Playtone Co. partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are teaming with Rita Wilson to produce “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” a film based on Nia Vardalos’ autobiographical one-woman show. Vardalos wrote the script and will star in the film, to be directed by Joel Zwick. Gold Circle Films is financing the pic, which Lions Gate Films will distribute worldwide.
“Wedding,” which begins shooting Sept. 11, is casting up quickly, with Louis Mandylor joining Vardalos. The romantic comedy centers on a young Greek-American woman’s trials and tribulations when she falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept her fiance while she herself comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.
Playtone has many large-scale projects percolating that will star Hanks, such as a John Sayles-scripted film based on the New Yorker article “A Cold Case” and a Castle Rock adaptation of the Chris Van Allsburg children’s book “Polar Express.” But “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is the company’s first foray into the independent arena. Hanks’ wife and co-producer, Wilson saw the play in its first run by chance, then produced the second run at the Globe Theater in West Hollywood in winter 1998. Her passion for the project led to the film.
“I am Greek, and felt that I was watching mine or anybody’s family story up there,” said Wilson. “I met Mia, I dragged Tom to see it, and then Playtone decided to get involved when the movie rights were free.” Wilson had a role picked out for herself but then agreed to star in legiter “Dinner With Friends” at the Variety Arts Theater. She was gratified, however, that Vardolos did not get left behind. “She’s an accomplished actress, and I wanted her to star in her story, and the best thing about this was giving somebody a break,” Wilson said.
Zwick, a veteran TV director, is a longtime ally of Hanks’, dating back to “Bosom Buddies.” Playtone’s producing the film with MPH Entertainment, and Norm Wiatt, David Kronemyer and Paul Brooks are exec producers, with Jim Milio, Melissa Jo Peltier and Mark Hufnail co-exec producers. They’ve already licensed TV rights to HBO.
MOHR WORK THAN HE CAN HANDLE Jay Mohr is signing on to join Al Pacino, Kathryn Keener and Pruitt Taylor Vince in “Simone,” the New Line film directed by Andrew Niccol. Mohr, best known for “Jerry Maguire” and the Fox series “Action,” has been working up a storm. He’s completed “Pluto Nash” with Eddie Murphy; “Pay It Forward” with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment; and “Speaking of Sex” with Bill Murray. Mohr is repped by ICM’s Nick Styne and Toni Howard and managed by Barry Katz.
A WEEK IN THE LIFE Troy Garity, the actor son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, had an exceptional week as he forges ahead toward where both his parents have gone. Garity, who plays his father in a small role in the Abbie Hoffman biopic “Steal This Movie,” took a page from his activist dad when he was on the streets of Los Angeles protesting outside the Democratic convention. Like many there, he got caught up in the melee that took place outside the Staples Center. Trying to help an injured protester as cops attempted to disperse the crowd, Garity wound up getting pepper sprayed and shot in the wrist with a rubber bullet. The next day, he promoted “Steal this Movie,” and Friday completed an audition for a lead role in “Bandits,” the Barry Levinson-directed MGM film that stars Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett. That afternoon, he had his first rehearsal for the Beth Henley play “Signature,” which he promptly had to drop out of when he was offered the “Bandits” role by Levinson, who was unaware that Garity’s the son of the Oscar-winning actress. He’s repped by IFA Talent Agency.
“40” WEIGHT ROLE Vinessa Shaw is negotiating to star with Josh Hartnett in “40 Days & 40 Nights,” the Michael Lehmann-directed pic for Working Title (a partnership between Universal, Miramax and Canal Plus). Written by Rob Perez and produced by Michael London, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner with Liza Chasin exec producing, the autobiographical comedy tells the tale of a guy (Hartnett) who breaks up brutally with his girlfriend (Shaw), and vows to remain celibate during the 40 days of Lent. The estranged girlfriend schemes to seduce the man to break his vow. Shaw, whose credits include “Eyes Wide Shut,” is currently shooting “Corky Bonono” with Chris Kattan for Disney. She will next be seen in the Kathryn Bigelow-directed “The Weight of Water” with Sean Penn and Sarah Polley, a pic premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. Shaw’s repped by UTA, Industry Entertainment’s Eric Kranzler and Peter McGrath and attorney Steve Warren.
SURVIVING AT ICM She may not have won the $1 million, but “Survivor” contestant Colleen Haskell has gotten an agent. Haskell, 23, has signed with ICM agents Toni Howard and Andy Cohen, who will try to turn her designation as “America’s sweetheart” into movie, TV and publishing opportunities.
Haskell was given that moniker by Bryant Gumbel in the post-series finale interview. Haskell was voted off the island two episodes from the end, but certainly made an impression as the bikini-clad contestant who was often seen in the company of another contestant, Greg. She has no acting experience, but demonstrated an ability to work with a romantic storyline plus a willingness to eat rats and other, um, “delicacies.”
TRIBECA UPS KLAITS Elyse Klaits has been named by Tribeca Prods. partner Jane Rosenthal to the post of director of production for Tribeca, the downtown Gotham production company run by Rosenthal and Robert De Niro. Klaits served as associate producer and post-production supervisor on Tribeca’s “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Klaits had previously worked at the Kennedy/Marshall Co. Tribeca will soon bow “Meet the Parents,” the Jay Roach-directed comedy starring De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Dish will return Sept. 7.