NEW YORK — Baltimore/Spring Creek Prods. partners Barry Levinson and Paula Weinstein are setting up shop at Intermedia for a two-year first-look deal.
Levinson and Weinstein had been at Warner Bros., where they put together that studio’s biggest 2000 hit, the Wolfgang Petersen-directed adaptation of the Sebastian Junger book “The Perfect Storm,” a pic they produced with Petersen and Gail Katz. During their WB run, Levinson and Weinstein also produced the WB/Village Roadshow Pictures hit “Analyze This.”
The deal, which calls for Intermedia to provide overhead and a large development fund, begins with another large-scale, water-based drama based on a celebrated book — “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” the National Book Award-winning tale by Nathaniel Philbrick. The book, optioned last year (Daily Variety, Oct. 3), recounts the true story of a whaling ship that was rammed by an enraged sperm whale, trapping the captain and crew aboard three small whale boats. Going against the captain’s better instincts, they avoided an easy trip to an island they feared was inhabited by cannibals. Instead, they spent months lost at sea and, ironically, were forced to engage in cannibalism to survive.
The script is being written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”) and is a possible Levinson directing vehicle. Levinson, who most recently directed the DreamWorks comedy “An Everlasting Piece,” is lensing the MGM pic “Bandits,” starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.
NEW HANKS IN “ORANGE COUNTY”: Colin Hanks has landed the lead role in the ensemble cast of “Orange County,” starring with Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin, Schuyler Fisk and Mike White. White is the “Chuck and Buck” scribe who wrote this comedy. Hanks, the son of “Cast Away” star Tom Hanks, moves up to the feature ranks after spending the past two seasons as part of the ensemble cast of the WB drama “Roswell.” The film has been set for a Jan. 24 start by Paramount and MTV Films, produced by Scott Rudin, Van Tofler and David M. Gale.
Hanks isn’t the only participant with a film-famous parent. Director Jake Kasdan is the son of “The Big Chill” helmer Lawrence Kasdan, and “Orange County” cast member Schuyler Fisk is the daughter of actress Sissy Spacek. “Orange County” features Hanks as an overachieving high schooler whose aspirations to go to Stanford are endangered when a guidance counselor mistakenly forwards the transcripts of his underachieving classmate.
RAH-RAH GUY “DOWN WITH LOVE”: Hot off directing the surprisingly successful Beacon/Universal cheerleading comedy “Bring It On,” Peyton Reed has been brought on to helm the Fox 2000 comedy “Down With Love,” the romantic comedy scripted by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, produced by the “American Beauty” team of Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen. The pic’s a quirky homage to the sweet romantic films done by Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and likely will start shooting post-strike. Just as Reed signed on, the Jinks/Cohen Co. has set up at NBC and NBC Prods. a series pilot “No Place Like Matt’s,” which is being penned by Ahlert and Drake. The producers also are waiting for Steven Spielberg to direct the John August-scripted “Big Fish” at Columbia and are developing the fact-based drama “Family Firm” at Joe Roth’s Revolution.
ZEMECKIS’S FEAT: Lost in the runaway grosses of “Cast Away” for Fox and DreamWorks is a feat achieved by director Robert Zemeckis that Dish believes is unprecedented. When “Cast Away” so quickly reached the $100 million gross mark on Sunday, Dec. 31, Zemeckis became the first person to direct two films released in a calendar year that crossed the century mark in the same calendar year. The only one to come close is Steven Spielberg, who directed “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List,” but the latter film, which reached only $96 million domestic, did most of its business at the start of the following year, leading up to its best picture Oscar in 1993.
Zemeckis notched his first $100 million grosser in the summer 2000 thriller “What Lies Beneath,” a pic he did with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer that was sandwiched in between “Cast Away’s” crazy schedule that allowed Tom Hanks’s 50-pound weight loss. Both films have given an auspicious start to Image Movers, the DreamWorks-based company hatched by Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey. That company did “Cast Away” along with Playtone, the company Hanks runs with Gary Goetzman. Hanks hatched the idea with “Apollo 13” scribe William Broyles as “Chuck of the Jungle” with Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler almost eight years ago. As for the precedent-setting Zemeckis, not surprisingly, he’s taking a year off.
STRIKE PUSHBACK: Reality, or the possible reality of a debilitating actors strike, has begun to set in for some studios and producers pushing to get spring production starts. Some of the biggest projects in Hollywood now look like they’ll have to wait until the strike is either averted or settled before they begin production. Among them is “Terminator 3,” the Tedi Serafian-scripted pic for producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna, which has Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Furlong set to reprise their roles. Though John McTiernan was touted as potential lenser, all that’s moot for now. While rewrites have continued, and there’s been rumor that subpar “Sixth Day” returns have dampened Schwarzenegger’s bankability, the truth is Kassar and Vajna are financing the film independently and couldn’t get a completion bond if they were unsure they could finish in time.
Also eyeing a post-strike berth is the Richard Donner-directed Michael Crichton novel adaptation “Timeline,” a deal set up with a fast track to production. Other pics having trouble include “Truck 44,” the Peter Berg-directed Sam Jackson starrer, and Disney’s sequel to “The Santa Clause,” the latter because reprising star Tim Allen wanted a sharper script. Also getting pushed back is “Kill Bill,” the long-awaited return vehicle for writer-director Quentin Tarantino, which is to star Uma Thurman. If Tarantino has waited this long to make a film, he’s not going to rush to beat a strike. Same for “Meet the Parents” helmer Jay Roach, who’s pushing back “50 First Kisses.” This is just the tip of the iceberg, as more and more projects will begin relinquishing their hoped-for spring dates. From a quality standpoint, a lot of them will be better off.