Slater slates ‘Talkers’; ‘Phone’ man hits bigtime

AS JOHN WOO PLOTS his followup to “Mission: Impossible 2” with the MGM drama “Windtalkers,” the Hong Kong helmer has enlisted Christian Slater to join Nicolas Cage in the fact-based tale of battle-hardened soldiers consigned to bodyguard Navajo Indians who transmit and receive code in their native tongue to thwart the Japanese codecrackers during World War II.

Slater will join Cage as one of the soldiers given the order to kill the men they are ordered to protect, if capture seems imminent. The pic begins shooting in August in Hawaii. The script’s by John Rice and Joe Batteer, and produced by Woo and partner Terence Chang, and Alison Rosenzweig and Tracie Graham.

Slater is currently in Toronto, starring with Tim Allen in “Cletis Tout” for Seven Arts. Slater recently completed starring with Kevin Costner in “3000 Miles to Graceland” for Warner Bros., and he’ll soon be seen alongside Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges in “The Contender,” the Rod Lurie-directed pic which will be distributed by DreamWorks. He’s repped by ICM and managed by Cynthia Pett-Dante of Brillstein-Grey.

PHONING TO THE A-LIST: The commitment of Joel Schumacher and Jim Carrey to his spec script “Phone Booth” would establish Larry Cohen as an overnight success, if he wasn’t 58 years old with about 30 years of B-list credits under his belt, about 18 of which he directed. “Now that we’ve gotten Jim Carrey, I’ve gone from a B-list director to an A-list writer,” said Cohen, calling from Chicago where he is about to script a remake of “The Mechanic” for MGM and producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, who did the original gritty hitman pic. “The funny thing about ‘Phone Booth’ is I wrote the character of a small-time hustling publicist and patterned him after Tony Curtis in ‘Sweet Smell of Success,’ and even had Tony ready to star in the film, until the big players got involved and I stepped aside to let them direct it.”

Reports that Michael Bay was nearly set to direct the pic were inflated, said Cohen: “He didn’t last long, since he asked in the first meeting, ‘How do we get this thing out of the phone booth?’ ” Cohen recalled.

After years of knocking around with small pics, Cohen hit his stride, he said, writing real-time pictures with believable ticking clocks. He scored a Centropolis sale for “Cellular,” in which a guy gets a cel call from a woman who’s kidnapped with her daughter, and tries to locate and save them before the call disconnects. Dean Devlin will direct that pic, and Centropolis also ponied up for his script “Cast of Characters,” which Roland Emmerich might direct. “When I started writing on ‘NYPD Blue’ a couple years ago, people asked who’s the new kid, and now it’s nice to be the new kid again in features. I never had more ideas in my life than I have now. I guess success agrees with me,” said Cohen, whose price is up near the seven-figure mark for his scripts.

MIRAMAX GOES THRILLER ROUTE: With a top-notch screenwriter and a premise sure to hook a strong female actress, Robert Kamen’s spec script “Leaving Eden” landed a speedy outright sale to Miramax for high six-figures for a thriller to be fasttracked and produced by Dylan Sellers.

Kamen, whose credits include the “Karate Kid” series and “A Walk in the Clouds,” has scripted a thriller in which a woman has a spur of the moment fling with a guy who proves to be incredibly dangerous.

Kamen was repped by UTA. Sellers is also prepping the Jamie Blanks-directed “Valentine” and the Frank Marshall-directed “The Expendables,” both at Warner Bros. Miramax exec Michelle Raimo will oversee the project, with biz affairs senior veep Michael Luisi made the deal.

ON TO “HO HO BRO”: After making large first impressions in “Life,” “Liberty Heights,” “Romeo Must Die” and “Big Momma’s House,” Anthony Anderson is poised for his shot at stardom as one of the three oversized black triplets fathered by a split-personality cop played by Jim Carrey in “Me, Myself & Irene.”

With that momentum, he’s the focal point of “Ho Ho Bro,” a comic pitch that USA Films bought for low against mid-six figures. Anderson will play a guy whose desire to please his daughter with the perfect holiday present is hindered by the fact he makes peanuts by selling peanuts at Knicks games. Luck changes when a major corporation which has started rumors of a black Santa-suited guy doing good deeds, hires the peanut vendor to fill the suit. That’s until he learns the truth about the corporation.

The pitch is to be written by Adam Glass, who developed the concept with Anderson after they were brought the idea by Tapestry Films. Tapestry’s Robert Levy and Peter Abrams will produce, with Andrew Panay co-producing. Anderson will be associate producer. He, along with Glass, Panay and Jason Free will get story credit.

Anderson is agented by Colton Gramm, managed by Paul Young and E. Brian Dobbins and lawyered by Rick Genow. Young also reps scripter Glass.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK: Agents say the toughest part of their business is helping talent develop, only to watch them leave. But sometimes, they come back.

Eight months after she left UTA, Julia Stiles has returned to the percentery. Stiles, a teen titan since starring in the telepic “The ’60s,” was just awarded the MTV Movie Award for Female Breakthrough performance for “10 Things I Hate About You.” While she preps for her freshman year at Columbia U this fall, Stiles is filming the indie “The Business of Strangers.” Her attorney is Geoff O’Blath.

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