Smith will helm 'Fletch,' 'Ranger' for Dimension

By MICHAEL FLEMING

Miramax Films has decided to renew with View Askew, extending the studio's first-look alliance with writer-director Kevin Smith and his producing partner, Scott Mosier.

Smith, a cornerstone director for both Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein and Dimension topper Bob Weinstein, has committed to direct "Fletch One" for Miramax, followed by the sci-fi adventure "Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers" for Dimension.

"It seemed a good idea to treat the brothers fairly," said Smith, whose next Miramax pic, "Jersey Girl," has been reslotted from a Nov. 7 release to March 19. Originally the intent was to steer clear of "The Matrix Revolutions," but Smith now is glad to be clear of "Gigli," since his film stars Ben Affleck and includes a romance with Jennifer Lopez.

Smith has completed the first draft of "Fletch One." The pic will continue the exploits of the journalist-mystery solving character played in two films by Chevy Chase. But in much the same way that early Elmore Leonard adaptations barely resembled the author's prose until Scott Frank adapted "Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight," Smith promised a close adherence to the distinctive dialogue and plotting that McDonald put into his novel series.

Chevy detour

"The other 'Fletch' films were Chevy vehicles with a Lakers fetish," said Smith. "We've taken an early novel where the author told the origin of how Fletch got his job on a newspaper. It will stick much closer to McDonald's brilliant dialogue and great characters, and the model for this film is 'Out of Sight.' Though these actors know nothing about this, I've worked down to a short list of Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Jimmy Fallon and Adam Sandler for the role of Fletch."

Shooting will begin in January.

After that it's "Ranger Danger" for Dimension, which Smith describes as "my stab at a comicbook/sci-fi movie. It's in the vein of 'Flash Gordon,' something I've noodled with a couple of years. Now I feel we are mature enough filmmakers to tackle it." Smith hopes to shoot that pic while "Fletch One" is in post-production. Shooting will begin in fall 2004.

Smith's longtime partner Mosier will sit out the "Fletch" film but rejoin on "Ranger Danger."

'Paradise' found

The duo also is exec producing "Reel Paradise," a docu to be released by Miramax about indie distribution vet John Pierson and the year he spent owning and operating the world's most remote movie theater, in the Fiji bush.

The Weinsteins said they were glad to keep Smith and Mosier in the fold.

"Kevin is one of the great young directors who has been an integral part of Miramax's growth, and Scott is a great producer," said Harvey Weinstein. "As a team, they are brilliant."

Noting the Weinsteins have embraced each of his film ideas from "Clerks" to "Dogma," Smith said he and Mozier were relieved to keep working for them.

"Once again, Miramax is the only studio in town dumb enough to fund our bullshit," he said. "2004 marks View Askew's 10th year with them, so if you're looking to blame anyone for why we're still allowed to make movies, blame the two men I've come to love like they're my adoptive, same-sex-couple parents, Harvey and Bob Weinstein."

Studio's Charles Layton and Steve Hutensky made the deal with John Sloss and Endeavor. Jon Gordon is the prime exec on the deal.



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