Stars missing in action

The lowdown on when Indiana Jones, James Cameron and Mad Max will be back
“Whatever happened to …” doesn’t just apply to former child stars-turned-liquor store bandits in the pages of People.
In Hollywood, the missing include living legends (Marlon Brando until his massively-timely death), the almost-weres (Gretchen Mol), gifted filmmakers (Stanley Kubrick averaged a film per decade) and long-awaited movies that inch, crawl and claw their way through what’s affectionately known as “development hell.” In some cases — George Lucas’ Star Wars films, for example — the long-awaited films actually come to fruition.
In other cases, they end up like Brando himself: bloated, derelict, costly and internally unspooled.
The chances of this happening are thinner than Calista Flockhart since her boyfriend Harrison Ford — the titular adventurer in this series of classic films — is now older than Sean Connery was when he played Indy’s creaky-boned dad. Ford, Lucas and director Steven Spielberg have been tinkering with this movie since 1994, overseeing a revolving door of scripts and concepts — some of which had Indy searching for flying saucers and Kevin Costner playing his evil brother. Then things finally looked like a lock in 2003 when Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont was signed to pen the screenplay. A production start was set (June 2004) and a release date declared (July 2005). Darabont’s hush-hush script was set in the ’50s and replaced Nazis as bad guys with Soviets. Ford loved the script. So did Spielberg. So why aren’t they shooting? Lucas thought it needed work — that it wasn’t fast-paced enough, that it was too character-driven. And as anyone who has seen The Phantom Menace can tell you, Lucas knows good writing. So while it may still happen one day, someday — it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Nothing paralyses a perfectionist like success. So when Cameron achieved the zenith of his profession (11 Oscars and the all-time box office crown for Titanic in 1997), he predictably retreated. Since then he’s tinkered with new technology (a 3-D camera that Robert Rodriguez utilized on Spy Kids 3) and return trips to the bottom of the ocean (his documentary Ghosts of the Abyss). Now, though, it appears Cameron is going to direct another movie — reportedly based on the Japanese comic book Battle Angel Alita (about a robot girl in a post-apocalyptic realm). Cameron hasn’t confirmed that — he’ll only say he’s working on a big-budget science fiction extravaganza — but it appears increasingly likely that moviegoers will see it in 2006.
Malick waited 20 years between films — the glorious Days of Heaven in the ’70s to The Thin Red Line in the ’90s — but is now stepping behind the camera again with the 1600s-era epic The New World. Starring Colin Farrell and Christian Bale, it explores the effect European settlers had on Native Americans, including Pocahontas.
Mel Gibson was all set to reprise his role as Mad Max when the war in Iraq exploded. The problem? The movie was set to film in Africa and the producers, fearing for their safety, put the brakes on the sequel. Problem is, once a movie like this goes off the rails, it’s nearly impossible to get it moving again. And, sure enough, at last report, Fury Road was closed down — possibly for good.
Quentin Tarantino has long toyed with teaming Michael Madsen and John Travolta in a film since — as Tarantino mythology has it — their characters in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were brothers. But the uber-geek director takes his own sweet time — and doesn’t appear motivated to put this film into motion. His dilemma? The longer he waits, the older the actors get and, as you’ll recall, they both died in their movies — meaning any future film would have to be a prequel and the characters younger than they were a decade ago.
If you can’t get a sequel to one of the biggest hits in history off the ground, imagine trying to mount a production of a much-admired literary property. Yet this Pulitzer Prize-winner came achingly close with Will Ferrell starring as Ignatius J. Reilly. But creative clashes scuttled the project earlier this year with Ferrell recently acknowledging that he’s no longer involved with it. Instead he’ll work on a property with nearly the same weight and intellectual value — a big-screen version of Bewitched. Who’s the dunce now?