Kathie Lee Gifford's new career as a movie mogul off to a fast start. Kathie Lee Gifford's decision to depart the "Today" show after "like 120 years" left fans wondering if she wanted a quieter life -- but instead her next career as a movie mogul is already meteoric, Page Six is told. The veteran broadcaster -- whose last day on the NBC show is April 5 -- took a hiatus last summer to shoot a romantic comedy with Scottish former CBS late-night host Craig Ferguson, which follows a widow's journey around the world. Gifford -- who wrote the movie after her husband, Frank, passed away -- has secured funding for another four movies, all focusing on the experiences of widows and empty-nesters. Gifford learned that there are around 15 million widows in the US and shrewdly recognized the group as an under-represented market. She said, "I've become a widow, I lost my mother, and am an empty-nester, and there's millions of women in America just like me. There's nothing in the movie world made for women of my age who are alone and often affluent. I started writing the first movie, I realized there is a huge market for it, and now I've got funding for four more." We're told that the follow-up to her first movie, "Then Came You" -- which is yet to have a confirmed release date -- will also be partially shot in Ferguson's native country. Gifford will move to Nashville now that she's done with "Today," and adds she'll also be writing other scripts, some based on her Christian faith, including Hallmark's "Godwink" movies. She also directed a short film in Israel, "The God Who Sees," which will be released around Easter. "Today" stars celebrated Gifford at the new Times Square Edition on Tuesday. Hoda Kotb told us, "People always would say about our show .?.?. if they're feeling blue or terrible .?.?. we made them happy." Savannah Guthrie added, "Kathie showed us that you can be your true self. You don't have to put on some mask and act like Miss Perfect or Mr. Perfect -- you can just be who you are. She did that before it was cool." Al Roker, Carson Daly, Dylan Dreyer, Craig Melvin and Jill Martin were also there. (PageSix)

Hilary Duff's Portrayal of Sharon Tate Will Give You the Chills. Hilary Duff's transformation into Sharon Tate in her new film is beyond eerie. In the thriller The Haunting of Sharon Tate, the actress not only adopts the slain actress' look -- '60s full body blonde hairstyle, heavy mascara -- but her sweet, soft-spoken tone. In a clip from the movie, released on Wednesday, Duff's Tate is heavily pregnant with her and director Roman Polanski's first child together and spends time at home with friends Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski, played by Lydia Hearst and Pawel Szajda, where she is surprised with a new nursery. Her husband is away, working on his new film in London. In 1969, the real Tate was murdered at age 26 by followers of cult leader Charles Manson while she was pregnant. Four other people, including Folger, were also killed at the time. In the film, Duff's character has premonitions of her murder. A trailer for The Haunting of Sharon Tate was released in February. The movie also stars Mean Girls alum Jonathan Bennett and was directed and written by Daniel Farrands, who helmed last year's The Amityville Murders. The Haunting of Sharon Tate is set for release on April 5. (Eonline)

Sandra Bullock Almost Starred in The Matrix Instead of Keanu Reeves. It's been two decades since the release of The Matrix, but fans only recently discovered that the movie almost featured a completely different star. As fans will recall, Keanu Reeves played the main character Neo. But in a recent interview with The Wrap, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura claimed Warner Bros. had such a hard time finding their leading man that the studio considered changing the hacker character to a woman. "We went out to so many people I don't remember. We were getting desperate," di Bonaventura told the outlet. "We went to Sandy Bullock and said, 'We'll change Neo to a girl.' [Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on Demolition Man and she was, and continues to be, a very good friend of mine. It was pretty simple. We sent her the script to see if she was interested in it. And if she was interested in it, we would try to make the change." However, di Bonaventura said the role "wasn't something for her at the time" and that it "didn't go anywhere." Bullock, through a representative, told The Wrap she didn't remember the details of The Matrix pitch but noted di Bonaventura was always supportive of her career. In addition, she insisted the right person was cast for the role. In a 2009 interview with Today, Bullock suggested she was also considered for the part of Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, but turned it down. Bullock wasn't the only big name the studio considered for Neo. The producer told the outlet Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith were also up for the job. "The first movie star who says yes is Brad Pitt," he said. "He's doing Seven Years in Tibet and then he's coming out of it, and he's like, 'I'm way too exhausted to take this on.' So, he's gone. Then, we go to Leonardo [DiCaprio]. He says yes, we have meetings with him and then he goes, 'You know, I can't go do another visual effects movie having just finished Titanic, and he drops out. Then Will Smith joins it, and he drops out." In the end, the studio found Reeves and di Bonaventura admitted the casting process had led them to "the right place." Over the course of their careers, Bullock and Reeves have worked on a few films together. The two appeared in the 1994 film Speed, as well as in the 2006 film The Lake House. In fact, the Miss Congeniality star once hinted to Ellen DeGeneres that she had a crush on Reeves during the making of the aforementioned action film. The Matrix turns 20 on March 31. (Eonline)

Almost famous one year earlier. Kate Hudson could've landed a leading role in 10 Things I Hate About You -- but mom Goldie Hawn interfered! "I loved Katie Holmes. She was about to get Dawson's Creek, and we had to make a decision really fast," casting director Marcia Ross told The New York Times on Wednesday, March 27, in a profile published about the cult classic teen movie in honor of its upcoming 20th anniversary. "The other person I loved was Kate Hudson." Ross, 63, then provided the reason behind Hudson's lack of inclusion in the 1999 romantic comedy, noting that "her mom didn't like the script for her, so she passed." Other stars who were name-dropped by the casting director: Josh Hartnett and Eliza Dushku, who both screen-tested. Ultimately, though, it was Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger who scored the leading roles of Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona, respectively. "Julia and Heath just had the best chemistry together," said Ross. (Ledger died nearly a decade after the film's release, on January 22, 2008, from "acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.") Everything worked out for Hudson, 39, in the long run. One year later, she starred as leading lady Penny Lane in the 2000 film Almost Famous. Her portrayal earned the Glee alum her first and only Golden Globe win (best supporting actress in a motion picture) and Oscar nomination (best supporting actress). Had Hudson won the Academy Award, she and Hawn would've been the first mother-daughter team to share the glory. (The 73-year-old snagged the coveted prize for her supporting performance in 1969's Cactus Flower.) 10 Things I Hate About You celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sunday, March 31. Almost Famous, for its part, will ring in the special occasion in September 2020. (US Weekly)

New Berlin Film Festival Bosses Unveil Selection Committee, Panorama Section Head. Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian will replace long-time Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick in June. Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, the new dual heads of the Berlin Intentional Film Festival, have unveiled their first changes ahead of taking over from long-time Berlin Festival director Dieter Kosslick this summer. On Thursday, Chatrain, Berlin artistic director, and executive director Rissenbeek appointed a new seven-member selection committee for the 2020 Berlinale, as well as a new head of programming and new directors for the festival's Panorama and Berlinale Shorts sidebars. "We inherit a festival which is not only recognized as one of the biggest in the world but also plays a significant role in the international film industry," Chatrain and Rissenbeek said in a joint statement. "We are aware of the huge task we have in front of us and thank long-time festival director Dieter Kosslick for the work that he has done. We wish to maintain the Berlinale as an audience festival and as a festival for Berlin and we are looking forward to embracing the new challenges and opportunities that cinema in 21st century offers." Chatrain, who comes to Berlin from the Locarno film festival, where he was artistic director for many years, named Mark Peranson the new head of programming for Berlin. He will oversee the seven-member team that selects the competition titles for next year's event. Originally from Toronto, Peranson was head of programming in Locarno from 2013 until 2018. Other members of Chatrian's Locarno programming team joining him in Berlin will be Lorenzo Esposito, Sergio Fant and Aurelie Godet. The other members of the selection team include Paz Lazaro, director and curator of Berlin's Panorama section in 2018 and 2019; Verena von Stackelberg, the film programmer at Berlin's Soho House and managing director at local cinema Wolf Kino; and Barbara Wurm, an expert on Eastern European cinema and member of the selection committee for the goEast Film Festival. The appointments, with their apparently strong emphasis on international art house cinema, should be welcomed by those who criticized the Berlin festival selection under Dieter Kosslick as being lacking a clear critical focus. Michael Stutz, who together with Paz Lazaro was manager and curator of the Panorama section in 2018 and 2019, will take over the running of the main festival sidebar as of 2020. Stutz has been a part of the Panorama team since 2006 and is a coordinator of Berlin's queer film prize, the Teddy Award. Film programmer Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck will take over as section head for the Berlinale Shorts section on short films, replacing Maike Mia Hohne, who is moving to a new post as artistic director of the Hamburg International Short Film Festival. Chatrian and Rissenbeek also clarified their roles as dual heads in Berlin, with Chatrain saying he was responsible for the festival's "artistic profile" and programming selection while Rissenbeek, who comes to Berlin from international film promotion group German Films, focusing on "financing and organization" and the support of the business side of Berlin, including the European Film Market, the Berlinale co-production market, Berlinale Talents and the World Cinema Fund. (Hollywood Reporter)

Cannes: John Carpenter to Receive Directors' Fortnight Golden Coach Honor. The director will be honored as part of the sidebar's opening ceremony May 15. John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13, Big Trouble in Little China) will be honored by the French Directors' Guild with this year's Carrosse d'Or, the Golden Coach prize, during the Directors' Fortnight section in Cannes. The honor will be handed out on May 15 during the opening ceremony of the independent section that takes place during the Cannes Film Festival. Martin Scorsese took the honor last year as part of the sidebar's 50th anniversary celebrations. Werner Herzog, Jia Zhangke, Jane Campion Jim Jarmusch, Clint Eastwood and Alain Resnais are among the other directors honored since the prize was created in 2002. This year's Cannes Film Festival runs May 14-May 25. (Hollywood Reporter)

Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch Join Sam Mendes' WWI Movie '1917'. Mark Strong and Richard Madden are also joining the cast. Sam Mendes' World War I movie 1917 is heading into production and adding A-list talent to the cast. Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and Mark Strong have joined the production, along with The Bodyguard star Richard Madden. They will join the previously announced stars George MasKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, who will play young British soldiers on a single day at the height of World War I. Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Adrian Scarborough, Jamie Parker, Nabhaan Rizwan and Claire Duburcq have also joined the cast. Mendes will direct from a screenplay he wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes will also produce the film via his Neal Street Productions with Pippa Harris, along with Jayne-Ann Tenggren and Callum McDougall. Co-producing is Michael Lerman. Along with Neal Street, DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures will produce. The film will begin principal photography next week, shooting on location in England and Scotland. Universal will release the film domestically on December 25. (Hollywood Reporter)


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