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Behind the Screens

Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac and Sharon Leal are set to star in the musically themed comedy Soul Men. The project, from Dimension Films will have Jackson and Mac playing two former soul group backup singers who travel to the Apollo Theatre for a tribute concert for their group's deceased frontman. Leal will play the daughter of Jackson's character, who has musical talent of her own. Malcolm D. Lee is in place to direct the feature.

Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling are starring in the independent feature All Good Things. Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) will be making his narrative directing debut with the project, which is described as a love story and murder mystery. Jarecki, Marc Smerling and Marcus Hinchey wrote the screenplay which is set in the '80s, and deals with a New York real estate heir played by Gosling, who becomes attracted to a woman (Dunst) from the wrong side of town. After she vanishes, a conspiracy surfaces and people start turning up dead. Production is slated for April from Michael London's Groundswell Productions.

The highly anticipated DC Comics' Justice League feature from George Miller has been put on hold. There were concerns about the strike, as well as issues about the script, which was originally written by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney, but subsequently rewritten by Miller. Production on the film was also being held up by questions about the ability of the film to shoot in Miller's native Australia with tax breaks. Rumored to be attached to the feature were Adam Brody as The Flash, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman and Common as Green Lantern. Warner Bros. was hoping to have Justice League ready for a summer 2009 release date, but production more than likely won't resume until late summer or fall at the earliest.

Hayden Panettiere, who appeared in Bring It On: All or Nothing is slated to do cheerleading again on the Fox Atomic drama I Love You, Beth Cooper. The coming of age feature involves a nerdy high school valedictorian who uses his graduation speech to express his love for Beth (Panettiere), who happens to be the head cheerleader. When Beth appears at the valedictorian's graduation party, a night of wild antics ensues. The film, based on a novel by Larry Doyle (The Simpsons), will be produced by Christopher Columbus and his 1942 Pictures shingle this spring.

Mark Wahlberg is set to star in a still untitled drug dealer drama feature for Paramount. In it, Wahlberg will play a Vietnam vet who becomes a cog in the Medellin drug cartel, involved in smuggling more than $2 billion in cocaine into the country. Peter Berg is directing, and will produce with Sarah Aubrey under their Film 44 banner, while Wahlberg will produce with partner Stephen Levinson.

Jennifer Hudson is negotiating to star in Tyler Perry's latest film project for Lionsgate.

Tyler Perry will once again write, produce, direct and star in what is being titled Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys. The drama deals with two very different families involved through business and love. This project, the sixth for Perry with Lionsgate, will also star Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard, Rockmund Dunbar and Oscar winner Kathy Bates.

Production is underway on Me and Orson Welles, a coming of age drama from director Richard Linklater. Set in 1937, the feature stars Zac Efron as a high school student who has a chance meeting with Orson Welles on the eve of the opening of the Mercury Theatre. The independently financed film was scripted by Holly Gent Palmo and will also have Ben Chaplin aboard.

John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek and Ken Watanabe have signed on for Cirque du Freak, a vampire film from Universal. The film is based on the series of children's books by Darren Shan, and focuses on a vampire who hires a young assistant without knowing that he is only half-vampire. The feature is being directed by Paul Weitz from a screenplay by Brian Helgeland

Oliver Stone is set to direct Josh Brolin in Bush, a biopic of President George W. Bush.

Stanley Weiser, who also co-wrote Wall Street and the TV movie: Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story is writing the script. Production is slated to begin in the spring for a possible fall release date, in time for the national election.

Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes will helm a still untitled comedy film from writing/spouses Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. The film focuses on an expectant couple who travels the country searching for a place to call home and start their family. Eggers work includes the acclaimed memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." Vida's novels include "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name" and "And Now You Can Go." Mendes begins shooting the Focus Features comedy after completing post-production on an adaptation of Revoluntionary Road, a project that reteams Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet from Titanic.

Guillermo del Toro is close to directing The Hobbit, New Line and MGM's two-part adaptation of the 1937 story about dwarfs and elves and other Middle Earth denizens. The J.R.R. Tolkien project is being executive produced by Peter Jackson who won two Oscars for his Lord of the Rings films. Both movies will be shot back-to-back beginning in 2009, with the film first in theatres in 2010, and a second in 2011.

Julia Roberts is starring and producing Hothouse Flowers, based on the upcoming novel from Margot Berwin. In the film, Roberts will play a divorced New York City advertising executive who decides to turn her life around. Because of the writer's strike, no scribe is attached yet, bit Joe Roth and Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd are producing with Columbia Pictures distributing.

Channing Tatum has signed on for a major role in Paramount Pictures G.I. Joe, joining Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Ray Park, Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, said Taghmaoui and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tatum steps in for Sam Worthington, who was originally attached, but became unavailable because of scheduling overruns on James Cameron's Avatar. Based on the Hasbro toy adaptation, the feature focuses on G.I.J.O.E. or Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international organization of operatives out to fight a terrorist organization called Cobra. Tatum is playing G.I.J.O.E. team leader Duke with Stephen Sommers directing the script by Stuart Beattie. Tatum was also recently added to the cast of Michael Mann's Public Enemies with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp.

Production is expected to begin in April on The Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. Heigl plays the producer of a morning TV show who tests the romantic theories of the show's chauvinistic correspondent, played by Butler. As the story unfolds the two are brought together in the most unlikely way. The project reunites Robert Luketic with Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, the scribes from Legally Blonde. Lakeshore Entertainment is producing the feature which is being distributed by Sony.

Everything old is new again, so it should come as no surprises that the latest franchise to get a makeover is Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. According to the industry trade papers, Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes producing partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form

are joining New Line on a new spin on the character originally played by Robert Englund. Platinum is no stranger to remakes, having reinvented The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and is also working on Friday the 13th. They are also in preproduction on remakes of Near Death for Rogue and The Birds for Universal.

Sopranos star James Gandolini is in place to produce and co-star in Sexual Healing, the biopic on the late Marvin Gaye. Law & Order and Rent star Jesse L. Martin has been attached for some time to play the legendary singer. Gandolfini will play Freddy Cousaert, Gaye's longtime manager during the singer's final years. Gandolfini's Attaboy production company is producing the project set to begin filming in mid-April. Lauren Goodman is directing the film, which is based on a screenplay she wrote based on Steven Turner's book "Trouble Man."

Influential musician David Bowie is in negotiating to play an unspecified role in Will, a coming of age comedy that stars Vanessa Hudgens. Will focuses on a high school outcast who forms a band and also an unlikely alliance with the most popular girl in school. As the story unfolds at school it soon becomes a battle of the bands. Other cast members include Liam Aiken, Lisa Kudrow, Aly Michalka and Scott Porter. Todd Graff and Josh Cagan wrote the screenplay which is being produced by Walden Media and Summit Entertainment.

Universal's remake of The Wolfman has found a new director to replace Mark Romanek, who left over creative differences. Joe Johnston is transforming the $100 million-budgeted project and begins filming in London in early March. Benicio Del Toro will still play the title character, with Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt playing his father and female lead. Johnston is directing the script by Andrew Kevin Walker, which was also developed by Romanek over the past year.

J.J. Abrams, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman have begun casting Fringe, their high-profile two-hour pilot for FOX. The project focuses on a young female FBI agent (Anna Torv), who investigates paranormal happenings that lead her to an institutionalized scientist (John Noble), whose research has something to do with a rise in unexplained phenomena. The scientist's estranged son is also somehow involved. Rounding out the cast are Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Valley, Blair Brown and Jasika Nicole. Alex Graves (Journeyman) is directing what is expected to be a two-hour, $10 million pilot.

Deadwood and John in Cincinnati may be gone, but David Milch is staying with HBO for his third project and returning to his crime-drama roots. The cable network has ordered a pilot called Last of the Ninth, about the New York Police Department days in 1972. Former NYPD detective Bill Clark and Milch co-wrote the script and will executive produce the pilot episode.

Clark wrote numerous episodes of NYPD Blue, which Milch co-created. The two also won Emmy Awards for writing on the series.

Selma Blair is in final negotiations to play opposite Molly Shannon in the NBC comedy pilot Kath and Kim. Adapted from the hit Australian series, Kath and Kim will focus on the relationship between Kath and her adult daughter Kim. The pilot is being produced by Ben Silverman's Reveille company. Michelle Nader has taken over writing duties from original scribe Nancy Pimental. Nader is executive producing the pilot along with Rick McKenna and "Kath and Kim" creators Jane Turner and Gina Riley.

House star Lisa Edelstein has signed to star in Special Delivery, a television movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. Brenda Song will also star in the project which is slated for a late-2008 debut. The film deals with a courier named Maxine (Edelstein) who often shuttles between the West Coast and Asia. She suddenly finds herself transporting a snotty teenager Alice (Song), who's traveling from her father's home in China to her mother's residence in the U.S. Maxine soon becomes aware that trouble awaits Alice when she lands, and action and comedy ensues as she tries to ensure Alice's safe arrival. Matt Dearborn (Even Stevens) wrote the script which is being directed by Michael Scott, a veteran of several Lifetime movies.

Academy Award-winning best picture Crash is set to become a regular series on the small screen with Lionsgate and Starz joining forces. The venture marks Starz' first original drama series, with many of the film's behind-the-scenes talent coming aboard. Director, co-writer and producer Paul Haggis, co-writer and producer Bobby Moresco, producer Bob Yari, producer Don Cheadle, producer Mark R. Harris and executive producer Tom Nunan have all signed on for the series. The fact that the movie will now become a series allows the opportunity to expand on many subjects, be race relations and L.A. that were depicted in the film. It's unlikely any of the cast from the feature film will return for the series. Originally developed for FX several years back, Crash has already been ordered for 13 episodes with production set to begin in the spring.

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