YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Is the 'Hot Zone' Film Too Hot for Ridley Scott? : Movies: Financial issues cloud whether the director will continue on the Fox suspense drama as a rival virus movie proceeds at Warners.


The fragile and difficult nature of putting together big Hollywood movies was underscored this week when the race to make two competing virus movies intensified between 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.

On Thursday, Fox-based producer Lynda Obst was struggling to save director Ridley Scott from falling out of her movie "Hot Zone," which is scheduled to begin production May 15.

Meanwhile, across town, producer Arnold Kopelson was biting his nails waiting for a final draft on rival project "Outbreak," being written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Ted Tally ("Silence of the Lambs"), so he could begin shooting with director Wolfgang Petersen ("In the Line of Fire").

While Kopelson is still looking for a star for his $40-million movie, Robert Redford's name has surfaced in Hollywood trade papers as the lead for "Hot Zone."

However, a key source close to Redford, said Thursday, "He is not attached to the project. As far as Bob is concerned, there is not a script he has committed to . . . it's nowhere near ready to go."

For days, rumors have circulated in Hollywood that Obst was in danger of losing Scott. Complications arose with a deal for this movie and the existing $25-million financing and domestic distribution arrangement that Scott and his brother Tony have with Italy's RCS Films & TV, London's Majestic Films Intl. and 20th Century Fox. Last-minute negotiations to resolve financial issues were still underway by presstime Thursday.

Mimi Polk, president of Scott's production company RCS/PMP Films, insisted that "we're proceeding forward to make this picture and feel that all the things can be worked out with Fox." She added, "It's a movie he's very enthusiastic about making with Bob Redford."

At the same time, sources suggested that Scott and Redford have had significant creative differences over the script. Polk denied that there was any conflict between Scott and Redford.

But a source said "Redford and Ridley are not getting along. They could not see eye to eye on changes in the existing script."

For days, there have been rumblings in Hollywood that not all was calm on the project, even that Scott had fallen out and that director Sydney Pollack ("The Firm") or John McTiernan ("Last Action Hero") were in the wings as possible replacements.

A source on the Fox lot insisted that "they're still making their deals . . . everybody is hanging in."

Although Obst found the project for the studio, Scott's production company was allowed to put its imprimatur on the project. However, because Scott retains foreign rights to films he makes, wrinkles developed that could affect a potential deal with Redford, sources said. Redford normally gets paid a multimillion-dollar fee up front against 10%-15% of the gross depending on how much the movie brings in at the box office.

While Kopelson's rival film "Outbreak" is trying to wind its way to production, sources said that it could be a doomed project if Obst gets hers off the ground first.

Both films center around deadly viruses, but have different story lines. "Hot Zone" is based on a New Yorker article about a U.S. Army biological strike team's race to stop a deadly virus from escaping into an American city. Kopelson would only say that "Outbreak" is about a "deadly virus that is out of control."

Kopelson, whose "The Fugitive" is up for multiple Oscars including best picture, said that his original script, written by Laurence Dworet and Robert Pool, is now being polished by Tally, who is expected to deliver the draft in April.

"I think the race is over," Kopelson said. "If, in fact, Ridley Scott is out of it and they are on the street looking for another director, they are going to have to do a lot of catching up. I suspect that with the Tally script, we're going to be out there first."

The race between Warner Bros. and Fox not only points up the complexities of putting together big-budget, star-driven movies, but is another example of how important it is for a studio to be the first out of the chute when there are competing projects.

Los Angeles Times Articles