Meg Ryan | Rufus Thomas  | Memento | Sire Records    

Meg Ryan's Director Cashes In; Meg Cashes Out 

James Mangold, the director of Meg Ryan's new movie, Kate & Leopold, is now planning to film the life of country music legend Johnny Cash. There's been a lot of speculation about this project in the past, but Mangold told me last night at the premiere of K&L that Cash is a "go," as they say in the biz.

"The script is done, Johnny and June [Carter Cash] love it, so we're hoping for a September start," said the director of Girl, Interrupted, Cop Land and Heavy

"I know you're thinking of some actors who could play Johnny and so are we," Mangold said of the casting. "And think, we've got to cast a lot of other famous types from music history like Jerry Lee Lewis. It should be a lot of fun to do." 

Cash, like K&L and Cop Land, will probably be made at Miramax, where Mangold has had a home now for some time. But before he cashes in, Mangold will make I.D. over at Columbia Pictures, where he also made Girl, Interrupted. 

"I.D. is like Ten Little Indians set in one room in Las Vegas. It's a very low-budget movie, and the shoot will last 16 days. We hope to start in February." 

As for his Girl, Interrupted star Winona Ryder's brush with the law last week, Mangold said only, "I'm just not talking about it. I really like her and I don't know anything.”  

Meg Ryan, by the way, didn't do herself any favors last night at said event. While co-stars Hugh Jackman, Breckin Meyer, and the hot as a pistol Liev Schreiber made the scene, chatted with press, and schmoozed in general, Ryan made the briefest of appearances, then skidaddled. 

I guess she was nervous that people might ask her about the breakup of her marriage, Russell Crowe, her last two movies flopping like flounders (Proof of Life, Hanging Up) or her enigmatic comments to Jay Leno last week to the effect that she should stop doing ditzy romantic comedies. 

My advice, Meg: talk to Demi Moore, fast. She's a lot wiser now. 

 Rufus Walks the Dog One Last Time  

Funeral services for the late and very great Rufus Thomas will be held this Thursday, Dec. 20, at noon at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on North Bellevue in Memphis. This should be quite an event. Everyone from the history of soul music is expected, especially those from Stax/Volt records. Even though Al Green is unpredictable about showing up at events, I dare say he'd better be in that church paying his respects. 

Rufus's greatest hits are available through amazon.com and cdnow.com, of course, on his own records, on the great Stax box set and on records with his daughter Carla. His loss is a tremendous one to people of a certain age who remember what real music was before karaoke, lip-synching and computer programming. 

Rufus was a comic on stage and on radio, but he was a music man. The music was in him, and he was serious about his craft when he was presenting it himself or through others. Everything in his act that looked ad-libbed was planned meticulously. He knew what he was doing. That's why so many in the R&B world credit him with being their teacher. 

Memento Gains Oscar Momentum 

I've been a fan of Christpher Nolan's thriller Memento since I saw it at last year's Sundance Film Festival. Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Film Critics gave Nolan their award for Best Screenplay. He deserved it. This clever story is a mind-blower. 

Additionally, Owen Gleiberman, movie critic of Entertainment Weekly, picked it as his No. 1 film of the year. A wise choice. 

The folks who financed Memento, an outfit called Newmarket Film Group, bought the film for $4.5 million — approximately what it cost to make. I am told that in addition to its $26 million box-office take, the film has also taken in $60 million in DVD sales. Hey, I even bought one and I could have had it for free. 

For all that, though, Newmarket has not even hired a publicist for an Oscar campaign. This is a serious mistake. Both Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano are possible candidates for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The screenplay will probably be nominated. Nolan's brilliant direction is akin to Spike Jonze's heralded work in Being John Malkovich

Academy voters should make an effort to get this DVD or VHS tape if they haven't already. The great indie films of 2001 — Memento, Sexy Beast, Ghost World, An American Rhapsody, The Deep End, The Business of Strangers and In the Bedroom — point to the future of the movie industry. We need them to be successful. 

Sire Records, R.I.P. 

Warner Music Group has claimed another victim in its housecleaning. Sire-London Records, which used to be two companies, folded on Friday. 

Sire, long a part of the Warner stable, was founded by Seymour Stein. He discovered MadonnaThe Ramones, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and the Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club. Seymour put out Plastic Bertrand's classic single "Ça Plane Pour Moi," as well as dozens of other key records of the 1980s. He also issued the CDs by Yaz, or Yazoo, which featured the great singer Alison Moyet. The list goes on and on. A Sire release was always exciting and an instant classic. What a shame to see it go because WMG is in such disarray. 

London Records was home to The Rolling Stones, Procol Harum and the Moody Blues, among others, when it was distributed and owned by Polygram. But when Polygram was merged into MCA Universal, thanks to Edgar Bronfman Jr., London left the fold and went over to Warner, where it was added to Sire. Now Bronfman has led his family into financial panic and stepped aside at Universal, but the damage is done. London, like so many Polygram institutions, is dead. Bronfman's legacy is assured. 

As for Stein, a beloved and smart character in the music business, he did manage last week to get the Talking Heads and The Ramones into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he created with Jann Wenner. His place in history, as self-written, is secure. And for better or worse, there really would have been no Madonna without Seymour.

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