Film News

Under Tim McCanlies' Spell; plus, accolades aplenty all over Austin

Rosanky resident Tim McCanlies (Secondhand Lions) has just turned in the first draft of A Spell for Chameleon, which might be Warner Bros.' next big fantasy franchise and the wordsmith's highest-profile script since The Iron Giant. Warner has optioned the entire run of author Piers Anthony's Xanth series, which includes 29 books, beginning with Spell. The story follows a boy trying to discover his power in a world where everyone claims some magical gift. "With Harry Potter winding down," McCanlies says, "they need a new series." McCanlies is working with Wolfgang Peterson on the project, which he terms a comedy in the Shrek vein, and either of the two men could end up directing. Meanwhile, McCanlies hopes to be behind the lens by spring in Austin helming his lower-budget project, described as a capital city take on The Big Lebowski. He'll be polishing a script over the holidays.

Frequent Austin visitor/resident Dennis Quaid is also taking pen in hand for the Spade Cooley biopic Shame on You, which he'll also direct and star in. Western swinger Cooley was a music star in the Forties who killed his wife in the Sixties while his daughter watched. He died backstage at a 1969 benefit concert for which he was granted special permission to perform. Katie Holmes is in talks to portray Cooley's wife. Sounds like a natural for an Austin shoot, but don't quote me on that.

South Austin Pictures has wrapped its first project, Everything or Nothing, starring Natasha Melnick (Freaks and Geeks) as a young woman who must re-create herself after falling into a life of drugs and prostitution. Gary Chason (Dusty in Dear Pillow) directed Mary Sue Duetz's script. Also in the cast are Frank Sinatra Jr., Joe King Carrasco, and Chasen's lovely Pillow castmate Viviane Vives.

Props to my homies: Richard Linklater's Before Sunset continues as a critics' darling with a best picture nomination for the Independent Feature Project's New York Gotham Awards (Sideways won), special recognition for excellence in filmmaking from the National Board of Review (along with Undertow, penned by Austin's Joe Conway), and an Independent Spirit Award nom from IFP's West Coast branch for screenwriting (along with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy)... Dear Pillow writer/director Bryan Poyser and producer/director of photography/editor Jacob Vaughan are also up for an Independent Spirit Award in the Someone to Watch category... Texas native Thomas Haden Church took best supporting actor from the National Board of Review for Sideways... Austinite Kyle Henry's "Room" and former Austinites Jay and Mark Duplass' "The Puffy Chair" have been selected for the 2005 Sundance Film Festival... "Rio Peligroso: A Day in the Life of a Legendary Coyote," co-directed by Duane Graves ("Up Syndrome") and Justin Meeks, won the first round of Kevin Smith's Movies Askew contest and will be featured on a DVD release next year as well as considered for a feature-length project. You can watch it at

Funny business: The University of Texas steals the show in the first trailer for Tommy Lee Jones' Austin-shot Man of the House (formerly Cheer Up). See it at And Harold Ramis is directing Owen Wilson in a comedy? Sweet. I'll pass on details when I get them.

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Tim McCanlies, Spell of Chameleon, Dennis Quaid, Katie Holmes, Spider Cooley, Piers Anthony, Xanth, Tommy Lee Jones, Owen Wilson, Harold Ramis, Movies Askew, Kevin Smith, Justin Meeks, Duane graves, Jay Duplass, mark Duplass, Kyle Henry, Sundance Film Festival, Dear Pillow, Before Sunset

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