Schumacher may answer Fox’s ‘Phone’

Pic squeezes big names into tight budget, sked

NEW YORK — The Fox 2000 thriller “Phone Booth” has connected with director Joel Schumacher, who is in advanced talks to helm a film that has attracted the interest of some of Hollywood’s biggest names.

Schumacher and Fox 2000 will undertake “Phone Booth” on an extremely tight schedule for a studio-financed film. The crew and cast will rehearse for one week, and the film will be shot during a greatly compressed shooting schedule with a multi-camera format on an undetermined Gotham street this summer, sources said.

The film takes place entirely inside one phone booth, where a man picks up a ringing phone and is told by the caller that he’ll be shot dead if he hangs up. The infrared dot from a sniper rifle is proof positive that the caller isn’t bluffing.

Under consideration is the possibility of employing Internet technology by streaming footage of the rehearsal and shooting process, ostensibly to demonstrate to film students and those interested in the process how a film is made.

Schumacher had been expected to be the director of the film when 20th Century Fox beat out several other studios to buy Larry Cohen’s spec script in 1998, with Jerry and David Zucker and Gil Netter producing.

Schumacher bowed out to do other projects, and the film has come together and then come undone with major talent. Michael Bay was ready to direct it, followed by Allen and Albert Hughes, and stars such as Will Smith seriously considered playing the guy who takes the phone call.

During that time, the project shifted over to Fox 2000 when Elizabeth Gabler, who brought in the project with 20th Century Fox Film Group prexy Tom Rothman, was named to head that studio. Fox 2000 exec Mike Hendrickson will shepherd the film toward production.

Schumacher’s reemergence was sudden, and now he and Fox 2000 will look to land their star quickly so that pre-production can begin shortly. After serving as the resident maker of blockbusters at Warner Bros with a string of hits that included “The Client,” “A Time To Kill,” “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin,” Schumacher dropped out of the Grisham adaptation “Runaway Jury” and punted on doing another Batman pic so he could get back to the type of films he did at the start of his career before the success of “Falling Down” made him a top commercial shooter. “Phone Booth” will be perhaps the highest-profile move in that direction.

Schumacher just completed a 28-day, no-frills shoot of the Fox/New Regency drama “Tigerland” with a cast of unknowns in Jacksonville who shot a drama about a pre-Vietnam boot camp on a set that had no trailers, makeup, cell phones or hairstylists. Schumacher is repped by CAA.