“Titanic” star Leonardo DiCaprio is near a decision on his first starring role since becoming an international box office titan. While DiCaprio has several plum offers before him, sources said the lead horse is the Billy Bob Thornton-directed adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel “All the Pretty Horses” at Columbia.
Since DiCaprio toplined the record-grossing “Titanic,” his reps have reportedly been asking $20 million for his next pic; sources said he’s likely to get at least $15 million for “Horses” if a deal is struck.
Col had budgeted the film modestly, but this wouldn’t be the first time that the entrance of a star has hiked a pic’s bottom line. Col president Amy Pascal has been moving aggressively to make DiCaprio the first major star hire since TriStar and Columbia were consolidated under her control.
The actor has been in no hurry to capitalize on his sudden bankability, and “Horses” would mark DiCaprio’s first starring role since the release of “Titanic” made him an international superstar and gossip column fixture.
The project is expected to get under way this fall. DiCaprio, who fit seamlessly into the role of the charismatic Jack Dawson in “Titanic,” seems an equally ideal fit in the role of a teenage Texan who rides into Mexico in 1949 with a buddy. When he falls for the daughter of a wealthy ranch owner, the man has the young cowboy thrown into a Mexican prison; however, the resilient lad exacts justice and becomes a man by the time he returns to Texas.
The novel has been considered a hot commodity — and coveted as a vehicle by nearly every young actor in Hollywood — since it was auctioned in 1992 for Mike Nichols to direct and John Calley to produce at Columbia. Calley brought it to United Artists when he became studio prexy, only to move it back to Col when he took over at that studio. Now Nichols is producing. Oscar-winning scribe Ted Tally (“The Silence of the Lambs”) adapted the book. Thornton, who is now finishing the starring role in “Pushing Tin,” his fourth acting job in a row, is finalizing the shooting script for “Horses.” His directing deal is nearly done.
Col also is working on another piece by novelist McCarthy, “Blood Meridian,” with Scott Rudin producing. The studio has been huddling with Tommy Lee Jones to direct and/or star in the piece.
Neither Col nor DiCaprio’s manager, Rick Yorn of Addis-Wechsler, returned calls.
MUSICAL ‘MONTY’: Fox Searchlight is trying to secure a writer and lyricist to turn its Oscar-nominated sleeper stripper hit “The Full Monty” into a Broadway-bound musical.
The project is the passion of Searchlight president Lindsay Law, who has strong stage ties due to his days heading PBS’ American Playhouse. Law wants to test the stage with a version of the $3.5 million pic, which grossed north of $220 million and became one of the most profitable films in recent memory.
Like the film, the musical will be about a group of out-of-work and out-of-shape guys who regain their self-worth as burly burlesquers. High-profile Broadway musicals can be perilous territory: Just ask the investors in Paul Simon’s $11 million “The Capeman,” who did the equivalent of a half monty by losing their shirts.
The road is equally perilous for screen-to-stage adaptations — think “Big.” But the success of “The Lion King” has a lot of films poised to try the boards. “Saturday Night Fever,” a musical produced by Robert Stigwood with new Bee Gees songs, opens in London next month, as does “Dr. Dolittle.” A musical version of “Bright Lights, Big City” was just workshopped at the New York Theater Workshop with Paul Scott Goodman.
Warner Bros. is quietly hatching plans to adapt such properties as “Batman” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for the stage; the Francis Coppola-directed “Peggy Sue Got Married” is moving with original scripters Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner; Anna Hamilton Phelan is reworking her script for “Mask” into a musical with songsters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; “Shane,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and “Sweet Smell of Success” also are stagebound.
SAMMY” KEEPS RUNNING: After working to develop a script at Warner Bros., Ben Stiller and Budd Schulberg have been given running room by the studio to set up “What Makes Sammy Run” elsewhere. The project is an old-time Hollywood adaptation of the famed 1939 Schulberg novel about Sammy Glick, a hustler who became a Hollywood powerhouse on style and little substance, and by claiming the work of other writers as his own.
Stiller, who wrote the script with Jerry Stahl under the supervision of Schulberg, has long wanted to direct and star in the adaptation. WB almost never gives up projects in turnaround, but in this case, the original 7-year-old deal made with Schulberg allowed the legendary writer to put it in turnaround and he has exercised it. Other studios have perked up to vie for the project.
BARRY’S BACK: He won five collegiate championships, then went on to win the Super Bowl as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Now, Barry Switzer is going Hollywood.
He’s signed with manager Steven Fenton, who quickly brought him into a huddle with Mike Tollin and Robert Wuhl, which led them to write an episode built around Switzer for the HBO sports sitcom “Arliss.” Tollin also has brought him into a cameo role as a high school gridiron coach in “Varsity Blues,” the Paramount/MTV film he’s producing with Tova Laiter and director Brian Robbins.
Fenton and Switzer will try to package his bestselling memoirs “The Bootlegger’s Boy” as a movie, and Switzer’s also being shopped to host a talk show.
Don’t bet against Switzer making the transition, because he’s a master of overcoming adversity. A rocky upbringing turned tragic when his mother committed suicide because his bootlegger father was fooling around with black mistresses, a situation considered scandalous in the Deep South back in the ’40s. His father was later shot in the chest by a mistress who caught him in bed with another. The instantly remorseful shooter carried him to a car to drive him to the hospital, crashing and killing both of them.
Switzer became the fourth winningest coach in college football history, guiding the Oklahoma Sooners to five national championships — only to be driven out unceremoniously in 1989. He took the reins of the Cowboys six years later and led them to a Super Bowl the following season. He exited with the team in turmoil and out of the playoffs, when Switzer himself made headlines for forgetting to unload a handgun from a carry-on bag and setting off airport metal detectors.
But Switzer has the prototypical football coach look and, said Fenton, “He’s got incredible charisma, and he’s the most dynamic speaker I’ve ever heard. He’s the Marlboro man.” Switzer’s also planning to write another book on football.
AMOS AND RANDY: Jon Reiss’ debut feature “Cleopatra’s Second Husband” unspools at the upcoming L.A. Independent Festival, and the video-turned-feature director freely acknowledges a debt to fellow director Amos Poe. Poe inspired the whole first act.
The film’s about a young L.A. couple who take a trip to the country and hire a couple of housesitters to feed the pets and water the plants. They return to find the fish are as dead as the plants, the house is ransacked and the sitters, who are wearing the couple’s clothes, won’t vacate.
Reiss, who has directed videos for such artists as Nine Inch Nails and Black Crowes, said the idea arose after he invited Poe and a pal to housesit while Reiss vacationed with his wife.
“Amos was a friend of mine, but we came back from our trip to find that our fish had died, our kitchen floorboards were sticking two feet straight in the air, and our house insurance was almost canceled,” said Reiss. “I used that episode as inspiration for the first act of the movie. Fortunately, Amos didn’t stick around and terrorize us any further.”