REEL PROBLEM Will Smith’s arduous attempts to beef up for the role of the silver tongued boxer Muhammad Ali may have been in vain. Sony Pictures is on the verge of ditching ”Insider” director Michael Mann’s biopic entirely, because its budget is expected to exceed $105 million. However, the move may be an attempt by Sony to rein in the headstrong auteur, sources tell variety. Smith, meanwhile, is also negotiating with Sony to rejoin Tommy Lee Jones for a sequel to its highest grossing film ever, ”Men In Black.” But sources say the star may be less inclined to don the Ray Bans again if he’s forced to abandon his dream role of Ali. Oh, come on, what’s another $20 million?
KIDS It’s a Mia for Kate Winslet. The ”Titanic” star, 25, who is married to assistant director Jim Threapleton, 26, gave birth to a healthy baby girl in London last week. ”Kate and Jim had drawn up a list of 10 names, but when the baby was born, none of them seemed right,” her agent Robert Garlock told the Associated Press. ”Then Mia came to them and it seemed just right.” What a relief…. Meanwhile, ”Ladies Man” Tim Meadows seems to have been more successful with his off screen wooing than his ”Saturday Night Live” character is on screen. His wife, Michelle, is expecting their first child around Christmas.
BIZ Shortly after gaining approval from the European Commission, America Online’s pending acquisition of EW.com’s parent Time Warner has reportedly hit a Stateside snag. U.S. government officials will block the proposed union if an agreement over Internet access is not reached within two weeks, reports the Washington Post. Unnamed sources told the paper that negotiators have come to an impasse over how rival Internet service providers would have access to its high speed cable network. The Federal Trade Commission will make its ruling Oct. 27. An AOL spokesman told the Post that the deal is on track to close in the fall. But sources said FTC attorneys are preparing litigation to block the move. The FTC spokesperson declined to comment. Rats! Our devious plots are foiled again.
CASTING Anna Paquin (”X Men,” ”Almost Famous”) is returning to her arty roots. The young Oscar winner is in negotiations to join Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris in the $15 million budgeted dark comedy ”Buffalo Soldiers,” according to the Hollywood Reporter…. Jason Lee, meanwhile, is transforming his critically acclaimed portrayal of the egomaniacal rock frontman in ”Almost Famous” into viable résumé material. He’s poised to star opposite ”Road Trip”’s Tom Green in upcoming flick ”Stealing Stanford,” Variety reports…. ”The English Patient”’s Kristin Scott Thomas will join Kevin Kline in an upcoming drama ”Life as a House,” by ”As Good as it Gets” scribe Mark Andrus. Now there’s a man who knows how to work a simile.