‘Gump’ duo on desert island; Arbus airborne

NEW YORK — Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis, whose last collaboration resulted in a gold rush of Oscars and money with “Forrest Gump,” are planning to reteam early next year in “The Castaway,” a film scripted by “Appolo 13” scribe William Broyles which will result in one of the most unusual movie shooting schedules ever.

The film becomes a potential event pic at 20th Century Fox, which has been developing the script for several years under a deal the studio had with Hanks.

DreamWorks is now in talks to become involved in the project, as Zemeckis’s Image Movers is based there. Fox would not comment and a DreamWorks rep acknowledged that talks were taking place, but that no deals were done.

Aside from the Zemeckis-Hanks re-teaming, the film is an exceptional effort because of the production schedule. The film’s a contemporary story of a man stranded on a deserted island and his efforts to stay alive. While Zemeckis employed groundbreaking technology to morph Hanks’s “Gump” character into black and white historical newsreel footage, Zemeckis this time will halt production so that Hanks can go on a radical diet. He’ll return to finish the film in an emaciated state.

According to the game plan coming together, Zemeckis and Hanks plan to start the film early next year. Partway through, they’ll halt production. Zemeckis will switch gears and move over to direct Harrison Ford in “What Lies Beneath,” the Clark Gregg-scripted supernatural drama for DreamWorks which starts filming in September. While Zemeckis shoots the ghost tale, Hanks will work on becoming a ghost of his former self, to accentuate the effects of being stranded. Once Hanks loses the weight, he and Zemeckis will return to complete the film.

Zemeckis has been taking his time choosing his next project after last directing “Contact,” but sources said that the back-to-back film scenario is in the most serious discussions.

Hanks has just wrapped the Warner Bros. Nora Ephron-directed “You Have Mail” with his “Sleepless in Seattle” co-star Meg Ryan, and moves on to the Frank Darabont-directed adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Green Mile” for Castle Rock. Sources said Hanks and Broyles, buddies from “Apollo 13,” have been quietly plotting “The Castaway” for some time, and enlisted Zemeckis for the project. Both Zemeckis and Hanks are CAA-repped.

WHALE OF A DEAL: Viking Penguin bought publishing rights to “The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” the true account of a boat sunk by a giant whale that inspired “Moby Dick,” which Dish mentioned Tuesday. Book didn’t even make it to auction, as Viking Penguin editor Kris Puopolo preempted with a $1.2 million bid for agent Stuart Krichevsky.

German pub rights were also preempted, but a London auction’s skedded for next week as the book racks up impressive presales. Screen rights will be handled by UTA’s Richard Green and Howie Sanders. The book, based on an unpublished account from a cabin boy, was sold on the basis of a 60-page proposal by Nathaniel Philbrick, an eminent historian on Nantucket and director of the Egan Institute for Maritime Studies there.

The material was in the possession of the historical association there. He’s put together the mate’s account and has logged extensive research on the tragedy himself to round out the tale. Studios are understandably hot and bothered, but the agents might very well wait for interest to heighten when the book is published before selling screen rights. The pub date is spring 2000.

GETTING ABOARD THE ARBUS: Barbra Streisand, Diane Keaton and Jodie Foster all have been mentioned as actresses who might be interested in portraying photographer Diane Arbus. Now, producer Edward Pressman is ready to cast “Arbus,” a biopic based on the Patricia Bosworth book.

Pressman has hired Mark Romanek to direct after he wrote the script. Romanek is a renowned director of videos from the likes of Madonna, Michael and Janet Jackson and Fiona Apple. Arbus, famed for her disturbing portraits, committed suicide in 1971.

BONO’S FILM ACTIVITY: Bono, the charismatic lead singer and songwriter of U2, is finally making a long-expected foray into feature films. Bono’s already heavily involved in the Phil Joanou-directed film “Entropy,” in which Stephen Dorff plays a director making a film about the band.

Aside from extensive use of footage from the band’s Pop Mart tour, Bono plays himself in several acting scenes. Now, the Bono-generated “Million Dollar Hotel” is set to be the next film by his close friend Wim Wenders, for whom U2 has supplied soundtrack songs in the past. Bono wrote the story along with Nicolas Klein, who turned it into a script.

The film starts when a billionaire’s son dies in a skid row hotel and a federal agent turns the lives of the miscreant residents upside down to find out if it was suicide or murder. Deepak Nayar produces and Wenders has begun casting, with a swarm of hot young actors lining up. Names most often mentioned for major roles include Milla Jovovich, Edward Furlong, Leonardo DiCaprio, Winona Ryder and Gretchen Mol.

FIRECRACKER” RETEAM: Helen Hunt won’t be the only recent Oscar winning actress to take the Gotham stage this year. Holly Hunter, who won the Oscar for “The Piano,” takes the stage in September starring in “Impossible Marriage,” a play penned by Beth Henley, who wrote Hunter’s starmaking movie, “Miss Firecracker,” which originated as an Off Broadway play. “Impossible Marriage” will be performed at the Roundabout Theater in September, with Stephen Wadsworth directing. Hunter’s repped by ICM’s Steve Dontanville. Hunt, by the way, is starring in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” with Paul Rudd with Nicholas Hytner directing.

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