“David Hare, I need your words.” So said Nicole Kidman in her Oscar acceptance speech for her role in “The Hours,” adapted by Hare.
Baz Luhrmann clearly shares her sentiment, for he has hired the veteran British playwright (himself an Oscar nominee for “The Hours”) to pen the script for his “Alexander the Great.”
Luhrmann has already written something between a treatment and a screenplay, laying out his vision for the drama.
Producer Dino De Laurentiis has sent Luhrmann’s draft to several potential foreign distribs, albeit with a cover note explaining the final version will be significantly improved.
Luhrmann’s “Alexander the Great” (not, of course, to be confused with Oliver Stone’s Intermedia movie, which stars Colin Farrell and starts shooting Sept. 22) is backed by Universal and DreamWorks, and is scheduled to roll sometime in 2004. Kidman is set to co-star with Leonardo Di Caprio, although their involvement, as usual, is contingent on script approval.
Kidman’s association with Hare goes back to her naked triumph in the London staging of Hare’s play “The Blue Room” in 1998
Hare is adapting “The Corrections” for Stephen Daldry and Scott Rudin.
‘Cheri’ attracts Hampton
With his latest movie “Imagining Argentina” premiering at the Venice Film Festival, Christopher Hampton’s next project as a writer/director (as opposed to simply a screenwriter or a librettist) will be an adaptation of Colette’s classic Gallic novel “Cheri” for Brit producer and theatrical impresario Bill Kenwright.
Jessica Lange, a longtime collaborator with Kenwright, is intended to play the lead role as a magnificent and talented femme d’un certain age (the English “middle-aged woman” seems inadequate) in pre-WWI Paris, who has a lengthy love affair with the young son of a wealthy courtesan. She breaks it off when an advantageous marriage is arranged for him, but he cannot adjust to life without her.
Kenwright previously produced two highly-praised London stage appearances by Lange — “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1996 and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 2000.
He is better known for theater than for his sporadic forays into film. His stage output is prolific and varied, including the long-running musical “Blood Brothers,” and the revivals of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Tell Me on a Sunday.”
To date, his movie activities have been confined to a couple of poorly received romantic comedies — “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Zoe,” both starring his partner Jenny Seagrove. But with Richard Jobson’s gang movie “The Purifiers” in production and Hampton’s “Cheri” in development, there are signs he’s raising his sights.
U adjusts focus away from straight-to-vid
The remorseless rise of DVD is proving to be the latest nail in the coffin of the straight-to-video movie.
According to Peter Smith, president of Universal Pictures Intl. (U’s London-based homevid arm), films without a theatrical release still do fine on VHS but are getting left behind on DVD. As a result, UPI has stopped buying straight-to-video titles, and switched its acquisitions policy toward all-rights deals.
“In the past, we have done a very significant number of straight-to-video projects, but these are not getting the benefit of a DVD lift,” Smith says. “So if we’re going to grow our revenues, we’ll have to buy all rights. And in some markets, the independent distribution scene is not as strong as it was, so there’s an opportunity.”
In recent months, UPI has picked up “Phantom of the Opera” for Australia and New Zealand, Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” for France, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “21 Grams” for Latin America, and the Sam Raimi-produced “Boogyman” for the U.K. and Germany. In all cases, the theatrical release will be handled by United Pictures Intl., U’s foreign distrib partnership with Paramount.
It’s no coincidence two of those pics, “Hero” and “21 Grams,” were sold to UPI by Focus Intl., Universal’s own specialty label. “Focus gives us a fair amount of help and guidance,” Smith says.