The Passion of the Christ.” “The
Lord of the Rings.” “Pirates of the Caribbean.” “Master
and Commander.” “The Last Samurai.” “Cold
Mountain.” “Seabiscuit.” “Starsky & Hutch.” Face
it, folks: audiences like old stuff!
This month, Next! looks at the period pieces
Hollywood is mounting for the multis.
Age before beauty: One can learn much
about “Troy,” based
on one of the oldest stories of human endeavor, here.
“Alexander,” set circa 320 B.C., is an epic
actioner about the life of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander
the Great, who traveled 22,000 miles in eight years and
came to rule almost the entire “known world.” It
was written and directed by Oliver Stone (“U-Turn,” “Any
Given Sunday”). Colin Farrell (“Intermission”)
again tames his brogue to play the title role, with Angelina
Jolie (“Taking Lives,” “Sky Captain and
the World of Tomorrow”), Anthony Hopkins (“The
Human Stain”), Rosario Dawson (“The Rundown”),
Val Kilmer (“Spartan”), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
(“Bend it Like Beckham”) and Jared Leto (“Panic
Room”) in supporting roles. Warner Bros. marches
it into theatres Nov. 5.
“Jet Li’s Hero,” retitled for marketing
purposes from the simpler “Hero,” follows a
series of flashbacks that recount how one man defeated
three assassins who targeted a powerful warlord – a
warlord destined to unify China for the first time. Yimou
Zhang (“The Road Home”) directs from a screenplay
by Zhang,Bin Wang and Feng Li. Jet Li (“Cradle 2
the Grave”) stars with Tony Leung Chiu Wai (“In
the Mood for Love”), Ziyi Zhang (Rush Hour 2”),
Maggie Cheung (“Millennium Mambo”), Daoming
Chen and Donnie Yen. Miramax releases it Aug 20.
“King Arthur” is a tad more Anno Domini, set
in the approximate environs of 6th century England. It,
too, relates a mythical foundation story, this time of
the early unification of Britain during the reign of King
Arthur and how his power grew as the Roman Empire fell.
Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Tears
of the Sun”) directs from a screenplay by John Lee
Hancock (“Bad Boys II,” “The Alamo”)
and David Franzoni (“Gladiator”). Clive Owen
(“The Bourne Identity,” “Beyond Borders”)
stars as Arthur, Stephen Dillane (“The Hours”)
as Merlin, Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Love
Actually”) as Guinevere, Stellan Skarsgård
(“City of Ghosts,” “Exorcist: The Beginning,” “Dogville”)
as Cedric, Hugh Dancy (“Black Hawk Down”) as
Galahad and Ioan Gruffudd (“Black Hawk Down”)
as Lancelot. Buena Vista hopes audiences will come a lot
starting July 7.
“Kingdom of Heaven” is another epic drama,
set in the 12th and 13th centuries, about a young blacksmith
who falls for a princess and saves her kingdom during the
Crusades. Ridley Scott (“Black Hawk Down,” “Matchstick
Men”) directs from a screenplay by novelist William
Monahan (“Light House”). Orlando Bloom (the “Lord
of the Rings” series,” “Troy”),
Eva Green (“The Dreamers”), Jeremy Irons (“The
Time Machine,” “And Now Ladies & Gentlemen”),
Liam Neeson (“Love Actually”), Marton Csokas
(the “Lord of the Rings” series), David Thewlis
(“Timeline”) and Brendan Gleeson (“Cold
Mountain,” “Troy”) star. Fox plans a
May 6, 2005 bow.
“The Libertine” is a comedy-drama, set during
the Restoration of England’s Charles II, about the
Earl of Rochester, a drunkard and philanderer whose poetry
was by many labeled pornographic. It’s based on the
1994 play by Stephen Jeffreys. British commercial and music
video director Laurence Dunmore makes his feature directorial
debut from a screenplay by Jeffreys. Johnny Depp (“Secret
Window”) plays the title role opposite Samantha Morton
(“In America”) and John Malkovich (“Johnny
English”) as Charles II. It has yet to secure a domestic
Heath Ledger (“The Order”) is set to star
as another famous seducer in “Casanova,” in
which the notorious rake learns the meaning of true love
when he meets a woman who finds his charms eminently resistible.
Production is set to start in August. Lasse Hallstrom (“The
Shipping News”) will direct from a screenplay by
Kimberly Simi and Michael Cristofer (“Original Sin”).
Buena Vista has suggested a 2005 release.
We glide easily from the prurient to
the piratical for “Pirates
of the Caribbean 2: Treasures of the Lost Abyss.” That,
at least, is the working title for the second installment
(a third is rumored) of the 2003 summer blockbuster. Returnees
from part one are expected to include director Gore Verbinski
(“The Ring”) and screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry
Rossio (“Shrek”). Johnny Depp (“The Libertine”)
is set to reprise his role as tipsy pirate Captain Jack
Sparrow. Keira Knightley (“King Arthur”) and
Orlando Bloom (“Kingdom of Heaven”) are expected
to resurface as the beauteous Elizabeth Swann and Will
Turner, respectively. Buena Vista is expected to release
it sometime in 2005.
Vanity thy name is Witherspoon. Mira
Sutra,” “Monsoon Wedding”) directs this
adaptation of “Vanity Fair,” the classic novel
by William Makepeace Thackeray (“Barry Lyndon”).
Set among the British upper crust during the Napoleonic
wars, it tells the story of Becky Sharp, who, having grown
up poor in London, defies her poverty-stricken background
and ascends the social ladder alongside her best friend,
Amelia. The screenplay is by Matthew Faulk and Julian Fellowes
(“Gosford Park”). Reese Witherspoon (“Legally
Blonde 2”) stars as Becky Sharp, with James Purefoy
(“Resident Evil”) as Rawdon Crawley, Romola
Garai (“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”) as Amelia
Sedley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as George Osborne, Gabriel
Byrne (“Spider”) as Steyne, Jim Broadbent (“Nicholas
Nickleby”) as Joseph Sedly, Bob Hoskins (“Maid
in Manhattan”) as Pitt the elder, and Rhys Ifans
(“Once Upon a Time in the Midlands”) as Dobbins.
Focus plans a Sept. 1 release.
Speaking of Napoleon (and we were) “Napoleon and
Betsy” is set to go into production this autumn.
Scarlett Johansson (“The Perfect Score”) is
set to star in this drama about the friendship between
Napoleon Bonaparte and a young British girl during the
Emperor’s final exile on the South Atlantic island
of St. Helena. Lions Gate is reportedly seeking someone
to direct the screenplay by Rebecca B. Kennedy.
It will compete with an earlier Napole-on-in-exile
picture, revolving around a similar plot. “The Monster of
Longwood” is set to star Al Pacino (“The Recruit,” “Gigli”)
as Bonaparte and be directed by Patrice Chereau (“Queen
Margot”) from a screenplay by Chereau, Jean-Claude
Carrière (“Chinese Box”), Michael Tolkin
(“Changing Lanes”) and Paul Auster (“The
Center of the World”). Johansson was reportedly once
connected to this project as well! Barring any lawsuits
or actual Napoleonic warfare, Miramax hopes to have it
in theatres sometime in 2005.
“The Brothers Grimm” mines a similar time
frame. The thriller is loosely based on the lives of the
folklorist Grimm brothers, who, in this telling, wandered
from village to village pretending to eradicate “enchanted” creatures.
Terry Gilliam (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”)
directs from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”).
Matt Damon (“Stuck on You,” “Jersey Girl”)
and Heath Ledger star with Jonathan Pryce (“Pirates
of the Caribbean”), Lena Headey (“Possession”)
and Peter Stormare (“Bad Boys II”). Miramax
hopes to collect receipts happily ever after Nov. 19.
And in the History A to Z Department: “Around
the World in 80 Days” and “Zatoichi” both
tales of the 19th century, are described here and here,
“The Village” is a thriller, set in 1897,
about a close-knit rural community with a shared awareness
of a mysterious race of beings living in the adjacent forest.
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“Unbreakable,” “Signs”),
it stars William Hurt (“Tuck Everlasting”),
Sigourney Weaver (“Holes”), Adrien Brody (“Dummy”),
Bryce Howard (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”),
Joaquin Phoenix (“Buffalo Soldiers”), Judy
Greer (“The Hebrew Hammer,” “13 Going
On 30”), Jesse Eisenberg (“Roger Dodger”),
Brendan Gleeson (“Kingdom of Heaven”), Cherry
Jones (“Signs,” “Divine Secrets of the
Ya-Ya Sisterhood”), Michael Pitt (“Wonderland”),
Liz Stauber (“White Oleander”), Celia Watson
(“Runaway Jury”), Jayne Atkinson (“Free
Willy 2”), Lee Burkett (“Kate & Leopold”),
Frank Collison (“The Whole Ten Yards”), Fran
Kranz (“Matchstick Men”) and David Foster (“Gods & Generals”).
It was previously known as “The Woods.” Buena
Vista puts it on the town July 30.
Right next to it on the map you may
find “J.M. Barrie’s
Neverland.” It’s the true story of how Barrie
was inspired to write “Peter Pan” by the kids
next door, whose father had left them and whose mother
was dying. Based on the play “The Man Who Was Peter
Pan” by Alan Knee, it was directed by Marc Forster
(“Monster’s Ball”) from a screenplay
by David Magee. Johnny Depp stars with Kate Winslet (“Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Dustin Hoffman (“Runaway
Jury””), Julie Christie (“No Such Thing,” “Harry
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Troy”),
Ian Hart (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s
Stone”), Kelly Macdonald (“Gosford Park,” “Intermission”),
and Radha Mitchell (“Phone Booth”). Miramax
hopes you’ll find it Oct. 22.
Similarly proximate to the turn of
the next-to-last century, “Phantom
of the Opera” once again haunts the Paris Opera.
The musical drama, about a disfigured recluse compelled
to woo the woman of his dreams, is based on Andrew Lloyd
Webber’s (“Evita”) monster Broadway musical
hit, itself based on the oft-filmed novel by Gaston Leroux
(“Balaoo”). It was written and directed by
Joel Schumacher (“Phone Booth,” “Veronica
Guerin”). Gerard Butler (“Timeline”)
stars with Emmy Rossum (“Passionada,” “Mystic
River”), Patrick Wilson (“The Alamo”),
Alan Cumming (“Spy Kids 3D: Game Over”) and
Minnie Driver (“Ella Enchanted”). Warner Bros.
unmasks it in December.
“Twin Sisters” tells the tale of twins separated
as children: one was raised in Holland, the other in their
native rural Germany. The sisters’ lives take very
different paths until they are reunited 40 years after
World War II. It was directed by Ben Sombogaart from a
screenplay by Marieke van der Pol and based on the best-selling
novel “Twins” by Tessa De Loo. Thekla Reuten,
Nadja Uhl, Ellen Vogel, Gudrun Okras, Jeroen Spitzenberger
and Roman Knizka star. Miramax plans to unite it with theatre
screens Aug. 13.
The details of “De-Lovely,” the
Cole Porter biography set mostly in the first half of the
can be found here. “Sky
Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” set in a futuristic
1939, is described here.
Miramax, too, takes to the skies, with “The Aviator.” It’s
the biography of the reclusive and eccentric inventor,
pilot, filmmaker and billionaire Howard Hughes (1905-1976).
Martin Scorsese (“Gangs of New York”) directs
from a screenplay by John Logan (“The Time Machine,” “Star
Trek: Nemesis,” “The Last Samurai”).
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Gangs of New York”) stars
as Hughes, Cate Blanchett (the “Lord of the Rings” series)
as Katharine Hepburn, Frances Conroy (“Die Mommie
Die!”) as Hepburn’s mother, Kit, Kate Beckinsale
(“Underworld,” “Van Helsing”) as
Ava Gardner, No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow,
Adam Scott (“Torque”) as Johnny Meyer, Kelli
Garner (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”)
as Faith Domergue, Alec Baldwin (“The Cooler,” “Dr.
Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat”) as Juan Trippe,
Danny Huston (“21 Grams”) as Jack Frye, John
C. Reilly (“Anger Management”) as Noah Dietrich,
Matt Ross (“Down With Love”) as Glenn Odekirk,
Ian Holm (the “Lord of the Rings” series, “The
Day After Tomorrow”) as Fitz, Brent Spiner (“Star
Trek: Nemesis”) as Robert Gross, Alan Alda (“What
Women Want”) as Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster, Edward
Herrmann (“Intolerable Cruelty”) as Joseph
Breen, Stanley DeSantis (“The Man Who Wasn’t
There,” “Die Mommie Die!”) as Louis B.
Mayer, Amy Sloane (“Timeline,” “The Day
After Tomorrow”) as Hughes’ mother, and Nellie
Sciutto (“The Closet”) as Nadine Henley. Also
with Willem Dafoe (“Once Upon A Time in Mexico,” “The
Clearing,” “The Reckoning”). It takes
wing Dec. 17.
“Memoirs of a Geisha” rounds out the Roaring ‘20s
with a drama about a 9-year-old girl who is sold into slavery
in 1929, then grows up to become a famously successful
geisha. It’s based on the novel by Arthur Golden.
Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) directs from a screenplay
by Ron Bass (“Passion of Mind,” “The
Shipping News”) and Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful
Mind,” “I, Robot”). Those at one time
reportedly being sought to star include Rika Oka-moto,
Maggie Cheung (“Jet Li’s Hero”) and Julyana
Soelistyo (“Bringing Out the Dead”). Sony expects
filming to begin in September with a release late in 2005.
“Cinderella Man” is a based-on-fact sports
drama, set during the Depression, about Jim Braddock, a
man who becomes a working-class hero when he enters the
boxing ring to feed his family, but winds up becoming a
star. Ron Howard (“The Missing”) was set to
direct from a screenplay by Charlie Mitchell, Akiva Goldsman
(“Memoirs of a Geisha”) and Clifford Hollingsworth.
Those reportedly set to star include Russell Crowe (“Master
and Commander”), Renée Zellweger (“Cold
Mountain”), Paddy Considine (“In America”),
Paul Giamatti (“Paycheck”) and Craig Bierko
(“Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star”) as German
champion Max Baer. Universal takes off the gloves March
“King Kong” revisits the 1930s (after a disastrous
visit to 1976) when the simian leviathan from the jungles
of darkest Africa is captured and displayed in New York.
The “Heavenly Creatures”-”Frighteners”-”Lord
of the Rings” team of writer-director Peter Jackson
and screenwriter Fran Walsh reunite. Naomi Watts (“21
Grams”), Adrien Brody (“The Village”),
and Jack Black (“Envy”) embody the three leads.
Universal kills the beast Dec. 14, 2005.
“Unchain My Heart” begins in 1930 with the
birth of Ray Charles. The drama is based on the life of
the famed recording artist who lost his sight at the age
of six, and battled through years of racism, drug abuse
and rocky relationships to become an enduring musical legend.
Mark Rydell (“For the Boys,” “Intersection”)
is set to direct from a screenplay by Jimmy White. Jamie
Foxx (“Ali,” “Collateral”) is set
to star as the legendary singer. What’d Universal
say? Oct. 29 is the release date.
“Gettin’ the Man’s Foot Outta Your Rosenstrasse!” is
most definitely not the alternative title for “Rosenstrasse.” The
German- and English-language drama, based on a true story,
is set in World War II Berlin and present day New York.
It’s about a group of Aryan women who fought to keep
their Jewish husbands from being deported to places where
almost certain death awaited. Margarethe von Trotta (“The
Promise”) directed from a screenplay by Von Trotta
and Pamela Katz. Katja Riemann (“The Harmonists”),
Maria Schrader (“Aimée & Jaguar”),
Martin Feifel, Jürgen Vogel (“Good Bye, Lenin!”),
Jutta Lampe and Doris Schade (“Beyond Silence”)
star. IDP expects a July 30 release.
“Exorcist The Beginning” is the much-delayed
and controversy-haunted prequel to the 1973 thriller. It’s
based upon characters and events depicted in William Blatty’s
novel “The Exorcist” and set in the middle
part of the 20th century, it deals with a young priest’s
journey through Africa and his first encounter with demonic
possession. Originally directed by Paul Schrader (“Affliction,” “AutoFocus”)
from a screenplay by novelist Caleb Carr (“The Alienist”)
and William Wisher Jr. (“Judge Dredd,” “13th
Warrior”), it has reportedly been completely re-shot
by director Renny Harlin (“Deep Blue Sea,” “Driven”)
with the help of a rewrite by Skip Woods (“Swordfish”)
and Alexi Hawley. The reshot version reportedly drops some
characters, adds others, and now stars Stellan Skarsgård
(“King Arthur”), James D’Arcy (“Master
and Commander”), Izabella Scorupco (“Reign
of Fire”), Antonie Kamerling (“Left Luggage”),
Andrew French (“The Tailor of Panama”) and
Ralph Brown (“Mean Machine”). Warner Bros.
commands it to come out Aug 20.
“Beyond the Sea” is a drama about pop singer,
political activist and Oscar-nominated actor Bobby Darin
(1936-1973). It was directed by Kevin Spacey (“Albino
Alligator”) from a screenplay by Paul Attanasio (“The
Sum of All Fears”), novelist Lorenzo Carcaterra (“Sleepers”),
actor Jeffrey Meek (“Heart Condition”) and
James Toback (“Harvard Man”). Spacey (“The
United States of Leland”) stars with Kate Bosworth
(“Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”), John Goodman
(“Masked & Anonymous”), Vanessa Redgrave
(“The Pledge”) and Bob Hoskins (“Vanity
Fair”). Lions Gate plans a Thanksgiving release.
“The Woods” is a thriller set in 1965 about
a young girl who, after her classmates begin to disappear,
discovers a mysterious inhabitant in the woods surrounding
her remote boarding school. Lucky McKee (“May”)
directs from a screenplay by David Ross. Agnes Bruckner
(“Murder by Numbers”) stars with Patricia Clarkson
(“Miracle”), Marcia Bennett (“The Tuxedo,” “Noel”),
Bruce Campbell (“Intolerable Cruelty”), Lauren
Birkell (“Cast Away”), Rachel Nichols (“Dumb
and Dumberer”) and Gordon Currie (“Highwaymen”).
United Artists would like to open it Oct. 1.
Finally, “Anchorman,” set
in the 1970s (which is about as far back in the past
as some of us want to
go), is a comedy about a beloved news anchorman whose perfect
hair, raging hormones and inflated ego are no match for
an ambitious female newscaster who has actually mastered
the craft of journalism. Adam McKay directed from a screenplay
by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (“A Night at the Roxbury”).
It stars Ferrell (“Elf”), Christina Applegate
(“Wonderland”), Vince Vaughn (“Starsky & Hutch”),
Ben Stiller (“Starsky & Hutch”), David
Koechner (“My Boss’s Daughter”), Chris
Parnell (“Down With Love”), Maya Rudolph (“50
First Dates”), Fred Armisen (“Eurotrip”),
Amy Poehler (“Mean Girls,” “Envy”),
Jerry Minor (Comedy Central’s “Trigger Happy
TV”), Fred Willard (“American Wedding”),
and Steve Carell (“Bruce Almighty”). DreamWorks
makes it live and local July 9.