A Tale of Two Capotes

Hollywood loves a remake. But can a second film about writer Truman Capote catch the Oscar buzz just one year after another earned Philip Seymour Hoffman best actor accolades for his stunning performance as the famed author?

Apparently, yes. Famous as he was, Capote will never rival Elvis in the sheer number of imitators. But back-to-back Capote films speak volumes about the celebrated writer's impact, an achievement that at least calls for breakfast at Tiffany's.

British actor Toby Jones steps into the flamboyant writer's shoes for "Infamous," and already, critics say the new film could easily equal its predecessor, "Capote," which earned five Academy Award nominations, including Hoffman's win.

"Every time there is a film out during this time, you notice there's Oscar buzz," says Sandra Bullock, who plays writer Harper Lee, a part that went to Catherine Keener in "Capote."

"I'm lucky just to be in a film like this and been given a role when a lot of people would have said, 'Hmm … Sandra Bullock in this role? I don't think I see it."

Two Films, Two Destinies

Don't for a second write off "Infamous" as the least bit derivative of "Capote." It's just another case of rival film studios with nearly identical projects in the works. In some cases, one project wins the race to theaters first, and the other project gets scuttled.

In other cases, a second, remarkably similar film hits theaters shortly after the first. Back in 1998, it was a footrace between two asteroid-hitting-Earth action flicks. "Deep Impact" -- with Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni and Elijah Wood -- that crossed the finish line first, hitting theaters on May 8.

But as it turns out, moviegoers preferred to have their planet saved by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck. The second film, Jerry Bruckheimer's "Armageddon," out-grossed "Deep Impact" internationally by about $200 million.

Just last week, there was a major development in the battle between rival Janis Joplin biopics. "Elf" actress Zooey Deschanel replaced Pink in the title role in Peter Newman Production's " Gospel According to Janis."

Paramount Pictures announced last year that it had cast Oscar-winner Renee Zellweger in another film about Joplin's life. But that project is now on hold, with the studio saying that the script is under revision.

The same situation emerged a few years ago, when two heavyweight directors fought over developing a movie on Alexander the Great. "Moulin Rouge!" director Baz Luhrmann's project apparently got sidelined when Oliver Stone's "Alexander" went into production.

Similarly, Jennifer Lopez was developing a biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, but Salma Hayek's "Frida" swept it into obscurity.

"Infamous" writer-director Douglas McGrath says he'd already finished his script for Warner Independent Pictures when he learned that Universal Studios had a similar script, based on Gerald Clarke's book.

McGrath's script nevertheless went into production last February, several months after "Capote" had wrapped, with a budget of $13 million, nearly twice the size of the other film.

The new film is based on George Plimpton's biography, and while both deal with Capote's obsessive quest to write "In Cold Blood," "Infamous" takes a broader view of the writer's career as an openly gay New York City socialite.

Whether the film succeeds or not, it won't be the last depiction of Capote to hit theaters this fall. We'll see another portrait of the writer in "The Hoax," a Richard Gere film about the writer of a bogus biography of Howard Hughes. Soap opera actor Michael J. Burg plays Capote, a minor part, in that film, due out next month.

In one final twist, Burg had a small part in "Capote" but had no idea when he acted in that movie that he'd one day take on the same character that would win Hoffman his Oscar.

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