Screen Talk - A rap Phoenix rises

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The Independent Culture

Living and working in Hollywood can be a strange, rarefied existence, so it should come as no surprise when chums end up making movies about each other.

The latest example features the actor Joaquin Phoenix, brother of the late River, who is embarking on a new path. As a rapper. The twice Oscar-nominated Joaquin, who memorably portrayed Johnny Cash in 'Walk the Line', has enlisted the producer talents of Sean Combs, aka Diddy, to help launch his new career. And his pal Casey Affleck, younger brother of Ben, the former fiancé of Combs's ex Jennifer Lopez, is directing a documentary film following their efforts. Just don't mention vanity projects to any of them.

Ghostly Polanski
The buzz is building on Roman Polanski's adaptation of Robert Harris's novel 'The Ghost'. The movie, in pre-production in Germany, is being adapted by Harris with Polanski lending a hand. The tale of a ghostwriter hired to finish the memoir of a former British prime minister stars Pierce Brosnan as the fictional ex-PM, Olivia Williams as his wife, Kim Cattrall (right) as the private secretary and Ewan McGregor as the ghostwriter.

Funny is money
Will Smith, one of few stars trusted by the studios to open a movie, recently made a telling plea. At the British premiere of 'Seven Pounds', the actor told fans that if they supported his latest dramatic turn, he promised "to make a comedy next time". In the US, 'Seven Pounds' stumbled to $15m on its opening weekend. Contrast that to Smith playing it for laughs in 'Hancock' as a drunken superhero trying to get back on track; that swept to $60m on its opening weekend.

Dog has its day
The power of Will Smith the star was on display at my local Odeon last weekend. This was the week that Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire' became one of the biggest entertainment stories of the year so far. Until early Saturday evening it was 'Seven Pounds' that was programmed on the biggest screen. However, as the queues for 'Slumdog' snaked round the block, the cinema had to effect a quick switch – even though Sony Pictures usually has more muscle than French-owned Pathé Distribution, which is releasing 'Slumdog'.

All wound up
The battle over the adaptation of 'Watchmen' (right), one of the most celebrated comic-book series, didn't have its day in court after all. After weeks of legal posturing, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros reached agreement, and both will benefit should the film be a hit. Fox gets a slice of the release pie; Warner gets to show the world its $150m gamble. 'Watchmen' is due to open in the UK on 6 March.