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April 2001
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WASHINGTON AND CLOONEY TO SHARE BIG SCREEN

   Isaiah Washington and George Clooney will share screen time in the upcoming comedy feature "Welcome to Collinwood" for Ohio-based filmmaking brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. Pandora, the specialty division of Hunt Lowry's Warner Bros.-based Gaylord Films, is in negotiations to finance the project. The project began shooting late last month in Cleveland. "Welcome" is described as being in the vein of "The Full Monty" and follows a group of working-class Cleveland men who attempt to rob a pawn shop.


HOLIDAY BIOPIC

   Mary J. Bilge will not only be in the upcoming Billy Holiday biopic, she'll be singing the diva's songs herself on the soundtrack. The movie is about Holiday's musical partner Lester Young. Bilge says the movie is definite, they're just waiting to hire an actor for the lead.


SNOOP DOGG A BUSY ACTOR

   Rapper Snoop Dogg will be in "Bones," with Pam Grier, and in John Singleton's "Baby Boy" this summer, and now he's signed on with Cedric The Entertainer for the film "The Wash." He says the film is a kind of "black Odd Couple." In "Bones," he plays Jimmy Bones, a guy with a small problem. He just got murdered by drug dealers.



MATRIX SEQUELS CONFIDENTIAL

   Harold Perrineau Jr. has been cast in the upcoming "Matrix" sequels but no one's saying what his role will be. The scripts and story line for the sequels are also hush-hush and under a strict confidentiality watch, but shooting on the films began last month.



IT'S "SHOWTIME"

   Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro and Rene Russo are set to film the movie "Showtime." Murphy will play a bad cop alongside De Niro's good cop. Russo will play a reality cop show producer following the partners around.



"PUNKS" FIND LOVE

   Urbanworld Films has acquired the rights to "Punks," the feature film writing, directorial and producing debut of Patrik-Ian Polk. The film was executive produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Stacey Spikes, president and CEO of Urbanworld Films. The film is about a quartet of gay black men and their intricate relationships as they search for love and happiness in West Hollywood. Urbanworld is looking to release the film later this fall. The film stars Seth Gilliam, Rockmond Dunbar, Vanessa Williams, Loretta Devine, Renoly Santiago and Dwight Ewell.



LITTLE RICHARD MAY BE THE WIZ

   Producers are courting Little Richard for the part of the wiz for new the hip-hop version of "The Wizard Of Oz" titled "The O.Z." Brandy was expected to take the lead as Dorothy, but had to pull out. Reports say Mya may fill the ruby red slippers instead.
   In this latest version of the classic, Dorothy is a LA hip-hop musical producer who finds herself in the Big O.Z. after an earthquake. 'Nsync-er Justin Timberlake has been tapped to play the Scarecrow and Savion Glover and Greg Leguizamo are also in negotiations for the film.



RHAMES PLAGUED

   Fresh from John Singleton's "Baby Boy" and the prison boxing film, "Undisputed," with Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames is set to star with Kurt Russell in "The Plague Season." Rhames and Russell play LA cops investigating racially motivated robbery homicides in the days just before the 1992 LA/Rodney King riots.



ROCK IN POOTIE TANG

   "Down to Earth's" Chris Rock is working on his next film, "Pootie Tang: Sign Your Name on the Runny Kind," based on characters from his HBO talk-show. The title is a mouthful, but viewers of an early clip say the movie looks to be a funny one.



MAKING MEN BEHAVE

   Wendy Raquel Robinson, of Steve Harvey fame, has been signed to star with Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox in "How to Make a Man Behave in 10 Days...or Less."




ROBERT TOWNSEND DOES THE DEVIL'S WORK

   Robert Townsend will star with Morgan Fairchild in the Showtime movie "I Was A Teenage Faust." Townsend will play Five, a collection agent from Hell's soul collection agency. Fairchild keeps track of sold souls. Filming began in March.


EDDIE MURPHY A SPY

   Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson (who co-starred with Jackie Chan in "Shanghai Noon") will co-star in the movie remake of "I Spy." The film is based on the '60s TV series that starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. The project will start shooting next year. Wilson will play a government agent on a secret mission and Murphy will play a professional athlete reluctantly forced into service.


HIGHER EDUCATION

   Bruckheimer Films has purchased the feature film rights to journalist Gary Smith's article "Higher Education," which was published in the March 5 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. Gregory Allen Howard will adapt it for the big screen. Howard wrote the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Remember the Titans" for Disney. "Education" tells the true story of the late Perry Reese Jr., a black basketball coach who coached an all-white Amish high school team in Ohio during the mid-1980s and early 1990s to a championship season. Bruckheimer also acquired Reese's life rights from his estate. Unlike "Titans," "Education" focuses on an outsider -- in terms of race and religion -- who becomes the moral compass of a strict religious community.



UNDERCOVER CAST LIST GROWING

   Comedian Dave Chappelle has been added to the Malcolm Lee feature film "Undercover Brother." The cast already includes Eddie Griffin and Neil Patrick Harris. Chappelle will play Conspiracy Brother who has a conspiracy theory for everything. The film is about an all-black brotherhood with a single goal: to take down the white establishment. Based on the animated series by John Ridley, who is executive producing the film, the project started filming in March.



BONET HAS WAKE-UP CALL FOR YOUTH

   Lisa Bonet has sealed a deal with Disney for an urban coming-of-age movie. The story idea was submitted by the actress/director and Bonet also plans to star in the as yet untitled flick written by Monique Matthews. The film is about a boarder who touches and transforms the lives of two Harlem kids. Bonet said her time volunteering at Juvenile Hall in LA was a wake-up call for her and inspired the story.
   "This project embodies my attempt to reach a generation of children who feel neglected and unseen," she said. "I want kids to see the bigger picture and not be afraid to dream for themselves."



BERRY WITH BILLY BOB

   Newlywed Halle Berry is negotiating to star in "Monster's Ball" with Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton will play a prison worker who lives with his grown son and his racist dad and falls in love with the widow (Berry) of an executed inmate. Filming begins this month.



NAS IS SACRED

   Rapper Nas', who starred with DMX in "Belly," will star in the indie film "Sacred Is the Flesh," which he also co-wrote. It's a comedy about a talent agent, played by Nas, who moves to Hollywood with some really, really big dreams. Elise Neal and Isaiah Washington will co-star. "Sacred" began filming last month.



ROCK-A-FELLA HAS NEW FLICK

The Roc-A-Fella record label's first foray into film making was the Hip-Hop documentary "Backstage." Now the label is gearing up for its second shot at the big screen with "Paid In Full," based on the lives of 80's Harlem celebrities Rich Porter, Alberto "Alpo" Martinez and AZ. The film will star Harlem rap regular Cam'ron.
   "The movie is about something I personally saw from a distance," Harlem native and Roc-A-Fella CEO, Damon Dash said. "These guys were real ghetto celebs. As I look at what's going on today, I don't think some people understand how influential Harlem was in the '80s. How it's still influential."



VIN DIESEL WAITS FOR RELEASE DATE

   New Line is waiting to assign a release date for its film "Knockaround Guys" starringVin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Seth Green, John Malkovich until execs see how Diesel's latest film "The Fast and the Furious" does at the box office. They want to play off the success of "Furious" to promote the gangsters-in-training "Knockaround." If comments from preview audiences of "Furious" are any indication, the strategy should work. "The Fast and the Furious" opening has been moved to June 22, in hopes of attracting a bigger opening audience.



SCARY II SEQUEL

   This time around, Marlon, Shawn, and Keenan Wayans will spoof demonic possession flicks instead of teen slashers. Shawn and Marlon will write the screenplay and Keenan returns as director. "Scary Movie II" started filming in March.



KYMANI UP FOR MOVIE ROLE

   Kymani Marley is up for the lead in a film titled "One Love." Shooting will start in Jamaica in June and continue in Miami, Florida and other regions. Kymani was recently in "Shottas" a low-budget production with Paul Campbell and Spragga Benz.



SNIPES WORKED WITH EX-CONS

   Part of the filming for Wesley Snipe's upcoming movie, "Undisputed," was done at a Las Vegas prison, and low and behold, guards discovered that, among the cast of extras, were a couple of the prison's former residents. The filmmakers, who recruited extras from the local area, didn't use any screening process when hiring, but everything worked out okay. The former inmates were "model" citizens on the set.
   Snipes is already working on his next movie, "Liberty Stands Still," about an angry father of a slain girl out for revenge when he kidnaps the woman who sold the gun to the killers.



PRAS LANDS INDIE ROLE

   Rapper Pras is set to star with LisaRaye in the indie comedy "Go For Broke," about two best friends with a serious gambling debt who win the money to pay off their debt, until a female robber (LisaRaye) steals their winning lotto ticket. Bobby Brown will also appear in the film that has already started shooting in LA.



GRIER TO BE SHAKESPEARE'S FOOL

   David Alan Grier has been cast in the role of the Fool and joins an all-star cast for the film "King of Texas," a retelling of Shakespeare's "King Lear" that takes place in Texas in the 1840s. Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Garden, Lauren Holly and Roy Scheider have already signed on for the film.



THEY ALL WANT ROSARIO DAWSON

   Right off "Josie and the Pussycats," Rosario Dawson is currently negotiating to star in "The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest" as well as the "Men In Black" sequel. Busy, busy, busy!



DR. DRE ACTING AND MAKING SOUNDTRACK

   Grammy-winning producer Dr. Dre will executive produce the "Diablo" movie soundtrack, to be released on his Aftermath label. The project reunites Dr. Dre with director F. Gary Gray and New Line Cinema. Dr. Dre recently wrapped shooting on Warner Bros. Pictures' "Training Day" opposite Denzel Washington.



J. ANTHONY BROWN NO JOKE

   Comedian J. Anthony Brown has signed on to co-executive produce the comedy documentary, "No Joke," written and directed by comedian Akintunde Q. Warnock. The film takes a hard edged, gritty look behind the scenes of stand up black comedy and features interviews with up and coming comics as well as veteran talent including Paul Mooney, Steve Harvey, John Witherspoon, Michael Colyar, Thea Vidale, Hope Flood and Sommore.
   The stars lend insight into the more "unfunny" aspects of the business such as long hours on the road, less than honest tour promoters and unpaid gigs. The documentary is a comedy that proves stand up comedy is a funny business, but its no joke.



ORLANDO REVOLUTION

   Orlando Jones will co-star with David Duchovny in the alien comedy "Evolution." The duo, along with Julianne Moore and Seann William Scott attempt to save the world from rapidly evolving alien creatures who change throughout the movie from microbes to plants to crustaceans to birds to primates.



"PLUTO NASH" DELAYED

   Warner Bros. announced that Eddie Murphy's outer-space comedy "Pluto Nash" won't make it to theaters until at least 2002, if not indefinitely, because of special-effects troubles.