Fox foresees franchises; papal pic lenses

Dish

FOX AFIRE: At a lavish bash at Gotham’s Pierpont Morgan Library Tuesday to welcome producers Arnold and Anne Kopelson to the Fox fold and intro a New York office run by Ruth Pomerance and Jill Kearney, Fox braintrust Peter Chernin, Bill Mechanic and Tom Rothman were bullish. Aside from landing the Kopelsons, Fox has quietly positioned itself for a steady supply of event fare.

Hard work by the studio — spearheaded by Tom Sherak — in launching George Lucas’s “Star Wars” reissue has given the studio an inside track to land Lucas’s coveted prequel trilogy. Staunch support of Jim Cameron during the trying and costly “Titanic” shoot positions Fox for a possible “Terminator 3” pic eyed for release in 1999, the same summer as the new “Star Wars” pic. And despite vows by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich to the con-trary, the studio’s optimistic on sequel possibilities to last summer’s smash “Independence Day.”

With sequels to “Aliens,” “Home Alone” and “Speed” coming, a studio that was franchise-less only a few years ago suddenly might well be flush with them.

FOX 2000 GETS ITS JEWELL: Though a lot of reporting about suspected Olympic Park bomber Richard Jewell was proved false, Daily Variety’s widely picked up newsbreak on Monday that Jewell would pact on a movie with Fox 2000 and producer Lynda Obst proved true Wednesday when ICM agents Rosalie Swedlin and Amanda Urban closed the deals.

They repped rights to Jewell, his family and attorneys, and Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair story. While Jewell might fade back into obscurity, Obst feels his ordeal won’t soon be forgotten. “As a former journalist, I’m fascinated by is-sues of journalistic ethics and integrity and how the media impacts lives,” she said. “Damage done on page one cannot be repaired on page 20.”

Jewell, who was exonerated as a suspect after having his life turned upside down by media and FBI, just filed suit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the paper that is the villain in another Obst-produced project, “Above the Fold.” That one is about editor Bill Kovach and how his tough editorial bent got him ousted. Dustin Hoffman wants to star when Lawrence Wright turns in his script. Indeed, many speculated that the paper was ultra-aggressive about Jewell to combat the Kovach legacy.

“One film is a character story in Kovach, the other Kafkaesque. The Jewell piece paints TV, the newspaper and the FBI with an equal brush. I’m not convinced any newspaper wouldn’t have made the same mistake. It’s a systemic problem, the hysteria to be first.”

While several reacted to Monday’s Jewell news by suggesting Chris Farley to play him, Obst had several casting ideas she was keeping to herself.

PAPAL PIC: Actor Scott Wilson’s next film will be a blessed event. Wilson, last seen in “The Grass Harp,” has landed the starring role in “Our God’s Brother,” the screen adaptation of a play written by a Polish playwright named Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II. Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi, the film stars Wilson in a biopic of monk Albert Chmjelowski. Shooting in Poland, it’s a co-production between Poland-based Tor and Italy’s Trans-World Film, with hopes they’ll wrap by the time the pope visits his homeland in May.

FORCING ‘BLACK PEARL’: Count Mark Hamill among those surprised at the strong reaction to Friday’s reissue of George Lucas’s “Star Wars.” “During lunch at his ranch, George dropped the bombshell that it was happening, and I don’t know if I kept a poker face, but I thought, what a terrible idea. How do you release a movie that never went away?” Hamill recalled.

Though Lucas told Hamill years ago he’d have a job around 2011 in a third “Star Wars” trilogy, Luke Skywalker’s hoping the pic will pay more immediate dividends. Hamill’s trying to secure financing for “Black Pearl,” a low-budget film he’ll direct from a script he co-wrote with Eric Johnson. It’s based on a popular Dark Horse comic se-ries written by Hamill. A disillusioned court reporter turns vigilante, complete with a ridiculous superhero cos-tume.

“It’s Travis Bickle lite, a thriller with humor inherent in the subject matter. It’s basically a tragic story like ‘Fargo’ riddled with laughs that catch in your throat because they’re so awful.”

It’s being shepherded by his attorney, Bob Lange, and Charlie Lippincott, who directed marketing for the original “Star Wars” and will be the producer. He’s leaning on friends and former “Star Wars” colleagues for help and if the force is with him, Hamill will have Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder doing the music. That’s because Vedder and his boyhood pals used to visit Hamill during his Skywalker days.

UNCOMMON OPTIMISM: “Boston Common” executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan continue to tinker with the sitcom, and have just hired Roger Rees — Kirstie Alley’s love interest on “Cheers” — to play the new prexy of Randolph Harrington College, and they’ve brought Margot Kidder back to play a recurring role as Cookie DeVaren. Both are taping the last seven shows of the sitcom’s sophomore season, and they’re hopeful about coming back for a third. “Warren Littlefield’s office called, and at his son’s school they’re auditioning a walk-on role for next season, so we’re encouraged,” Mutchnick said.

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