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March 2003
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CHESTNUT JOINS LADDER COMPANY

Morris Chestnut has landed a role opposite John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix and Jacinda Barrett in the Walt Disney Co.'s "Ladder 49." "Ladder" is about a firefighter (Phoenix) who awaits rescue from a burning building. There, he reflects on his career, wife and family. Barrett will play the firefighter's wife. Chestnut will play Tommy, a firefighter friend to Phoenix's character. Chestnut next stars Lions Gate Films "Confidence."



NEW LINE TO REDO ‘HARDER’

New Line Cinema has given the green light to a hip-hop-styled remake of the cult classic 1973 reggae crime drama "The Harder They Come." The original film, which helped launch the career of reggae artist Jimmy Cliff and spawned a legendary soundtrack, tells the cautionary tale of an ambitious young singer who comes from a small town and tries to make it in the music business. But as he struggles to make it, he gets caught up in the criminal underworld and becomes a legendary outlaw.



SNIPES LIVING NINE LIVES

Wesley Snipes is getting ready to star in the action-thriller "Nine Lives" for Millennium. The project will begin shooting March 30 in Bulgaria. Described as a cross between "Jacob's Ladder" and "The Bourne Identity," the film centers on a former Army Special Ops soldier who, mistaken for a government agent, gets injected with a hallucinogenic mind-control drug that allows people to alter his reality with simple suggestions. On the run, he must search for the antidote, battle his foes, his inner demons and the illusions the drug allows his enemies to create.



DMX TO STAR AND PRODUCE

Hip-hop artist DMX will both star in and produce his next film (his fifth) titled "Never Die Alone." "Never" will also star David Arquette and Michael Ealy and follows the story of a gangster whose murder is witnessed by an aspiring journalist. "Never" is the first film being produced by DMX and Alessandro Camon under their Bloodline label. The project began production last month in Los Angeles.



BERRY HITS THE MARK

The romantic Fox comedy "Two Year Mark," will star Halle Berry. It's about a thirtysomething couple who have just broken up but are forced to live with his parents after a fire accidentally burns down their loft.



MASTER P. AND SON PREP FOR COMEDY

Father and son rapsters Master P and Lil' Romeo are set to star in the family comedy "Uncle P." Master P. is putting up several million of his own dollars to back the project and the film is currently looking for other investors. Master P will star as a multimillion-dollar businessman in New York known as P. Miller (short for his real name, Percy Miller), who is also a world-famous rapper. When his sister, a single mother living in suburban California, becomes ill, she asks her brother to come and take care of her three children.


ALL EYES ARE ON HALLE

The novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is set to be filmed as part of the "Oprah Winfrey Presents" telefilm series. Halle Berry is attached to star in the production, which is eyeing a summer start date for telecast next season. The project reunites Berry and Winfrey, who worked together when Berry starred in the 1998 "Oprah Winfrey Presents" telepic "The Wedding." "Eyes" traces the life of Janie Crawford, a free-spirited woman whose search for identity and happiness puts her in opposition to the mores of her small Florida town.



HOUSTON COURTED FOR ‘WOODSMAN’

Movie producer Lee Daniels, who produced "Monster’s Ball," the Oscar vehicle for Halle Berry, is set to shoot another film that may be just as dark and controversial as "Ball." It’s called "The Woodsman" and it’s about pedophilia. Daniels wants to cast Whitney Houston in the lead, female role. "We’re in heavy discussions with Whitney Houston. I don’t know for sure that we’re going to hire her," Daniels says, "[but] she is absolutely aware [of the offer]." The pedophilia will apparently all take place in the mind of the film’s yet-to-be-cast male lead.



FISHBURNE INTO ALCHEMY AND MYSTIC RIVER

With the "Matrix" sequels, "Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolution," both in the can, Laurence Fishburne is on to other projects. Fishburne will next be busy directing and staring in the movie "The Alchemist," based on the Paulo Coehlo best-selling novel set during the Spanish Inquisition about a traveler’s journey of self-discovery and the search for man’s purpose. He is also set to star with Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Clint Eastwood’s "Mystic River."



HALL SET FOR SCARY SEQUEL

Regina Hall has signed up for the third installment of the "Scary Movie" trilogy, but she also has a deal in the works for a comedy with Miramax that she reportedly is writing and may star in. The Wayans brothers, Shawn and Marlon, will of course write the film, along with a new Craig Wayans. Charlie Sheen has also already joined the project. "Scary Movie 3: Lord of the Brooms" is expected in theaters in October.



WILLIAMS SEES CONSTELLATION

After completing the critically acclaimed movie "The Visit," with director Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Billie Dee Williams will reunite with Walker-Pearlman for the upcoming film, "Constellation." No info yet on Williams’ role in the new project.



CUBE GETS COOL THREE-PICTURE DEAL

Ice Cube has signed to star in and produce at least three pictures for Revolution studios. Additionally, his company Cube Vision will also be housed by the film company. Ice Cube said in an interview, "At the end of the day, we'll probably have five or six movies in the bag in a period of about three years." The three films selected so far are: "Are We There Yet," a comedy about a playboy dating a divorced mother of two young kids; "Clash" an action flick about a reformed ex-con; and a drama called "Willie" about a junior high custodian whose life is changed when he gets the chance to coach the school’s basketball team. Cube is also already working on "Barbershop 2."



SHOWTIME GIVES DIRECTOR’S CHAIR TO "SOUL FOOD" STARS

Showtime has given the greenlight to three directorial debuts by cast members of the hit series "Soul Food." Vanessa Williams (pictured), Rockmond Dunbar and Darrin DeWitt Henson will each have the creative freedom to direct a 30-minute film of his or her choice. Showtime hopes to air the trilogy as a lead-in for the fifth season premiere of "Soul Food" in 2004. Here's the info: "Dense" -- Vanessa Williams directs a film about a woman who discovers that her long-term lover has been involved with another woman since the inception of their relationship. "The Great Commission" -- Directed by Rockmond Dunbar, this film is about a prostitute who believes she is doing the work of God. "Violation" -- Darrin DeWitt Henson directs a film which tells the story of two Gulf War veterans whose relationship may be jeopardized by their opposing views on war.



ISAIAH A RAP LABEL CRIME LORD

Sony has bumped "Hollywood Homicide" staring Harrison Ford, Isaiah Washington, Josh Hartnett, Keith David, Lolita Davidovich, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Idle, Gladys Knight, Kurupt, Martin Landau, Master P, Valarie Rae Miller, Lena Olin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Wagner, and Dwight Yoakam up two months to June 13th, 2003 from its original target date of August 1st. The Columbia Pictures release is about two LAPD homicide detectives, Joe Gavilian (Ford) and K.C. Calden (Hartnett) who investigate the slaying of a rap group on stage that was possibly orchestrated by Sartain (Washington), a notorious rap label boss who is rumored to have arranged the death of rap artists in the past who wanted to get out of their contracts, and whose head of security is himself a former LAPD officer. (Lou Diamond Phillips plays an undercover officer who poses as a female prostitute; Keith David plays Ford's police lieutenant boss; Yoakam plays a cop who works as security for Sartain.)



REGINA KING TO BE A MISTRESS

Regina King and Kerry Washington have been cast in Crusader Entertainment's biopic "Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story," with Jamie Foxx to star as the legendary musician. Production begins at the end of March. King has been cast as Charles' outrageous mistress Margie Hendrix. She comes to Charles as a singer who joins his band, begins an affair with him, has his baby and later overdoses. Washington will play Charles' wife, Della, a singer who stands by her man and tries to hold their family together despite Charles' womanizing and drug use.



MURPHY BACK FOR SHREK 2

Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow will be joined by John Cleese and Julie Andrews for "Shrek 2." The story starts when Shrek and Fiona return from their honeymoon to find a letter from Fiona's parents inviting the newlyweds around for dinner. The only potential problem is that her parents are unaware of what happened to their daughter in the original "Shrek" installment.



LL COOL J TRACKING SERIAL KILLER

Dimension Films (Miramax) has set a January 9th, 2004 release date for "Mindhunters," a thriller that first began production back in February, 2002. The film stars Val Kilmer, LL Cool J and Christian Slater and takes place on a remote island where the FBI has a training program for their psychological profiling division, called "Mindhunters," used to track down serial killers. The training goes horribly wrong, however, when a group of seven young agents discover that one of them is a serial killer, and is setting about slaying the others.



TUCKER AND CHAN KEEP IT COMING

Filming for "Rush Hour 3" is slated to start in January, 2004 for New Line Cinema. Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker will reprise their banter for this third installment of the "Rush Hour" franchise. Not much is known yet about the film's premise, except that it will be set primarily somewhere on the continent of Africa. Jackie Chan says he prefers Egypt, while Tucker prefers South Africa.



SNIPES INTO FLASH AND BANG

MGM’S "Fast Flash to Bang Time" has signed Wesley Snipes but other cast members haven’t been announced yet. The film follows two FBI agents, one a crack addict, the other a sex addict, following a terrorist threat despite of and because of their respective problems. Other cast members should be announced soon.



WILL SMITH VOICES A BOTTOM-FEEDER

Didn’t have much on this one last month, but now we know more. Set for a November 5, 2004 release, the animated film "Sharkslayer" will feature the voice talents of Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, and Renee Zellweger. This is a mafia movie set in saltwater. It’s about what happens when the son of a crime family shark boss (De Niro) is killed, and a bottom-feeder named Oscar (Smith) is found at the scene of the crime. Hoping to win favor with the enemies of the ganglord, and save his scales at the same time, the fast-talking hustler poses as the killer known as the "sharkslayer," but soon learns his deception is a dangerous game in a world where big fish eat little fish.



BABY LOOKING FOR A DEAL

Sheryl Lee Ralph (pictured), Loretta Devine, Vanessa Williams, Salli Richardson, Alfre Woodard, Cylk Cozart, Pam Grier, Todd Bridges, William Diehl, Afemo Omilami, CCH Pounder, Nykki L. Starr, Tonea Stewart, and Vernee Watson-Johnson are the all-star cast of "Baby of the Family." But the film, which wrapped in March 2002, is yet to set an opening date because producers are still looking to make a deal with a US distributor. The story follows Lena McPherson, who was born with a "caul" over her face, enabling her to see ghosts from the past and visions of the future. As a young woman, living in the "mythical" small 1950's Georgia town of Mulberry, her abilities continue to grow, plaguing Lena with sleepwalking and visions of the dead.