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Carrey hangs up on ‘Phone’; more MTV hijinx

Carrey hangs up on 'Phone'; more MTV hijinx

JIM CARREY HAS HAD a change of heart and decided not to topline the Joel Schumacher-directed Fox 2000 drama “Phone Booth.” Negotiations were just beginning on the film.

Carrey, whose latest film, the Peter and Bobby Farrelly-directed “Me, Myself & Irene” premieres tonight, had been enlisted to topline the film by Schumacher, who’d directed Carrey in “Batman Forever.” Carrey wanted to work with Schumacher again and loved the daring Larry Cohen script, which takes place entirely in a phone booth, as a slick, conniving publicist tries to figure a way out of an impossible dilemma after picking up a ringing payphone and discovering the caller is a sniper who’ll kill him when he hangs up.

Days after deciding to do the film, Carrey mulled it over and was unable to wrap his arms around the character. He backed out Wednesday in what’s described as an amicable parting. The script, with a dramatic premise and single-location structure that has piqued the interest of some of the town’s biggest players, is still expected to shoot this summer.

MYERS RECONCILIATION?: Since the spat between Universal and Mike Myers over the Imagine-produced “Dieter” pic erupted in legal papers and accusations, rumors of attempts to mediate a compromise have cropped up, indicating that a resolution might be reached that would squelch a potentially ugly court battle. The battle, of course, came after a meeting in which Myers told U brass that he didn’t feel the pic’s script was ready for a pic that had been on course for a summer 2001 release. Word is that several parties have offered to help fix the script in an attempt to keep things moving forward. One was that several writers, including Gary Ross, had offered to lend a hand to work on the script. Another rumor was that Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks might become an active participant in the movie. DW said the studio is not involved, and neither U nor Myers would comment on the matter.

MTV BAGS ‘JACKASS’: In a TV climate that finds webs succeeding in such unorthodox programming as “Survivor,” MTV has made an eight-episode pickup of a new series titled “Jackass,” a show that could make a star out of Johnny Knoxville, if he can live through the extreme abuse the program will put his body through. “Jackass,” hatched by Knoxville and “Being John Malkovich” helmer Spike Jonze, is a nonlinear guerrilla-style comedy show revolving around an amiable Tennessee native who has a special ability to absorb punishment in extraordinary pranks that make Tom Green’s repertoire seem tame by comparison.

Much in the manner of “South Park’s” underground distribution of a videotape, Knoxville’s antics became known to Hollywood execs by a highlight reel that Jonze directed. In one segment, Knoxville sets out to demonstrate the effectiveness of self defense equipment. He shoots himself in the face with pepper spray; gets shot with a stun gun and a tazer gun; even shoots himself with an actual gun to test the effectiveness of a bulletproof vest. Tamer stunts included Knoxville donning a prison-issue orange jump suit, leg irons and handcuffs, entering a hardware store in need of a hacksaw. The reaction of unsuspecting patrons and employees were recorded by secret camera. Knoxville’s charisma and the demented nature of the stunts got the tape widely viewed, resulting in Knoxville landing two movie roles and now a series deal. Knoxville has just shot the Scott Kalvert-directed MGM pic “Deuces Wild” and, after Barry Sonnenfeld saw his work, Knoxville got a good role in “Big Trouble,” the Disney pic starring Tim Allen, Rene Russo and Tom Sizemore.

“I’d call it a cross between Super Dave Osborne and ‘Candid Camera,'” said Knoxville, who’s planning to kick off filming of the first episode this weekend by riding a wild bull. Getting shot out of a cannon is also on the docket. “This started with me doing participatory journalism for a magazine, then led to the video,” said Knoxville. “Suddenly there were meetings and negotiations, and that is how this all happened.” Knoxville said the style will be much like skateboarding programming, which is highly visual, the action fast and furious as it is unpredictable. He said the difference between this show and the one hosted by Tom Green is that Knoxville and his band of “jackasses” are the butts of the joke, even if the reactions of unsuspecting passersby provide the comedy.

Aside from bruises and contusions, Knoxville has emerged relatively unscathed. Even the gunshot didn’t hurt as much as the pepper spray. “That was absolutely debilitating, like someone putting alcohol in your eyes and then trying to wash it out with an acetylene torch,” said Knoxville. “I will be the recipient of all of the inflicted pain, going for the laugh, for pure entertainment.” He’s repped by CAA and Handprint Entertainment.

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