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Terrorism projects shelved; a green Bana?

The number of films and TV programs that will be altered in light of the World Trade Center tragedy continues to expand. Not surprisingly, Studios USA, NBC and Wolf Films made official what seemed a foregone conclusion the moment of the bombing, telling the cast that its “Law & Order” miniseries on Gotham terrorism had been canceled. The first installment of “Politically Incorrect” since the disaster, which taped Monday for airing Tuesday night, left an empty chair for Barbara Olson. Guesting on the show was part of Olson’s itinerary when she headed to L.A. Sept. 11 on the American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon. Olson was a frequent participant in the show, and Maher came up with the tribute idea.

The latest feature that bears an uncomfortable proximity to the disaster is “People I Know,” the Dan Algrant-directed drama that filmed earlier in New York this year, starring Al Pacino as a Gotham publicist. The World Trade Center figured into its plot, as a late-night opium den frequented by the troubled publicist was located in one of the towers. According to sources, one of the more creatively inspired shots glimpsed the tower from the point of view of the drug-addled publicist. The towers appeared upright, then turned on their side. The surreal shot meant to convey how substance abuse had turned the publicist’s life on end, but the unintentional symbolism renders the footage unusable. A Miramax spokesman said that all footage is being evaluated, but not in a hurry as the film is still being re-edited and test screened. It was never scheduled to be released this year.

The “Law & Order” miniseries cancellation was particularly unfortunate. Creator Dick Wolf and his staff worked for nearly a year, motivated mainly by their strong feelings toward the vulnerability of Gotham to terrorists. In a statement, the network, studio and Wolf made official its cancellation, calling it “Inappropriate to produce the ‘Law & Order’ miniseries dealing with terrorists, dealing with terrorism, in light of the horrifying events that have unfolded over the past week.”

BANA FOR BANNER?:Eric Bana, the Australian standup comic-turned star of the cult film “Chopper,” has emerged as the frontrunner to play the title character in “The Incredible Hulk,” Universal’s adaptation of the Marvel Comics franchise to be directed by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” helmer Ang Lee. The studio has been looking for the right guy to play the dual role of Dr. Bruce Banner, the scientist, who, after being pelted by gamma rays, morphs into the muscular green superhero. Bana just starred in the Ridley Scott-directed “Black Hawk Down.” Progress on the film ground to a screeching halt last week after the tragedy, and no deal has yet been negotiated. Dish hears it might be soon. And despite confirmations from several industryites last week, Oscar-winning makeup vet Rick Baker (“Men In Black” and its sequel, “Planet of the Apes”) has not yet inked a deal with Universal to create creature f/x for “Hulk,” alongside Industrial Light and Magic. The pic’s producers are still debating whether to transform the film’s David Banner into the angry green Hulk using traditional makeup f/x or CGI. Pic will likely go into production in the spring.

CULKIN SEES “SIGNS”:Rory Culkin, the youngest member of the acting clan, has been set to star with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix in “Signs,” the M. Night Shyamalan drama which is about to go into production at Touchstone. Culkin, the younger brother of Macaulay and Kieran, was tapped after an exhaustive search. He made his first significant splash in “You Can Count on Me,” for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Culkin, who’s repped by Endeavor and Gerson Saines Management, most recently paired with brother Kieran in “Igby Goes Down.” Set in Bucks County, Pa., “Signs” concerns the mysterious appearance of a 500-foot array of circles and lines found mysteriously carved into the crops of a family’s farm. Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer will produce a film that begins production next month. It’s Shyamalan’s third film at Disney, with the first two, “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” grossing north of $900 million worldwide. Culkin nearly got to act with his “You Can Count on Me” costar Mark Ruffalo, who was set for “Signs” but dropped out and was replaced by Phoenix.

ELLIS AND JOFFE TEAM ON RKO PIC:RKO Pictures have joined forces to make “The Art of War,” a script by Kirk Ellis that will be set up to be directed by Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields”). Ellis, who scripted the Emmy-nominated telefilms “Me and My Shadows: The Judy Garland Story” and “Anne Frank: The Whole Story,” originally wrote “The Art of War” for a TNT movie. It is a romantic adventure set in the 1880s about a runaway Chinese refugee girl and the son of a Jewish sheriff. RKO production executive Rodman Gregg wanted to be in business with Ellis, and flipped for the script. Gregg will shepherd the project along toward production. RKO chairman Ted Hartley will exec produce. Ellis is repped by CAA and Chris Henze at Pure Arts.

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