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A look inside Hollywood and the movies : A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN : When You’re Hot, You Can Take Time to Smell the Grapes--but Not Too Long

In Hollywood, “strike while the iron is hot” is good advice for anyone, but especially for directors. The heat generated by a commercial or critical hit--even a movie that didn’t flop and earned a few good reviews--tends to attract hotter-than-average scripts and a better class of talent to make your next film with.

Not every director who’s coming off a distinctive film has a new project in hand. Some are ready to roll, others are still looking around, others are taking a breather. Here’s a rundown:

Michael Mann (“Last of the Mohicans”): He’s still looking. Mann recently decided against “Ghost in the Darkness,” a William Goldman screenplay about a lion hunt in Africa, for Paramount. Mann “was intrigued for a period but Paramount basically talked him out of it,” says an agency source. Mann’s agent, Jack Rapke of Creative Artists Agency, offered no comment.

Francis Ford Coppola (“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”): Coppola is enjoying some post-"Dracula” R&R; at his Napa Valley ranch and attending to Niebaum-Coppola Vineyards, which specializes in Rubicon (a red wine). Coppola’s American Zoetrope is still developing a script about J. Edgar Hoover, written by Larry and Paul Barber, that Coppola may direct.

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Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”): “North,” a heart-tugger about a 12-year-old kid who’s fed up with his dysfunctional parents and starts shopping around for a new pair. The script is by Alan Zweibel and Seinfeld executive producer Andy Scheinman, from a story by Zweibel. Shooting in May with release targeted at mid-1994.

Cameron Crowe (“Singles”): After spending an entire year editing “Singles,” Crowe was “so dying to write that I did three scripts in a row,” the writer-director says. “I really recommend this as writing therapy.” One of them, a two-character piece about the “Ridgemont High” generation in their 30s that “definitely doesn’t use grunge rock and definitely doesn’t take place in Seattle,” goes before the cameras in late summer or early fall. Crowe will direct with Jim Brooks’ Gracie Films producing for Columbia.

Penny Marshall (“A League of Their Own”): She’s unattached to a feature project at this time, though she’s serving as executive producer and directing the first episode of the upcoming ABC series “A League of Their Own,” based on the film. Marshall was recently offered “Forest Gump,” a whimsical comedy by Eric Roth from a novel by Winston Groom, for Paramount under producer Wendy Finerman. The proviso was that she had to commit before a late-January deadline. The date arrived and Marshall was still wavering. Tom Hanks committed to star in “Gump” with Robert Zemeckis (“Death Becomes Her”) aboard as director. Marshall’s Parkway Films partner Elliot Abbott says “we chose to let (“Gump”) go.”

Philip Noyce (“Patriot Games”): After completing Paramount’s “Sliver” with Sharon Stone and Billy Baldwin for producer Bob Evans, Noyce will direct “A Clear and Present Danger” for the studio, the latest Tom Clancy thriller (following “Patriot Games” and “The Hunt for Red October”). The “Patriot” crew regroups with Noyce: producers Mace Neufeld and Bob Rehme, writer Donald Stewart, star Harrison Ford and co-stars Anne Archer, James Earl Jones and Sam Jackson.

Tim Burton (“Batman Returns”): “Ed Wood” at Columbia, to be produced by Denise di Novi. From a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, “Wood” looks like another offbeat movie about a weird character: the notoriously deranged, supremely untalented director of the worst film ever made, “Plan Nine From Outer Space.” The film is expected to begin shooting in the spring.

Martin Brest (“Scent of a Woman”): Brest is still involved in the release of “Scent” and “hasn’t decided what he’s doing yet,” according to Alex Gartner, vice president for development for Brest’s City Lights Films. An agency source partially disagrees, claiming that what Brest “likes the most” is doing a remake of “Death Takes a Holiday,” the 1934 Fredric March movie, from a script by Jeff Reno, Ron Osborne and Kevin Wade.

Phil Alden Robinson (“Sneakers”): Currently developing a civil rights-era project with producer Sean Daniel at Universal. Robinson’s as-yet untitled script is just starting to be written.

Mick Jackson (“The Bodyguard”): “Clean Slate,” a comedy about a permanent amnesiac detective (Dana Carvey), from a script by Robert King with Jackson directing under producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck. Carvey’s character, Maurice Pogue, wakes up every morning without any memory of who he is or what’s happened to him the previous day. MGM will distribute.

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Walter Hill (“Trespass”): A Geronimo film for Columbia, produced by Neil Canton, from a script by John Milius and Larry Gross (Columbia doesn’t have the rights to the title “Geronimo” at this date). Hill and Milius are putting together an ultra-realistic take on the Apache legend.

Ridley Scott (“1492"): “Pancho’s War” at Paramount, from a script by Marcel Montecino. Set in Texas and Mexico in 1916, an arms merchant tries to sell a newfangled machine gun to Gen. Pershing, is captured by Pancho Villa’s troops, falls in love with a native woman and more. Set to film later this year and “definitely on the fast track,” according to a spokesperson at Scott’s Percy Main Productions. Denzel Washington and Andy Garcia are among the candidates for the lead role.


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