Reel World

Terry Zwigoff is set to direct a twisted Christmas tale called Bad Santa

A Christmas Story Here's a match made in heaven: The Coen brothers have tapped Terry Zwigoff to direct a dark comedy for their production company, KL Line. "I'm doing a polish on this script that they co-wrote from their idea," Zwigoff reports. "A polish is just making it comfortable for me to direct if there are things I didn't quite get, or a line here and there." But the wary Zwigoff, who endured six years of development and financing aggravation to get Ghost World made, isn't counting his chickens yet. "Until it happens and you're on the set, a million things can happen and take you out of the equation."

Bad Santa centers on two grifters who dress up as Claus and an elf to gain entry to, and rip off, malls. They cross paths with a wayward 8-year-old during the holidays, with consequences for all. Sounds like an ideal setting for Zwigoff to vent his abhorrence for consumerism, commercialism, and chains. "It's not It's a Wonderful Life," says Zwigoff with a sardonic chuckle. "It's It's a Horrible Life." The director hopes to start shooting the movie, which is mostly set in Phoenix, in February or March. "I'd rather be there than L.A.," Zwigoff says. "I'd rather be anywhere than L.A." While Zwigoff won't mention any actors by name, you have to figure that Steve Buscemi is a lock for the elf.

Meanwhile, Zwigoff and graphic novelist Daniel Clowes signed a deal with Miramax and United Artists to make Art School Confidential, their follow-up to Ghost World. Clowes is presently writing the script, with shooting tentatively slated for fall 2002. "My hope is that Miramax would oversee the marketing and UA would put up the money," says Zwigoff, still steamed at MGM for not backing Ghost World with TV ads. "Nobody's better at marketing than Miramax."

Children of the CornThe outbreak of the dreaded Star Wars: Episode II trailer -- which has pharmaceutical companies scrambling to produce an antidote -- launches five months of cultural infantilism. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for Thanksgiving, The Fellowship of the Ring for Christmas, and then it gets really horrific. Lucas' dimwit toy bazaar hits in February, followed by Spielberg's sanitized reissue of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. (For a glimpse, courtesy of local location scout Scott T.S. Trimble, go to Finally, most of the spring Academy Awards hype will be devoted to the Shrek-Monsters, Inc. race for the first-ever Oscar for animated feature. War? What war?

Sweet Smell of SuccessGeorge Christy, the longtime Hollywood Reporter gossip columnist who finally quit after six months of paid leave -- having had his ethics questioned by reporters at his own paper -- has resurfaced in the Nob Hill Gazette, aka Name-droppers Monthly. ... McCann-Erickson, an S.F.-based PR company, dropped its entertainment accounts, leaving all Bay Area movie publicity in the hands of just three firms. Unlike having one dominant daily paper with the film awareness of a 15-year-old, the change shouldn't affect the average filmgoer. ... Horror Wunderkind Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone) met with Francis Ford Coppola in S.F. last week to discuss their Gothic western remake of The Count of Monte Cristo. Roman Coppola was set to helm the picture, but convinced his pop that the Mexican director had a stronger connection to the material. "What is fabulous about Roman is he has the integrity of a guy that already has done 10 movies," del Toro told me.

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