'Angels' wings clipped

Col pic delayed as strike takes toll

Sony has postponed production on Columbia Pictures' "Angels and Demons," the latest major film project to be derailed by the writers strike.

Tom Hanks is set to reprise his role as symbologist Robert Langdon in "Angels," a prequel to "The Da Vinci Code," with Ron Howard again directing. The studio said Friday the screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, an adaptation of the Dan Brown novel, was not ready to go before the cameras.

But "Angels" isn't alone. Several other projects are in limbo and might be heading toward postponement, even with the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers returning to the table next week. The shifting schedules are causing some directors to leave projects and others to pick up projects as the labor drama plays out.

Columbia's "Edwin A. Salt," a spy thriller with Tom Cruise attached, has been pushed back due to director Terry George is stepping off the project. Michael Mann wants to pick up the directing reins but only will step in if there's a rewrite, which can't be done while the strike is on.

"It's getting dicey for everybody," said one producer. "There are a lot of projects on the bubble."

At Warner Bros., "Justice League of America" finds itself without a shooting script and has options expiring on potential actors who recently were screen tested. As a result, it might have to postpone production.

The strike also could affect "Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to "Borat." Although a working script has been completed, "Bruno" will be filmed in the same style as "Borat," with writers constantly feeding the comedian fresh material as he interacts with real people in real situations.

A spokesman for Baron Cohen said the movie had not begun shooting.

One producer said he would step in and fix his movie's script himself if the situation doesn't get resolved soon.

"If the writers are still on strike, and worse come to worse, I will write and fix it. Hopefully it won't come to that, but my livelihood depends on it," the producer said.

There is some good news for actors, directors, producers and crew members. New Line's "Four Christmases," which had been in script trouble during the weeks before the strike, has found itself on surer footing and is now ready for production. In addition, Paramount is mounting a full-on attack with "G.I. Joe," and Disney is moving ahead with "Shopaholic," the Adam Sandler pic "Bedtime Stories" and "Witch Mountain."

In postponing "Angels," Sony spokesman Steve Elzer said that "while the filmmakers and the studio feel the screenplay is very strong, we do not believe it is the fully realized production draft required of this ambitious project." He added, "We do not expect any other film on our 2008 slate to be affected."

"Angels" had been scheduled to begin production early next year and was slated for release Dec. 19, 2008. While no new start date has been set, its release date has been moved to May 15, 2009, a week before Fox has scheduled the release of James Cameron's 3-D feature "Avatar."

The production had secured permits to shoot in and around Rome, though it had been denied access to the Vatican, where much of the story takes place. It had booked a studio set for the Vatican scenes (HR 10/26).
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