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Spacey, Redford, Crowe topline high-voltage slate

Studio execs pour over future flicks, hope for blockbusters

HOLLYWOOD — In the dog days of summer, when much of Hollywood’s cognoscenti is either dozing by the saltwater pool at the Hyatt in Kauai or wishing they were, studio production prexies like U’s Scott Stuber and Mary Parent are slogging over next spring’s slate like a couple of law students cramming for finals.

“It’s kind of a working holiday for us,” deadpans Parent.

On paper at least, U has a strong roster due for release over the next year to 18 months.

Among the films carrying the hopes of U Pictures into late 2001:

  • Based on the novel by Gene Brewer, Kevin Spacey-Jeff Bridges starrer “K-Pax” is set for release Oct. 26. The drama tells the story of Prot (Spacey), a mysterious patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a distant planet.

  • Robert Redford emerges from behind the camera to co-star with Brad Pitt in Tony Scott’s thriller “Spy Game.” Pitt and Redford vehicles have not done well at the box office of late, so U execs are hoping that the teaming of Scott (“Enemy of the State,” “Crimson Tide”) with scribe Doug Wick (“Gladiator”) on a spy thriller with all its attendant international locales will be just the ticket to resuscitate the aud appeal of the two stars. Pic is set for release Thanksgiving weekend.

  • Christmas Day, U will launch one of its no-brainer Oscar hopefuls, “A Beautiful Mind.” The film is crammed with top-drawer talent — Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, helmer Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and scribe Akiva Goldsman.

  • In an attempt to not only counterprogram the competish but also itself, the day after Christmas, U is releasing Jersey Films’ digital video title “How High.” Multiplatinum rap superstars Redman and Method Man star as two guys who smoke something magical, ace their college entrance exams and end up at Harvard. Pic is directed by commercial/musicvid whiz Jesse Dylan, who is making his feature debut.

“We think there should be something for everybody, especially at Christmas,” Stuber notes. Though Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider and U Studios prexy Ron Meyer give their production heads room to call their own shots, Stuber emphasizes that the interaction between offices is a daily affair.

“It’s a team effort. We all challenge each other so nothing gets taken for granted.”

Looking forward to 2002 and 2003, U’s slate so far is not tipped exclusively at the busy and revenue-rich summer periods. Among others:

  • “Big Fat Liar,” a comedy starring “Malcolm in the Middle’s” lead Frankie Muniz and rising character actor Paul Giamatti (now in post-production) skedded for release in spring.

  • “The Bourne Identity,” the next Matt Damon vehicle. Based on the Robert Ludlum novel and co-starring “Run Lola Run” lead Franka Potente, “Bourne” has all the elements of a depths-of-winter escapist vehicle. Pic is in post, as is Kevin Costner’s bid for a comeback, “Dragonfly.”

  • Among other potential late spring/early summer 2002 titles: “The Scorpion King,” which puts wrestling star the Rock in his first bona fide lead; “Undercover Brother,” a comedy with Eddie Griffin and Dave Chappelle; and the yet-untitled Eminem quasi-biopic.

  • On the far horizon, in 2003: “Red Dragon,” the “Silence of the Lambs” prequel (and retellling of 1986’s “Manhunter”) and “The Hulk,” from director Ang Lee.

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