Cameron falls behind.

A studio rep denied the overages, said the film was always expected to wrap in March and will most assuredly make its opening date.

Still, Dish hears that Arnold’s plans to jump into an early March start on the Ivan Reitman-directed “Junior” had to be pushed back a bit so he could finish “Lies.” Other informed sources said Fox knew an action pairing of Cameron and Schwarzenegger would be pricey, but that with a solid Cameron script, the pic’s about as close to a sure thing as one can get.

It’s worth noting, they said, how closely this shoot parallels the last Cameron-Schwarzenegger pic, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” which went down to the wire and became one of the biggest films of all time. Still, since Fox is on the hook for overages — even though it splits some foreign rights with UIP — wanna bet the execs are having Maalox moments as they wait to see a finished print?

OFFICE VACANCY: Remember when Paramount exec-turned-producer David Kirkpatrick found that his office furniture had become lawn furniture? That was back in mid-November, and the studio said the office space was needed to accommodate a glut of producers. Apparently, the real estate market on the Par lot now mirrors the L.A. housing market.

Dressing Room 100 is still vacant months after Kirkpatrick exited and left behind little more than a large lawsuit.

Originally, it was thought that Alan Ladd Jr. was going to move in, but though Ladd assumed producer duties on “The Brady Bunch,” which Kirkpatrick developed, the veteran exec took different quarters.

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