OVER AT UNIVERSAL it’s known officially as “Untitled Menno Meyjes Project.” Sure, it’s rare for a writer to have his name attached to a priority studio production. But it turns out it’s all a smoke screen.
Meyjes did indeed write the script for the hush-hush movie that turns out to be a new version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” The reason for the secrecy is because the adventure chestnut is in public domain. Apparently another “Treasure Island,” by “Robin Hood” scribe Pen Densham, is also making the rounds.
Additionally, producer Elliot Kastner is developing a musical version of the pirate tale with songs by veteran Jule Styne (“Gypsy”). If it ever gets off the ground, Marlon Brando will be doing the trilling on a peg leg as Long John Silver.
But over at the Black Tower, there’s a lot of sensitivity about the talent involved. John McTiernan toyed with directing the project but has opted for taking on producing chores. Also involved, via his Amblin operation, is Steven Spielberg, who’s enlisted the services of Dustin Hoffman to play L.J. Silver.
Now, here’s the clincher.
Hoffman got so juiced about the film, he’s now the director of record. He’s quietly talking to actors about appearing in it as we speak.
However, privately there’s guarded skepticism about his stepping behind the camera. Sixteen years ago, the actor lasted three days behind the camera on “No Beast So Fierce” before getting Ulu Grosbard to come in on the retitled “Straight Time.” More recently he danced for more than a year with TriStar about acting and directing in James Deardon’s script of “Scaramouche.” That project remains in limbo.
IT’S RELATIVELY COMMON KNOWLEDGE that Ike Turner scared the bejesus out of cast and crew when he showed up unannounced on the set of Touchstone’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
But Turner had earlier agreed to a single meeting prior to filming with Larry Fishburne, his screen alter ego.
Apparently the former front man of the Ikettes had but one concern when it came to his screen portrayal. He told Fishburne he wanted the actor to make him “look good,” physically.
No doubt his set visit was his way of checking himself out.
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES of Harvey in the screen trade.
Love him or hate him, you have to hand it to Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein when it comes to chutzpah and dogged aggressiveness in the acquisitions arena. Competitors are still scratching their collective heads wondering how he did an end run and walked away with Cannes prize-winner “The Piano” prior to the festival.
Acquisitors were lining up to see the Jane Campion-directed picture months before its official unspooling last month. However, all were told they would have to wait for the Cannes debut. Everyone involved with the production was firm on this — including CIBY 2000 CEO Wendy Palmer, foreign sales rep Guy East of Majestic and CAA go-between John Ptak.
But did that stop Weinstein?
Unbeknownst to the acquisitions community, CIBY was in the process of wresting “Piano” sales from Majestic. So, when Weinstein called CIBY’s new chief Jean-Francois Fonlupt just to be “sociable” it proved to be a dime well spent. Fonlupt overruled everyone, agreeing to show Miramax the film in Paris a fortnight before the festival. Then, he told his minions to put the boots to Mr. W by giving him 48 hours to make an offer.
It was not until the festival that Fonlupt’s staff were able to explain to him that his clever maneuvering had created a serious rift between the company and every other potential acquisitions outfit in the U.S. So, most of his lunches during Cannes found him doing mea culpae with the likes of Fine Line and the studio buyers — and several got more than one free lunch.
WITH FACTS LIKE THIS, you wonder why anyone bothers with fiction.
An up-and-coming actress — one with lots of credits but still one picture away from stardom — got a call several months back to read for the female lead in a big-budget studio yarn.
Of course, she was atwitter. And her session with the actor-director seemed to go well.
But several days later he phoned to say that while he loved her work, the studio remained cool to her starring in such a big extravaganza. He was nonetheless sold on her talent, and wondered if she would come to his home and videotape several scenes to convince the bosses.
Diplomatically she said she’d have to check her schedule.
Instead, she contacted her agent and the film’s casting director. Both assured her not to worry. The filmmaker was happily married and his wife was about to give birth — in short, they painted a picture of domestic bliss.
But she remained unconvinced, and called up a close friend, another actress.
“If you sense something’s wrong, you probably have reason,” the friend advised.
So she decided to pass.
A few days later, she learned that Mr. Movie’s image wasn’t so spotless. Recently the studio had quietly paid off on a couple of sexual assault suits pending against him.
Then the first shock occurred. Her agent called to say the studio had sent over a deal memo for the role.
It would prove a short-lived triumph. Within days she learned she had lost the part to — get ready — the actress who advised her to stick to her instincts.