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February 2003
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BERRY SUPERNATURAL

Oscar winner Halle Berry is reuniting with "Swordfish" producer Joel Silver to make the supernatural thriller "Gothika." Penelope Cruz has also come on board to star in the. No director is on board yet, but production is set to begin in March for a fall release. "Gothika" centers on a female psychiatrist (Berry) who wakes up as a patient in the asylum for the criminally insane. As she tries to regain her memory, she finds she is the pawn of a vengeful spirit.



WHITAKER A DEACON

On February 26, Showtime will premiere the original movie "Deacons For Defense." Forest Whitaker, Jonathan Silverman and Ossie Davis. "Deacons Of Defense" tells the fiery and oft-forgotten tale of a group of African American men who chose to take an aggressive and armed stand in the civil rights movement.



MAC GETS 3000 HITS

Bernie Mac is taking a shot at television movies. Mac has signed a deal to star in Disney’s "Mr. 3000." He’ll play a former Detroit Tigers baseball star who comes out of retirement when his record of 3,000 hits is decreased after three of his recorded hits are disallowed.



DEREK LUKE HEDGING

United Artists has sealed a deal to distribute "Pieces of April," which stars Derek Luke, Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt and Sean Hayes. The film follows the story of April Burns (Holmes), who lives with her boyfriend, Bobby (Luke), in a dilapidated tenement on New York's Lower East Side. The black sheep of her family, April must prepare a Thanksgiving feast for her parents, even while April's mother (Clarkson) is dying of cancer. The film is described as a "poignant and funny up-close look at an extraordinary day in the life of the not-so-ordinary Burns family."



DREAMWORKS WANTS STORY FOR "DATE SCHOOL"

"Barbershop" director Tim Story is in negotiations to direct DreamWorks' romantic comedy "Date School." Production is set to begin this spring. "Date" centers on the proprietor of a Learning Annex-type dating school who falls for a skeptical student.



GRIFFIN SET TO BLAST OFF

Hoping to strike the same chord with audiences that turned Mel Gibson and Danny Glover's pairing in "Lethal Weapon" into a winning franchise, Breckin Meyer has been cast opposite Eddie Griffin in the actioner "Blast!" for director Anthony Hickox. The film is said to primarily set on an oil rig. Vinnie Jones will also star. Production began last month.


HARDWICK TO FOCUS ON JUSTICE AND WHITEBREAD

Gary Hardwick ("Deliver Us From Eva") will reteam with Focus Features on "Color of Justice," which he will adapt from his own novel. He's also made a deal with New Line Cinema to rewrite and direct "Whitebread," a comedy the company picked up from Disney. "Color of Justice" is the story of a cop caught up in a case where race is a key factor in uncovering the truth.



RHAMES ENVIOUS AND BLUE

Ving Rhames is keeping busy. The actor stars in the upcoming Barry Levinson film "Envy" for DreamWorks, as well as Ron Shelton's "Dark Blue" for MGM.



FUQUA MAY DIRECT WIFE

Warner Bros. has purchased "Family Reunion," a pitch that Darryl Quarles will script as a potential vehicle for "Training Day" helmer Antoine Fuqua and Fuqua’s actress/wife Lela Rochon. Fuqua is said to be eyeing it as a way to direct his wife, Rochon, in the starring role. The film is about a young woman, pregnant and unwed, who returns to her traditional Southern household for a reunion. It all happens in one day, which ends with her having a baby. Fugua is also eyeing a WB remake of "Strangers on a Train" that may reteam him with "Training Day" star Denzel Washington as well as "The Jacket" with Colin Farrell, though production of is still awaiting securing financing.



WAYANS INTO SCI-FI AND DRAG

Revolution Studios has purchased a pair of comedy pitches from the "Scary Movie" brothers Keenen, Marlon and Shawn Wayans. The first film is a spoof of science fiction films such as "Signs" and "Independence Day." The second is about two FBI agents who go undercover in drag to crack a crime in the Hamptons. Keenen will direct both films and Shawn and Marlon will star.



ASHANTI SET TO SPARKLE

Ashanti, winner of two American Music Awards is about to add acting to her resume. The R&B artist will star in a remake of the 1976 musical "Sparkle." Ashanti will play the lead character Sparkle -- originally played by Irene Cara. Ja Rule is set to play Sparkle's love interest, Stix.



FREEMAN A DETECTIVE AGAIN

Morgan Freeman will star opposite Julianne Moore in the Paramount film "Freedomland." The project hopes for a September start. Based on Richard Price's 1998 novel of the same name, the film explores urban race relations after a woman attempts to cover up the death of her daughter by claiming the child was abducted by a black man. The incident attracts a black detective and a white female newspaper reporter as they hunt for the criminal and the truth.



RHAMES IS LIKING THOSE LOLLIPOPS

Who loves ya baby? Ving Rhames may soon be saying those words, as star of a set of "Kojak" movies for USA Network. Rhames has agreed to take the title role of Lt. Theo Kojak, in a re-envisioning of the classic police drama. The late Telly Savalas originated the lollipop-sucking TV crime fighter role. Jeff Wachtel, exec VP of series and longform programming for USA Network, told Daily Variety, "Telly Savalas is so closely identified with the role, we needed someone this unique and powerful."



THE ROCK WALKING TALL

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is set to star in a remake of the 1973 MGM film "Walking Tall." The wrestler-turned-actor will star in the remake of the war vet-turned sheriff who brings order to a Southern town with a two-by-four.



LEE TAKES ON RUCKER

Director Malcolm Lee ("The Best Man" and "Undercover Brother,") looks to have his third feature film in theaters this summer. The sports drama will be called "The Rucker." Like Lee’s other films, it will be released by Universal Pictures.



LUDACRIS IN LIL PIMP - NO KID'S CARTOON

The animated feature "Lil&Mac226; Pimp" will hit theaters in October, starring the voices of Ludacris, Lil&Mac226; Kim, and Bernie Mac, among others. The film is based on the Internet cartoon comedy created by journalists Mark Brooks and Peter Gilstrap, about a short pimp outcast living in suburbia and his foul-mouthed gerbil, Weathers. Brooks will voice the title character, while Ludacris plays Weathers. Lil&Mac226; Kim voices Sweet Chiffon who introduces Lil&Mac226; Pimp to the world of hip-hop clubs, and Bernie Mac voices master pimp Fruit Juice. The film will also feature the voice talents of Carmen Elektra, William Shatner, Jennifer Tilly, and others.



LA SALLE DIRECTS "LADY"

Former "ER" star Eriq La Salle will direct the film "M&Mac226;Lady" about a Stanford professor who takes a girl from the hood and shapes her into a high society, upscale protégé so he can become the university’s next dean. No word just yet on whether or not La Salle will star in the film, as he did in his directorial debut, "Crazy As Hell.."



SMITH WORKS ON SOUNDTRACK

A DreamWorks spokesperson has confirmed that Will Smith has been working on the label's soundtrack for the upcoming animation feature "Shark Slayer," due out in November.



SAMUEL L. JACKSON INTO COUNTRY

Samuel L. Jackson will star with Juliette Binoche in the indie flick "Country of My Skull." The film is based on a book about South Africa’s human rights violations during apartheid. Jackson will play an American reporter trying to uncover evidence of abuse, torture, and violence against black South Africans.