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SPIDER-MAN

[J. Jonah Jameson]
Fan art of actor J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson

Spider-Man is the story that won’t quit this week, with reports pouring in from all around the net. Lets first turn our attention to casting:

A source at Sony Pictures told Comics2Film that J. K. Simmons is confirmed as a cast member for the movie. As we reported last month, the actor gave a great reading for the part of terminally cheesed-off newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Although his name has been absent from the press releases sent out in the past month, our source at Sony confirms that the actor is definitely on board. Simmons stars in the HBO prison drama Oz and also has a recurring part on NBC’s Law and Order.

Meanwhile, the Sci Fi Wire at SciFi.com recently spoke with director Sam Raimi about his new release The Gift. Sci Fi Wire managed to squeeze some Spider-Man details out of him as well.

In casting news, Raimi said that Rosemary Harris (Hamlet, Looking For Richard) is set to play Aunt May in the movie. Raimi also confirmed Cliff Robertson will be Uncle Ben, as C2F reported a few weeks back. Fans may also be pleased to hear that Raimi told Sci Fi Wire, “I’m going to work again with Bruce [Campbell] in Spider-Man.”

Dynamic visuals and camera work are a hallmark of Sam Raimi movies as seen in his films Darkman and The Quick and the Dead. However, the director told Sci Fi Wire that he’s trying to find a balance in showing the excitement of Spider-Man’s acrobatics and the story of Peter Parker’s coming of age. “It can’t be about the shots. It’s got to be about the character. Now I also have a responsibility to make it as exciting as possible. That’s my conflict,” the director said.

Raimi told Sci Fi Wire that the script is, in fact, undergoing continuous revisions. Raimi is quoted as saying, “I’m not happy with it yet. But I think it’s a very good script now. What we need to do is make it more than great, though. That’s the problem.” In a separate article Sci Fi Wire reported that Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People) has been brought in to rewrite dialogue for the film. Apparently Sargent is also the husband of Spidey producer Laura Ziskin.

[Willem Dafoe]
Willem Dafoe

Cast member Willem Dafoe recently chatted with Eon Magazine about his role in the upcoming Shadow of the Vampire. Of course Eon couldn’t resist the urge to find out about the Green Goblin too.

Dafoe spoke briefly about what attracted him to the part of Spidey’s main villain. “Some of the writing I like very much. I like very much the fact that it’s a double character. It’s a character with a dark alter ego. It attracted me. I mean, we all can relate to that.”

Dafoe did not have much more to say about the Goblin, trying instead to focus on his current film. He did tell Eon that he has some knowledge of the character. When asked what kind of costume he’d be wearing the actor replied, “Ah — a Green Goblin costume.”

Eon also points out one more interesting tidbit: Shadow of the Vampire stars Dafoe along with John Malkovich. The movie was produced by Nicolas Cage. All three actors were contenders for the part of the Green Goblin.

At this point you may be tired of reading about Spider-Man cast members. Maybe you’d like to be in the cast yourself? TVTix is rounding up people to appear in crowd scenes for the movie. The organization generally provides tickets to people who want to attend tapings of TV programs, but they’ve also been contracted to bring in spectators to portray a New York City crowd during the filming in January.

The scenes will filming January 16-18, 7:30am-6pm in West Los Angeles. Spectators must be over 16 years of age. A representative for TVTix told Comics2Film that the filmmakers are looking for a culturally diverse crowd. Interested parties are encouraged to send an e-mail to audiencela@yahoo.com for additional information. Info packets will be e-mailed next week. Spectators should not be confused with extras, the primary difference being that extras get paid and spectators do not.

Thanks to Steve Gerding of 4ColorReview for the lead on that one.

Getting away from the subject of casting, IGN FilmForce has posted a great article giving fans a behind the scenes look at the movie. FilmForce reports that the movie’s screenplay has undergone three revisions in the past three months.

Sources told FilmForce that special effects tests are underway, utilizing existing effects techniques as well cutting edge technology. A CGI creation is said to used as Spidey’s stunt double, performing feats like scaling walls and swinging from webs.

“We built a replica of a wall on the floor of the studio and had a Cirque du Soleil acrobat climb from ‘bottom’ to ‘top’ while a camera tracked his movements,” a source told FilmForce, describing some of the effects work. The source claims that the resulting footage is fantastic.

The source said that they while they may alter Spider-Man’s costume, they will not make significant changes to the mask. The creates a new challenge of giving Spider-Man emotions, when the costume calls for him to be covered from head to toe.

Comic artist John Romita Jr. has been assisting work on CGI Spidey. Romita is there to ensure the effects artists find a body language for the on-screen hero that is consistent with the comics. The source told FilmForce that many are hoping for Romita to do a teaser poster for the film, but no decisions have been made in that regard.

Not to be outdone, Robert Bernocchi of Italian Film site Caltanet Cinema also has some behind the scenes news to share. Bernocchi writes:

“I made an interview with Anthony LaMolinara (a very kind person, by the way) in Naples at Monumedia (a festival focused on new technologies). I asked him some information about the work he’s doing on Spider-Man. He described me how the two main characters (Spidey and the Green Goblin) will look like,” Bernocchi told us.

“In particular, they want to use a lot of computer graphic when Peter Parker will be in his costume. They are also working to create a very cool effect for his hands when he climbs the walls,” Bernocchi said. In the online interview LaMolinara describes the difficulty of getting all the details right. CGI modelers have to create accurate musculature, keep the texture of the costume looking like real fabric and replicate muscle and facial movements beneath the costume and mask.

LaMolinara also describes effects for the Green Goblin. He describes the Goblin’s glider and bombs as being very modern. LaMolinara likens the villains flying technique to that of a surfer. The effects wiz also mentions that the Goblin suit is particularly hard to animate because of the amount of details in the new design.

Video clips of the interview may be viewed in English and Italian at the Caltanet site.

Need more behind-the-scenes reports? Well, this week Rob Allstetter of the Comics Continuum paid a visit the Sony lot where the sets of Spider-Man are being built. Marvel’s Kevin Feige told Allstetter, “The sets are much, much bigger than the sets of X-Men. The sets on X-Men were great, but the Spider-Man sets are unbelievable.”

Work on the Green Goblin costume and makeup is picking up steam. “Now that Willem is on board, they’re going all out (on Green Goblin),” Feige told Allstetter. “Before, they couldn’t go beyond designs, but now they’re getting his measurements for the suit. I think people will be happy with it. It’s true to the spirit of the comics.”

[Spider-Man Teaser]

Finally, here’s something for you folks who didn’t make it to last year’s ShoWest movie trade show. If you missed that, then you probably didn’t see the teaser trailer that Sony premiered at that show. Well now you can. The French website for Premiere Magazine is now displaying the trailer in QuickTime format.

The trailer features a macroscopic view of shiny webs being spun into darkness with a narrator dramatically intoning the teaser monolog, “There’s fine line between being an ordinary man, and an extraordinary hero. Next year that line will be crossed.”

Don’t be fooled by the 2001 release date announced on trailer. Remember that the footage is over a year old and the release information is obsolete.

Direct your browser to http://www.premiere.fr/index.php3?Id=28692 to download the trailers.

Thanks to Cinescape for the lead.

DIABOLIK

[Diabolik]

Earlier this year Fox Kids announced that Diabolik, an animated TV show based on one of Italy’s most popular comic characters, was on their fall schedule. While the show has aired in Europe, it has yet to be shown to U.S. audiences. Comics2Film talked to a member of the show’s production team about the difficulties of transforming the Italian anti-hero into a Saturday morning network show.

“You’re doing Diabolik and you’re like ‘Wow! I’m gonna work on this great, 30 year-old, classic character,'” our source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told C2F.

One of the first problems was trying to recast the character as a hero. “He’s a bad person. He’s not a super-hero,” our source said of Diabolik. Fox Kids may have jumped to the hero conclusion given it was a comic book character in tights.

Our source said, that attempts to change Diabolik for a young, American audience were met with staunch resistance from the Italian handlers of the character. Understandably, they had much invested in Diabolik and didn’t want the concept harmed for the sake of the show.

Trying to fit the character into the Saturday morning cartoon mold and keep the rights holders satisfied proved a difficult task. Our source told us that pre-production on most animated shows lasts about two weeks. Diabolik was in pre-production for a year.

Eventually they found a format for the show that seemed workable. “They did touch on the fact that [Diabolik] had been a bad person, without actually having to show anything, and he was making up for his crimes by basically going back and setting things straight,” our source said.

However, the show quickly strayed from this premise. “That’s in the story but it’s touched on so lightly that they never really went back to it. So it ends up being these adventures where Diabolik is constantly being chased by the police, but actually saving the day. He’s stealing things that would cause harm in the hands of his brother who is this crime lord named Dane and has the various henchmen working for him and doing his bidding.

“It’s like Batman Vs. the Joker but if Batman didn’t fight really much and basically ran away a lot.” The watered-down concept made for a less-than-exciting show. Our source tells us at one point Fox considered editing the 40 episodes down 13 to try to make them more action oriented.

Representatives for Fox Kids told C2F that the network currently has no plans to air the show domestically.

SHI

[Shi]

Billy Tucci told Comics2Film that he’s renewed his development agreement with Franchise Pictures for the Shi movie. Franchise has long been involved with the project. Tucci told us that he had recently shopped the project around to some larger studios, but Franchise seems to have a greater appreciation for the source material that a movie would be based on.

Actresses like Tia Carrere and Mira Sorvino have been mentioned as being interested in this movie in the past. At this point, neither of the actresses are attached to the film. Tucci does tell us that there has been some interest by other big name actresses, but it’s too early to spill the beans on that.

PRIME

[Prime]

Universal Studios has recently renewed it’s option on the Prime movie. Scott Rosenberg of Platinum Studios told Comics2Film, “The studio is in love with the project.”

Prime, based on the Malibu/Marvel, is the story of a geeky teenager who can transform into a powerful superhero. The movie has been in development for several years. Currently Doug Chamberlain and Chris Webb are developing the screenplay for it. The pair previously wrote the Casper theatrical sequel as well as Toy Story 2.

Rosenberg and Marvel’s Avi Arad are executive producers on the film. Chuck Gordon (Rocketeer, October Sky) is the producer.

Thanks to Beau Yarbrough of The Comic Wire fame who tipped us off after getting the news from Marvel bigwig Bill Jemas.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS

[Josie and the Pussycats]

Up until now only a few small images of the girls from Josie and the Pussycats have been available to fans clamoring for a peek. But now American Mule Entertainment provides us with our first good look at the feline fatales in full film fashion.

American Mule has published 24 studio test photos of Rachel Leigh Cook as Josie, Rosario Dawson as Val and Tara Reid as Melody.  The website pulled a similar feat earlier this year, by publishing the first really good images of studio tests from the X-Men movie.

Check out the American Mule Entertainment site for the complete set of images!

GHOST WORLD

[Ghost World]

Directory Terry Zwigoff (Crumb) and writer/creator Dan Clowes wrapped the final two days of shooting on the Ghost World movie last week according to the Fantagraphics e-mailer. The movie is in editing and post-production, with an eye on a Spring 2001 release.

Fantagraphics will be releasing a film edition of the graphic novel as well as the movie’s screenplay to coincide with the release of the movie. The screenplay is a pre-production draft which will include a color scrapbook section compiled by Clowes, including pages from Enid’s sketchbook, as drawn by none other than Sophie Crumb, daughter of R. Crumb.

F5

Paramount Pictures has made a deal to bring the Tony Daniel comic F5 to the big screen. Today’s Hollywood Reporter reports that writing partners and brothers Tim and Dave Douglas sold the pitch to Par for a low-six figure sum. The Douglas brothers will write the script. Daniel will be a consultant on the project.

The article describes the concept as featuring “a high-tech, super-elite team of operatives” and also “being in a similar vein to James Bond and The A-Team.

HULK, DAREDEVIL

Rob Allstetter of the Comics Continuum got an update on the Hulk and Daredevil movies from Marvel’s Kevin Feige. 

Feige told Allstetter that Hulk is out to directors. “We’re very excited about the people showing interest in doing it,” Feige is quoted as saying. The release date of what promises to be a big movie is being carefully considered for this production.

Feige also reports that Daredevil is making fast progress and may surprise everyone. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson did a draft of the script which is said to be generating great buzz for the project.

THE CLEANER

MGM has purchased a “high-concept action thriller” pitch from Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow Entertainment and John Woo’s Lion Rock Prod, according to today’s Hollywood Reporter. The concept, called The Cleaner was pitched by Terence Change of Lion Rock and sold for mid six-figures.

Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton will write the screenplay. Chang, Woo and Top Cow president of production Spike Seldin will serve as producers. Silvestri will be an executive producer. The Cleaner will be developed simultaneously as a comic book.

FROM HELL

The Upcoming Movie states that From Hell is tentatively scheduled for a Fall 2001 release date. The movie is an adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s comic. From Hell stars Johnny Depp and Heather Graham and is directed by the Hughes Brothers.

CORRECTION: ASTRO ACES

A typo in last week’s Astro Aces article misidentified Kristen Denton. Kristen is character modeler and an animator at Foundation Imaging, and not an “actor” as it was printed.

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