Ellen DeGeneres has sitcoms in her blood, and The WB is banking on her daytime charms working again during primetime. The Emmy-winning actor/comedian is teaming with her brother, writer-producer Vance DeGeneres, to create an as-yet-untitled pilot script told from the perspective of both a family and its pets. Ellen, no stranger to voicing adorable animals after “Finding Nemo,” will provide the voice of the family dog. Of course, a network pilot commitment means little for real TV-watching humans and their pets; if it’s not picked up to become a full-fledged series, then the public will never see it. But Ellen’s Hollywood clout is at an all-time high these days, so chances are good she’ll soon be barking up a storm.
I’m not that kind of rancher
Asked his opinion of the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” President Bush hemmed and hawed this week before he finally acknowledged he had heard about the movie. “I’d be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven’t seen the movie,” Bush said during a question and answer session at Kansas State University. The man who asked Bush the question suggested he should see it. “You would love it,” the man said. “You should check it out.” According to “Brokeback Mountain’s” producer, James Schamus, someone at the White House has seen the movie. Schamus said the White House asked the studio for a copy of the movie and it was supplied.
Nicholas Ray, “‘Interrupted’
Veteran director Philip Kaufman is no stranger to adventurers. His films have explored the worlds of American astronauts (“The Right Stuff”) and literary sexual libertines (“Henry and June,” “Quills”). That’s one reason the 69-year-old filmmaker is a good fit for “I Was Interrupted,” a film biography of the life of legendary Hollywood director Nicholas Ray. Ray is best remembered as the director of “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Johnny Guitar,” and “In a Lonely Place.” He was also a bisexual alcoholic who had love affairs with Natalie Wood and Wood’s biographer, Gavin Lambert. The script, based on Ray’s memoir of the same name and written by Oren Moverman (“Jesus’ Son”), will focus on the 1970s, the last decade of Ray’s life. The film should see screens sometime in 2007.
“‘The Family Stone’ director’s new family
Thomas Bezucha’s Hollywood stock keeps rising, which means that the gay director of the crowd-pleasing comedies “Big Eden” and “The Family Stone” is already hard at work on his next film. Based on a pitch Bezucha made to Fox, his latest is a comedy/drama about a 30-something widow’s painful adjustment to life as the single mother of a 12-year-old son. When a new man does enter the picture, a difficult emotional triangle develops. Much like his first two efforts, the movie currently known as “Untitled Thomas Bezucha Project” will be written and directed by Bezucha and produced by “Stone’s” Michael London.
“‘Forgiving’ Zak Spears
There’s a small club of adult film stars who’ve crossed over into mainstream acting roles, with Tracy Lords being the most successful. Now it might be Zak Spears’ turn. A gay porn icon, Spears appeared briefly in Gregg Araki’s 1995 feature “The Doom Generation.” But it’s his latest acting role that will have audiences talking. Spears (featured under what is presumably his given name, Khris Scaramanga) can soon be seen in “Forgiving the Franklins,” a black comedy recently screened at the Sundance Film Festival about a born-again Christian family involved in an auto accident. They die, meet Jesus who removes their original sin and return to life as innocents devoted to their own pleasure. Spears/Scaramanga plays the high school football coach who becomes sexually involved with the Franklins’ 18-year-old gay son, with shocking consequences. Look for the indie comedy at queer film festivals soon.
Hatch’s latest scheme fails
Gay “Survivor” star Richard Hatch wasn’t so lucky this week in a Rhode Island court where he fought tax evasion charges. Hatch was handcuffed and taken into custody after a federal judge declared him a flight risk. A jury had just found him guilty of failing to pay taxes on his $1 million winnings from his participation on the television show. He also was convicted of failing to pay taxes on $327,000 he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and $28,000 in rent on property he owned. He was acquitted of seven bank, mail and wire fraud charges. The 44-year-old faces 13 years in prison and a fine of $600,000. Sentencing will be April 28. Jurors deliberated for less than a day after more than a week of testimony.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 27, 2006.