Talk about strange bedfellows: Sources say Columbia Pictures chief Mark Canton is so hot to nab Arnold Schwarzenegger's on-again, off-again 11th-century sand-and-sandal epic, Crusade, that he's willing to team up with unlikely allies, Warner Bros. or Universal, to make it happen None of the studios will comment. But insiders at all three concede that discussions are under way for Warner or Universal to foot half the cost of Arnold's $100 million-plus dream project in exchange for overseas rights.
It's just another strange twist in the saga of Crusade, a movie that Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven have dreamed of doing since Total Recall. Only last May, both were stunned when the financially shaky Carolco winced at the price tag and pulled the plug. Schwarzenegger, who will play a medieval serf, won't comment on a collaboration. But he told EW, ''So many times the press is writing about the end of big-budget movies like Waterworld. It's all nonsense. There is no end in sight. (The studios) all want to be part of a big monster picture.''
Aside from Schwarzenegger, the tentative cast includes John Turturro (Quiz Show) and Jennifer Connelly (The Rocketeer). And it won't be a pretty picture: There's cannibalism, mutilations, lopped-off heads, animal dung, and one dead-donkey scene that would tax a cast-iron stomach. No matter who ends up joining the Crusade, it looks like Arnold will emerge with the Holy Grail.