Columbia's "Ottoman Empire" falls
by Michael Fleming
Did the flaccid performance of "What Planet Are You From?" turn Columbia off to another pricey sex comedy, even one that boasts Keanu Reeves as its star?
Just as the disappointing $3 million weekend bow of "Planet" was being felt on the Columbia lot Monday, the studio surprisingly halted development on "Ottoman Empire," the comedy that had Reeves set to star for director Andrew Bergman (who helmed the recent Bette Midler flop "Isn't She Great?").
Reeves had agreed to play a furniture salesman with a hidden past as a sex film superhero, a secret that comes to the forefront when the nation's first lady, fed up with her philandering husband, sets out to bed the former stud. Reeves' commitment to do the film before back-to-back "Matrix" sequels suddenly made it a hot project.
Sources said that Columbia decided to back off because execs felt the budget was too high at just north of $50 million. No one was saying if there was a link between the timing and the failure of "Planet," a picture about a sexless alien, which didn't at all rise to the occasion considering a price tag placed at $50 million.
"Planet" will probably make studios across town scrutinize comedy costs, particularly on movies that don't star Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler. Columbia, which found ``Planet'' to be a marketing nightmare because the best sex jokes couldn't be used in TV spots, would have faced the same dilemma with "Ottoman."
According to sources, Reeves was preparing to depart and choose another project to fill that slot.