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Goodman sets feature debut

NEW YORK — After the trailer he directed for the imaginary film “Swing Blade” became a hot tape passed among agencies and studios, Nicholas Goodman has signed to make his feature directing debut on “Save the Last Dance,” an urban romance film for producers Robert Cort and David Madden at Paramount.

The deal was the result of smooth salesmanship from Goodman’s agent, Geoffrey Brandt, and managers Michael Grais and Mark Victor. Knowing execs were clamoring to see the short that combined elements of Miramax movies “Sling Blade” and “Swingers,” they sent a tape that began with that three-minute effort, followed by “Stigmata .44.” That’s Goodman’s eerie short about a kid who is obsessed playing with a make-believe gun when he cocks and points his finger, finds the digit is really loaded.

That’s in marked contrast to “Swing Blade,” in which the hipsters from “Swingers” try to make a babe machine out of lovable mental patient Karl Childers. The film will air on Jon Pierson’s indie-flavored show, “Split Screen,” next month, when scripter Toni Ann Johnson should be busy into a rewrite of “The Last Dance” for Goodman’s directing debut.

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PARODY GETS PARITY: While director Nick Goodman used his parody as a calling card for a feature gig, Art Brown and Tracy Fraim have been showing studio execs and distribs their 40-minute parody “Eating Las Vegas” with similar ambitions.

The filmmakers, who shot a scene-by-scene lampooning of “Leaving Las Vegas” for about $25,000, have been so invigorated by industry response, they’ve decided to seek enough money to lampoon whatever they left out, and turn it into a full-length feature. To understand the film, imagine “Leaving Las Vegas” with a rotund guy (played by Johnny Cocktails) in place of Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage.

Whereas Cage’s addiction was of the cocktail variety, his counterpart’s addiction is to food. Having lost his job because of his gorging ways, he resolves to eat himself to death. He chooses Vegas, where, he explains, “The buffets never close.”

He meets a hooker — played by Elisabeth Shue-lookalike Julie Benz — who has a heart of gold but suffers from bulimia, which leads to periodic projectile vomiting.

The writer-directors pull off a fairly faithful parody that even replicates the slick shooting and jazzy score of the Mike Figgis film. The film’s crass but funny, up until the climactic death/sex scene, which recalls the demise of Mama Cass.

Doug Draizin, who manages Brown, showed the film around with Emile Gladstone at Broder Kurland Webb Uffner. Brown and Fraim are the writers of the upcoming MGM-distributed pic “Best Men,” starring Drew Barrymore and Dean Cain, but hope to step up to feature directing by broadening the parody. “People think it’s funny, and in a way poignant,” said Draizin. “The short cost $25,000, and we can finish the whole thing for $200,000.” They’ll bring back the actors; fortunately, unlike Sylvester Stallone in “Cop Land,” Cocktails didn’t lose all that weight after shooting. “That’s the size he always is,” said Draizin.

ELFMAN’S NEW TUNE: Danny Elfman, the longtime composer of Tim Burton films (“Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands”), is venturing into new territory for a composer: he’s making a deal with David Vogel to develop features with an eye toward him making his feature directing debut. Dish hears Elfman will be Vogel’s second high-profile alignment since reviving Hollywood Pictures. His first was landing an exclusive deal with writer/ director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster’s new shingle, Horseshoe Bay Prods. Both deals will lead to product for Vogel’s Walt Disney and Hollywood. Elfman’s repped by the Kraft-Benjamin Agency.

SWAT HELMER SWITCH: Marcus Nispel won’t be heading the “S.W.A.T.” team after all. The commercial director had been hired to helm the film, but has parted company with TriStar over creative differences. The bigscreen adaptation of the old TV show, being produced by Illusion Entertainment, has been offered to Renny Harlin to direct.

TRUCE: Director Oliver Stone and writer-director John Ridley have made an about-face in their feud. They’ve buried the hatchet, after “U-Turn” financier Mike Medavoy brought together the director and writer at a screening of the film.

The rift occurred when Ridley sold the book to Ballantine after Stone agreed to direct the film. Stone, who wanted to keep the plot twists secret, was angered that the publisher refused to wait for the movie before publishing the book. The publisher put it out hardcover so it could hit paperback in time for the film.

Despite the rift, it seems hard for the guys to remain angry at each other. “U-Turn” is getting good reviews, and “Cold Heart,” the film Ridley wrote and directed and Stone produced, got Ridley named best director at the recent Urban World Film Festival.

Said Ridley: “Oliver invited me to the screening and was happy I got the award, and I thought he did a great job on the film.” “Cold Heart” will be distribbed by Fox this fall. “Hopefully it will ride the goodwill created by ‘U-Turn,’ ” said Ridley, whose script “The Seekers” is now out to directors, with Wesley Snipes expected to star. Stone’s ready to unveil his first novel, “A Child’s Night Dream,” coming from St. Martin’s Press.

DISHINGS: Hot off co-starring in the pilot for Jenny McCarthy’s new sitcom, Eric McCormack has landed a role costarring with Eddie Murphy, Kelly Preston and Jeff Goldblum in Caravan’s “Holy Man.” McCormack, repped by the Endeavor agency and Hyler Management, also stars in the CBS/Atlantis holiday film “Borrowed Hearts” … A recent story that mentioned the DreamWorks film “Small Soldiers” should have acknowledged that the project was originated by screenwriter Gavin Scott.

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