REEL DEALS With his roles in the ”American Pie” movies, as well as his starring turn next month in the Broadway version of ”The Graduate,” Jason Biggs is the new poster boy for neurotic nerdiness and sexual humiliation. So it’s no surprise that he’s landed the lead in the next Woody Allen movie. The title and subject matter of the film, which shoots in New York this spring, remain a secret, which is standard for Allen. Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve pastry or Krazy Glue.
Apparently, Hollywood’s post-9/11 drive to put forth a more positive image of the West for worldwide Muslim audiences is over. ”Black Hawk Down” director Ridley Scott has commissioned a screenplay about the Crusades. Scott hopes to shoot the 11th-century epic, in which Christian soldiers spread across the Middle East to force Muslims in the Holy Land to convert or die, in 2003.
TUBE TALK Whether or not ABC successfully woos David Letterman away from CBS, it appears that ”Nightline” and its follow-up, ”Politically Incorrect,” are history. The New York Times said that Letterman wouldn’t move to ABC if it meant looking like the bad guy who cost Ted Koppel his job. USA Today reports that Disney execs assured Letterman that, no matter what he decided, ”Nightline” was ”toast.” Disney clearly is not interested in placating Koppel or his bosses at ABC News, whom the Times reports were in the dark about the network’s negotiation with Letterman until a Times reporter asked them about it Thursday night, hours before the story broke. An ABC executive then issued a statement saying he hoped Koppel would ”continue to make significant contributions to ABC in the years ahead,” a statement more notable for what it didn’t say – that Koppel’s 11:35 job was safe.
ABC News chief David Westin has denied the claim made by Disney execs to the Times that ”Nightline” is a money loser; he says the show is on track to net a profit of $13 million this year. That’s still a fraction, however, of the $40 to $60 million that the Times estimates that the ”Late Show” would net, even with the slight raise (about $1.5 million per year) Letterman has reportedly asked for.
But both CBS and Letterman agree that salary is not a sticking point, unlike other issues. Notably, CBS had balked at Letterman’s demand that his production company, Worldwide Pants, get the rights to produce whatever 11:35 show takes Letterman’s place after the 54-year-old host’s eventual retirement. Interestingly, this is an issue for Koppel’s producers, too; the Times said they had assumed that they would get to program their 11:35 slot, too, after Koppel quits. (Not that they expected that to happen so soon; Koppel renegotiated a five-year contract in 2000, but it required him to host the show only three times a week, a strong hint that he was trying to ease his way out of the late-night grind after two decades.) Both Letterman and Koppel were apparently trying to allow their staffs to keep their jobs after the hosts’ departures.