WITH DENZEL WASHINGTON game to star, Spike Lee has committed to make “He Got Game” as his next film, sources said. The filmmaker is expected to set the film up for distribution at Touchstone, and will begin production in July.
Washington will play a man doing time for killing his wife. He has a son named Jesus, who is the messiah of high school basketball, and is recruited by blue chip colleges across the country. The father is promised by state prison officials that his sentence could be lightened if he coaxes his son to play at a school within the same state. Trouble is, the player loathes his father.
The film will mark Lee’s third collaboration with Washington. He played the title character in “Malcolm X” and a jazz horn player in “Mo’ Better Blues.” Washington recently wrapped work on the WB film “Fallen,” directed by Greg Hoblit (“Primal Fear”), which will be released early next year.
Lee’s repped by ICM’s Jeff Berg, Washington by ICM’s Ed Limato and George Freeman.
ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD FABLE: While the producers of “RKO 281” hope they’re not KO’d by Ridley Scott’s exit as director, another famous Hollywood tale is being shopped with formidable names. The pic’s about actress Lana Turner and her mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato, which ended when Turner’s daughter killed him with a knife. Dish hears “Leaving Las Vegas” helmer Mike Figgis is ready to direct Richard Gere as Stompanato, with Sharon Stone interested in playing Turner. David and Janet Peoples are scripting a version that alleges Turner wielded the knife and that it was pinned on her daughter because she was underage. The Stompanato-Turner premise was a topic of much talk in Cannes, thanks to “L.A. Confidential,” which has a showstopping scene featuring the two.
ON THE “RKO 281” FRONT, Scott Free Prods. is still trying to find financing for the pic. And now a director, since Scott bolted to do “I Am Legend” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. They’re scouring top helmers. Richard Loncraine is one name mentioned to shoot the John Logan script, which concerns the making of “Citizen Kane.” Though the script is highly thought of, the film’s not an easy sell because inside-Hollywood stories don’t usually support budgets beyond $40 million.
Among the studios still interested are New Line and Sony, and some say that might have something to do with Marlon Brando dropping out as William Randolph Hearst: Word is New Line’s in no hurry to work with him again after “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” Gene Hackman’s now being talked up to play Hearst opposite Edward Norton (Welles). Madonna’s still on tap as Marion Davies, Al Pacino has surfaced as a possible Herman J. Mankiewicz and Meryl Streep as Hearst’s gossip pit bull Louella Parsons.
SCHWIMMER DOUBLE DUTY: The actors from “Friends” are busy, but none more than David Schwimmer. Jennifer Aniston’s starring in “Object of My Affection,” Lisa Kudrow in “The Opposite of Sex,” Courteney Cox in “Scream II,” Matt LeBlanc “Lost in Space,” while Matthew Perry takes a rehab break. Schwimmer’s trying to figure out a way to schedule two significant film roles. He’s in final negotiations to join Harrison Ford and Anne Heche as the hapless boyfriend in Ivan Reitman’s “Six Days, Seven Nights” for Caravan. At the same time, he’s committed to starring in “Kissing A Fool,” an indie film in which he’ll join Jason Lee (“Chasing Amy”), Bonnie Hunt and Vanessa Angel.
The latter film will be directed by Doug Ellin, who rewrote a script by James Frey and who directed Schwimmer in the short films “The Waiter” and “The Pitch.” Shooting starts in Chicago July 7, and producers Tag Mendillo, Andrew Form and Rick Lashbrook hope to make a distribution deal before they wrap production. Mendillo said the pic centers on Hunt narrating the story of a wedding, with a twist: “Either Jason or David is marrying the girl, we don’t know which, and it’s a pretty good romantic comedy premise.”
Lashbrook said that aside from Schwimmer’s good working relationship with Ellin, they chased him after seeing his work in the play “D Girl.” “This is a departure from David’s work on ‘Friends’ and ‘The Pallbearer,’ ” said Lashbrook. “In the play, he was an abrasive and obnoxious screenwriter and carried it off so well. He’ll be loud and boisterous here as well.” After the producers got indie financing for “Do Me A Favor”— a pic which stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Chad Lowe and Rosanna Arquette and is seeking a distributor—they decided again to shoot first and ask questions later. “We had the freedom to shoot in Chicago; we might not if we had to answer to a distributor,” said Form.
Schwimmer’s repped by Gersh’s Leslie Siebert and managed by Brian Medavoy. Ellin’s repped by CAA’s Jim Lefkowitz and managed by Steve Levinson.
WILLING AND ABEL: “Bad Lieutenant” director Abel Ferrara is teaming with producer Ed Pressman on “The New Rose Hotel,” with Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe near deals to play conmen who draft a prostitute into a program to scam a rich guy. In the Pygmalion tale, she becomes cultured, and in position to turn the tables on her mentors.
CULT CONVERGENCE: “Hunter” star Fred Dryer is hunting a feature deal for “11 Days,” a true story by Donald Harstad that Doubleday has acquired. Dryer and Jerry Zietman at The Agency have been working for several years developing the tale with Harstad, an Iowa lawman who wrote about a harrowing experience investigating a murderous satanic cult.
“It’s a mix of ‘Seven’ and ‘Fargo,’ starting with the cops being called to a farm, where they find a dead body with a hand missing, and human matter in a blender in the kitchen,” said Dryer. “Everyone, including the preacher is somehow involved, and the killer is hunted down over 11 days as other bodies turn up.”
Dryer feels it’s a fact-based “Omen,” and is looking for a feature deal to star and produce. Harstad’s already been signed by Doubleday to write a sequel.