The New Green!
As African-Americans Dominate The Box
Actors Of Color Are Lining Up A Litany of New Projects
by Patrick Corcoran
The weekend Jamie Foxx
and Morgan Freeman won Oscars at a Chris Rock-hosted
awards ceremony, “Diary
of a Mad Black Woman” was that weekend’s the
top-grossing film. And the highest-grossing movies of 2005
at the time were “Hitch,” “Are We There
Yet?” and “Coach Carter.”
See a pattern? This month’s ethnically driven Next!
salutes black box office might with a look at what to expect
from cinema’s most popular African-Americans!
Hot off his high-profile Academy Award-winning performance
in “Ray,” Foxx comes in under the radar for
three projects that are no strangers to Next!
“Stealth” is an actioner about a battle-savvy group
of pilots on a mission to destroy a deadly robotic craft
before it can precipitate a third world war. Rob Cohen
(“The Fast and the Furious,” “XXX”)
directs from a screenplay by Cohen and W.D. Richter (“Needful
Things,” “Home for the Holidays”). Foxx’s
co-stars include Jessica Biel (“Blade: Trinity”)
and Josh Lucas (“Wonderland,” “Around
the Bend”). Sony sneaks it into theatres July 29.
Foxx keeps it high-and-tight as Sgt. Siek
in “Jarhead,” based
on Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford’s memoir of
life in the Marine Corps. Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Road
to Perdition”) directs from a screenplay by William
Broyles (“Unfaithful,” “The Polar Express”).
Jake Gyllenhaal (“The Day After Tomorrow”)
plays Swofford. Universal deploys it Nov. 11.
Foxx will then play Ricardo Tubbs in the
big-screen remake of “Miami Vice.” It will reteam Foxx with “Collateral” director
Michael Mann, who served as producer/writer on the stylish
1984-89 NBC TV series about two shockingly visible undercover
Miami vice detectives. Mann will direct from his own screenplay.
Colin Farrell (“Alexander”) steps into Sonny
Crockett’s sockless loafers. Universal polishes up
the neon for a July 28, 2006 release.
Fellow 2005 Oscar winner Freeman stars as Bruce Wayne’s
business associate, Lucious Fox, in “Batman Begins,” a
prequel to the “Batman” saga depicting the
first time Wayne dons the cape and cowl. Christopher Nolan
(“Insomnia”) directs the much-discussed project
from a screenplay by Nolan and David Goyer (the “Blade” series).
Christian Bale (“Reign of Fire,” “Equilibrium”)
stars as the Caped Crusader. Warner Bros.’ bat-time
is June 17.
The best supporting actor will then take
another supporting role in “An Unfinished Life,” a drama about
a young, destitute mother who, as a last resort, uproots
herself and her pre-teen daughter to live at her estranged
father-in-law’s ranch in Wyoming. Lasse Hallström
(“Chocolat,” “The Shipping News”)
directs from a screenplay by Virginia & Mark Spragg
(“Gross Anatomy”). Jennifer Lopez (“Shall
We Dance?” “Monster-in-Law”), Robert
Redford (“The Clearing”), Josh Lucas (“Stealth”),
Damian Lewis (“Dreamcatcher”), Camryn Manheim
(“Twisted”) and P. Lynn Johnson (“Final
Destination”) co-star. Miramax has yet to set a release
just scored “Hitch,” his
first big hit in a romantic comedy ($121 million in less
than three weeks),
Smith has only one announced project on his calendar. “Affirmative
Action,” set in New Orleans, is an action
comedy about a Boston police officer and an FBI agent who – despite
differing perspectives on race – must work together
to catch a fugitive black soldier. The Jerry Bruckheimer
project’s screenplay is by J.J. Abrams (creator of
TV’s “Alias” and “Lost”).
Smith and Ben Affleck are reportedly set to co-star. Buena
Vista has yet to set a release date.
Samuel L. Jackson
By some measures, Jackson is the highest-grossing actor
in film history, having surpassed #2, Harrison Ford,
in January 2005. His secret? Volume, volume volume. Plus,
his “Star Wars: Episode III” director George
Lucas has promised to cast him in “Indiana Jones
4,” should it ever come to fruition, in order to
keep him ahead of Ford.
Which makes him “The Man.” The comedy is about
an ATF agent who finds himself forced to partner with a
bumbling traveling salesmen in order to keep his big-deal
sting operation intact. Les Mayfield (“Blue Streak,” “American
Outlaws”) directs from a screenplay by Stephen Carpenter
(“Blue Streak,” “Soul Survivors”),
Margaret Oberman (“Troop Beverly Hills”) and
Jim Piddock (“A Different Loyalty”). Eugene
Levy (“New York Minute”), Susie Essman (“The
Secret Lives of Dentists”), Anthony Mackie (“Million
Dollar Baby”), Miguel Ferrer (“The Manchurian
Candidate,” “Silver City”), Horatio Sanz
(“Boat Trip”), Luke Goss (“Blade II”)
and Michael Cameron (“Bulletproof Monk”) co-star.
New Line plans a Sept. 9 bow.
Then, “Freedomland” is a drama about the racial
tensions that ignite after a poor, white New Jersey woman
blames the death of her child on an African-American from
a nearby housing project. The screenplay is by Richard
Price (“Clockers,” “Ransom,” “Shaft”),
based on his novel. Joe Roth (“America’s Sweethearts,” “Christmas
with the Kranks”) directs. Jackson’s co-stars
include Julianne Moore (“The Forgotten”), Ron
Eldard (“House of Sand and Fog”), Aunjanue
Ellis (“Ray”), Edie Falco (“Sunshine
State”), William Forsythe (“City by the Sea”)
and Anthony Mackie (“The Man”). Paramount sets
it loose Jan. 13, 2006.
The Queen takes a break from her current on-screen work
in “Beauty Shop” for a “Last Holiday.” It’s
a remake of the 1950 Alec Guinness comedy-drama about
a shy clerk who discovers he has a terminal illness and
decides to have one last fling before he goes. Wayne
Wang (“Maid in Manhattan,” “Because
of Winn-Dixie”) directs from a screenplay by Jeffrey
Price & Peter S. Seaman (“Wild Wild West,” “How
the Grinch Stole Christmas”). Queen Latifah takes
on the Guinness role opposite Gérard Depardieu
(“Nathalie”), Giancarlo Esposito (“Ali,” “Back
in the Day”), LL Cool J (“S.W.A.T.”),
Timothy Hutton (“Kinsey”) and Alicia Witt
(“The Upside of Anger”). Paramount lists
2005 for its release itinerary.
“Stranger Than Fiction” is a comedy about an IRS auditor
who begins hearing narration in his head that affects his
work, love life – and impending death. Marc Forster
(“Finding Neverland”) directs from a screenplay
by Zach Helm. Latifah’s co-stars include Will Ferrell
(“Anchorman,” “Melinda and Melinda,” “Kicking
and Screaming”), Dustin Hoffman (“Meet the
Fockers”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Criminal”)
and Emma Thompson (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner
of Azkaban”). It has not yet inked a distributor.
Absent since 2003’s “Bad Boys II,” Lawrence
is ready for a “Rebound.” The comedy is about
a college basketball coach who, having behaved badly at
a game, is reduced to coaching a junior high school team.
Steve Carr (“Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy
Day Care”) directs from a screenplay by Ed Decter & John
Strauss (“The Santa Clause 2,” “The Lizzie
McGuire Movie”), William Wolff (TV’s “G
vs E”), Scott Moore and Jon Lucas. Lawrence’s
co-stars include Patrick Warburton (“Men in Black
II”), Horatio Sanz (“Boat Trip,” “The
Man”), Steven Anthony Lawrence (“Cheaper by
the Dozen”), Oren Williams (“The Players Club”),
Tara Mercurio (“Daddy Day Care”), Amy Bruckner
(TV’s “Phil of the Future”), Alia Shawkat
(“Three Kings”) and Fred Stoller (“Daddy
Day Care”). Fox puts it in play July 22.
Lawrence lends his voice to “Open Season,” an
animated tale about a deer who becomes pals with a domesticated
grizzly (the pet of a forest ranger) when the two find
themselves lost in the woods during hunting season. Veteran
animator Jill Culton (the “Toy Story” series)
and veteran visual effects animator Anthony Stacchi (“Ghost,” “Hook”)
direct. Ashton Kutcher voices the deer, Debra Messing the
ranger and Lawrence the bear. Sony plans to catch and release
it Sept. 29.
Filming was reportedly set to start at the
beginning of April on “Big Momma’s House 2.” Lawrence
is slated to reprise his role as undercover FBI agent Malcolm
Turner underneath layers of pretend fat and real housedresses.
John Whitesell (“Malibu’s Most Wanted”)
was reportedly set to direct from a screenplay by Don Rhymer
(“Big Momma’s House,” “The Santa
Clause 2,” “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination
London”). Fox has yet to settle on a release date.
Tucker has been called the highest-paid non-working actor
in Hollywood. His reported $20 million salary for “Rush
Hour 2” might seem inducement enough to lure him
back before the cameras, but the enigmatic actor has
remained absent from cinema screens. As noted in 2004’s “Missing
in Action” [In Focus, November
2004], New Line
reportedly planned to film “Rush Hour 3” and “4” simultaneously
(sparing them the trouble of wooing the recalcitrant
Tucker a fourth time), but it’s now uncertain if
that plan is still in place. Returnees from the first
two installments of the culture-clash action comedy series
were expected to include Tucker and Jackie Chan (“Around
the World in 80 Days”) and director Brett Ratner
(“Red Dragon,” “After the Sunset”).
Jeff Nathanson (“Rush Hour 2,” “Catch
Me If You Can,” “The Terminal,” “The
Last Shot”) is reportedly drafting a script relocating
Detective Carter and Inspector Lee to Europe.
Once-edgy comic Murphy in recent years has found a fortune
in family-friendly fare. No longer slated to reprise
his role as stay-at-home dad Charlie Hinton in “Daddy
Day Camp,” Murphy instead finds himself with just
the next two “Shrek” sequels on his agenda. “Shrek
3” is expected to reunite Murphy’s voice
with those of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and John Cleese
(as Fiona’s pop). The screenplay is by Jeffrey
Price & Peter S. Seaman (“Who Framed Roger
Rabbit,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”)
and Jon Zack (“Out Cold”). DreamWorks plans
a May 18, 2007 release. “Shrek 4” is already
in development with the reported hiring of Tim Sullivan
(“Jack and Sarah”) to write the script.
Now onscreen in “XXX: State of the Union,” the
former NWA frontman was reportedly set to take on the Cary
Grant role in the remake of 1948’s “Mr. Blandings
Builds His Dream House.” The comedy, about a couple’s
disastrous effort to create a country home, was reportedly
set to be directed by Cube’s “Next Friday” helmer,
Steve Carr (“Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy
Day Care”), from a screenplay by Hank Nelkin (“Saving
Silverman”). The Revolution Studios project has yet
to formally secure a domestic distributor.
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
“Shadowboxer” finds the 1997 Supporting Actor Oscar-winner
in a drama about an unlikely romantic relationship that
develops between an older woman and her stepson, who work
together as contract killers. Producer Lee Daniels (“Monster’s
Ball”) makes his feature directorial debut from a
screenplay by Will Rokos (“Monster’s Ball”).
Helen Mirren (“The Clearing”), Stephen Dorff
(“Cold Creek Manor”), Vanessa Ferlito (“Man
of the House”) and Julia Yorks (“Unbreakable”)
co-star. It has yet to arrange a domestic distributor.
Diesel has never publicly disclosed many firm details about
his heritage, but people of numerous backgrounds – including
African-Americans – are happy to claim him as their
own. Born Mark Vincent, he plays Italian-American Jack
NiNorcio in “Find Me Guilty,” a crime thriller
based on the true story of an accused mobster who, rather
than betray his accomplices, chooses to defend himself
in court. Sidney Lumet (“Night Falls on Manhattan,” “Critical
Care,” “Gloria”) directs from a screenplay
by Lumet and T.J. Mancini. Diesel’s co-stars include
Michalina Almindo (“In Good Company”), Peter
Dinklage (“Elf”), Annabella Sciorra (“Chasing
Liberty”), Eddie Marrero (TV’s “The
Guiding Light”), Alex Rocco (“The Wedding
Planner”) and Cassandra Hepburn. It has yet to
lock up a distributor.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
The son of African-American professional wrestler Rocky
Johnson and Ata Maivia (daughter of Samoan professional
wrestler Chief Peter Maivia), The Rock segues from a comic
role in “Be Cool” to meet his “Doom.” The
actioner, about a marine who finds himself battling flesh-eating
ghouls in a claustrophobic, labyrinthine facility, is based
on the popular computer game. Andrzej Bartkowiak (“Exit
Wounds,” “Cradle 2 The Grave”) directs
from a screenplay by Dave Callaham. Karl Urban (“The
Bourne Supremacy”) and Rosamund Pike (“Die
Another Day”) co-star. Universal faces an Aug. 5
From there, it’s reportedly on to another video game
adaptation. “Spy Hunter” finds The Rock playing
a former fighter pilot who rids the world of spies, assassins
and other nefarious types from behind the wheel of a high-tech “battle
car.” John Woo (“Windtalkers,” “Paycheck”)
was set to direct from a screenplay by Michael Brandt & Derek
Haas (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Catch That
Kid”), Zak Penn (“Elektra”) and Damian
Shannon & Mark Swift (“Freddy Vs. Jason”).
Universal has yet to set a release date.
The Oscar host has two films opening on the same day. For
more info on the May 27 bows of “The Longest Yard” and “Madagascar,” turn
to this month’s preview.
Cedric the Entertainer
Also lending his voice to “Madagascar,” Mr.
The Entertainer sets himself up for some tough comparisons
to “the Great One” in “The Honeymooners.” The
comedy, set in New York, is about a bus driver and a sewer
worker who hatch a get-rich-quick scheme, much to the dismay
of their waitressing wives. It’s based on the classic
Jackie Gleason-Art Carney TV series. John Schultz (“Like
Mike”) directs from a screenplay by Barry Blaustein & David
Sheffield (“The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”)
and veteran TV writer Danny Jacobson (“Mad About
You,” “Two Guys and a Girl”). Co-stars
include Mike Epps (“Resident Evil: Apocalypse”)
as Ed Norton, Gabrielle Union (“Breakin’ All
the Rules”) as Alice Kramden and Regina Hall (“Scary
Movie 3”) as Trixie Norton, as well as Eric Stoltz
(“The Butterfly Effect”), John Leguizamo (“Assault
on Precinct 13”), Jon Polito (“The Last Shot”)
and Anne Pitoniak (“Unfaithful”). Paramount
hopes to send its gross tallies to the moon July 15.
He then lends his voice to “Charlotte’s Web,” a
family drama about a determined young piglet who teams
up with a friendly barnyard spider to devise a plan to
save him from becoming somebody’s dinner. It’s
based on the children’s novel by E.B. White (the “Stuart
Little” series, “Trumpet of the Swan”).
Gary Winick (“13 Going On 30”) directs from
a screenplay by Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”)
and Karey Kirkpatrick (“The Little Vampire”).
Dakota Fanning (“Hide and Seek”) stars as Fern
and Jane Sibbett (“It Takes Two”) as Joy. It
also features the voices of Julia Roberts as Charlotte,
André Benjamin as Elwyn, Kathy Bates as Bitsy, Steve
Buscemi as Templeton the rat, Thomas Haden Church as Brooks,
John Cleese as Samuel, Reba McEntire as Betsy, Oprah Winfrey
as Gussy and Jennifer Garner, Leslie Mann and Robert Redford
in other vocal roles. Paramount spins it out June 23, 2006.
Cedric was reportedly set to begin production
in March on “Mr. Lucky.” The comedy is about an ex-gambling
addict who recovers from bankruptcy, only to find himself – thanks
to an identity mix-up – in Las Vegas with $2 million
in credit. Brian Levant (“Snowdogs,” “Are
We There Yet?”) was set to direct from a screenplay
by Steve Pink (“America’s Sweethearts,” “Grosse
Pointe Blank”) and Herb Ratner. Sony has yet to set
a release date.
The Wayans Bros.
On the heels of their 2004 hit “White Chicks,” the
production facility otherwise known as The Wayans mobilizes
for “Little Man.” The
comedy is about a man, desperate to be a father, who “adopts” a less-than-full-size
criminal on the run from the law. Keenen Ivory Wayans was
set to direct from a screenplay by Keenan, Shawn and Marlon
Wayans (the team behind “White Chicks” and
the first two “Scary Movie” installments).
Shawn and Marlon were set to co-star as the man and the
criminal, respectively. Warner Bros. has not yet adopted
a release date.