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April 4, 1997

Showtime slate raising its own

By Scott Hettrick
The Hollywood Reporter

Showtime has numerous movies in the works for late 1997 and early 1998 that feature such stars as Alfre Woodard, Jon Voight, Dean Cain, Powers Boothe, Louis Gossett Jr., Beau Bridges, Hammer, Martha Plimpton, Tia Carrere and Jennifer Beals.

The cable network said Thursday it also will introduce four original series during four consecutive weeks in July as it continues to escalate both the volume of original productions and the caliber of talent.

Woodard is in final negotiations to star as an elderly woman who sends her family out of the Chicago projects to live with her brother-in-law in Mississippi in "Down in Delta," a movie in development that's scheduled for premiere during Black History Month in 1998.

It will be produced by Wesley Snipes, Bob Christiansen, Rick Rosenberg, Reuben Cannon, Victor McGauley and Terry Farnsworth from a script by Myron Goble.

Cain, Carrere and Bryan Brown will start shooting a movie next month in Toronto under director Ken Russell titled "Dogboys," about a prison guard who uses tracking dogs to hunt prisoners for deadly sport.

Many of the stars in the upcoming productions _ some of which may premiere on Showtime sister network the Movie Channel _ are working on their second, third and fourth projects for Showtime.

Brown starred in Showtime's "Full Body Massage" with Mimi Rogers and is interested in being cast in a remake of "On the Beach," for which Showtime is trying to line up financing.

"We're dependent on the talent community," said Showtime president of original programming Jerry Offsay.

"It says that these stars have had a good experience the first time around and it says something about the material." Showtime's average budget per movie of between $3 million-$5 million dictates that producers and talent be more intrigued by the project and the opportunity than the money.

Voight, who starts shooting his third movie for Showtime, this week _ "The Fixer," in which he stars and serves as executive producer _ is also developing a family movie with Showtime in which he will star and direct.

"The willingness of people to make themselves available between their very lucrative theatrical and TV careers is something that we're very grateful for," Offsay said.

"The Fixer," about a Chicago man who re-evaluates his life after a near-fatal accident that sparks his business associates to decide he must be silenced, is produced by Tony Bill and Helen Bartlett and is slated to premiere in early 1998.

Showtime will premiere four new series in July that have been previously announced _ Larry Gelbart's "Fast Track" (HR 4/3); Tony Scott's "The Hunger" (HR 11/13) and "Dead Man's Gun" (HR 3/24); and "Stargate SG-1" starring Richard Dean Anderson (HR 11/6) _ before moving them to their regular weekly time slots in August.

Sources said the science fiction-oriented "Stargate" and "The Hunger" will likely be packaged on Friday nights with the recently renewed "The Outer Limits," perhaps joining them in the lineup when new episodes of that series start running in January 1998.

"Dead Man's Gun" and "Fast Track" may also be packaged together on either Saturday or Sunday night, sources said.

Showtime just began its second season of "Poltergeist: The Legacy." Offsay said the network already has the next 25 movies set for the Movie Channel for 1997 and has its casts set for the first 12 in 1998.

Showtime movies are set until spring 1998 with the monthly Showtime Original Pictures for Kids set through the end of the year.

Gossett, who has starred in the Showtime movies, "Zooman," "The Gail Devers Story" and "Inside," will play dual roles in the network's first family movie about blacks called "In His Father's Shoes; it recently completed production and will premiere on Father's Day.

Melissa Joan Hart, who starred in the Showtime pilot movie that was picked up as an ABC series, "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," will have a guest appearance in the kids movie now in production in Vancouver for a premiere this summer, called "The Right Connections," which stars Hammer and four of Hart's real-life siblings.

A second "Shadow Zone" movie, "My Teacher Ate My Homework," starring Showtime veteran Shelley Duvall and Gregory Smith, is in production for a premiere this Halloween.

Meanwhile, Bridges and Plimpton have been cast in a series of two-hour movies based on the 1960s courtroom TV series "The Defenders," with E.G. Marshall reprising his role as defense attorney Lawrence Preston.

Production starts in May with the first movie to premiere this fall.

Beals, who starred in the recent Showtime movie "Twilight of the Golds," will star with Boothe in "The Spree," about a female cat burglar and her ex-cop partner.

That show recently completed production for a premiere this fall.

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