MOORE DOCU DRAMA: Before even a frame of “Fahrenheit 911” has been shot, Michael Moore’s new docu continues to be a hot potato.
Mel Gibson’s Icon Prods. has abruptly dropped the financing deal it made right after Moore won the Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine” and assailed President George W. Bush’s Iraqi invasion.
Moore’s savior is Miramax — sort of. Company will provide “bridge financing” for a pic that traces the historical ties between the Bush and bin Laden families and scrutinizes why the U.S. is so disliked abroad.
The incendiary material might explain why Miramax sources stop short of saying the studio will be the pic’s distributor. France-based the Wild Bunch is aboard to sell distribution and allow Miramax a low-risk chance to recoup. Wild Bunch and Miramax originally flirted with Moore’s film until Icon made an eight-figure bid in cash and potential backend.
So why did Icon toppers Gibson and Bruce Davey bail? Employing its usual silent strategy, the company wouldn’t say. Speculation is that the liberal politics of Moore are closer to those of Harvey Weinstein than the conservative Gibson’s. But sources at Icon argued that when Oscar euphoria passed and Bush’s invasion routed a tyrant, the bid seemed pricey for a docu, even though Moore’s last pic grossed nearly $40 million worldwide. As quickly as the Bush bashers disappeared, they could return, and Miramax is betting Moore’s pic will have a captive audience when released to coincide with Bush’s re-election run in 2004.
WILSON PICKS IT: When Luke Wilson makes his scripting and directing debut on “The Wendell Baker Story,” it will be a family reunion populated by every working Wilson but Tom Hanks’s “Cast Away” volleyball co-star.
Luke, who got Elie Samaha’s Franchise Films to finance, has drafted his actor brother Andrew to co-direct and brother Owen to co-star with him in the film to be shot this fall in Austin. Eva Mendes looms likely as his love interest, and Mark Johnson will produce.
The Wilson convergence is hardly the only recent family affair. Damon Wayans gets a fresh shot at stardom with the Fox pic “Homey the Clown,” directed by brother Keenen, who launched the screen careers of Marlon and Shawn with “Scary Movie.” And when Sam Goldwyn Jr. sold remake rights to his dad’s film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” he acknowledged the appeal of dealing with Paramount’s John Goldwyn on a potential blockbuster with Steven Spielberg directing Jim Carrey.
Luke’s debut comes as he blizzards the early-summer marketplace with three pics, starring with Kate Hudson in “Alex and Emma” (June 20) and reprising “boyfriend” roles in sequels to “Charlie’s Angels” (June 28) and “Legally Blonde” (July 2).
Much like his acting career, scripting and directing sort of just happened. He fell into acting when brother Owen and pal Wes Anderson wrote “Bottle Rocket” and needed low-cost talent to participate.
“Owen always encouraged me to write,” said Luke, who worked on his pic for four years. He plays a good-hearted ex-con schemer who goes straight and gets a job in a retirement hotel. Three elderly residents help him win back his girlfriend as he helps them battle hotel corruption led by the head nurse (Owen). CAA set up the financing.
“I’d write, put it down for a few months, work out notes from Mark Johnson,” he said. “Then I started feeling the scripts I was offered didn’t appeal to me like mine. When I finished, I realized I didn’t want somebody else directing unless it was Wes, who only directs what he writes. Andrew made documentaries and shows a good eye. Since I’m the star, it helps having him behind the camera to know if we got what we wanted out of my scenes.”
DISHINGS: “Cold Mountain” mates Nicole Kidman and director Anthony Minghella are warming to a potential rematch on “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” Allison Pearson’s comic novel about a woman who struggles to balance motherhood and a career . . . After letting Brett Ratner delay his next-pic obligation to try “Superman,” New Line wants him to do “Rush Hour 3.” But the difficulty in making talent deals with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan have him eyeing “Be Cool,” the MGM/Jersey sequel to “Get Shorty.” A strong draft by Peter Steinfeld put that pic back on the boards, but MGM will have to share with NL if they want Ratner . . . Agencies are salivating over Martin Scorsese after he met all of them this week. He hasn’t had one since following Michael Ovitz from CAA to AMG. The Firm manages him . . . Even a pic featuring William Shatner doing a hip-hop number is sequel-eligible. Mindfire Entertainment is prepping “Free Enterprise II: My Big Geek Wedding,” continuing the antics of Shatner and a group of sci-fi-obsessed, thirtysomething Trekkies.