The Oscar-nominated “Jerry Maguire” duo of Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe are in early talks to reteam on a biopic of legendary record producer Phil Spector at Universal, sources said.
Cruise and his C/W Prods. partner Paula Wagner have long wanted Cruise to play the ace producer, and they have been working towards producing a film with Spector and ABKCO owner Allen Klein. Shortly after the Oscars, Cruise and Crowe met with Spector in Los Angeles, sources said, and Crowe has gotten reams of research from Spector and ABKCO.
If he commits, Cameron will have input from Spector for the screenplay he hopes to direct. Though this would be Crowe’s first film about a music industry icon, he probably knows the rock terrain better than just about any other scriptwriter, after years of writing about the music biz for Rolling Stone magazine. CAA’s repping C/W and Crowe.
Spector is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer who created the “wall of sound” and co-wrote and produced hits ranging from “Spanish Harlem” to “Be My Baby,” and is best known for producing the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers. He also produced the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Spector, who’ll be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June, has long resisted movie overtures, but responded to Cruise, whose producing career is beginning to take off.
After Cruise finishes the Stanley Kubrick film “Eyes Wide Shut,” he might well follow with the “Mission: Impossible” sequel he’s producing and developing with his “Born on the Fourth of July” director Oliver Stone. They’ve got the concept and have hired Stone protege David Marconi to write the script under Stone’s supervision. Cruise is also developing Phil Kerr’s “The Five Year Plan” and a film about Jonathan Sarkin, a chiropractor whose brain aneurysm at age 35 transformed him into an eccentric artist.
DISNEY’S GOODBYE DALAI?: Disney stood up in a high-profile way to Chinese government requests that it nix Martin Scorsese’s Tibet film “Kundun,” though it could hurt their expansion plans into China. Why then, Dish wonders, did the studio quietly eradicate an entire sequence about Tibet from the CircleVision 360 film “Wonders of China,” which has shown at Epcot since 1982? The change was made quietly — and not even the maker of the film was told.
The pic runs numerous times each day and has been seen by an estimated 60 million people. The Tibet omit was the only alteration made. The snipped section was hardly explosive: it mentioned the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang (another politically troubled province), merely noting that “China is so vast that even within her borders there are distant lands.” It then showed the Dalai Lama’s home, with the narration: “The Potala Palace dominates the city of Lhasa, the way Buddhism dominates Tibetan life.”
A couple of additional visual sequences depicting the lifestyle of the province also hit the cutting room floor. Disney didn’t return calls for comment, but Dish tracked down the film’s writer-director, Jeff Blyth. He said he was aware of the changes, though never contacted by the studio. Disney and the Chinese did the pic together, and Blyth wrote those sections specifically not to be offensive.
“Disney does everything for good reason and it seems strange their reasons are hidden here, making one wonder if there was a quid pro quo,” Blyth said.
BERGIN COPPING IN COMPETING PICS: While New Line’s hatching a big-budget Jack the Ripper film with Allen & Albert Hughes, Patrick Bergin and Gabrielle Anwar will cover that territory first with a Universal-produced film for Encore called “Whitechapel,” about the relationship between a prostitute and Scotland Yard detective investigating the Ripper case.
Bergin’s also poised to star in another film that will be the first of multiple versions in the works based on the slaying of Irish journalist Veronica Guerin. While a Disney version is being prepped by Jerry Bruckheimer and another’s being mulled at a rival studio, this one’s funded by Irish money, with scripter-director Michael Sheridan starting production this summer.
They’re also on the verge of landing a major American actress to play the character based on Guerin, with Winona Ryder about to enter negotiations, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Elisabeth Shue mentioned. Bergin, who last played Irish in “Patriot Games,” will play a policeman investigating the Guerin murder. He’s repped by Hyler Management and the William Morris Agency.
MORE DISASTER: Add Interscope to those production companies courting disaster. The company is moving ahead with “The 59-Story Crisis,” a new take on the natural disaster pic. The Shane Salerno script is about a new Gotham skyscraper built with a faulty engineering design: It’s fine unless it gets hit by a massive wind. A young architect figures this out just before a major storm approaches. Aside from being full of people, the skyscraper’s so large it would crush a major section of Manhattan if it topples.
The director is Marcus Nispel, who’s making the transition from commercials, and the producers are Mimi Polk Gitlin, Richard Gitlin, Adam Leipzig and Erica Huggins. Interscope’s Scott Kroopf and Ted Field are exec producers. The story was inspired by a 1995 article in the New Yorker about the Citibank Building in Manhattan.
CASTINGS: Natasha Henstridge will star in “White Dunes,” a Hemingwayesque period drama set in Brazil in 1939. The “Species” star will play the wife of an American oil exec who pays the price for an affair with a local fisherman. Shooting started this week, from a script by Fabio Barreto and Amy Ephron, with Barreto (“O Quatrilho”) directing. Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto produce, with Ted Schachter co-producer. She’s repped by William Morris’ Scott Lambert and Graham Kaye, and managed by Schachter. … Christina Ricci is the first to be cast in “Opposite of Sex,” the directing debut of Don Roos, who wrote the script. The low-budget pic’s produced by David Kirkpatrick. Ricci, repped by ICM’s Jason Barrett and Toni Howard and manager Barbara Gayle. …
B.D. Wong has surfaced as the nemesis of Treat Williams in “The Substitute II,” with Williams succeeding Tom Berenger in the lead role as a mercenary undercover as a substitute teacher. Wong plays a corrupt gym teacher. Steven Pearl directs with Morrie Eisenman and Bob Salerno producing with Shooting Gallery. Wong’s repped by Richie Jackson of Innovative Artists.
DISHINGS: Dean Cain was as surprised as anyone to read in Monday’s New York Post that he was succeeding Lou Diamond Phillips on Broadway’s “The King and I” this summer. His spokesman said there’d never even been any conversations. “He’ll neither play the King nor I,” said the spokesman. Cain’s filming Showtime’s “Dog Boys” with Ken Russell this offseason from “Lois & Clark.” … Cynthia Parsons is ankling her post as William Morris’s PR director to become veep of East Coast publicity for Gramercy Pictures. Gotham-based Parsons is former Emmy-nominated producer of “Later with Bob Costas.”