Despatches
All the hot movie news from Alan Jones

The Lord of the Rings arrives
JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings inspired Peter Jackson to become a film-maker in the first place. Now, after numerous delays, the New Zealand director of Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners gets his wish. In one of the costliest Hollywood deals ever, New Line Cinema has committed $130 million to a Star Wars-style movie trilogy based on one of the world’s best loved books. Executive producer Saul Zaentz (of The English Patient fame) has held the rights to the Tolkien classic for over 30 years. Zaentz and Jackson had been working on the trilogy project for 18 months with Miramax Films after the director’s planned King Kong remake for Universal was postponed. But plans stalled when Miramax expressed a clear desire for one compressed film and not the trilogy envisioned by everyone else.

Sandra Gets Gun Shy{short description of image}
Sandra Bullock will produce and star in the independent movie Gun Shy for her own Warner Bros based company Fortis Films. First-time director Eric Blakeny will helm the project from his own script which is a black comedy about an undercover agent caught up in a New York City scandal. The star who has just finished shooting Practical Magic plays a nurse who becomes the romantic interest of the agent in the $10 million movie.

Love Story – Spielberg Style
Steven Spielberg is desperate to put gloom and doom behind him. The Saving Private Ryan director is “fiercely” looking for a contemporary love story as a future project. “I’ve been looking for one for 20 years,” said the Hollywood genius. “I’m not talking about making it kitschy or entertaining like My Best Friend’s Wedding. I’d like to do a realistic romance but the way they were done in the 1930s.”

Float Like a Butterfly
After Barry Sonnenfeld finishes filming The Wild, Wild West with his Men in Black star Will Smith, he’ll make it three films in a row with the black superstar. Smith will star for Sonnenfeld as legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in Power and Grace covering Ali’s early years, when he was known as Cassius Clay. The Columbia movie will chart his rise in the sports and political arenas and his refusal to fight in Vietnam on religious grounds as well as his comeback battles with Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Hanks catches a wave
Tom Hanks has hired writer Jon Krakauer to pen the screenplay for his new project about the late Hawaiian surfer Mark Foo and his fellow daredevil water sportsmen. Hanks, currently filming Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile, will only produce the Universal picture and definitely not star. Krakauer enjoyed widespread acclaim for his Mount Everest documentary Into Thin Air and wrote a magazine article on stunt surfer Foo and the legendary big-wave haven where he hung out in northern California called Maverick’s.

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