Will Smith On The Ropes But Not KO'd

   The planned biopic of Muhammad Ali, starring Will Smith, was on the financial ropes but avoided being KO'd by Columbia Pictures' when Smith, producer Jon Peters, director Michael Mann and Columbia/Sony reached an agreement to make the film at a budget of about $105-106 million as opposed to $100 million as originally agreed.
   According to Variety, under the new agreement Smith, Mann, and Peters will cover a percentage of any costs above the new $106 million figure. The film begins shooting in January and will get a $66 million financial boost from Initial Entertainment Group in exchange for the German rights. If Colombia/Sony had decided to drop the project, word was that Smith and Mann would have simply shifted the film to a different studio.
   Smith, who was hand picked by Ali to portray him, is committed to the film, evidenced by daily 6-hour workouts, six to seven meals a day and an endless supply of protein shakes. He is heavier than he's ever been at a svelt 215 pounds.
   Legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee is supervising Smith's physical preparation and Smith has even been sparring with Sugar Ray Leonard to get ready for the role. The movie is scheduled for release early in 2001.

"Star" Remake Gasping For Life

   Rumor had it that there would be a remake of "A Star Is Born," this time with Jamie Foxx and Lauryn Hill. But director Oliver Stone recently dropped the project and so far no one else is exactly knocking down Hollywood doors to take over.

Lauryn Hill In The Sauce

   Lauryn Hill may not see work in the remake of "A Star Is Born'" but she is slated to star in a new film about love and BBQ. She will play the owner of a barbecue restaurant who manages to fall in love amid the food orders. Hill will also do the film's soundtrack; her first album since her Grammy winning "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill."

Jamie Foxx Newest Member Of Ali Camp

   In negotiations with Columbia Pictures to star opposite Will Smith in the biopic "Ali" is Jamie Foxx. Foxx is the first casting attempt since budget issues over the film were resolved. He will play Drew "Bundini" Brown, the flamboyant buffoon of the boxer's entourage. Brown eventually became an alcoholic, and illegally sold an Ali championship belt, but was later forgiven by the champ.

Rap Murders Optioned For Big Screen

   Investigative reporter Cathy Scott's books, "The Killing of Tupac Shakur" and "The Murder of Biggie Smalls," have been optioned by producers Jon Sheinberg and Beaux Carson for a feature film tentatively called, "Record Wars" that will combine both books into one full-length feature film.
   Scott was a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun when Shakur was killed and covered both murders for the newspaper.

Mariah Carey A Wonder Woman?

   A British paper reported that Mariah Carey may be cast as the new "Wonder Woman." But don't hold your breath. Also being considered for the film role are Sandra Bullock, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Shannon Elizabeth.

Cedric's Comedy Pitch Caught By Universal

   Universal Pictures has bought a comedy script pitch from Cedric The Entertainer called "Preaching Ain't Easy." The film will be a starring vehicle for Cedric who is reportedly trying to convince "Kings Of Comedy" cast members Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, and DL Hughley to join the cast. Overbrook Entertainment (Will Smith and James Lassiter) will produce the project that Cedric will write along with William Stokes.

Morgan Freeman Cross-Dressing?

   Morgan Freeman has signed on with his "Under Suspicion" director Stephen Hopkins for the movie "Moist." Hopkins wrote the screenplay specifically with Freeman in mind. According to Hopkins, the action-thriller is "all about sex." According to Freeman, "It's going to be a hellacious lot of fun."
   Freeman is to play the transvestite half of a pair of gay international thieves. If it doesn't end up on the cutting room floor, we'll get both an eye and ear full when Freeman dresses up as Shirley Bassey to belt out his own rendition of "Goldfinger" for the flick.

Loretta Devine A Big Flirt

   While filming Paramount's romantic comedy "What Women Want," due out December 15, actress Loretta Devine joked that academy award winning director/actor Mel Gibson was definitely what she wanted, with or without his "Braveheart" kilt. Despite all her overt flirting, however, she said the committed family man was definitely unavailable. The film also stars Alan Alda, Delta Burke, Ana Gasteyer, Lauren Holly, Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Mark Feuerstein, Aviva Gale, Ashley Johnson, and Logan Lerman.
   In the film, Gibson plays a man who, after an accident, begins to hear what the women around him are really thinking. To his bewilderment, his new gift also causes him to change his own behavior, as he starts trying out things women do - like shaving his legs.
   Devine's next big screen offering is with LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Whoopi Goldberg in the comedy "Kingdom Come." About "Kingdom" Devine said, "Whoopi took no prisoners. She kept us in stitches."

Starr Makes Tenth Screen Appearance

   Former Onyx member Fredro Starr ("Q" on Moesha) will make his tenth big screen appearance in, "Save The Last Dance," about a white girl who moves to Chicago and falls for a Southside brother (Starr).