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Ben Stiller Turns Fox’s ‘Walter Mitty’ Reboot From Daydream To Reality

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Ben Stiller is in talks with 20th Century Fox to play the title role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty after the previous script was finally dumped and a new approach and screenwriter was put on the project. That produced a reboot that Stiller wants to make his next film. Stiller sparked to the new take by Steve Conrad, writer of the Will Smith hit The Pursuit of Happyness. Now that Stiller is coming aboard, Fox will move quickly to lock in a cinematic director who can mix action with a PG rating, and get the picture ready for a late fall start. Stiller is repped by WME.

Mitty is still based on the 1947 Danny Kaye film from the James Thurber short story first published in The New Yorker in 1939. The story of a perpetual daydreamer had been in development so long that it seemed like it might never be more than a daydream. Everyone from Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen flirted with that previous script, and directors who have circled include Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Gore Verbinski. Mitty‘s problems stemmed from that script which was never quite right. But then Conrad started fresh and Stiller felt he knocked it out of the park. Stiller, who has starred in the lucrative Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents franchises, might have another big one on his hands. His Red Hour Films banner is based at Fox. Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and John Goldwyn have been shepherding the project as producers for years. Read More »

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James Franco Closing Disney Deal For ‘Oz: The Great And Powerful’

Mike Fleming

While James Franco and Anne Hathaway have been busy pulling it together to host Sunday’s Oscarcast, Franco’s CAA reps and Disney have closed his deal to play the title role in Oz: The Great and Powerful. That puts the film on track to begin production in July, with Franco reuniting with his Spider-Man director Sam Raimi in the prequel to the L. Frank Baum novel that was scripted by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Joe Roth is producing.

There had been much discussion around town lately about Disney’s gyrations in trying to pare the budget of the film down to a mere $200 million, but they must have figured it out if they locked in Franco. For Franco, the multi-tasking marvel’s dance card for 2011 now looks like this: he’ll first star in the Noah Baumbach-directed While We’re Young, and then will shoot Oz. That brings him to the late fall/winter, when he’ll star in Sweet Bird of Youth, the David Cromer-directed revival of the Tennessee Williams play that will be produced by Scott Rudin. Kidman will play Alexandra Del Lago, the aging voracious movie star, while Franco will play her gigolo paramour Chance Wayne. While Franco has starred in eclectic indies and is even a recurring soap opera star, he has event film experience from the Spider-Man films with Raimi, and stars this fall in Fox’s Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes. Still, this is a … Read More »

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James Franco Sets Broadway Date With Nicole Kidman In ‘Sweet Bird Of Youth’

Mike Fleming

James Franco has formalized his intention to star on Broadway next fall in Sweet Bird of Youth, the David Cromer-directed play that will be produced by Scott Rudin. Negotiations are underway, but both Franco and Kidman are fully committed, I’m told. Cromer last directed Our Town. Franco is Oscar-nominated for 127 Hours and is hosting the Oscarcast with Anne Hathaway, while Kidman is Oscar-nominated for Rabbit Hole. She also won her Oscar for The Hours, which Rudin produced. In the revival of the Tennessee Williams play, Kidman will play Alexandra Del Lago, the aging voracious movie star, while Franco will play her gigolo paramour Chance Wayne. Just like that, Broadway has another hot ticket. CAA reps Franco and Kidman.

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On Broadway: Jennifer Jason Leigh in ‘House Of Blue Leaves,’ Lee Daniels Ponders ‘Scottsboro Boys’

Mike Fleming

leigh-tt1Jennifer Jason Leigh has been set to join Ben Stiller and Edie Falco in the Broadway revival of The House Of Blue Leaves, the John Guare play that will be directed by David Cromer. Scott Rudin is producing, with previews to begin April 4 and opening night is April 25 at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. Leigh, who made her Broadway debut in Cabaret and also starred in Proof, will play Bunny Flingus the mistress of Artie Shaughnessy (Stiller). Cromer is coming off Our Town

While The Scottsboro Boys ends its Broadway run on December 12 at the Lyceum Theatre, there are flickers of hope that the last collaboration between songwriting legends John Kander and Fred Ebb will have a feature future. I’m told that Oscar-nominated Precious director Lee Daniels has seen the show several times and is in early conversations to develop it. Now, Daniels is in hot demand, and he has been focusing on The Butler for Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Laura Ziskin-produced drama about Eugene Allen, an African American servant in the White House over 34 years, who had a unique perspective on the civil rights struggle and was invited back after retirement to witness the inauguration of the first African American president, Barack Obama. Daniels has been rewriting a script by Recount‘s Danny Strong, and wants Denzel Washington to play the title role. Daniels has had … Read More »

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