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SPIDER-MAN

[Toby Maguire]
Toby Maguire

Daily Variety followed up internet buzz on the potential casting of Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man with a Monday morning report. The trade stated that the star is in final negotiations for the part. According to the Variety write-up Maguire is set to sign a pay-or-play deal worth $3 million to $4 million for the first movie with sweeter deals for two sequels.

The movie is set to lens in New York and on Sony soundstages in November of this year. The target release date is November 2001.

Maguire was said to have been initially reluctant to test for the role of the next action-hero. However the 25-year old actor wowed Columbia studio execs with his “newly buff, aerobicized form.”

Columbia Pictures issued the following statement late yesterday finalizing the announcement of the casting:

Tobey Maguire is set to star as one of the most popular comic book icons of all time in Columbia Pictures’ live-action feature film adaptation Spider-Man, studio Chairman Amy Pascal announced today.

The 25-year-old actor most recently earned acclaim for his roles in Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys, in which he starred opposite Michael Douglas, and in 2000 Best Picture Oscar nominee The Cider House Rules, directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

Spider-Man is helmed by Sam Raimi (The Gift), a self-confessed fanatic of the cagey, web-spinning hero. Laura Ziskin (As Good As it Gets) and Oscar nominee Ian Bryce (Almost Famous) produce. Avi Arad (X-Men) serves as executive producer.

“I am delighted with this choice,” said Pascal. “Tobey’s acting ability and incredible screen presence and Sam’s creative vision are a powerful combination to bring Spider-Man to the screen.”

“As an actor, Tobey is a director’s dream,” said Raimi. “He has all the qualities we were looking for in our Peter Parker.”

Maguire’s other film credits include Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil and The Ice Storm, Gary Ross’ Pleasantville and Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry.

David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) has drafted a preliminary screenplay for the film; Scott Rosenberg (Gone In 60 Seconds) has also collaborated on the script. The creative team includes Oscar-nominated director of photography Don Burgess (What Lies Beneath), production designer Neil Spisak (For Love of the Game) and costume designer James Acheson, who has won Academy Awards for Restoration, Dangerous Liaisons and The Last Emperor.

Spider-Man, the creation of veteran comic book writer Stan Lee, first appeared in comic books in 1962. The story centers on student Peter Parker who, after being bitten by a radioactive spider, gains superhuman strength and the spider-like ability to cling to any surface. Peter first uses his powers to make money, but when his beloved Uncle Ben is killed by thieves after Peter chooses not to get involved, he vows to dedicate his life to fighting crime.

The film is slated to begin shooting in Los Angeles in November. The production will then move to New York. Spider-Man is being readied for a November 2001 release.

In a related story, there’s a fan movement afoot to shape the course of the movie. While fans are generally excited about the new Spider-Man movie, many are divided over the filmmaker’s desire to give the character organic web-shooters. For those coming in late: the comic book character spins his webs using mechanical devices of his own creation. The current script for the movie calls for the character to grow web-spinners in his wrists as part of his transformation into the super-hero.

On the one hand, director Sam Raimi points out that the organic spinners will increase the teenage character’s angst, which is a key ingredient to the comic. “I think it’s more interesting because it is one more thing he’s got to be embarrassed of,” Raimi has said on the recently seen promotional video.

On the other hand, fans argue that Parker’s invention of the web-fluid and web-shooters are an integral part of the character. After all, Peter Parker is a gifted student with a great love of science. What better way to illustrate that than the invention of the web-shooters?

An internet-based, grass-roots movement has sprung up to convince Sony that mechanical shooters are the way to go. The Down With Organic Webshooters website is designed to make the case against the organic spinners. Webmasters Mierk, Zero Cool, or The Raven are collecting signatures via an online petition. The crew hopes to gather one million signatures supporting the traditional webspinners before cameras roll this year. The website also features editorials discussing the issue and a message board where fans can state their opinions.

EARTH X

Trailers for the Earth X short film have recently appeared on the internet. The movie will be included as part of a special hardcover reprint of the popular Marvel comics series. The movie features a mix of computer generated animation and live action footage.

The trailers can be downloaded from the Graphitti Designs website as well as from the Alex Ross Art site (which appears to have a faster server.

The book will enjoy a premiere party at the upcoming Wizard World convention in Chigago. The party will be held Saturday, August 5th at the Hyatt Grand Ballrooms A & B. Guests will include Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Bill Reinhold, Composer Scott Vladimir Licinia, and Daredevil.

THE CROW: LAZARUS

The Hollywood Reporter reports that rapper-actor DMX (Romeo Must Die) is set to star in the fourth installment of the Crow movie franchise. As rumored, that movie will be called The Crow: Lazarus and will tell the story of a gansta rapper who leaves the music scene for love of a woman, only to be gunned down in a drive by. DMX’s deal is said to be a multi-picture deal.

“We are thrilled that DMX will be taking on the role of Lazarus,” Edward Pressman told the Reporter. “His presence on screen is truly magnetic, and he is sure to broaden and deepen the audience for the franchise.”

The movie is written by James Gibson.

SUPERNATURAL LAW

Harald Zwart The Hollywood Reporter has signed on to direct Supernatural Law for Universal Pictures. The movie adapts Batton Lash’s comic book about attorneys Wolff and Byrd, who defined monsters and ghouls. The movie is set to go before the cameras in January. Marc Platt Prods. and Stampede Entertainment are producing. Zwart reportedly got the job on the strength of his US feature debut One Night at McCool’s which stars Matt Dillon, Live Tyler, John Goodman and Michael Douglas.

THOR

A recent write-up from The Hollywood Reporter indicates that Artisan entertainment is moving forward with a TV version of Marvel’s Thor. The studio is said to be shopping for a showrunner to lord over what would be the its first TV project. The show is targeted for first-run syndication or cable.

FROM HELL

[From Hell]

A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter indicates that Ian Holm (Alien, The 5th Element) has been signed on to the cast for Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. Holm is replacing an ailing Nigel Hawthorne in the production. The movie is already filming in Prague, Czech Republic. Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Robbie Coltrane and Ian Richardson also star.

FANTASTIC FOUR

A recent article in the L.A. Times details the rising star of director Raja Gosnell (Big Momma’s House). Gosnell, it appears, has two major studios with big-budget projects vying for his services.

Fox, hoping to strike while the X-Men iron is hot, is eager to sew up its deal with Gosnell to direct Fantastic Four, while Warner Bros. is offering big snacks to lure him over to helm Scooby Doo.

Tim Rothman, newly named chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment told The Times “We expect and hope to make [Fantastic Four] pretty soon. If X-Men hadn’t worked, we may have reconsidered.” The studio is hoping to budget the movie at $75 million which is the same ballbark as X-Men. Rothman also told the times that it could be year’s end before production gets underway.

The directory aggressively pursued the project, which has been in development with Chris Columbus’ 1492 for years. “I worked really hard to get a meeting on it,” Gosnell told The Times. “I really wanted to do a big action comedy thrill ride like Men in Black.” The movie is described as more comedic than X-Men. In previous reports, Marvel’s Avi Arad described the movie by saying “It’s probably the biggest sitcom of all time.” 

Thanks to Corona Coming Attractions for the lead.

WITCHBLADE

[Yancy Butler]

TNT Television recently conducted a press tour in L.A. talking up their original movies and TV series. Witchblade was part of the tour and participants included actors Yancy Butler (Sara Pezzini), David Chokachi (Jake McCartey), Anthony Cistaro (Kenneth Irons), Eric Etebari (Ian Nottingham), director Ralph Hemecker and TNT Executive V.P. of Original Programming Julie Weitz. Here are some of the highlights:

Hemecker talked about the reason the TV character doesn’t look like the comic book character. “I have read the comic book, and I am a big fan of it,” Hemecker said. “One of the reasons we had the change of costume is just because of the number of stunts that we had to have Yancy do. We had to have her a little bit more padded up and had to conceal the pads.”

Weitz told the press that the two-hour movie is definitely intended to serve as a pilot for a potential series. “I think the beauty in doing a two-hour pilot is you actually have something that you can entertain people with, and you can air. If you make a pilot, which most of the networks do – [an] hour pilot – it never gets seen.”

Cistaro talked about the long development time for the show, which has been in the works for over three years.  “In talking to the producers, they were saying that, you know, the reason that it took so long is because they didn’t want it to be just a typical comic book come to life. They wanted to really bring a real character-driven piece, and bring some real interest to bear on it. And so I certainly expect it to be a series.”

Should a show go into production, it could include previous incarnations of the Witchblade. “This gauntlet, this artifact, has been handed off for woman warrior to woman warrior through the ages,” Hemecker explained. “So, I think that we’d be tapping into some of the previous woman warriors in episodes.”

Hemecker also said it was possible that other comic-based guests could wind up in episodes of the show. If a series gets picked up, the current cast of actors is expected to continue in their roles. “Since we’ve shot, we’ve don a lot of talking about where it can go and our hopes for it, so we really want to bring that bear,” Cistaro said. “There’s so much more to mine, and you have to remember that it’s what? Three years worth of stories in the comic books.”

The movie airs August 27th on TNT.

RISING STARS

A source at Atlas Entertainment has confirmed for Comics2Film that they are the production company that has purchased the option on Rising Stars from J. Michael Straczynski. However, our source cautions that negotiations have not been finalized and there are many facets to the property. The hard part is over but there are still i’s to dot and t’s to cross.

Atlas had a hand 12 Monkeys, City of Angels, Three Kings and the upcoming Roller Ball and Scooby Doo.

THE DRIFTER AND THE ACCUSER

A recent write-up by Army Archerd for Daily Variety indicates that Stan Lee may be seeing more of his creations on the big screen.  Lee recently signed a deal with The Canton Company to develop his 7th Portal as a movie. Archerd states that the comic (and now internet) creator is also looking to bring his Stan Lee Media creations The Drifter and The Accuser to the big screen. The Drifter features a time traveling protagonist while The Accuser is about an attorney whose murdering client goes free. “There are two dozen more ideas I haven’t had time to work on yet,” Lee told Archerd.

TOO MUCH COFFEE MAN

Nelvana Entertainment has optioned Too Much Coffee Man from Shannon Wheeler according to a recent article in Wizard. Plans are to develop the concept as an animated show for Comedy Central. The cable net has solicited a pilot script for the cartoon.

GATECRASHER

The first comic book offering for Black Bull Entertainment has scored a TV development deal according to a recent article in Wizard. Gatecrasher is the subject of a deal between the new publisher and Mainframe Entertainment. The animation house aims to develop a computer generated animated series based on the book.

Series penciler and co-creator Amanda Conner may sign on as art director on the project.  Co-Creators Mark Waid and Jimmy Palmiotti will provide stories for the series. The show will focus on the first four issues of the comic.

Dan Dido, vice president of creative affairs for Mainframe told Wizard what he likes about the concept: “It has the angst of X-Men, the humor of Spider-Man and the monsters of Men In Black. You can’t beat that.”

Plans are to have the series up and running on a network by September 2001.

X-MEN: EVOLUTION

Rob Allstetter of The Comics Continuum reports that X-Men: Evolution now has a tentative debut date of Saturday, Nov. 4 on the Kids’ WB! The show is currently set to air on Saturdays at 11:30.

ASTERIX AND CLEOPATRA

[Asterix]

A Reuters news report on the health of French film star Gerard Depardieu bears an interesting tidbit about the sequel Asterix and Cleopatra. The actor was released from a Paris hospital last week after heart bypass surgery earlier in July.

The actor plans to resume work on his current film in August. From there he goes to Moroco to begin work on Asterix and Cleopatra. According to the write-up, shooting on that film begins at the end of September.

Fans in the United States are still waiting to see the original French-made Asterix and Obelix Versus Caesar.

Thanks to Michael Rhode of the Comics Research Bibliography.

GHOST RIDER

A few weeks ago, The Stax Report at IGN FilmForce posted a review of David Goyer’s screenplay for Ghost Rider. The screenplay was written long before the recent deal between Marvel and Crystal Sky to develop a GR movie.

Goyer responded to the review. His remarks provide some insights as to the direction the new movie will (or won’t) go.  “While there were certain elements in the original script that I liked – it is unlikely that much of that script will be used.” Goyer told Stax. “We have yet to make a deal for the project – but the story being talked about now is significantly different (no Zarathos, no Caretaker, etc).”

BATMAN

Batman fans have watched in dismay as the Dark Knight film franchise degraded from a cool first outing to depressing camp-fest in Batman and Robin. Fans have long wished that Hollywood would listen to them when making comic book movies.

Dave Carroll, webmaster of the Batman: Defender of Gotham website and Bill Ramey of Batman on Film website have teamed up in hopes of giving fans just such an opportunity. The pair have worked up a Batman Movie Petition. The petition is designed to unite all Batman fans and to make Warner Bros. aware of the type of Batman movie that the fans would like to see get made. This is your chance to tell WB how things are.

BRUCE WAYNE

Bill Ramey over at the Batman on Film site has obtained a copy of the series bible and pilot script for the proposed Bruce Wayne TV series. Ramey tells us “it really kicks ass!” Although many believe that the series has been squashed in favor of the film franchise, Ramey’s site includes some speculation that that the series is not a dead issue and that the two can peacefully co-exist. A review and synopsis of Bruce Wayne can be found on Ramey’s site.

HARVEY COMICS

The Harvey Entertainment Company and Brilliant Digital have announced an agreement to produce new “3Dmovies” that will incorporate Harvey-owned characters. The agreement grants Brilliant on-line production rights to at least thirteen webisodes starring Casper The Friendly Ghost.

“With the increasing demand for 3D entertainment on the Web, the Harvey properties lend themselves naturally to the Multipath Movie format that serves our growing audience segments,” states Kevin Bermeister, President of Brilliant Digital Entertainment. “Our productions with Harvey will entertain our existing MPM viewers, as well as help to open the format to a new audience of viewers looking for alternate forms of entertainment on the Web.”

Each Multipath Movie requires the download of Brilliant Digital’s Digital Projector player. Once installed, viewers desiring to watch the Brilliant/Harvey produced series will also be able to watch other Multipath Movie adventures and Brilliant-produced entertainment content available over the Internet.

“We believe that Brilliant has developed an effective and entertaining way to deliver content over the Internet on a regular basis through its proprietary technology,” said Dan March, Director of Internet Development for Harvey Entertainment. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the enjoyment of our characters through new mediums, and Brilliant’s Multipath Movie format will allow us to reach the emerging audience that wants to see characters like Casper, being entertained on the Internet. Brilliant’s distribution network will also assist us in syndicating these webisodes to ensure Casper reaches the largest audience possible.”

CRUSADERS

On Saturday, July 29th, the team at Crusaders, Ltd. proudly announced their new working agreement with Madd Kat Video.  Madd Kat spokesman Evan Bruck officially announced the partnership; the deal is structured to facilitate the release of the Crusaders internet-exclusive live action “issues” on video and DVD.

Bruck said that “We have been building towards this for almost a month now, and I’m glad that we could reach an agreement that works for everyone. Many of us from Madd Kat have had the opportunity to watch the creative process that goes on with Crusaders from start to finish, and they really have done something remarkable. We want to be the ones that help make Crusaders, Ltd. accessible to all comic fans, not just the ones online.”

On behalf of the Crusaders, team spokesman Julian Reed added “The people at Madd Kat have been great to work with so far. They have a true appreciation for what we do. I know that we have found the right partner to ease our transition into the world of home video.”

The entire Crusaders, Ltd. roster will be on hand this week during the Wizard World Chicago Convention at the Rosemont Convention Center. While specifics were not discussed, Bruck stated that “We’ve been working on this for a while now. We finished test runs of the videos last week. By the time the team arrives in Chicago, we’ll certainly have something ready to go.”

The members of Crusaders, Ltd. will be at the Madd Kat Video booth for the duration of the convention. Crusaders, Ltd. is the web’s premiere live action comic book. With new “issues” arriving every two weeks, the official Crusaders web site has quickly grown into a grand central station for comic lovers, with over a thousand visitors a day. More information is available at the site, or by e-mailing info@crusadersltd.com.

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