SHORT CUTS: Will Smith Rules the "Empire"

Published October 18, 2007

Posted Oct. 11, 2007 -- Columbia Pictures has acquired "Empire," a drama that will reunite Michael Mann and Will Smith. In the Smith will play a contemporary global media mogul.

"Empire" puts Smith back in the ring with Mann for the first time since "Ali." Mann has been working with the actor on his latest film, "Hancock" (formerly "Tonight, He Comes"), the Peter Berg-directed Columbia Pictures drama that stars Smith as a disaffected superhero.

Up next for Smith is the drama "I Am Legend," which opens Dec. 14, and he is in pre-production on "Seven Pounds," that reteams him with "Pursuit of Happyness" director Gabriele Muccino.

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In more Will Smith news, his Overbrook Entertainment is is making a major push in television with a slate of various TV projects, which includes a series version of Will Smith's hit feature "Hitch" and a comedy starring OutKast's Big Boi.

The projects include "Raw Materials," a relationship comedy for ABC from the Oscar-nominated writing duo Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; "Almost," a supernatural drama for A&E; a drama for FX about a "straight edge" punk crew; and "Gimmee Twenty," a special starring investment guru Mellody Hobson, at ABC News. In April, the company scored an animated series on BET. "The Cipha," a futuristic hip-hop series about rappers with superpowers, is slated to premiere in 2008.

HBO's "Roc"-ky Mountain High

Charles S. Dutton has signed an exclusive deal with HBO which calls for him to act in and direct series, movies and miniseries projects for the cable network.

"HBO has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with 'Roc' Dutton, and we are looking forward to teaming up with him on other exciting ventures," said Michael Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations.      

Dutton's first partnership with HBO was his 1997 directorial debut, "First Time Felon." He went on to helm the acclaimed HBO miniseries "The Corner," for which he received an Emmy for best director. He has also made guest appearances on HBO's drama series "The Sopranos" and "Oz."

Snipes Gets Trial Delay

Wesley Snipes has managed to evade his tax-evasion trial, momentarily. A federal judge has postponed the actor's case to allow Snipes' newly hired legal crew more time to prepare the actor's defense. The proceedings, originally set to begin Oct. 22, now won't get started unitl January.

U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges ruled in favor of a motion by the actor's new lead attorney, Robert Barnes, who told the court the continuance would allow him to get up to snuff after Snipes dumped his previous counsel, William Martin, due to a "complete lack of trust and confidence."

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Lathan Swirls Again in "Wonderful World"

Sanaa Lathan is set to star with stage and screen star Matthew Broderick in the upcoming film, "Wonderful World."

Variety reports that the independent feature centers on a depressed, divorced and unemployed father who finds solace in his Senegalese roommate's sister. Production is scheduled to begin Oct. 19 in Shreveport, La. under writer/director Joshua Goldin.

Lathan recently starred as the lover of Julian McMahon's character Christian Troy in "Nip/Tuck" and last appeared on the big screen giving interracial love a chance in the 2006 film "Something New," opposite Baker. She also has a starring role in ABC's forthcoming adaptation of the 2004 Broadway production of "A Raisin in the Sun," for which she received a Tony nomination.

New Additions to Cedric Comedy

Charles Malik Whitfield and Melissa Peterman round out the cast of Cedric the Entertainer's untitled family pilot for ABC.

The multicamera project, from ABC Studios, centers on a family man (Cedric) who has always been the proud breadwinner and has difficulty adjusting when his wife's (Regina Hall) hobby turns into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Whitfield will play Thomas "The Wiz" Osgood, Cedric's oldest friend, whose poor judgment always seems to lead to trouble for the duo. Peterman is set to play the wife of Cedric's new neighbor (Peter Mackenzie). Whitfield's credits include CBS' drama "The Guardian." Peterman played Barbra Jean for five seasons on "Reba."

 

Written by BET-Staff

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