Writers could walk this week
The possibility of a writers strike, which over the past few months has had TV networks and movie studios frantically banking scripts, could become a reality as early as midnight tonight (Oct. 31) when the current Writers Guild of America contract expires, though union representatives have said that they probably will not walk out immediately. Yesterday, a U.S. federal mediator joined in 11th hour talks between the writers union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to try and avoid the first major writers strike in 20 years, but it’s being reported that little progress was made. The major sticking points in negotiations surround WGA demands to double pay for home video residuals and secure payments for shows that are streamed over the Internet. Union leaders say they will be ready to walk out as early as Friday if a deal can’t be hammered out, but most industry experts believe a strike won’t take place until at least next week, if not later. Negotiations are scheduled to start up again at 10 a.m. today. If history is any guide, late night television would see the most immediate impact. Dave Letterman and Jay Leno, whose monologues depend on union writers, would go dark, as would Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. ”Dave [will be] supportive of writers, as he was the last time,” said Robert Morton, the former Letterman producer who was at the helm of NBC’s Late Night With David Letterman during the 1988 WGA strike. A strike taking place in the next couple of weeks would also force scripted TV series to stop production immediately, forcing abbreviated 10-episode seasons. Reruns and unscripted reality series would likely take their place. If the writers wait until January to walk out, as some insiders believe they will, most series would be able to run a fuller 18-episode season. (Los Angeles Times)
Movie planned for Andy Summers’ autobiography
One Train Later, the autobiography of Andy Summers, the guitarist for the Police, is being developed into a feature film. Producers Bob Yari, Norm Golightly, Brett Morgen, and Nicolas Cage are set to develop a documentary based on the book that will trace Summers’ life from his youth in post-World War II England to his time playing with the Animals and 1960s psychedelic bands to the Police’s formation and current reunion. The film will use some of the 25,000 photos Summers has taken of the band over the years in an animated style to tell the story and will also feature concert footage from the Police’s current reunion tour. Lauren Lazin (Tupac: Resurrection) is in negotiations to direct, and Summers is in talks to narrate. The hope is to have the movie ready in time for the 2009 Sundance Festival. (Hollywood Reporter)
Butler exits Escape remake
Gerard Butler (300) has left New Line’s remake of Escape From New York, citing creative differences. Butler was set to play the main character, Snake Plissken, portrayed by Kurt Russell in the John Carpenter-directed original. Butler just began production on Lakeshore’s Game, and he’ll next be seen starring in the Richard LaGravanese-directed P.S., I Love You, the Guy Ritchie-directed Rock N Rolla, and Fox-Walden’s Nim’s Island. (Variety)
ABC gives full season to Samantha Who?
ABC has ordered a full season of its freshman comedy series Samantha Who?, which stars Christina Applegate as a woman with amnesia. The back-nine order comes on the heels of a strong third showing for Samantha on Monday (Oct. 29) night when it attracted 15.4 million viewers and scored a 4.9 rating/11 share among adults 18-49, its best showing to date. (Hollywood Reporter)
Romero already planning Diary sequel
Ahead of next year’s release of George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, Artfire Films and Romero-Grunwald Prods. have already greenlighted a sequel that Romero will direct from his screenplay. Fighting their way out of a mansion through a horde of ravenous zombies, the survivors of Diary will escape to a remote island in the sequel and engage in another battle with the dead. Diary premiered at September’s Toronto International Film Festival. (Hollywood Reporter)
Banks joins Rudd, William Scott in Universal feature
Elizabeth Banks (Spider-Man, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) has joined Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott in Universal’s untitled mentor project that David Wain (The Ten, Little Big Men) is directing. The project, which briefly was titled both Big Brothers and Little Big Men, follows a pair of party-hearty energy-drink salesmen forced into the roles of big brothers to fulfill a community-service obligation who end up bonding with their assigned kids. Banks plays Rudd’s girlfriend. She next appears with Vince Vaughn in Warner Bros.’ Fred Claus and recently wrapped Eddie Murphy’s Starship Dave and Definitely, Maybe with Ryan Reynolds. (Hollywood Reporter)
Ridley, Tony Scott taking on Edgar Allan Poe
Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Prods. is producing Tell-Tale, a reimagined modern version of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Tell-Tale Heart from director Michael Cuesta and screenwriter Dave Callaham. It is being described as a psychological thriller that sets Poe’s haunting tale against the backdrop of modern science. Scott Free, which previously produced Alien and The Hunger, is the company behind American Gangster, which releases Friday. (Hollywood Reporter)
Campbell joins Gervais, Leoni, Kinnear in Ghost Town
Billy Campbell (Shark, The Circuit) will appear alongside Tea Leoni, Ricky Gervais, and Greg Kinnear in the romantic comedy Ghost Town for DreamWorks and Spyglass Entertainment. The story is about a dentist who dies briefly during dental surgery and gains the ability to see dead people who ask him for help in contacting the living. Campbell will play the love interest of Leoni’s character, a widow whose deceased husband-turned-ghost (Kinnear) is trying to thwart her imminent marriage. Shooting got underway this month. (Hollywood Reporter)
Toho remaking Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress
Japanese film studio Toho is developing a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. The film is known for having parts of its story used by George Lucas in the original Star Wars. The two peasant refugees from the original, the inspiration for R2-D2 and C-3PO, will be combined into a single character in the remake, from whose perspective the story will be told. Shooting will start in November for a scheduled May 10 release. (Hollywood Reporter)
Starbucks’ Hear Music signs first developing artist
Hear Music, the label started by Concord Music Group and Starbucks, has signed Hilary McRae as its first developing artist. The label, which launched earlier this year, previously signed veterans Paul McCartney, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. On her first album, songwriter/pianist McRae, 21, collaborated with producer Zach Ziskin and Charlie Calello, whose arrangements can be found on Frank Sinatra records. McRae’s Hear debut will be available in spring 2008. Starbucks customers will be able to download McRae’s song ”Consider Me Gone” on Nov. 1 as part of the coffee retailer’s ”Download of the Day” program. Hear plans on signing eight new artists in the next year, but it is not revealing any details on who they might be. (Billboard)
Page Six: Ashley Olsen, 21, was seen ”making out all night” with Lance Armstrong, 36, at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel on Monday (Oct. 29).
Rush & Molloy: Jive Records has given up on trying to get Britney Spears involved in promoting her new record, Blackout, because she is too undependable.
People.com: ER’s Mekhi Phifer and his fiancée Oni Souratha welcomed their first child together on Tuesday (Oct. 30). Son Mekhi Thira Phifer was born in Los Angeles at 6:47 a.m., weighing 5 lbs., 4 oz.