Screen Talk: Into the blue again

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The Independent Culture

The film-maker James Cameron, the ultimate technology geek, is building up momentum for Avatar 2.

The studio backer 20th Century Fox is rubbing its hands with glee now it knows anticipation is already growing as morsels of intelligence leak out about Cameron's plans for the sequel. Actress Michelle Rodriguez (above left) says Avatar 2 is to be set underwater. Rodriguez is also hoping she might get a part in it. But she'll have to overcome the odds because, while Cameron has said any survivors from the first Avatar may get a return slot for the follow-up, her character died in an aerial dogfight in the first. Perhaps a watery grave awaits in the second one, likely to take place on another planet in the same solar system as Pandora.

Castro's blessing

The Puerto Rican Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro enjoys the favour of one of the world's last fashionable dictators after receiving praise by Fidel Castro for his turn as Ernesto Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's Spanish-spoken Che. So it is perhaps unsurprising that Del Toro has chosen to travel to Cuba to direct a segment in the collective film Seven Days in Havana, a move which marks the actor's directorial debut. Del Toro is keeping good company on what will be a documentary feature with the film-makers Julio Medem, Laurent Cantet, Pablo Trapero, Gaspar Noé, Elia Suleiman and Juan Carlos Tabío also contributing a segment to the film. Del Toro's segment will feature an American actor travelling to the island for a seminar.

Vaughn again

The writer-director Jeremy Garelick recently found out it's not what you know, it's who. Garelick, who co-wrote The Break-Up in 2006 with input from Vince Vaughn in 2006, wrote another relationship comedy The Insane Laws, which Columbia Pictures picked up for what insiders describe as a "hefty" seven-figure deal back in 2009. But that studio recently put the project in turnaround, leaving it free to be picked up by other studios to back. It seems Vaughn, who is based at Universal with his Wild West Picture Show production banner, enjoys Garelick's writing. Universal is in negotiations to pick up the script as a star vehicle for Vaughn. The Insane Laws focuses on two best pals and how their lives are impacted when their grown children fall in love, with one man's daughter becoming pregnant by his best friend's son. Garelick is also onboard to make his directorial debut with his script.

On the road comedy

A recently widowed, sexually aggressive grandfather and his strait-laced grandson on a road trip across America sounds like an amusing prospect. At least Universal thinks so. The studio has picked up the script from John Phillips, a New York-based writer-performer out of the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre for "mid-six figures".

Colour blind debate

Colour blind casting remains a goal for Hollywood and beyond and is a hot topic right now. There is one basic reason black actors welcome colour blind casting aside from artistic arguments or in the continuing fight to represent colour on the big screen properly. The bottom line is there is a ceiling hovering around the $100m box office gross mark on the amount of business black-themed movies can achieve, so the opportunities for black actors and actresses remain limited unless they can also claim parts in mainstream entertainment. It's a battle for black actors though. In the early 2000s, black actors played 15% of roles in film and TV. Today, it has fallen to 13%, according to Screen Actors Guild stats. Black directors make up only 4% of the DGA. Hollywood is certainly wondering where the statesman status of A-listers such as Will Smith, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, who have succeeded – against tough odds – in transcending racial barriers, will come from.