‘Vampires’ puts bite on Woods

James Woods has signed a seven-figure deal to star in “John Carpenter’s Vampires,” a contemporary horror thriller which has been greenlit by Largo Entertainment for a June 2 start in Sante Fe, N.M.

Woods, hot off his Oscar-nominated performance in “Ghosts of Mississippi,” will get the rare chance to sink his teeth into a good-guy role. He’ll play the Vatican’s ace vampire hunter in the film, which Carpenter adapted from the John Steakley novel “Vampires.” Carpenter will direct, hoping to hatch a new horror franchise. The film is being produced by Largo and Sandy King’s Storm King Prods., with King and Carpenter producing.

Woods will be seen and heard in two of the summer’s big films. He co-stars with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in Robert Zemeckis’ “Contact,” and voices Hades in Disney’s animated “Hercules.”

Carpenter has long wanted to venture into bloodsucking territory. “They originated as the sublimated Victorian symbol for sex,” Carpenter said in a statement. “Dracula is entirely about sex, as is much of our film. It has a strong undertone of addiction and seduction.”

Largo will be showcasing Woods’ participation in the film at Cannes, where the actor will attend the Un Certain Regard world premiere of the Martin Scorsese-produced “Kicked in the Head,” in which Woods stars for October Films. Woods is repped by ICM’s Toni Howard.

CLOONEY’S PERSONAL PIC: What do you get Batman when he turns 36? When George Clooney had a big birthday bash at his house Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine anybody outdid his personal assistant, Amy Cohen. She made a 51-minute movie for Clooney, and got some high-profile Clooney cohorts to take part.

They included Clooney’s “ER” boss Steven Spielberg, “Batman and Robin” director Joel Schumacher, “Peacemaker” director Mimi Leder, WB toppers Terry Semel and Bob Daly, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, “From Dusk Till Dawn” scribe Quentin Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez, NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer and Warren Littlefield, CBS’s Les Moonves, and an array of talent that included Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell, Jennifer Aniston, Anthony Edwards, Sherry Stringfield and Julianna Margulies.

Each person did a skit or vignette for Clooney, and sources said the film was so funny Clooney should consider releasing it — there was even an animated segment by the makers of “The Spirit of Christmas,” whom Clooney helped get a feature deal. Perhaps the biggest scene stealer was Cameron Diaz, who revealed her breasts for the camera in Jerry’s Deli. Sources said Clooney told revelers it was the best birthday present he’d ever received.

KRIEL’S CRANKING: “Kama Sutra” has positioned screenwriter Helena Kriel for bigger things — especially since the South African playwright moved to L.A. After scripting “Scheherazade” for Warner Bros., she has been hired by the Henson Co. to adapt the fantasy adventure novel “Switchers,” about a boy and girl with the power to transform themselves into various animals. Producers are Janet Yang and Lisa Henson. And an earlier Kriel script, “Heated,” is heating up for Cinema Line’s Verna Harrah and Susan Ruskin. The adult love story has landed “Bandit Queen” director Shakur Kapoor. Kriel’s agented by Daniel Ostroff.

LEE FAST TRACKING?: While the fate of TriStar’s post-Robert Cooper upper management structure won’t be decided until Sony topper John Calley and cohorts return from the Cannes opening of “The Fifth Element,” the exec most rumored to be in poll position for the prexy job is exec veep Chris Lee, who was instrumental in such studio successes as “Jerry Maguire.” Lee couldn’t be reached for comment, nor could Sony brass.

HAMILL’S DARK SIDE: After his Luke Skywalker encore in the “Star Wars” re-release, Mark Hamill has signed to co-star with Peter Stormare and Lena Olin in “Hamilton,” a film produced by Hans Lonnerheden, exec produced by Ingemar Leijonborg and directed by Harald Zwart, based on the Swedish secret service novels “No Man’s Land” and “The Only Victory.” Hamill plays a vicious villain, an ex-agent who smuggles nuclear warheads. Has Luke finally succumbed to the dark side? “Mark is an actor, he plays many roles,” his spokesman helpfully pointed out.

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