Another movie based on real-life exorcisms.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

New Line Cinema has taken possession of “The Rite,” the true story of an American priest who studied at an exorcism school in Italy.

Contrafilm’s Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce a feature film based on the upcoming nonfiction book by Rome-based journalist Matt Baglio. Michael Petroni signed on to write the adapted screenplay before the writers strike. Fletcher & Parry Films will co-produce with Contrafilm.

Baglio was allowed to follow a young priest during months of training with a senior exorcist at a school affiliated with the Vatican. “Rite,” now subtitled “The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist,” is set for publication by Doubleday in early 2009.

Although the book is not finished and the screenplay won’t be completed until after the strike, the film is expected to include scenes of exorcisms based on the priest’s experiences.

Petroni is a natural fit for the material, having written screenplays involving the Catholic Church (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) and the supernatural (Yari Film Group’s upcoming “Possession”). . . .

I wonder how it will compare to films like The Exorcist (1973), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) or even Requiem (2006).

UPDATE: Carmen Andres at In the Open Space has rounded up some links on Baglio and on real-life exorcists in general.

Update on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

Two months ago, there was talk that Sean Penn and Heath Ledger might star in Terrence Malick‘s long-in-development “complex drama” Tree of Life. Now, Variety says Sean Penn and Brad Pitt are in talks to do the film — which is interesting, since some descriptions of the film have made it sound a little like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), which Pitt was once supposed to star in, until he dropped out shortly before production.

Peter Jackson to produce The Hobbit!

I slept in this morning — as much as the children climbing all over me would allow, that is — and haven’t checked my news feeds yet, but thanks to an e-mail from my friend Bruce, I now know that, according to the Associated Press, Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have patched things up and will work together on The Hobbit after all:

Jackson, who directed the “Rings” trilogy, will serve as executive producer for “The Hobbit.” A director for the prequel films has yet to be named. . . .

Two “Hobbit” films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, similar to how the three “Lord of the Rings” films were made. Production is set to begin in 2009 with a released planned for 2010, with the sequel scheduled for a 2011 release. . . .

And, hmmm, that last film would be arriving just in time for the 10th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the movie that started it all. Expect to see even more special editions on DVD, or Blu-Ray, or whatever format we’re all working with by then.

What I would like to know is where Saul Zaentz figures into all this. Zaentz got the film rights to Middle-Earth back in the 1970s, and has basically been leasing them to New Line all along. In 2006, he reportedly said that the film rights would revert to him “next year”, and thus Peter Jackson’s squabble with New Line wouldn’t matter any more. And just last week, he launched a new lawsuit against New Line over the profits from the existing trilogy. So … is Zaentz allowing these new movies to go ahead anyway? Or have the rights not reverted back to him yet, for whatever reason?

Oh, and can it be a coincidence that this development was announced less than two weeks after The Golden Compass became one of the biggest flops in New Line’s history?

As I was finishing this post, I got another e-mail, this time from the local New Line rep. It included a link to The Hobbit: The Official Movie Blog, which so far just has a copy of the press release announcing the two movies. If I see any other interesting details in my news feeds in the next day or so, I will update this post.

UPDATE: Reuters quotes MGM chairman Harry Sloane, whose studio is co-financing the Hobbit films, to the effect that Peter Jackson is “too busy” to direct The Hobbit himself, given that he is currently directing The Lovely Bones and he is also attached to Steven Spielberg’s Tintin trilogy — but Sloane says Jackson “doesn’t want the fans to have to wait for the next two movies”.

Elsewhere, David Poland at The Hot Blog says New Line is in a rush to get these movies made because “the end of rights” comes in 2010, which is a few years later than Zaentz seemed to indicate in that interview last year.

Poland also says the deal with Jackson can’t necessarily be construed as a reaction to the box-office failure of The Golden Compass, because New Line has been trying to patch things up with Jackson since the summer. But was not The Golden Compass well into post-production by then? And did not New Line seem to be panicking when, a few months ago, they began replacing actors and cutting off the film’s ending, etc.? Would it not be reasonable to assume, then, that New Line’s side of the negotiations was motivated to some degree by their dawning awareness that The Golden Compass would be a box-office disappointment?

And for what it’s worth, the New York Times says New Line paid Jackson nearly $40 million as part of the settlement.

Incidentally, I just realized that it was exactly six years ago tomorrow that The Fellowship of the Ring came out. Coincidence?

And a part of me really likes the fact that the first Hobbit film is slated to come out when my twins will be almost 5 years old — which, hopefully, will mean that the twins will be old enough to see these films in the theatre with the wife and me.

National Treasure — the junket report’s up!

My article on National Treasure: Book of Secrets — including interviews with Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger and director Jon Turteltaub — is now up at CT Movies.

Incidentally, Voight just might be the first filmmaker outside of the local film industry that I have interviewed, albeit in group settings, more than once. About nine years ago, I and several other student journalists from across the continent took part in a series of phone interviews with the cast and crew of Varsity Blues (1999), and Voight was one of the interviewees. And at least two things haven’t changed since then: one, he gives very long answers, so if you’ve only got him for 15 or 20 minutes, you only have time to ask a few questions; and two, he bids farewell with a “God bless.”

Also interesting was a debate I had with some of my colleagues over whether to mention a plot element that was given away in the original teaser that played before Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End seven months ago. The plot element in question is presented in that teaser as a fait accompli, and in the trailer released back in August, it is presented as something that the characters are going to do. But in the most recent trailer, released in November, the bits that refer to this plot element are a lot more obscure — and so it was felt that mentioning this plot element would be giving away a spoiler. In fact, none of my colleagues seemed to remember those earlier trailers, and so they said I had “spoiled” the movie for them just by having this discussion. And yet, I’m sure I can’t have been the only one in the theatre who knew this plot element was coming when we saw the finished film itself.

So … can something be a “spoiler” if the studio has already made it part of the publicity campaign? (One friend of mine deliberately avoided hearing anything about Terminator 2: Judgment Day before that film came out, and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that Arnold Schwarzenegger was playing a good Terminator this time. But the studio had been announcing this fact in its promotional material for months.) What if the studio has backed away from revealing it so explicitly, as seems to be the case here?

Feel free to comment, and if you do, feel free to say what you think the “spoiler” in question in National Treasure: Book of Secrets is.

Canadian box-office stats — December 16

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

The Golden Compass — CDN $4,730,000 — N.AM $40,968,000 — 11.5%
Awake — CDN $1,290,000 — N.AM $13,006,000 — 9.9%
Hitman — CDN $3,430,000 — N.AM $38,162,000 — 9.0%
No Country for Old Men — CDN $2,970,000 — N.AM $33,562,000 — 8.8%

Atonement — CDN $247,846 — N.AM $2,964,000 — 8.4%
Enchanted — CDN $6,660,000 — N.AM $92,271,000 — 7.2%
Fred Claus — CDN $4,860,000 — N.AM $68,965,000 — 7.0%
August Rush — CDN $1,850,000 — N.AM $28,065,000 — 6.6%
I Am Legend — CDN $4,100,000 — N.AM $76,535,000 — 5.4%
Alvin and the Chipmunks — CDN $1,440,000 — N.AM $45,000,000 — 3.2%

A couple of discrepancies: Awake and Hitman were #7 and #9 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #13 and #15 in North America as a whole), while The Perfect Holiday and This Christmas were #6 and #8 on the North American chart, respectively.

A love triangle in Apatow’s “biblical comedy”.

The Hollywood Reporter has an update on Year One, the “biblical comedy” that is currently being produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Harold Ramis:

Actress-screenwriter June Diane Raphael is in final negotiations to play Jack Black’s love interest in Harold Ramis’ biblical comedy “Year One” for producer Judd Apatow and Columbia.

Raphael will play Maya, a woman who becomes romantically involved with Zed (Black) and another man in her village. “Superbad” leads Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse also star in the ensemble comedy.

Oliver Platt, David Cross, Vinnie Jones and Juno Temple also are in final negotiations for the film, written by Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. Principal photography is set to begin in January for the project, which Matt Tolmach and Jonathan Kadin are overseeing for the studio. . . .

FWIW, the only film I have seen Raphael in is David Fincher’s Zodiac, in which she played Mark Ruffalo’s wife.