The Hollywood tradition of dueling movie concepts may have just taken the most absurd turn yet – TMZ, the hot shot news gossip site who actually has people assigned to shadow Lindsey Lohan 24 hours a day, is reporting that the team behind LA Confidential is trying to get a sequel to that film together – despite the fact that the actual sequel novel, White Jazz, is in development for director Joe Carnahan and star George Clooney.

TMZ is saying that the LA Confidential 2 project would pick up right where the film ended, while White Jazz isn’t so much a direct sequel – it’s a follow-up set in the same universe; Guy Pearce’s Edmund Exley character makes a crucial appearance in that story but isn’t the star. Interestingly, the LA Confidential movie kills off a character who survives the book and plays an integral role in White Jazz; Carnahan is sticking with movie continuity and keeping that character dead.

The site is also reporting that Curtis Hanson, the director, Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter, and Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce would all be returning for this one – it’s a full house in that regard.

Last night I made calls to New Regency and ended up talking to someone at Fox. I was told they would ‘look into it’ and get back to me, but that was the last I heard about it. I don’t know what the heck that means – they could just not want to be bothering with a website called CHUD or they could be freaking out that this is leaking.

I find myself suspicious for a couple of reasons. First of all, I recently talked to Guy Pearce about coming back for White Jazz, and he seemed a little dismissive – not of the movie, but of doing a sequel in general. “I ultimately don’t feel hugely compelled to revisit any character I’ve played before, really – but having said that it would depend on how it was realized, I guess.”

Second of all, I like Helgeland and Hanson, and I hate to think that they would do something as dickish as this. Since Carnahan’s picture can’t start shooting until the beginning of 08, they could very easily beat his movie into theaters, taking all the wind from his sails.

What I can believe is that most of the principals, except for Pearce, are desperate for a hit. Hanson’s latest film, Lucky You, smells like a bomb after Warner Bros moved it all over the calendar. Helgeland needs a hit after The Order was a complete disaster. And Crowe has that big stain of A Good Year, which makes The Order look like a megahit. LA Confidential 2, done reasonably well, could be a smash.

I was hoping to hear from New Regency – the people who made the first LA Confidential at Warner Bros – something about the rights to these characters. I assume New Regency’s deal includes the ability to do whatever they want with the characters that appeared in the first film, but could they bring it to Fox, as TMZ claims? I was forwarded to someone at Fox, after all…

Hopefully someone will get back to me in the next couple of hours and I can update this. In the meantime, remember that TMZ, while new on the web, has shown the ability to get major scoops, such as Tom Cruise starring with Ben Stiller in Hardy Men. Time will tell if they got another one here.

Huge update:

On his blog Joe Carnahan confirmed the LA Confidential sequel, and talked about how it is impacting White Jazz:

“As far as I know, they are pushing ahead and have asked us to change the Exley character’s name in WHITE JAZZ as New Regency apparently has the right.
Those familiar with the book also know that ‘The Dud’ Dudley Smith is also featured prominently in it. We took the original LA CONFIDENTIAL into account when writing WHITE JAZZ so we opted to remove him from the story. Now that Exley looks like he’s out, it will really eliminate any incidental characters from WHITE JAZZ and allow it to be a stand alone and not dependant on the prior characters.”

So now none of the three films so far based on James Ellroy’s LA Quartet will have any relation to each other. What a bummer.

Carnahan also mentions that Ellroy himself was asked to come aboard LA Confidential 2 to work on the script – he doesn’t mention if the writer took the job.