'Pinkville,' 'Angels & Demons' shelved

While television has been feeling the immediate effects of the writers’ strike, the film industry has now posted two high-profile casualties, as production starts were canceled Friday on Sony’s Ron Howard-directed “Angels & Demons” and United Artists’ Oliver Stone-directed drama “Pinkville.”

Other studio films also could be in jeopardy, as production start dates loom on several pics with scripts that have not yet been given the thumbs-up by stars who have script approval.

Though Akiva Goldsman worked for more than a year on Sony’s sequel to “The Da Vinci Code,” the “Angels & Demons” script still had problems when Goldsman was forced to put down his pencil. Goldsman had been rewriting until the strike deadline to make a February production start on the Vatican-set thriller.

Sony, which had set a Christmas 2008 release date for “Angels & Demons,” has pushed the pic’s release back to May 15, 2009.

“While the filmmakers and the studio feel the screenplay is very strong, we do not believe it is the fully realized production draft required of this ambitious project,” a Sony rep said. “We do not expect any other film on our 2008 slate to be affected.”

Stone was just about to get under way in Southeast Asia in early December when UA unplugged “Pinkville,” a drama about the investigation of the My Lai massacre in 1968. The film was to star Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Woody Harrelson, Xzibit, Michael Pitt and Toby Jones.

Pic was shelved because neither Stone nor screenwriter Mikko Alanne would be able to hone the script any further, since each is a Writers Guild of America member. Stone is a filmmaker accustomed to making changes throughout production, and that was not an option with a strike going on.

While an agreement by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the WGA to resume negotiations on Nov. 26 hardly means a deal will be struck, it does leave open the possibility that films that didn’t lick script problems will get another chance, possibly in time to begin production and be completed before the expiration of the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild contracts next June.

That is Sony’s hope for “Angels & Demons,” and those aspirations are bolstered by the fact that neither Howard nor the pic’s star, Tom Hanks, have booked other projects.

“Pinkville” will be more difficult. Willis, who was set to play William R. Peers, the general assigned by the Army to investigate the massacre, has agreed to star in the Jonathan Mostow-directed Touchstone drama “The Surrogates” in February.

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