EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Costner has dropped out of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, an exit I’m told is due to a combination of scheduling and personal reasons. Costner had agreed to play the supporting role of Ace Woody in the Sergio Leone-style Spaghetti Western. The problem was it would have tied up about two months of his schedule even though he’s not in that many scenes. Costner is playing Pa Kent in the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and doing the miniseries The Hatfields and McCoys for History (which he’s also producing) and it was a bit much. It’s too bad, because the role would have been a real departure for an actor who has mostly played good guys. Costner was going to play Woody, a humorless and sadistic trainer of the male fighting slaves who entertain the white patrons of Candyland, a hellhole that also used female slaves as prostitutes. Candyland is the club and ranch owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Ace Woody is the one who pits the “mandingo” fighters against one another, and who has little qualms about mistreating and even killing the slaves who don’t measure up. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson star, with Foxx playing the title character, a slave-turned-bounty hunter who must take on those villains to free his slave wife. Tarantino is still testing actresses for that role, though Kerry Washington’s name has been in the mix. The Weinstein Company will put the picture into production in November, with Sony Pictures aboard for foreign.
Back when I saw him in late February at Harvey Weinstein’s Oscar night party for The King’s Speech, Quentin Tarantino told me that his script for a Western was just pouring out of him easily, that he’d finished a …
EXCLUSIVE: Javier Bardem is close to sealing his deal with Universal Pictures to play gunslinger Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower, the mammoth adaptation of the Stephen King 7-novel series that’ll span three movies and a limited run TV series in between each film. Director Ron Howard begins production on the first film in September, and he’ll also direct the first TV segment. Akiva Goldsman has scripted the film and the initial TV component. Imagine Entertainment chief Brian Grazer is producing the films with Goldsman and King. Goldsman will produce the TV part through his Weed Road banner.
Bardem, who won the Oscar for his ferocious portrayal of a hit man in No Country For Old Men and who was more recently nominated for Biutiful, is a strong match to play the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers. Deadline revealed in late January that Bardem had been offered the role of Deschain, who becomes humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an old West feel.
Bardem’s WME reps are putting the finishing touches on the deal, and they are close enough that Howard has begun meeting with other actors to cast the roles around Bardem. It’s a complex deal, almost unprecedented, because it calls for Bardem to star in the feature film and the TV component. His deal will also include options for two sequels (the TV program that runs between the second and third films will be a prequel). I’m told it will add up to a career-best payday for Bardem. Howard and Goldsman have told me they see the trilogy as their answer to the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While Middle Earth had a mystical medieval feel, The Dark Tower vibe is one that Goldsman described as “an alternate Americana, one part post-apocalyptic, one part Sergio Leone.”