Helmer exits ‘Barbershop’ sequel for hot ‘Date’

“BARBERSHOP 2” BACKSTORY: MGM’s “Barbershop” sequel got hairy Wednesday when Tim Story vacated the director’s chair to topline the DreamWorks comedy “Date School.”

Story’s abrupt exit was unusual in that it wasn’t squarely over money, ego or a creative clash. It was simply that a suddenly hot director decided he wasn’t going to repeat himself so soon, even if his scale salary would quadruple to $750,000. Rumors flew that Story balked because bigger salaries were given to Cedric the Entertainer, Ice Cube and State Street producers Bob Teitel and George Tillman. Story labeled that a bogus story.

“This was never about money for me,” Story said. Cash drove a career decision only once in his life, when he began directing videos to repay his girlfriend $200,000 she fronted to finance two indie pics. The fact he repaid her, bought her a house and will marry her in August attests to his success directing videos for Tyrese, ‘N Sync and others. Story did so well that he took a big paycut to work for scale on “Barbershop,” a $12 million film that grossed $76 million. Story helped hatched the sequel plot and seemed ready to go. Then Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman signed him for “Society Cab” and Imagine’s Brian Grazer and others began courting him.

“All I had when I started was a girlfriend with good credit,” he said. “But my dream was to do movies and I can’t describe how it feels being in a room with guys like Tom and Brian, when they know who I am and seem interested in my opinion.”

Suddenly, MGM’s push for a July start on “Barbershop 2” felt like an uncomfortably close shave. “I took a hard look at myself in the mirror and felt creatively that I couldn’t go back and do it again so soon,” he said. “Telling them that was like breaking up with your family. But I need to stretch, to feel scared, and I will always be willing to roll the dice on my own talent.”

Story’s reps at WMA, the Firm and attorney Michael Plotkin are auctioning a pitch Story wants to direct. Story’s now concentrated on his wedding, and getting to the altar on “Date School.”

FARENHEIGHTENED TEMPS: The title of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” refers to the temperature needed to make paper burn. Michael Moore’s plan to title his docu “Fahrenheit 911” was sufficient to make Bradbury burn. Since “451” will be filmed by Frank Darabont, Bradbury feels confusion is unavoidable, even if Moore’s title is an homage to the author. “He can’t have my title,” said Bradbury. “We’ve got an important film coming out, the book’s having its 50th anniversary in October. If he wants his movie to be an homage to me, why not title it, ‘Bradbury, where the hell are you now that we need you?'”

ALEX’S MOUNTAIN TREK: In the race to make an Alexander the Great pic, Oliver Stone and Intermedia have begun shooting. Sort of. Stone’s way up in the mountains of Northern India, close to the Himalayas, filming background footage. “It’s bloody cold, but the sun is shining beautifully and the weather presented an opportunity we had to grab,” said Intermedia chairman Moritz Borman. “Even though they’re up 14,000 feet, Oliver insisted on shooting the footage himself.”

DISHINGS: After shooting “Phone Booth” in 12 days, Joel Schumacher’s getting great reviews. He knows that making a good movie in two weeks will make it hard to ask for a big salary and budget. “I’m afraid they’ll say, here’s a couple bucks for you and your budget, be back in a week with the film,” Schumacher said, unconvinced by Dish’s suggestion that sheer volume will keep him well compensated … An Endeavor underling wins the prize for best April Fool’s Day prank. The percentery apprises clients of scripting and directing opportunities and the April 1 report touted the James Cameron-directed “Titanic 2.” Pic starts 200 years in the future, when the wreck is salvaged by a descendant of the Titanic ship builder, who refits it as a luxury space ship. Let’s hope it was a joke.

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