Quentin Tarantino | Darius Rucker | Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney 

Tarantino to Exec Produce Hip Marvel Comics Film

First it was X-Men. Then this week comes Spider-Man. And in the not-too-distant future, Ang Lee's take on The Hulk.

Marvel Comics, left for dead a couple of years ago, has suddenly revived into a source for big-budget films.

Now I can tell you that another one is in the offing, maybe the most interesting of the bunch.

Quentin Tarantino has agreed to executive produce Mort the Dead Teenager, from a four-book mini-series of comics written by Larry Hama several years ago. Tarantino will make the movie with partner Lawrence Bender and their A Band Apart Productions, currently shooting Kill Bill with Uma Thurman. Madonna's Maverick Films, run by Mark Morgan, will co-produce and Dimension/Miramax will distribute the film.

Director Dean Paraskevopoulos (who directed 1998's Too Smooth with Neve Campbell under the shortened Paras) inherits that role after several others passed or passed out along the way.

Mort is not a superhero. He's a teen-ager who loses his head literally when he's decapitated in a train accident. New York-based Hama told me yesterday that he came up with the title first when he was writing the series, then had to figure out a story.

"When I was at Marvel I kept saying, 'Why don't we adapt some of these things like X-Men or Spider-Man into movies?' The response was, 'They're already taken.' So I thought we should come up with some new characters who could be turned into movie characters."

Unfortunately, Mort was too dark and too hip when he was launched. Consequently only four issues were completed. Hama moved on. Mort went out of print and became a cult classic. Several years later, Hama met with Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, who bought the books for adaptation.

And then, the dreaded turnaround, where Mort has languished until now.

Paraskevopoulos will, I am told, use the same script Zemeckis had commissioned by writer Jim Cooper. Actress Dominique Swain is said to be at the top of the list for Mort's girlfriend, and Mort may still be played by Elijah Wood, who was attached to the Zemeckis version.

A happy ending, but one not too surprising. All good films usually wind up at Bender's door (Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, Jackie Brown).

And here's a little trivia — maybe this is the beginning of the Paraskevopoulos dynasty. According to the Internet, the director's sister, Chrissy, has a small part in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Darius Rucker Doesn't Give a Hoot

Remember Hootie and the Blowfish? They sold millions of copies of their first album at Atlantic Records and a made a huge splash on MTV. Then the sophomore jinx set in, Atlantic got a case of nerves, and Hootie almost disappeared.

But not the lead singer. Darius Rucker is finally releasing his solo album. It's called Back to Then but it's not on Atlantic, for which Hootie still records. It's on Hidden Beach Records, which is distributed by Sony. Hidden Beach also records such high-quality acts as Jill Scott and Brenda Russell.  

Hootie is not dead. Darius told me the group is finishing its new album right now, with him. But Back to Then is different. It's his. I can tell you that I was very impressed with all the songs, including the single "Wild One." Rucker without Hootie is soulful, gritty and in a groove. He has Memphis horns backing him too.

So how does he feel about Atlantic abandoning him? "It's OK. They had to make a business decision, but I'm still in business with them with Hootie. It's all worked out."

Rucker said that when the first Hootie album broke wide, the group was touring and didn't have time for much excess. Even though it seemed like they played a lot of golf, he realized, "We play more now, I think."

Darius performed live last night at an interesting gathering for Sister2Sister magazine's annual gala. The Puck Building ballroom was filled with record execs from various labels including J Records, Arista, Island Def Jam, DreamWorks, and Atlantic. Awards were handed out, backs were patted, but when Rucker took the stage, people hushed up and listened. Maybe they'll go out and buy the record when it comes out next month.

Mariah's Woes, McCartney's Plans Travel

I'm flattered to note that this column's extensive coverage of Mariah Carey's vindication concerning Glitter was widely picked up by the grocery store tabloid press. Of course, they didn't bother crediting us, but then again the "National whatever" didn't even cite XXL magazine's interview with Irv Gotti which revealed that Sony's Tommy Mottola stole music from Mariah …

Meanwhile, wasn't it only Monday when we wrote about Paul McCartney's in-laws being happy with his upcoming new marriage? Refurbished, that story has started to make its way around the world without the Fox 411 byline.

You're welcome everyone! We're working as fast we can!

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