The Latest on Upcoming Movie Productions

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Variety has published an in-depth article talking about how a posssible Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike could affect movie productions starting soon. The trade says Hollywood studios are refusing to schedule new start dates on films that can’t complete shooting by June 30.

The uncertainty has prompted Steven Spielberg to halt an April production start on the Aaron Sorkin-scripted DreamWorks drama The Trial of the Chicago 7. He’ll take the extra time to hone the script with Sorkin. Only Sacha Baron Cohen had been set to play Abbie Hoffman — and is now looking at summer or fall start date — when the prospect of an actor’s strike should be in the rear view mirror.

Transformers 2 director Michael Bay said the labor cloud has made the process harder, but not impossible as he tries to keep the film on track for an early June start in order to make its scheduled June 26, 2009 release date.

“If there is a strike, we shut down, but shutting down isn’t that big a deal,” Bay told the trade. “You make accommodations, you make a deal with vending houses on equipment and on the stages where you are shooting. You hope for the best, but you can’t be incapacitated by the possibility that there will be a strike. We’ve got to get this town back to work. I can’t imagine anyone wants another strike, we’re all tired. Hopefully clearer heads will prevail.”

Bay said that the sequel is still recovering from the writers strike, and that he’s playing catch-up after getting back his trio of writers, Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

“They did a detailed outline before the writer’s strike, and now they are in Michael Bay jail, holed up in a hotel and working feverishly,” Bay said. “We’re paying for a beautiful suite and they are getting a lot of work done. Hiring three writers was unusual, but it has been a godsend in getting us to where we need to be. Somehow you find a way to get it done.”

Warner Bros. is hoping for director George Miller to begin filming superhero extravaganza Justice League in mid-July for a 2009 release. The project has been off-and-on in the last several months, as the script needed work. The minute the strike was over, scribes Kiernan and Michele Mulroney began rewriting the script. The studio is hoping to get a draft in the next six weeks.

Warners revealed earlier this week that it will begin shooting Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins on May 5 in Albuquerque. All exterior scenes will be shot and completed by June 30 so that no extra location rental charges are incurred. Director McG will edit that footage, and visual effects artists will continue their work, moving the project forward even if the actors go home. The movie will be finished on soundstages once actors return to work.

Sony will begin shooting its The Da Vinci Code sequel Angels & Demons in Rome on June 5. Director Ron Howard will spend three weeks shooting all of the film’s exterior scenes. The rest of the film will be shot on Sony soundstages, where sets will wait, if necessary, until an actors strike is over. That allowed Sony to somewhat contain the costs to halt and re-start the picture.