By Romeo San Vicente
Houdini is happening with Hugh
Hugh Jackman can’t stay away from Broadway. The part-time “Real Steel/Wolverine” tough guy is, apparently, incapable of curing his song-and-dance lust. So now that “The Boy From Oz” is a distant memory and he’s finished up with “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway,” he needs a new reason to belt out the big numbers for matinee audiences. Enter “Houdini,” in the works for a couple years now with Jackman in mind for the lead and, at one point, set to feature music from Danny Elfman. Jackman is still the man in the title role but now the score will come from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), the script from Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Jack O’Brien (Hairspray) will direct. And rather than a straightforward biography approach, Houdini will tell the story of a conflict the legendary magician encountered in the form of a trio of women known as “Spirtualists.” The women had convinced scores of followers, including editors at “Scientific American” and “The New York Times,” that they could communicate with the dead. Houdini, on the other hand, was less than convinced. If audiences believe – and they probably will – this could be the big hit of the 2013 season. Start planning your New York visits now.
Franco’s gay streak continues
James Franco is no stranger to playing gay. On screen he’s been James Dean, Allen Ginsberg, Hart Crane, Harvey Milk’s boyfriend Scott Smith and an ambiguous stoner in the comedy “Pineapple Express.” So here he goes again, this time tackling the role of legendary contemporary artist Robert Mapplethorpe for an upcoming biopic. The controversial artist, who died of AIDS in 1989 and whose frankly homoerotic photographs caused a firestorm of censorship efforts among cultural conservatives in the late 1980s, is almost tailor-made for a big screen story. And given the artist’s huge personality and bravado, the actor who plays him should be equally unafraid, which makes it a perfect fit for Franco. The upcoming film, among the first to receive grants through Tribeca Film Institute’s “All Access Program” and directed by documentarian Ondi Timoner, will be produced by “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”‘s Eliza Dushku and her brother Nate Dushku, who was, at one time, expected to play Mapplethorpe. More news to come as production rolls on.
Directors in flux: Peirce talks ‘Carrie,’ Van Sant replaces Damon
Post-Columbine, it’s been impossible to get a high school outcast-gets-revenge movie anywhere near a studio’s production slate. But then there’s “Carrie,” a project that’s almost magically exempt from any discussion of media blame when real kids go on real life murderous rampages. Based on the modern horror classic written by Stephen King, the original film starring young Sissy Spacek was a deep dive into a terrifying world of religious mania, telekinesis and involuntary manslaughter (lots and lots of it). Naturally, a remake is in the works and “Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Peirce is in talks to take the helm. Hope she gets it; she’d be a great fit. Meanwhile, on the boys side of Hollywood, Gus Van Sant looks to be stepping into Matt Damon’s shoes as he takes over an untitled production that Damon was scheduled to direct. Co-starring with John Krasinski is still on tap for Damon, who also co-wrote the script – one that people who’ve read it are calling “Capra-esque” – in which the two actors play rival corporate executives whose values and greed are called into question. And Van Sant was the first and only director Damon called to take over, a no-brainer since the pair have worked together off and on ever since “Good Will Hunting.”
2012 takes on new meaning for ‘2012’ director
Gay director Roland Emmerich’s end-of-the-world thriller “2012” ended with humanity’s final survivors fleeing for safety in giant arks, so it’s not like he’s ever at a loss for outlandish outcomes, but which candidate will be safely ensconced in the White House – not just in real life, but in make-believe TV-land, too – when the director’s new 2012 Presidential campaign-themed TV series wraps up its first story arc? That’s the first question you might ask about this pilot, picked up by ABC, which focuses on a young astrophysics student (why not?) whose destiny becomes linked with the election. The next question might be what it’s going to be called, because there’s no title just yet. And that’s just the start. Who’s going to star? How fast can they get it moving and on the air? And most importantly, what’s going to happen to the story after the January 2013 inauguration? Stay tuned as this game of TV dice-rolling shakes out.