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When a director becomes a Twitter cowboy

April 7, 2010 |  7:23 pm

This is how entertainment news goes down in the Twitter era. A director (Jon Favreau) tweets that there's casting news coming imminently on a movie of his ("Cowboys & Aliens"). A blog (Latino Review) postulates that the actor about to be cast is Harrison Ford. A few days later, Favreau tweets that it's indeed Ford but tells followers (all 753,000 of them) to keep mum. "Please stop asking if Harrison Ford is in Cowboys & Aliens. Okay? He is. Please don't tell anybody."

Reporters had their heads spinning upon reading this earlier today. Was Favreau indicating his intentions or just pretending to agree to get people off his back? Was it confirmation or a kind of social-media performance art?

In the end, it turns out, it was the truth. Insiders confirm that Ford will star in the movie. He'll have a part that's described as a co-lead role in the adaptation of the science-fiction western that's scheduled to start shooting (with Daniel Craig as the star, replacing Robert Downey Jr. as the man leading an anti-alien insurgency) this summer.

But there's a larger issue here, one that's going to rear itself with increasing regularity. Like everything else it the world that's happening faster and earlier, directors and stars are Twittering more often. And they're moving the locus of their tweets from the set to the audition room. A director trying to lure an actor -- or one simply giddy about one he's landed -- is going to tell people, even if he's going to do in a faux-hush way that makes it seem as if he's not spilling the beans, a la Favreau.

Of course, running up against this are studios, who generally maintain that any casting news is bad news before the ink is dry on a contract (understandably, as it can force a studio's hand in negotiations). They grumble when it's reporters (who are also going earlier and faster) breaking the news. But when it's their own talent, they're in an even tougher spot. Do they try to muzzle their stars and risk alienating them? Or accept that they have even less control than they previously thought?

Expect a lot more tweets from a lot more people in Hollywood in the coming months. There may not be much that anyone -- studios, reporters or anyone else -- can do about it. The only solution that might, just might, work would be to cast older stars, as it's probably safe to say Harrison Ford won't be Twittering the intimate details of his life. For now.

--Steven Zeitchik

Follow me on Twitter (of course).

Photo: Jon Favreau in "Couple's Retreat." Credit: Suzanne Hanover / Universal Studios

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