Published November 11, 2004
You may be wondering whatever happened to "Mission: Impossible 3."
The Tom Cruise star vehicle was set for pre-production this past summer. But then Cruise fired director Joe Carnahan and the movie went into limbo.
Now, even though TV's J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Felicity") has signed up to replace Carnahan, insiders are still talking about the disastrous situation and its ramifications.
In fact, my sources tell me that Carnahan never really had a script for the third movie in the series.
"When it came down to it, the real script was only about 60 or 70 pages," a source said.
The average screenplay runs about 120 pages, or a page per minute of screen time.
"The rest of it," the source said, "was in Tom's head."
"MI:3" was budgeted for almost $200 million, with locations in 15 countries — give or take. Cruise was determined to make the biggest movie ever, but had no actual plan for executing the scheme.
The overwhelming nature of the project was ultimately too much for Carnahan, whose previous experience was limited to indie films like the Ray Liotta flick "Narc."
Nevertheless, Cruise — now filming Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" — was already envisioning himself as the star of a super-successful "MI:3."
This may be because his last few films —"Collateral," "The Last Samurai" and "Vanilla Sky" —have not exactly added to the myth of Cruise being the biggest star in Hollywood.
I am told that Cruise actually assembled a trailer for "MI:3," including credits, voiceovers and clips, that he screened for friends as a way to bolster his own ego. Trailers, as most movie fans know, are made after a film is completed, not before it's even been shot.
The failure of "MI:3" to come together is said to be one yet another reasons for the departure of Paramount chief executive Sherry Lansing.
The beleaguered studio head was said to be frantic last summer when she saw "MI:3" unraveling and couldn't do anything about it. At one point, she is said to have approached several potential replacements for Carnahan, even though there was no finished script.
"Sherry needed 'MI:3' for 2005," a source said.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer is still preaching good sex and praising herself for it.
At last night's premiere of Bill Condon's excellent new film, "Kinsey," about groundbreaking sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, Dr. Ruth said, "If Kinsey were here, he would tell me I'm doing a great job."
She's probably right, but the other people who've done a great job are writer-director Condon and stars Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. They are all headed to the Oscars and Golden Globes with this phenomenally well-made film.
Linney stars as Kinsey's wife and mother of his three kids in a performance of great nuance, subtlety and complexity. The two actors work together beautifully, and one reason is that they've appeared together on Broadway in two plays in the last two years. Their comfort with each other on screen is obvious.
"Kinsey" is not an easy movie, especially in this time of voter "morality." Condon makes it a frank discussion of sex, dating from a time when the subject was not spoken of in detail in public. The Kinseys set the world on its ear, and in doing so made themselves targets of several groups. Director Condon says nothing has changed, really.
"We're already hearing from protest groups who want to picket the film when it opens on Friday," he said.
But there is never a moment when "Kinsey" is anything less than absorbing. Neeson does his best work since "Schindler's List," turning Alfred Kinsey from an eccentric and somewhat neurotic scientist into a sympathetic and charismatic seer.
Somehow the strapping, six-foot-something movie star transforms himself into a stoop-shouldered, abused and neglected man who overcomes his own fears to become a pioneer in a controversial field.
Kinsey also has some nice "insider" trivia in it as Neeson gets to have a terrific scene toward the end of the film with Lynn Redgrave, who is the aunt of his real-life wife Natasha Richardson. Redgrave, you may recall, nearly stole 1998's "Gods and Monsters," which Condon directed and wrote the screenplay for.
And Linney got a surprise from Condon too, when she discovered he'd cast her father, playwright Romulus Linney (search), in a small role.
"No one told me about it before it happened," she said last night. "They didn't even run it by me. I had told Bill that my father was a good actor, so they called him to read for the part. I only found out later."
Other guests at last night's premiere included the folks who run the Kinsey Institute. It's located in Bloomington, Ind., described by one of the staffers as "a little island" in the middle of the Midwest. And no, the days of orgies and participatory sex for research are long gone, these ladies who run the institute told me.
But the best story of the night didn't come from anyone associated with the film, but from Sam Wolfson and Bryan Fogel, the writers-stars of a new hit off Broadway comedy called "Jewtopia."
Seems a woman at yesterday's matinee seated in the front row decided she didn't like her obscured-view seat while the show was going on.
"Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a desk on stage moving while I was talking," Wolfson told me. "This lady just decided she couldn't see, so she moved a prop on the stage."
This wasn't so good for Fogel, whose stage exit the audience member had rendered impossible.
"I run off in the dark and suddenly there was something there. I didn't know what was going on," Fogel said.
And that's only in New York, folks. The woman, by the way, wisely did not present herself backstage afterward for an autograph.