NEW YORK — Michael Douglas will team with his father Kirk in what will mark their first onscreen pairing. The duo will next star in “Smack in the Puss,” a comedy that Fred Schepisi is negotiating to direct. The younger Douglas’ Furthur Films is producing and financing, with shooting to begin in February. The cast will likely extend to three generations, as Michael’s 23-year-old son Cameron is also likely to participate.
“It’s a black comedy about three generations of a dysfunctional family living in New York, and their attempt to reconcile,” Douglas said. The film will mark a teaming that had long been contemplated but lacked the right venue, until Douglas read Jesse Wigutow’s script. The writer had submitted the script to Furthur Films in an attempt to land a job adapting the Arthur Miller play “The Ride Down Mount Morgan,” which Douglas will star in. Wigutow not only got that job, he got Douglas to set back his plan to next star with Billy Crystal in “Till Death Do Us Part” at Warner Bros.
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“A lot of this came out of Sept. 11, which has made everyone question their life priorities,” Douglas said. “If you have a rare opportunity to work with people you know in an appropriate project, you take it. I realized this offered the perfect chance to finally do a picture with my father … Dad and I could never decide on one to do together before, though we came close a couple of times. He is pretty picky and so am I. We’ve found a lovely script that’s not simply us venting our demons. There are great parts here.” Douglas’ Furthur banner will bankroll “Smack in the Puss” until production begins, when he’ll align with financing for distribution. “I’ve been receiving script notes from my dad, and he’s always given good notes, and Jesse is doing a polish,” said Douglas, last seen in “Don’t Say A Word.”
Wigutow is fast becoming a favorite scribe of actors. He made his first splash with “Urban Townie,” a pic that was a passion for Brad Pitt, even though WB turned it down because it was too dark. Pitt is aligned with David Fincher on the Wigutow-scripted “Seared” at New Line, and the scribe has also been doing rewrites on the Curtis Hanson-directed Eminem-starrer “Detroit.” As for Douglas, he and Crystal will likely do “Till Death Do Us Part” next summer, after a rewrite comes in from “Men in Black” scribe Ed Solomon.
HARMON TO “HIGHWAYMEN”: Director Robert Harmon, whose recently completed horror film “They” was sold in a splashy distribution deal to Dimension, has found his next foray into fright. Harmon will direct “Highwaymen,” a thriller to begin production in April for Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films and Mike Marcus’ Cornice Ent. The film, which was written by Hans Bauer (“Anaconda”) and Craig Mitchell (“Raised by Ghosts”), is described as “Road Warrior” meets “The Fast and the Furious,” with the principal protagonists driving classic American muscle cars. The good guy’s ride is a Plymouth Barracuda Hemi-head, while the villain uses a 1978 Green Cadillac Eldorado to drive over pedestrians. Harmon knows his way around highway-based terror, having helmed “The Hitcher.” Marcus will produce with Brad Jenkel and Carroll Kemp.
QUAID EYES NASCAR TALE: Dennis Quaid, who’s currently shooting the Todd Haynes-directed “Far From Heaven” with Julianne Moore, is revved up by a film project delving into the story of NASCAR legend Richard Petty and his complicated relationship with his father Lee, who was an up-and-coming driver until he was injured in a crash. “Any Given Sunday” producer Dan Halsted has put together the funds to develop a “Great Santini”-like story of a son trying to measure up to his father. The younger Petty went on to become NASCAR’s winningest driver, but had to go a long way to prove himself to Lee, who’ll be played by Quaid. The pic will be exec produced by John O’Hurley, John Myrick and Robin Sharp, and they’re out to writers right now.
DISHINGS: Lee Hall, the “Billy Elliot” scribe who recently pacted with John Wells to script “Burying Ben,” is about to branch out from theater work. His London-based rep steered his “Cooking with Elvis” play into a U.K. tour, and Hall has just opened at the Royal National Theatre with “The Good Hope,” a Dutch classic that he reworked into a sitting room tragedy about a deep-sea fishing misadventure. The legit work behind him, Hall’s co-reps at CAA will get him busier on the feature side.