ABC IS GOING into production on “Anne Frank,” a four-hour miniseries for May sweeps that’s based on the Melissa Muller biography. Playing the role of the last century’s most famous diarist is 13-year old Hannah Taylor-Gordon (“Jakob the Liar”), who’ll be joined by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley as her father, Otto, and Lili Taylor (“I Shot Andy Warhol”) as the woman who helped hide the family. Brenda Blethyn (“Secrets and Lies”) also stars as one of the Jews who hid with the Frank family in the attic of an office building for two years in German-occupied Amsterdam during WWII.
Scripted by Kirk Ellis and filming in Prague, the miniseries goes beyond Frank’s diary entries, showing her growing up a happy youth before the family was forced to go into hiding, revealing who betrayed the family, and continuing up to Frank’s transport to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died from typhus.
The ABC mini goes forward even as a Fox 2000 feature is being written by Alfred Uhry and produced by Marc Platt, based on the actual diaries. That film got the support of the Anne Frank Fond, which prompted “Schindler’s List” helmer Steven Spielberg to withdraw from the ABC mini. Despite that, the Frank mini is one of ABC’s signature event films under telepics and minis topper Susan Lyne. “Anne Frank” is being directed by Robert Dornheim, exec produced by Hans Proppe and produced by David Kappes.
MYERS GETS “VIEW FROM THE TOP”: While the favorite candidate for the next big pre-strike Mike Myers pic is MGM’s “Pink Panther” redo, Myers will first put in a cameo on “View From the Top,” the Miramax comedy. The Bruno Barreto-directed pic is about the quest of a woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) to become a flight attendant; Myers will play John, the flight attendant school instructor. It’s rife with comic possibilities for Myers, whose last small Miramax role came when he played Steve Rubell in “54.” He wound up being the most memorable thing about the forgettable movie.
DE LUCA RUMORS: With the media piling on after New Line’s forgettable year, rumors are rampant about how much longer Michael De Luca will continue his eight-year reign as head of production. Studio says De Luca has a full year left on his deal, and that he’s not going anywhere, with toppers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne squarely behind him as they renegotiate their deals with Time Warner. The rumors are fever pitch, however. While some friends of his have said he’s discussed the prospect of exiting, some of the rumors border on the comical. One recent media report had De Luca in the crosshairs because of a $200 million investment in “Town & Country” (a wildly overinflated figure, insiders claim). Another had him boycotting the New Line Christmas party because he knew Shaye, a famously blunt exec, would lament the studio’s performance in a speech. Lately, De Luca’s every move has prompted some rumor. One hot one had him joining AMG, apparently started when De Luca was sighted dining with Mike Ovitz. Another rumor blitz, this one internal, occurred when De Luca exited the office last week, carrying out a large box. When a staffer asked if he was leaving and De Luca said yes, a secretary who overheard the exchange thought he’d cleaned out his desk. De Luca, who was lugging a bunch of DVDs he’d been given as a gift, thought he had been asked if he was done for the day, and had to explain to the shaken staff the next morning.
The exec has certainly presided over a tough year, and takes the blame for the failure of the pricey Adam Sandler starrer “Little Nicky.” But De Luca — who won’t likely decide whether to renew his contract until next July — has flourished with strong talent relationships with the likes of Sandler, a proven hitmaker with whom De Luca has two more movies.
De Luca, who joined the company when he was 19, has been there 16 years, half of them running production. That’s an eternity for a job with a high turnover rate and covers other bad patches like 1996. He’s got as good a creative rep as any exec in town, so it seems likely that any De Luca exit would be prompted by his feeling he’s tired of doing the job at the same place and that he wanted to run another studio, probably at a higher salary. De Luca could also become a producer, with a prenegotiated fat deal at New Line, and the clout to muster outside financing if he wants it. Assuming Shaye and Lynne hold to their word and stay behind him, De Luca might turn things around by the time his pact is up next December, with films like the Ted Demme-directed “Blow,” “Rush Hour 2” and the first leg of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (the entire three-pic shoot wraps Friday) expected to be bright spots on New Line’s 2001 sked.
STEWART’S BOSS ROLE: As he prepares to reprise roles in two sequel franchises, Patrick Stewart has been set to star in the Hallmark Entertainment telepic “Boss Lear” for TNT. Stewart and Flying Freehold partner Wendy Neuss, who produce with Robert Halmi, hatched the idea of setting an updated version of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in Texas during the Mexican revolt of the mid-1800s. Stephen Harrigan adapted it, and Uli Edel directs Stewart as a powerful ranch owner.
Before the telepic lenses in Mexico in April, Stewart will first star onstage with Mercedes Ruehl in a Guthrie Theater stage revival of the Edward Albee play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Stewart then moves on to franchise business, reprising his role as Capt. Picard in the 10th installment of the “Star Trek” film series, and Professor Xavier in Fox’s sequel to the summer hit “X-Men,” with director Bryan Singer and the original cast expected to return.
KEEPING DRAPER ALIVE: While journalists often get wrapped up in the people they write about, few go to the extremes that Susan Mulcahy has in her passion for monologuist Ruth Draper, whose work inspired the likes of Lily Tomlin, John Lithgow and Mike Nichols. Mulcahy, the former Page Six editor who later hatched the Mr. Showbiz Web site, profiled the late Draper for Vanity Fair. After receiving reams of requests for recorded Draper monologues that are out of circulation, Mulcahy ponied up her own money to make a licensing deal with BMG, which steers the Draper masters originally recorded on RCA. The result is “Ruth Draper and her Company of Characters,” which Mulcahy produced and marketed herself. The CD’s available on Drapermonologues.com.