'Idol' icon tunes up for movie biz

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"American Idol" star and reality TV producer Simon Cowell is venturing into features with a music-themed project tentatively titled "Star Struck."

Inspired by Alan Parker's 1980 film "Fame," "Struck" is set behind the scenes of a TV singing competition in the vein of "Idol" and the Cowell-produced British show "X-Factor" and follows 10 contestants trying to make it to the top.

"The story is told through the eyes of those 10 contestants," said Cowell, who will produce "Struck." "We want it to be the musical version of 'Rocky' -- an underdog story, a feel-good film."

A singing reality show is a perfect setting to make the story in the film relatable, Cowell said.

" 'Fame' was all about young people wanting to be famous, and in order to do that, they enrolled in a drama school," Cowell said. "The difference 25 years later is that everyone who wants to be famous today signs up for 'American Idol.' "

For authenticity, the leads in the film -- playing participants in a TV singing competition -- will be cast through nationwide open call auditions similar to those used on the reality shows. Cowell, who hopes to hold the calls early next year in seven or eight cities, believes casting unknowns for the leads is crucial.

"To enjoy the film, you've got to watch the actors and believe that they are contestants on a reality show," he said.

Just as he does as a judge on "Idol" and "X-Factor," Cowell will be at the auditions for the movie. And just like a singing reality show, "Struck" will open with clips from the auditions.

Cowell, who is busy executive producing the summer reality series "America's Got Talent" for NBC and "American Inventor" for ABC, has had the idea for the movie for two to three years. After meeting a number of writers early on, he picked British TV scribe Jonathan Harvey, who followed him around for the past two years.

On Wednesday, Cowell signed off on Harvey's synopsis for "Struck" and is moving forward with the film, which he hopes to get released in summer 2008.

"The most important thing for the film was the timing," Cowell said. "We decided that next summer will be the right time to launch it."

"Struck," which Cowell produces through his Syco Prods., is not yet set up at a studio but has garnered interest from several places.

In doing the movie, Cowell is going with his instincts. Five years ago, it took him and "Idol" creator Simon Fuller months of relentless pitching until Fox finally picked up the show.

"We always believed that a TV show like 'Idol' would be successful," Cowell said. "I have the same feeling about doing the movie."

Cowell, whose company has deals with Sony BMG for music and Fox TV Studios for television, is repped by CAA and attorney Sam Fischer.
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