Summer Movies: Villains and Heroes, Robots and Mad Men

By the time you read this, screenwriter Allan Loeb (21, Things We Lost In The Fire) will have handed in his second draft of the long-awaited Wall Street 2 to 20th Century Fox. (Although the great Stanley Weiser and his film-school pal Oliver Stone were credited as writers of the original pic, Stephen Schiff was first to script the sequel.) I heard Loeb’s first draft was “so great” that Stone didn’t feel the need to touch it — yet. But no one expects the director to stay hands-off on the second draft since principal photography begins on August 10. The film’s release is now planned for February 2010.


Exclusive Details About Wall Street 2

So here’s the oh-so-secret plot of Wall Street 2 and who’s playing who:

Michael Douglas, as everyone already knows, reprises his Best Actor Oscar–winning role as Gordon Gekko. But what hasn’t been reported is that, as the movie begins, it’s 21 years later and Mister “Greed Is Good” has finished serving his prison sentence. He finds himself on the fringe of the financial community. “Kinda like Jim Cramer or Mike Milken after their disgrace,” an insider with the pic tells me.

Gekko is cautioning Wall Street that the “end is coming,” but nobody is listening. So he’s obsessed with trying to repair his ruptured relationship with his daughter. That juicy actress role hasn’t been cast yet. But I’d love it if Stone had the balls to bring back Sean Young as Mom in spite of their notorious falling-out during the filming of the original.

Enter Shia LaBeouf, reported to be in negotiations and set to co-star. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One day every Hollywood movie will star this guy, who turns 23 on June 11. The script has LaBeouf as a young Wall Street trader engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter.

LaBeouf’s character wants to be a major player, but his mentor unexpectedly kills himself, and LaBeouf thinks a stock-shorting worldwide hedge-fund manager is responsible. LaBeouf seeks revenge on this villain, to be played by No Country for Old Men Best Supporting Actor Oscar–winner Javier Bardem. So LaBeouf goes to Gekko, saying, “I need your help,” and makes a Faustian deal with him. In return, Gekko wants LaBeouf’s help getting back with the daughter. From then on, it’s “antagonism” for everyone, my insider says.

I’m told Wall Street 2’s story spans from June 2008 to the federal bailout. “We wanted to see some perspective in the same way that the original dealt with insider trading,” a source explains to me. Meanwhile, a long list of Wall Street types are offering their help to make sure the script is accurate.


Transformers 2 Is Tracking Huge

Paramount is gonna call me screaming any moment. But rival studios expect Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen to open with a high of $175 million for its five-day run from Wednesday, June 24, to Sunday, June 28. Because the sequel came onto tracking huge on June 1, Paramount will try to lower expectations. But here’s what can’t be argued: Spider-Man 2 opened on Wednesday, June 30, 2004, and did $152 million in its first five days. So Transformers 2 feels like it should at least be in the $160 million–plus range. (See my box-office report on Transformers 1.)


AMC Squeezing Mad Men in Season 3

With the Lionsgate TV series Mad Men set to make its Season 3 debut in August on AMC, I’m told there’s a big fight leading up to the premiere over ads, of all things. AMC has told the show’s producers to make allowances for another commercial break each hour — so that’ll be two minutes fewer of actual programming.

That might not sound like such a big deal, but it’s galling given how well the show has done, how carefully it’s put together and how much money it’s already making AMC and parent company Cablevision, which recently announced a $20 million first-quarter profit while subsidiary Rainbow Media cited a 7.6 percent increase in ad sales.

Naturally, the suits are blaming the bad economy and saying the show simply doesn’t bring in enough revenue. Producers are making a big stink, but it looks like AMC isn’t budging. At a time when networks are cutting back on commercial breaks, you have to wonder why AMC is screwing its golden goose. How can Mad Men compete with premium cable when basic cable is squeezing it for every penny?


Chase Carey in Talks With News Corp.

The president and CEO of DirecTV may ride in as a hero to help his close pal and longtime boss Rupert Murdoch by replacing Peter Chernin. Former co–chief operating officer, with Chernin, of News Corp., Chase Carey is negotiating to be No. 2 when Chernin leaves as prez/COO at the end of June.
    Back in the day, Carey not only used to speak for the boss but also carried water for Murdoch on many battlegrounds, from fighting Nielsen’s ratings system and attacking other media conglomerates to landing DirecTV for News Corp. Carey became president/CEO of DirecTV in 2003, when Murdoch finally acquired a 34 percent controlling interest in the U.S.’s largest home-satellite TV service. But in December 2006, John Malone horse-traded his large stake in News Corp. for DirecTV, and Carey stayed on. But he also had to resign as a director on News Corp.’s board.
     For months now, there has been endless speculation that Carey may return to News Corp. Even longtime Wall Street media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen recently suggested in a broker’s note that Carey may return as an “interesting potential solution’’ to Murdoch’s need for a designated No. 2.
     Carey has been downplaying all the chatter, telling reporters in March, “I’m focused on moving DirecTV forward and enjoying what I’m doing with DirecTV.” But who else has previously served on News Corp.’s board, shared power with Chernin and overseen so many parts of Murdoch’s diverse empire? (Carey was also a senior exec at Sky Global Networks, Fox TV and Fox Inc.)
     No one else is so ready to backstop Murdoch without a steep learning curve.But Murdoch’s media conglomerate is in a very different place from where it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Instead of a conquerer, Murdoch now needs a conciliator, since cooperation is the name of the game among Big Media. Witness the integral role Chernin played in the inception and growth of alongside NBC Universal and now Disney. But News Corp.’s Fox TV and film businesses in the U.S. reported to Chernin, and I hear that may not be the case if Carey moves over. Which means that Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, who recently got big promotions and now oversee all TV and film production, could still be reporting directly to Murdoch.

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