Screen Talk: Not a CEO in sight

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The money men all want a safe pair of veteran hands to take up the reins as CEO of beleaguered studio MGM. But it seems that while there are any number of famous old executives out there, most are happier working the golf clubs than the numbers. Big name former studio heads such as Jonathan Dolgen, Peter Chernin (above left) and Bill Mechanic have said they don't want the job of turning the Lion's roar back on. Burdened by $4bn (£2.7bn) in debt, MGM owners tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer for the studio and are now looking to attract a fresh ringmaster to restructure and consolidate. So the wait for the next James Bond shoot 'em up and a planned co-production with Warner Bros based on Tolkien's The Hobbit continues.

Seriously comical

Joking inside, mostly everyone knows the US takes the business of comedy very seriously. So it's as a surprise that it has taken until now for plans to come together to make a documentary about America's seminal humour magazine National Lampoon. The doc will set up the story of National Lampoon from its birth, eventual downfall and rebirth as a multimedia company. This was a mag that first gave the comic and writing talents of John Hughes a platform and put the spotlight on actors such as John Belushi and Chevy Chase back in the day on its stage and radio show. Documentary backers are promising never-seen-before footage so bring it on.

Hands off our $10m tax breaks, buddy

Austerity measures and US film-making don't sit comfortably together. And there is an outcry right now in New Jersey where the state's plans to eliminate a production tax credit program is causing consternation. The state has a big budget deficit so the governor wants to end its $10m annual funding program from July. Don't you dare, comes the shout from actors, producers and, in New Jersey, union reps. Industry folks point to an increase in productions and entertainment industry jobs created since the launch of the incentives for film, TV and digital media projects. Jersey offers a 20 per cent tax credit to producers who spend 60 per cent of their budgets in the state. A major motion picture shooting in Jersey contributes $225,000 a day to the local economy, according to a Motion Pictures of America Association fact sheet. A rethink seems unlikely.

One-line wonder

Remember the uncredited Tom Cruise cameo character Les Grossman (above centre) from Tropic Thunder? Not only did the foul-mouthed, overweight gangsta-rap-loving turn just reappear in an onstage duet at the MTV movie awards show stateside with J-Lo, but now there are plans to turn Cruise's character into a star in his own movie. Paramount, the studio behind Tropic Thunder, and MTV Films has hired Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) to pen the script. Cruise, Thunder star, writer and director Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld of Red Hour Films are behind the move and "have secured the life rights to Grossman". The plans are already attracting disdain from Hollywood insiders who don't think the a one-note joke could be stretched to an entire movie.

A life beyond footie

The Fifa World Cup is not the only thing going on in South Africa right now. Wendy Crewson (above right) has been cast in upcoming biopic Winnie, opposite Terrence Howard and Jennifer Hudson as Nelson and Winnie Mandela, currently shooting in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Robben Island. Crewson will play activist Mary Botha, who becomes a social worker in South Africa after witnessing a brutal police assault on a black youth. During the fight against apartheid, Botha was subjected to surveillance, harassment and house arrest.