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Backlot Buzz By Leslie (Hoban) Blake

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After the mildest winter in years, film production in the tri-state area is also warming up again. With more than a half dozen movies shooting through April and beyond, there will be film work on them thar streets. So for the next few months, don't be surprised if you bump into the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Billy Crystal, Sandra Bullock, Robert DeNiro, Dana Ivey, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep, Campbell Scott, Charles Durning, Lisa Kudrow, Denis Leary, Woody Allen, and several members of the Michael Douglas family—including dad, Kirk; mom, Diana; and son, Cameron (guess lady-wife Catherine was busy elsewhere). They'll all be shooting on the sidewalks of New York.

Postponed from last fall, Bob Santoli's sophomore indie Dead Canaries kicked off on March 15 and will shoot through April 15. The drama about a mob family in the government's witness protection program was put on hold due to the untimely death of the director's mother. Santoli recalls, "I had this great cast lined up—Charles Durning, Dee Wallace Stone, and Dan Lauria—but I was in no shape to make a movie. They all showed such compassion and everybody stuck with me; we just had to wait until now because of Charles' shooting schedule on [CBS'] 'First Monday.' " Durning plays a Jimmy Breslin-type reporter who discovers that mobsters in the program who've "sung" are being bumped off—hence the title. Wallace (best remembered as the mom in the just re-released E.T.) and Lauria (the dad in TV's "The Wonder Years") portray the mob family.

And director Mary Pat Kelly's low-budgeter Proudly We Served, about the Navy, finished its shoot at the Buffalo, NY Naval Park on April 19.

(WARNING: Although casting directors request that all contact be made only by mail, many continue to limit submissions to either email or postcards and flyers w/o envelopes. As always, do not phone or visit their offices unless specifically instructed to do so.)

Analyze That, the sequel to the hilarious box office smash, Analyze This, is skedded to shoot through June 8. That reunites Billy Crystal's nervous shrink, Robert DeNiro's neurotic mobster, and the ditzy Lisa Kudrow with their amiable director, Harold Ramis, plus extra-busy writer Peter Tolan, who also wrote two recent TV series for ABC—"The Job" and "Wednesdays: 9:30." Missing from the original Analyze team, however, is playwright-director Kenny (You Can Count on Me) Lonergan. Principals are all cast; background: Grant Wilfley (60 Madison Ave, #1027, NYC 10010). (See related casting notice in this issue.)

As of this writing, Angels in America, Tony Kushner's epic Pulitzer Prize-winning two-parter, will be shooting until July 18. The cast is filled with such Oscar and Tony winners as Al Pacino (playing Roy Cohn!), Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Mary-Louise Parker. Jeffrey Wright reprises his original Tony-winning role while daylighting from his current Broadway run in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog. The humongous project is being directed for HBO by director Mike Nichols, who also directed Thompson in last season's HBO stage-to-screener, Wit. No further principals; background: Sylvia Fay (71 Park Ave., NYC 10016).

Everything's been really hush-hush over on the Bergen City, N.J. set of Lodge Kerrigan's latest, In God's Hands, shooting through April 26. Still, someone ought to tell the New York-born director of Claire Dolan and Clean Shaven that Zalman King already used that title on a 1998 surfer flick—oops, guess I just did! Principals: Doug Aibel (c/o Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15 St., NYC 10003); background: NYC Casting c/o Lori Eastside (212 Bowery, NYC 10012).

Also skedded to wrap on April 26 is Alan Rudolph's intriguingly titled Secret Lives of Dentists, a family drama starring Campbell Scott (who is also exec-producing) as a dentist who is married to Hope Davis but finds himself attracted to his dental assistant, Robin Tunney. This is actually the first complete film the one-time Robert Altman (*see upcoming film info below) protégé has shot in the Big Apple—his film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, about the famed Algonquin Round Table, only shot locations here. But the film could easily be called "Six Degrees of Campbell Scott." Scott played Robert Benchley for Rudolph in Mrs. Parker... and he directed his two co-stars, Davis and Denis Leary, in Final, his solo-directing debut (he previously co-directed Big Night with Stanley Tucci). To top it off, this film version of novelist Jane Smiley's The Age of Grief is being adapted by award-winning playwright Craig Lucas, who wrote Longtime Companion, in which—you guessed it—Scott co-starred! No further principal casting; background: Grant Wilfley (see address above).

Marc Lawrence's previously untitled romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, now called Two Weeks Notice, shoots until May 13. The film marks the directing debut of the former sitcom scribe ("Family Ties") and screenwriter (Miss Congeniality). Principals: Ilene Starger (1220 Broadway, Ste. 801A, NYC 10001); background: Kee Casting (424 Park Ave. South, #128, NYC 10016).

The Michael/Kirk Douglas family affair alluded to above has changed titles—from Smack in the Puss to Smack in the Kisser. Filming until May 24, it's a dramedy about three generations of a dysfunctional family. So move over Royal Tenenbaums, it's the Douglas' turn! Fortunately, Aussie helmer Fred Schepisi managed an even bigger crew on last year's Last Orders, including Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, and Bob Hoskins. But, of course, none of them was actually related. Principals: Avy Kaufman (180 Varick St., NYC 10014); background: Kristine Bulakowski (P.O. Box 616, Prince St. Station, NYC 10012).

Wayne (The Joy Luck Club) Wang's new romantic comedy for Columbia Pix is The Chambermaid, co-starring Jennifer Lopez in the title role, with Ralph Fiennes as a wealthy businessman. It starts shooting April 22 and continues to July 15. Principals: Todd Thaler (130 W. 57 St., Ste. #10-A, NYC 10019); background: Sylvia Fay (see address above).

Steven Spielberg's next opus for Dreamworks, Catch Me If You Can, with a screenplay by Jeff Nathanson based on the book by Frank Abagnale, Jr. and Stan Redding, tells the true story of the youngest con artist ever to make the FBI's most-wanted list for forgery. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as con artist Abagnale, alongside Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken. There's a three-day location shoot planned from April 26-29. No further principal casting; background: Grant Wilfley Casting (see address above).

The exotic-sounding Nadezdha, directed by the equally exotic-sounding Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt, shoots from April 29 until May 24. Principals: Caroline Sinclair (c/o N.Y. Performance Works, 85 West Broadway, NYC 10007); background: Amerifilm (151 First Ave., Ste. 225, NYC 10003).

Tobey Maguire will co-produce as well as co-star with Edward Norton in Spike Lee's The 25th Hour, based on David Benioff's 2001 novel about the two days before a convicted drug dealer (Norton) reports to prison for a heavy sentence.(See related casting notice in this week's issue.)

Anne Nelson's The Guys—still running on stage downtown at director Jim Simpson's Flea Theatre—is the latest film from Content Films, headed by veteran producer Ed Pressman (Wall Street, City Hall, and American Psycho). The 90-minute, two-character play, about an editor and a fire chief composing eulogies for eight men lost in the World Trade Center tragedy, originally starred Sigourney Weaver (a.k.a. Mrs. Simpson) and Bill Murray, followed by Susan Sarandon, Swoozie Kurtz, Anthony LaPaglia, Bill Irwin, and Tim Robbins. Weaver and LaPaglia will co-star in CFC's film version, directed by Simpson, who may "open up" the play by adding a few incidental characters and locations. The big screen adaptation is skedded to start shooting at the end of April and should be in theatres in time to commemorate the first anniversary of Sept. 11. (See related casting notice in this week's issue.)

And the good news is there's more filming films (based for the most part on novels, news articles, or plays) on the way in May and June. No specific start dates yet for the following—but ain't it good to know they're coming?

Riding high on his Oscar nomination for the British-based Gosford Park, Robert Altman will shoot Voltage right here in New York. Based on Robert Grossbach's recent novel, A Shortage of Engineers, this latest Altman ensemble will include Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Elliot Gould, and Liv Tyler.

Robert Downey, Jr. is headed our way to star in Six Bullets from Now, an action thriller inspired by an actual theft of over $10 million in money and valuables from the Pierre Hotel in N.Y. in the '70s. It's produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Stephan (Get Carter) Kay.

Director Allan Hruska will make Nola for Archer Entertainment (Jill Footlick and Rachel Peters), with shooting in New York currently scheduled to begin around the end of May.

Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are attached to The Real Heroes Are Dead, a film adaptation of another true-life story. This one's from the New Yorker, about a middle-aged couple who were only married for a short time when he was killed on Sept. 11. If all goes according to plan, Robbins will adapt the story and direct.

Dreamworks will distribute the latest Woody Allen Untitled Project, to star Christina Ricci and Jason Biggs. Allen will definitely write and direct, but no word yet on whether he'll also act in this one.

And Neil LaBute is adapting and directing his own Off-Broadway hit, The Shape of Things, with the original cast—Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, and Gretchen Mol—intact.

Finally, there's Solace, New Line's thriller featuring a psychic tracking a serial killer in New York, to be directed by Nick Cassavetes, plus two upcoming romantic comedies—Greg Lombardo's Knots and Harvey Frost's Did Love Just Hit Me?

As of this writing, the eagerly awaited Untitled Jim Carrey Project, a romantic comedy co-starring Nicole Kidman, (are they tall enough for each other?) is on "indefinite hold." And Susan Stroman is skedded to make her screen-directing debut with a full-length film based on the "Girl in the Yellow Dress" portion of Contact.

(Please be advised of the postcard ONLY policy at many network casting offices.)

April and May not only bring showers and flowers, but they also herald hiatus time for New York's network and cable television series. ("Third Watch" already shuttered on March 1.) Although two of HBO's Emmy winners will continue shooting until pilot season officially kicks in, we note with sadness the passing of a great New York series, A&E's "100 Centre Street." All kudos to Sidney Lumet and David Black for trying.

NBC: Law & Order is here through April 29. Principals: Lynn Kressel (Pier 62, Room 304, W. 23 St. & Hudson River, NYC 10011); background: Grant Wilfley (see address above).

Law & Order: Criminal Intent shoots until April 18 (see addresses above).

HBO: The Sopranos shoots in L.I.C. and various locations through May 3. Principals: Georgianne Walken, "Sopranos" Casting (1600 Broadway, Ste. 406, NYC 10036); background: Grant Wilfley (see address above).

Sex and the City will be shooting all the way up to Aug. 15. Principals: Jennifer McNamara (c/o Silvercup Studios, "Sex and the City," 42-22 22nd St., L.I.C., NY 11101); background: Amerifilm (151 First Ave., Ste. #225, NYC 10003).

Through April 21, the eighth Avignon/New York Film Festival invites the public to its celebration of French/New York film cultures, featuring 35 films and over 60 events, including panels and parties. Premiering at the A/NYFF are several debut films shot in town last season (all listed in "Backlot Buzz," of course), among them Dummy, Greg Pritikin's dysfunctional family tale of a painfully shy ventriloquist (Adrien Brody) and his unmarried sister (Ileana Douglas); Michelle Danne's romantic comedy, How to Go Out on a Date in Queens, starring Jason Alexander and Alison Eastwood (yep, that's Clint's daughter); plus a true hybrid, Little Senegal, by renowned French director Rachid Bouchareb, about a retired Senegalese man (Sotigui Bouyate) who searches for his roots in N.Y. For general festival info, call (212) 355-6100 ext. 234, or go to www.avignonfilmfest.com.

And here's your advance notice for the First Annual Tribeca Film Festival (May 8-12), co-founded by Robert DeNiro. It's a juried competition with such judges as director Barry Levinson and actors Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey already announced. This brand-new festival will also offer free rock and comedy concerts in Battery Park and will screen over 150 films, including the premiere of DeNiro's latest, About a Boy, co-starring Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz. For advance discount tickets, go to www.tribecafilmfestival.org.

And cable viewers, be sure to catch the Independent Film Channel (IFC)'s new original series, "Dinner for Five," promising off-the-cuff dinner conversations with such notables as Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk, and Laura Dern, hosted by "Swinger" 's own Jon Favreau. Check your local TV Guide for specific times and dates.

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