Screen Talk: Getting to the bottom of the matter

Ah, the irony of Hollywood having a moral code in a country that has always been strangely prudish when it comes to certain elements in films. Violence, guns and swearing are fine, but nudity? Well, that's harder to countenance. Luckily, the Julia Roberts starrer Eat Pray Love has managed to fend off the prudes. Director Ryan Murphy and producer Dede Gardner recently appealed the R rating it was originally awarded by the Classification and Ratings Administration of the MPAA. It has now been granted a far less restrictive PG-13 rating for "brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity". The movie is based on Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir and stars Roberts as a divorcee on a globetrotting self-discovery trip.

Never mind the film, here's our tie-ins

Hollywood studios have never been more obsessed than now with producing movies featuring branded characters recognised around the globe. And while box-office bonanzas are one reason for the obsession, there is another elephant in the room. Merchandise. Think books, toys and other such flimflam, and then ogle at the numbers. Disney Consumer Products squeezed out $27bn in retail sales from punters last year. And the Mouse house wants more, targeting a magical $50bn figure within five to seven years. With that in mind all the studios, not just Disney, are looking to develop movies with merchandise in mind. Hope remains that the merchandising tail does not start wagging the movie dog.

Ideas are currency

A good idea is a prize asset in the movie industry. So why not snap up the life rights to a guy that had a lot of them? This is what the producers Gabe and Alan Polsky of Polsky Films did after grabbing Albert Einstein's life rights while securing the consulting participation of Walter Isaacson, whose biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, was then about to be published. The pair has hired Stephen Schiff to pen a script for production banner Odd Lot Entertainment, based on Einstein materials archived at Princeton and Hebrew Universities, as well as on the Isaacson biography. Schiff adapted Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita for the 1997 film and Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean for film. He also co-wrote True Crime and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Now for a stroke of genius.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

Brad Pitt (above centre), Darren Aronofsky and the writer Guillermo Arriaga are roaring to work together. Arriaga, the writer behind the Pitt outing in Babel, is reteaming with the star for The Tiger, a drama being developed by Aronofsky as a potential Pitt vehicle. Arriaga's script is based on an upcoming nonfiction book by John Vaillant, to be published by Random House. The story centres on an animal activist protecting a small Siberian town after a tiger begins attacking its occupants. Pitt and Aronofsky have been developing the project under the radar and both are at least likely to produce if not star and direct the movie, industry sources say. Now they have to earn their stripes.

Share the load

What a way to save money. Green-light a project, then get most of the talent involved to do at least two jobs, if not three. That's what is taking shape for the Universal-backed comedy Wanderlust, with Jennifer Aniston (above right) and Paul Rudd lined up to star. And produce. And write. Word is Rudd will pen with Ken Marino and David Wain, who will also direct. Rudd, Marino and Wain will also produce. The script details the story of a married couple that end up in a hippie commune as a result of trying to get away from modern living.