Movie File: Gregg Hoffman, Jamie Foxx, ‘Van Wilder,’ Ryan Phillippe & More

'Saw' producer passes away at 42.

Just barely a month after his latest film opened to enormous box-office success, “Saw” mastermind Gregg Hoffman has shockingly passed away. The 42-year-old producer and Twisted Pictures partner had a lengthy career that included various levels of work on films like “The Rookie,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “George of the Jungle,” but embarked upon his greatest success in 2003 when he saw an eight-minute serial-killer short film called “Saw.” After suggesting to the filmmakers that it should be made into a full-length feature, the resulting gore fest grossed several dozen times its budget; the sequel is currently nearing the $100 million mark at the box office. Hoffman had been working on the thriller “Crawlspace,” as well as a third “Saw” installment. The producer died in Los Angeles on Sunday morning and is survived by his wife Lucienne and two sons. …

12.02.2005

With Hollywood continuing its rush to address formerly taboo post-9/11 topics, Jamie Foxx and his former “Collateral” director have decided to similarly embrace the tender topic. Michael Mann will produce and Foxx will star in “The Kingdom” for director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”). Foxx has been cast as the leader of an American counter-terrorism team, deployed to a Middle Eastern country after an area attack on U.S. citizens. While navigating difficult local conditions, Foxx and his men enlist a local police officer, and the group quickly finds itself being targeted. The film joins several other terrorism-related films suddenly in the Hollywood pipeline and is expected to begin filming in May. Foxx, last seen in the military drama “Jarhead,” will be collaborating with Mann for the third time, following their currently filming big-screen adaptation of “Miami Vice.” …

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Having fulfilled his desire to park the porpoise, take it through the car wash and get himself waxed and air-dried, Taj from “Van Wilder” is now being granted an even greater wish: his very own movie. Kal Penn, also known to raunchy comedy fans as half of the “Harold & Kumar” team, is in Romania shooting “Van Wilder II: The Rise of Taj.” The sequel relocates the party liaison’s former assistant to England’s Oxford University, with hopes to further his studies. Once there he discovers the student body to be too uptight so, naturally, he decides to pass along the hard-partying wisdom bestowed upon him by his former guru. Ryan Reynolds, who rose to fame portraying Wilder in the 2002 film, has said that he will not be appearing in the sequel. “Taj” will be released theatrically and directed by Mort Nathan (“Boat Trip”). …

Shooting has begun for “Breach,” an FBI drama with a critically acclaimed stable of stars in front of the camera as well as behind it. The film tells the story of Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), a low-level surveillance officer whose dreams appear on the verge of going prime time as he’s promoted within the FBI. When he’s assigned to work with respected operative Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), he uncovers the true nature of his job: to spy on Hanssen, a suspected traitor. Inspired by true events, the script is based on the book “The Eleventh Hour” and co-stars Dennis Haysbert (“Far From Heaven,” TV’s “24″), Gary Cole (“Office Space”) and Laura Linney, who plays the devious FBI staffer overseeing the operation. Written and directed by Billy Ray (“Shattered Glass”), “Breach” is shooting in Washington, D.C., and Toronto, with plans to hit theaters in late 2006. …

11.30.2005

Pop star Jesse McCartney is shooting “Keith,” a teen drama he says he’s proud to call his movie debut. But diehard fans of the “Beautiful Soul” singer might object to the classification. “Yeah, I played a little mini part in this film called ‘Pizza,’ ” he admitted of the independent film about a delivery boy, currently making the film-festival circuit. “[I didn't get] a huge credit or anything. I was bored, and at that point I wasn’t really working a lot, and I just wanted to have some more film credits under my belt. I really didn’t even know that much about that script and I forget about it to be honest. But ['Keith'] is really what I consider to be my first big film.” …

Versatile director Ang Lee has overseen controversial dramas of the Chinese (“The Wedding Banquet”) and American (“The Ice Storm”) variety, a Hollywood blockbuster (“Hulk”) and a boundary-breaking new flick in “Brokeback Mountain.” Now the director says he’s preparing to revisit the film many consider to be his finest work: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” “It would be a prequel, if it happens,” Lee said of revisiting the world of majestic martial artistry. Currently in the earliest stages of pre-production, Lee cautioned that he won’t make the film until he’s found the proper entry point. “I haven’t found a new passion equivalent to the first one,” Lee assured “Dragon” loyalists. Stars of the breakout 2000 film — including Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang — have yet to sign on to reprise their characters. Instead of worrying about them, however, Lee is keeping his focus on getting “Dragon” in proper shape to breathe fire once again. “Once I have the script, we’ll see what happens with the actors.” …

Production has begun on the Adam Sandler-produced comedy “Strange Wilderness,” with the cast being rounded out by several recognizable names. Justin Long (“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”), Joe Don Baker (“The Dukes of Hazzard”), Ashley Scott (“Into the Blue”) and Jonah Hill (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) have joined the cast, which already included Steve Zahn, Allen Covert and Kevin Heffernan. The movie, about a group of goofy adventurers tracking Bigfoot, is shooting throughout Los Angeles. …

After more than four decades in Hollywood, Randy Quaid has earned a right to look back on past triumphs he’d like to relive — and the others he hopes to bury for good. Despite his best efforts to push a sequel to the 1973 classic “The Last Detail” on Hollywood, he says there’s nothing happening with it. “It would be interesting because it [would be] set around the Iraqi war now, and when we did ‘Detail’ it was around the Vietnam War. The parallels are there, so I think it could work.” Quaid hopes the film would adhere to “Last Flag Flying,” published earlier this year by the author who penned the original film’s source material. “[The book] updates these characters to modern times. … I read the book and it’s very wonderful,” he said. Quaid reacted quite differently, however, when asked about another visit from his most famous alter ego: crude cousin Eddie from the “Christmas Vacation” films. “No chance,” he laughed. “I think Christmas reruns is about it.” He may have hung up Eddie’s white sweater and black turtleneck dickey, but Quaid says the big lug will always hold a special place in his heart. “He was a great character,” he grinned. “But I want to do other things.” …

The pairing of visually inventive director Tim Burton and physically transformative funnyman Jim Carrey seems like a no-brainer, yet it has somehow never happened — until now. The “Bruce Almighty” megastar and “Corpse Bride” director are planning to team up for a big-budget movie about the life of Robert Ripley, the explorer and newspaper columnist behind “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” Expected to begin shooting next October for a 2007 release, the film will be more of an action-adventure than a straight-out comedy, introducing viewers to Ripley as he tours the planet looking for the world’s most extreme oddities. The project’s script has been penned by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, who previously collaborated on Carrey’s “Man on the Moon” and Burton’s “Ed Wood.” …

One-time teen heartthrob Chad Allen has taken quite the career turn: Now he’s a serious thespian starring in the upcoming historical drama “End of the Spear.” “It’s based upon a group of Christian missionaries in 1956 that were killed when they tried to make contact with what is now believed to be the most violent society that has ever existed.” The bloody tale, set in the jungles of Ecuador, begins as a story of brutality, only to become one of absolution. “I play the leader of the missionaries, and I also play Steve Saint, the son of the leader of the missionaries, who came back, lived with that tribe and made the men who killed his father the godfathers of his children. It’s an amazing story of forgiveness.” The film arrives in theaters next month. …

Extending the greatest non-Travolta Hollywood resurrection of the last decade, former “Wings”-star-turned-Oscar-nominee Thomas Haden Church has joined the upcoming Ice Cube comedy “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” Already in various stages of production on “Spider-Man 3″ and the animated films “Over the Hedge” and “Charlotte’s Web,” the actor will continue his post-”Sideways” momentum in May when “Blandings” begins shooting in New York. A remake of the 1948 Cary Grant classic, the film tells the story of a couple who leave their apartment for a suburban house that turns out to be more of a fixer-upper than they can handle. Church has been cast as Chuck, the contractor who attempts to guide Mr. Blandings (Ice Cube) through the home’s catastrophic renovation. …

With the “X-Men” franchise going strong and “Sky High” registering unexpected success earlier this year, audiences seem eager to catch a glimpse of heroes in training. According to Kate Mara (“Tadpole,” “Brokeback Mountain”), the timing is perfect for “The Return of Zoom,” a comedy also starring Courteney Cox, Tim Allen and Chevy Chase. It’s “about a group of superhero kids that are being trained by Tim Allen to use their powers to do some good.” Mara said she’ll play Summer Jones, a telekinetic much like X-Men’s Jean Grey. “I can read people’s minds and move things with my mind. … Usually superheroes are very serious and they are trying to save the world, and this is just like the goofy side of it.” The film, which Tim Allen also co-wrote, is expected in theaters in August. …

Awards season has officially begun with this week’s starting-pistol-like announcements of the Independent Spirit Awards. The quirky drama “The Squid and the Whale” leads the pack with six nominations, garnering attention for Best Picture, Best Director (Noah Baumbach), Best Male Lead (Jeff Daniels) and Best Female Lead (Laura Linney). Unsurprisingly, Philip Seymour Hoffman scored a nomination for his work in “Capote,” as did Terrence Howard for “Hustle & Flow.” Other big names getting an early jump on the Oscar race include Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”), Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”) and George Clooney — nominated as director, but not actor, for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The awards will be distributed March 4.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Jarhead,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “Capote,” “Hustle & Flow” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

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