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September 2001
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Witherspoon Writing And Starring In "Old School"

New Line has picked up the pitch "From the Old School," which actors Ice Cube and John Witherspoon will write as a vehicle for Witherspoon to star in. Ice Cube will also produce the project with Matt Alvarez under their New Line-based CubeVision. "Old School," an urban "Grumpy Old Men," follows four elderly black men who fight to foil a local thug's attempt to replace their old corner store with a strip club.

"All About the Benjamins"

Ice Cube and Mike Epps will costar in this action, crime comedy set in Miami about a bounty hunter (Ice Cube) in pursuit of a bail jumper (Epps). The chase lands the duo in an abandoned warehouse which , unknown to them, is a drop point for a major diamond heist. The adversaries are reluctantly forced to team up to foil the thieves and save their own lives.

Miracle To Do 'Detective' Work

Miracle Pictures has picked up the comedy pitch "Razhel Watkins: Hip Hop Detective" from writing trio Freddie Gutierrez, Wesley Jermaine Johnson and Scott Taylor. Independent producer Nelson George ("CB4") came up with the movie ideaabout a low-rent, gadget-carrying, hip-hop detective who attempts to solve the high-profile murder of a notorious white rap star.

Mark Curry A Busy Actor

Comedian Mark Curry is currently filming with Dawnn Lewis and Tahj Mowry in the Disney movie "Poof Point." Curry plays a scientist who creates a time machine that makes him younger, and younger until…"poof." "Poof Point" is to be released in September. Mark has also finished filming "Dogz" (no release date) with Dennis Leary and Elizabeth Hurley.

"In this film ("Dogz") I play a tough guy, believe it or not," Curry says.

Despite his film work, Curry still loves the stage. "I'll never stop doing stand-up, that's my first love," he says.

Jackson And J.Lo Chasing Bombs

Samuel L. Jackson is currently in negotiations to star opposite Jennifer Lopez in the film "Tick-Tock." The film is about an amnesiac who awakens to find he's the suspect in a series of bombings. Lopez plays an FBI agent who helps Jackson's character remember details of the next bombing. Filming should start in December.

Wyclef Jean Headed For Big Screen

Rapper/producer Wyclef Jean is set to star in the indie action film "Shottas." The singer is also on tap to do the soundtrack. "Shottas" is about two Jamaican crooks who start a crime spree in Miami.

Berry To Bare It All?

According to reports, Berry may get naked in her upcoming film "Monster Ball." The film also stars Billy Bob Thorton and P. Diddy. Berry did expose a little of her shapely figure in her current film, "Swordfish," and while reports say the studio paid an extra $500,000 for the view, Berry denies it. Insiders say Berry won't be charging extra for "Monster Ball."

Miramax Shelves "Rent"

In a previous edition, we reported that Spike Lee was working on a film version of the Broadway musical "Rent." But now, according to Variety, Miramax has shelved the adaptation that Spike Lee was 'unofficially' developing for the studio.

Love Blooms In Harlem

Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator) is set to co-star in "East Of Harlem," a romantic drama that tells the story of a troubled Harlem-based artist (Hounsou) who befriends an Irish immigrant pursuing his dreams of becoming an actor.

Disney Picks Up 'Whitebread'

The Walt Disney Co. has picked up the comedy pitch "Whitebread" from writer-director Peter M. Cohen ("Whipped") as a potential directing vehicle for Cohen. Filmmaker John Herzfeld will produce the project through his New Redemption Pictures along with Urban Entertainment. The story is a fish-out-of-water comedy set in the world of black fraternities.

Bryant Lands Washington's 'Fisher' Co-lead

Joy Bryant is (Carmen: A Hip Hop Rock Opera) in negotiations for the lead role opposite Derek Luke in Denzel Washington's Fox Searchlight film "The Antwone Fisher Story". The project is Washington's directorial debut and is scheduled to start shooting Sept. 24 in Cleveland. Bryant will star as the romantic interest of Luke's character, a troubled Navy member. Through their relationship, Cheryl helps Fisher confront his past. Washington also stars as a Navy psychiatrist.

Rock In Bad Company

Currently in post production, Chris Rock costars with Anthony Hopkins in Bad Company, a comedy about a Harvard-educated CIA agent killed during an operation who is replaced by the agency with his twin brother (Chris Rock), a street-wise hustler with no idea about what's up. The CIA wants the operation finished, but the street-wise twin needs help. Enter an experienced agent (Anthony Hopkins), to train the incompetent one.

Jada and Will Going 9 To 5

Jada Pinkett Smith and hubby Will Smith are working on a remake of the 1980 comedy "Nine to Five." Jada will star, while Will produces. The film follows three women taking revenge on their chauvinist boss. This remake will feature and African American cast.

"Matrix" And "Blade" Filming Back-To-Back

It would seem that studios are really big on completing film sequels in bulk lately. "The Matrix" parts 2 and 3 are being filmed back to back and now so are the "Blade" sequels. Even as "Blade 2" hits the theaters in March 2002, filming will continue on "Blade 3." The hitch now for the "Matrix" sequels is the recasting of actress Aaliyah's role, due to her sad and untimely death.

Berry And Affleck Are Kidnappers

Halle Berry and Ben Affleck will star as kidnappers in the upcoming film "Gigli." A dark comedy about a hitman (Affleck) sent to kidnap the mentally challenged brother of a district attorney. Berry shows up to make sure Affleck ha done his job and the trio end up living in an LA apartment. Shooting is scheduled to start in November.

"Matrix" Sequels Almost Two Years Away

Fans will be disappointed to learn that the release date for the first "The Matrix" sequel has been postponed until May 2003, putting it four years behind the original movie. "The Matrix Reloaded," was expected in theaters late 2002, but Warner Brothers said they never confirmed a release date. Fortunately, both the second and third installments are scheduled to be filmed simultaneously which will mean a smaller gap for fans between the two films once they do come out. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving have signed on to return for the sequels which will also co-star Jada Pinkett Smith and was to include Aaliyah, but her role will, sadly, will have to be recast.

Rappers Become Better Dads

LL Cool J, Eddie Griffin, and John Leguizamo are set to become better daddies in "My Baby's Mama." Griffin wrote the comedy, about three dads who decide to become better role models for their children. Lil' Kim is also set to co-star in the flick.

Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story

We reported earlier that "Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story" had been optioned. Well, the film is finally under development thanks to Taylor Hackford (Proof of Life, Officer and a Gentleman) and Crusader Entertainment. Hackford will also direct the biopic being penned by first-timer Jimmy White.

B.I.G. & Tupac Murders In Development

London-based Film Four ("Sexy Beast") has optioned Randall Sullivan's Rolling Stone article "The Murder of Notorious B.I.G.," for Killer Films ("Boys Don't Cry"), as the basis for a movie. The article is already being expanded into a book called "LAbyrinth" by Sullivan which Film Four has also optioned. The article and book cover the murder investigations of of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. and the implication of Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight in their murders. Both will be used as background for a Martin Scorsese-type urban thriller film about police, gangs, and hip-hop culture.

Union Acts With Abandon

Gabrielle Union costars with Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, and Charlie Hunnam in Abandon, a film about a senior at an elite college (Katie Holmes) who, already under severe pressure to complete her thesis and land a prestigious job, must confront the sudden reappearance of her old boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam), after his two year, unexplained absence.

Lil' Romeo Hits Big Screen

Lil' Romeo, the son of Master P, will be making his film debut as a student in "Max Keeble's Big Move." This Disney movie scheduledfor release October 5. A school "nerd"and outsider learns that his dad had gotten a job in Chicago, which inspires him to do all the things he would never do if he had to live with the results.

Halle Berry Options "Nappily Ever After"

Halle Berry's production company, Good Shephard Productions, has optioned the best-selling novel "Nappily Ever After" for film and television. It's the story of a young woman who cuts off all her hair and goes natural. Berry has often recommended the book to young black women as a means for building self-esteem.

Forrest Investigating A Fall

Actor/director Forest Whitaker will play a safety official leading a plane crash investigation in the CBS television movie, "Fall From the Sky." The crash involves the mystery of only one survivor out of 700 passengers. Filming is slated to start sometime this month. Whitaker also has a development deal with "eye network" to star in and develop a drama series for Fall 2002.

Ice Cube On Tap For More Movies

When Ice Cube gets done with "The Friday After Next," he's signed up for the "Barbershop." A comedy to be produced under his company, CubeVision. Cube will star in the "day in the life" film as the shop owner who greets friends and clients in his Chicago shop. Cube has also joined the cast of "Da Unknown Soldier." Another comedy, about a GI who trades places with his streetwise cousin.

Pras Is "Indiana Jackson"

Hello. Indiana Jones has competition? Disney is working on a comedy called "Indiana Jackson," with Fugee rapper Pras set to star as a rich guy who travels to Ethiopia to recover the staff of Moses. The film has ben accused as being "hip-hop version of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' The movie was written by Tyger Williams, who wrote the screenplay for "Menace II Society."

Chris Rock Is An Animal

Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Madonna, and Jason Alexander will be doing the voice-overs of zoo animals accidentally released back into the wild in the upcoming animated film"Madagascar." In the film, a ship carrying the animals capsizes and they find themselves stranded on the island of Madagascar.