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Kristen Bell To Co-Star In Showtime’s ‘House of Lies’ Comedy Pilot

Nellie Andreeva

Former Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell has been tapped for a lead role opposite Don Cheadle in Showtime’s dark comedy pilot House of Lies. Written by Matthew Carnahan based on the book by Martin Kihn, the project centers on Marty (Cheadle), a self-loathing highly successful management consultant from a top-tier firm who is never above using any means necessary to get his clients the information they want. Bell will play Jeannie Van Der Hooven, a razor-sharp, Ivy-League graduate who works at Marty’s firm. Bell joins previously cast  Dawn Oliveri as Marti’s ex-wife, Josh Lawson as Ben Schwartz as his co-workers, Glynn Turman as Marty’s psychoanalyst father; and Donis Leonard Jr. as his young son. Jessika Borsiczky is executive producing the pilot, which will be directed by Stephen Hopkins. Production is slated to begin in February in New York and Los Angeles. Bell’s last regular TV role was on NBC’s Heroes. The actress, repped by CAA and Brookside Artist Amanagement, will next be seen in the features Scream 4 and Everybody Loves Whales.

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Honest Abe? Joaquin Phoenix Mulls Acting Return in Fox’s ‘Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Joaquin Phoenix is the front-runner to play the mentor who teaches the 16th President how to kill bloodsuckers in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for 20th Century Fox. Phoenix has met on the project and I’m told that it’s his if he wants it. He would join Benjamin Walker, who last Thursday was set to play the title character in the Timur Bekmambetov-directed adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel whose producers include Tim Burton. It’s an encouraging sign that the fine actor might be returning to form after a surreal detour in I’m Still Here, the mockumentary directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck that purported to be Phoenix’s attempt to build a career as a rapper. While both Phoenix and Affleck initially maintained the docu was legit, they later acknowledged it was an artistic ruse. It was a waste of his considerable talent. From Gladiator, To Die For to We Own the Night and Walk the Line, Phoenix consistently turns in fascinating performances and this is a showy return role. The role is Henry, a mythic, ageless figure who turns Lincoln into an axe-throwing expert slayer of vampires. The pic’s produced by Bekmambetov, Tim Burton and Jim Lemley. Phoenix is cagey and could decide not to go forward. Stay turned to see if his deal makes. WME reps Phoenix.

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Tyler Perry As Alex Cross In James Patterson Franchise Reboot

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 6:33pm PST
Mike Fleming

QED has packaged an adaptation of I, Alex Cross, the James Patterson novel that is essentially a reboot of the James Patterson mystery series that starred Morgan Freeman as the detective/psychologist based in D.C. Tyler Perry will headline this version, and Rob Cohen will direct. Distributors are circling the project right now. In fact, Paramount, which distributed the Cross mysteries Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider, is interested in taking the project off the table. It will be interesting to see if Lionsgate steps up after Perry has consistently turned in winners for the minimajor, which collects a distribution fee on pictures that Perry owns. The Alex Cross reboot was originally conceived as a vehicle for actor Idris Elba, who was going to play the character in the novel Cross, with David Twohy directing. Perry became the lead in recent weeks. It’s likely to be a controversial choice, and the key will be whether Perry can bring the considerable following that follow his directing vehicles. His biggest successes came when Perry played the female alter ego, the stereotypical matriarch Madea.

He last directed For Colored Girls, an adaptation of the iconic 1975 play by Ntozake Shange. His movies usually have a strong female following, and the Cross mysteries are action mystery which appeals to a male viewing audience. It is a radical departure for Perry, who usually stars … Read More »

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TV CASTINGS: Teri Polo, Darrell Hammond Book Pilots, ‘Boardwalk’ Adds A Recurring

Nellie Andreeva

Teri Polo and Mather Zickel have landed co-starring roles on the ABC comedy pilot Man Up!. The project, from 100 Questions creator Chris Moynihan, ABC Studios and Tagline, is a look at what it takes to survive as a modern man, as told through the eyes of three best friends and the women in their lives. Moynihan and Zickel (I Love You, Man) will play two of the friends, while Polo will play the wife of the third friend, a playful super-mom who is addicted to Facebook. Additionally, Polo also booked the lead in the Hallmark comedic movie A Taste of Romance. The Little Fockers co-star recurs on Law & Order: Los Angeles, just wrapped the feature Beyond and is in pre-production on Material Lies.

Saturday Night Live alum Darrell Hammond is in negotiations to join the TBS pilot Hound Dogs, written and directed by Ron Shelton. Set in the world of minor league baseball, the project, which has moved from Sony TV to Warner Horizon, centers on minor league team the Nashville Hound Dogs and its endlessly upbeat general manager (Tom Verica), a gambling addict trying to outrun his past, as they try to handle life’s ups and downs, both in and out of the locker room. Hammond, who spent 14 years on SNL, more than any other … Read More »

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Oscar Nominee Jacki Weaver Gets U.S. Representation Via Elevate

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 6:29pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Australian actress Jacki Weaver, a supporting actress Oscar nominee for Animal Kingdom, has landed U.S. representation, signing with Alex Cole from Elevate Entertainment for management. Weaver, a seasoned theater, film and TV actress in her native Australia, has won three Australian Film Institute awards and a National Board of Review award for her role in Animal Kingdom.

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ABC Family Greenlights 3 New Series – One Comedy And Two Dramas

Nellie Andreeva

New ABC Family president Michael Riley is making his first new series pickups today, ordering 3 new shows, the Raven Symone comedy The Great State of Georgia and 2 dramas, The Nine Lives of Chloe King and Switched at Birth. The orders to all 3 are for 10 episodes, including the pilot.

The Great State of Georgia, from ABC Studios, centers on Georgia (Raven Symone), an exuberant curvy performer from the south, and her science geek best friend Jo (Majandra Delfino) who try to make headway in New York City. The pilot was written by author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes) and Jeff Greenstein (Desperate Housewives). This marks the return to sitcoms for Symone, who made her debut in the genre at age 2 on The Cosby Show. It also brings a companion piece to ABC Family’s hot original sitcom Melissa & Joey.

Nine Lives is based on Alloy’s Nine Lives of Chloe King series of 3 young-adult novels by Celia Thomson. Alloy Entertainment is producing the pilot, about Chloe King (Skyler Samuels), a teenager  with heightened abilities (super speed, agility, hearing…claws) who discovers she’s being pursued by a mysterious figure. Dan Berendsen (Hannah Montana: The Movie) penned the script and is executive producing with Alloy’s Leslie Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo. This marks the second Alloy series on ABC Family along with hit Pretty Little Read More »

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RIPPLE EFFECT: How Charlie Sheen’s Rehab Stint Affects Cast, Crew & CBS’ Schedule

Nellie Andreeva

With Charlie Sheen in rehab, the focus is shifting to the aftermath of his departure from the hit CBS show. Luckily (and sadly), CBS and the series producers from Warner Bros TV have been down that road before with Sheen’s month-long stint in rehab last year, so they are dusting off the contingency plan they implemented a year ago with a few wrinkles. Last year, the month-long shutdown resulted in the loss of only 2 episodes from Two and a Half Men‘s 24-episode order, so the impact on CBS’ schedule was minimal. This time around, his absence could be longer. (Sheen’s team has not notified WBTV or CBS about how long he intends to stay in rehab and the actor’s publicist was unaware of any specific time frame, but gossip site TMZ pegs it on 3 months.)  Even in the case of such a lengthy stint in rehab, the show could resume production and bang out a couple of fresh episodes to close out the season. CBS has 2 unaired episodes of Men (Ep. 15 Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak, oh the irony, and Ep. 16 That Darn Priest) which it will run as planned on Feb. 7 and Feb. 14. Beyond that, CBS is planning to do more Men repeats than previously scheduled mixed with extra originals of some of the other Monday comedies. Freshman Mike & Molly, which airs behind Men and hails from the same … Read More »

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Sundance: Oprah’s OWN Acquires Docu ‘Crime After Crime’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Oprah Winfrey’s upstart cable network OWN continued its aggressive buying at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival by acquiring North American rights to Crime After Crime, the Yoav Potash-directed documentary. I’m told the deal was six figures, and that OWN will afford the film a qualifying Oscar run before it airs on Oprah’s new network. OWN chief creative officer Lisa Erspamer made the deal with Submarine’s Josh Braun and David Koh. The doc is about Deborah Peagler, an abused woman who struck back at the boyfriend who beat her. She was sentenced to 25 years to life for his murder. Some 20 years into her sentence, California passed a law permitting domestic violence survivors to have their case reopened. A pair of real estate lawyers took on Peagler’s case, and what seemed an easy effort turned into a politically-driven nightmare to free her. The film debuted January 23 at the Temple Theatre, and I’d heard this was an emotionally wrenching tear-jerker. Several distributors including Goldwyn and IFC were interested. The film will have its DVD distribution through Oprah’s Documentary Club, and comes on the heels of OWN’s announcement that Rosie O’Donnell will be a collaborator in the OWN Docu Club. Remake rights were not part of the deal, and I’ve heard there is interest on that front. OWN also acquired the docu Becoming Chaz, which premiered at Sundance.

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Remake Of John Woo’s ‘The Killer’ Reloading

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 1:32pm PST
Mike Fleming

Hollywood has long wanted to remake John Woo’s Hong Kong action classic The Killer and I was always kind of happy when past attempts fell apart because I’ve yet to see an assassin as cool as Chow Yun-Fat was in the  1989 original. To me, it’s almost like trying to remake The Godfather or some other sacrosanct picture considered best in its genre, even though its balletic violence and over the top gunplay informed so many movies, including The Matrix. Now it looks like a remake will happen, in 3D no less (will the flying doves be enhanced with that technology?) At least Woo is involved for some quality control as the picture mobilizes for sales at Berlin. Here’s the announcement:

Los Angeles, 31 January 2011: Essential Entertainment has joined Lion Rock Productions in its remake of THE KILLER in 3D, currently in pre-production, which will be directed by John H. Lee (A Moment to Remember, Saying Good-bye, Oneday) and written by Josh Campbell. Jung Woo-Sung (Reign of Assassins, The Good, The Bad, The Weird) will star in this English language re-telling of John Woo’s iconic action masterpiece, with additional cast to be announced shortly. The film will be produced by Woo (Face/Off, Mission: Impossible II) and Terence Chang under their Lion Rock Productions banner. Essential Entertainment will be handling worldwide sales.

Producer John Woo said: “While all my films are special to me, THE KILLER is truly one of my

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‘Daily Show’ Claims First Weekly Ratings Victory Over ‘Conan’ In Young Demos

Nellie Andreeva

Possibly boosted by State of the Union coverage, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart posted its first weekly win over TBS’ Conan in adults 18-34, according to the network. Conan had a huge premiere in November, dominating the cable and broadcast late-night field for its first couple of weeks on the air, but The Daily Show has been steadily chipping away at Conan‘s ratings lead for the past two months. It has beaten Conan in total viewers every week since the beginning of December and in 18-49 every week since the beginning of January. For the month of January, The Daily Show is tops in viewers and 18-49, while Conan still has the edge in the 18-34 demo. However, Conan is hourlong and The Daily Show is a half-hour. If compared to the Daily Show/Colbert Report combo that airs in the same 11 PM-12AM slot, Conan is ahead in 18-34 and 18-49 while behind to the Comedy Central shows in total viewers. An interesting footnote – Versus January 2010, The Daily Show is up 9% in total viewers, while Conan is down 3% vs. the January 2010 performance of Lopez Tonight. Here are the standings of the cable late-night talk shows for January as released by Comedy Central (only original telecasts are included as Conan returned from the holiday a week later than most of the other shows, including The Daily Show): Read More »

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Rialto Acquires Martin Scorsese’s ‘Public Speaking’

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 1:04pm PST
Mike Fleming

Specialized distributor Rialto Pictures has acquired the U.S. theatrical rights to Martin Scorsese’s PUBLIC SPEAKING, the director’s portrait of author, social critic, and acerbic wit Fran Lebowitz. The company will open the acclaimed new documentary on February 23 at New York’s Film Forum, with special engagements in select U.S. cities to follow throughout 2011.

Directed by Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese and produced by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, an Emmy- and Peabody-winning documentarian, and Margaret Bodde, the feature-length documentary spotlights Lebowitz’s experiences and sardonic world view. Made in the energetic style of Scorsese’s early documentaries Italian American and American Boy, PUBLIC SPEAKING captures Lebowitz in conversation at New York’s Waverly Inn, in an onstage discussion with longtime friend Toni Morrison, and on the streets of New York.

The film was recently nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award in the Best Documentary category.

Lebowitz offers insights on social issues like gender, race, and gay rights, as well pet peeves including celebrity culture, smoking bans, tourists and strollers. Gender, she says, is “a very big piece of luck… Any white gentile straight male who is not President of the United States failed.” Of aging, she says, “At a certain point, the worst picture taken of you when you were 25 is better than the best picture taken of you when you’re 45.”

Fran hit the New York literary scene in the early 1970s when Andy Warhol hired the unknown scribe to write for Interview magazine, with stints as a writer for Mademoiselle and a contributing

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CABLE RATINGS: Solid Debut For ‘Working Class’, ‘Jerseylicious’ Sets Record

Nellie Andreeva

CMT’s new sitcom, the Melissa Peterman/Ed Asner starrer Working Class, drew 1.2 million viewers and a .50 rating in adults 18-49 in its Friday premiere to rank as the highest rated and most watched series debut in the network’s history. Of course, Working Class is CMT’s first scripted series, so that means it outperformed all of the network’s reality series debuts. Working Class didn’t come close to the blockbuster summer premiere of TV Land’s first original sitcom, Hot In Cleveland (4.8 million), but  is nevertheless off to a solid start, especially given its 8 PM timeslot and the lack of sitcom tradition on CMT.

Meanwhile, the second season finale of Style Network’s reality series Jerseylicious averaged 925,000 viewers, a series high and the most watched telecast in the network’s history.

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IMAX Moves From NASDAQ To New York Stock Exchange

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 12:21pm PST
Mike Fleming

New York, NY – January 31, 2011 – IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) today announced the pending transfer of the listing of its common stock from the NASDAQ Global Select Market (“NASDAQ”) to the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”). The Company expects to begin trading on the NYSE on February 11, 2011, under its current ticker symbol “IMAX” and will ring the opening bell that morning. The Company will continue to trade under the ticker symbol “IMAX” on the NASDAQ until the transfer is completed. The Company’s trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol “IMX,” will remain unchanged.

“Given the global nature and expansion of our brand, the New York Stock Exchange offers an ideal platform for the continued growth of our Company,” said IMAX CEO, Richard L. Gelfond. “Our affiliation with the NYSE will provide us access to the markets we intend to reach and puts us in good company with other members of our industry.”

“We are delighted that IMAX has chosen to list on the New York Stock Exchange,” said Duncan L. Niederauer, CEO, NYSE Euronext. “IMAX is one of the world’s leading entertainment technology companies. Its global network is among the most innovative, highly visible platforms in the world. Our strategies are aligned, and we look forward to a successful global partnership with IMAX and its shareholders.”

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Disney’s Chuck Viane Retiring: Dave Hollis Promoted To EVP Theatrical Exhibition Sales/Distribution

BURBANK, Calif. – January 31, 2011 – Chuck Viane, president of Global Distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, announced today that he will retire in July after 25 years with The Walt Disney Company.

“Chuck is one of the most knowledgeable and savvy individuals in the film industry,” said Rich Ross, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. “Throughout his distinguished career at Disney, he has proven himself to be a rare legend, deeply respected by those who have had the privilege to work with him here as well as by exhibitors and colleagues around the world.”

Coming from the exhibition arm of the industry, Viane joined Disney in 1985 and has helped shepherd the Studio’s distribution operation through rapidly changing technological and economic times, including significant international expansion. As a result, the Studio’s distribution arm reached the domestic billion-dollar plateau 13 times during his tenure, setting the stage for the Studio in 2010 to become the first to have two billion-dollar earners in the same year, with Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3.

“Being on the front lines at Disney over such an exciting period in the film industry has been an extraordinary experience. I’ve worked on the best projects, I’ve worked with the best people and I’m proud of the things we’ve accomplished together,” said Viane. “Now I’m looking forward to watching my grandkids grow – and maybe getting to sleep in on Sunday mornings.”

The Studio is pleased

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Tarak Ben Ammar Financing Story of Tunisian Martyr Mohamed Bouazizi

Mike Fleming

While the growing unrest in Egypt is playing out before us, the recent overthrow of the government of Tunisia is on its way to becoming a feature film. Tarak Ben Ammar will finance and produce a feature about Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian who set himself ablaze to protest unemployment and lack of freedom. His self-sacrfice set off a historic chain of events that led to the Jasmin Revolution and the overthrow of president Zein El-Abedin Ben Ali. Ben Ammar, a nephew of Tunisia’s first independent president Habib Bourguiba, was in Tunisia during the recent revolution because he was there completing production on the Jean-Jacques Annaud-directed Black Gold, the $55 million film which is one of the most expensive films backed by an Arab about an Arab subject. Aside from his film company Quinta Communications, Ben Ammar’s Nessma TV was the first media outlet to break the taboo on freedom of expression when it reported on the demonstrations December 30. Messma executives were threatened with jail. “Mohamed Bouazizi has become a hero for us as Tunisians and the Arab world as a whole,” Ben Ammar said in a statement. “He performed the ultimate self-sacrifice and in doing so he opened up the eyes and heart of a nation to the injustice all around them. He did it by sacrificing himself, not by hurting anyone else.”

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Writers Guild East Sets Awards Roster; ‘Bourne’ Scribe Tony Gilroy To Present Dad Frank Gilroy Lifetime Achievement

Mike Fleming

NEW YORK CITY – Television, film, stage, and news headliners are set to take the stage for the 2011 Writers Guild of America Awards ceremony in New York City. Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Flight of the Conchords) will host the 63rd annual Writers Guild Awards in New York City on Saturday, February 5, 2011 at the AXA Equitable Center.

Award presenters include: Kathleen Turner, John Larroquette, Donnie Wahlberg, Judah Friedlander, Merritt Wever, Vincent Piazza, Gretchen Mol, Erica Slezak, Matthew Settle, John Hodgman, John Waters, Peter Riegert, Marshall Brickman, Jenny Lumet, and Chris Wragge. Additional presenters are expected to be added to the line-up.

In addition:

* Tony Gilroy will present his father Frank Gilroy with the Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing.
* The Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television will receive the Burkey Award for contributions that have brought honor and dignity to writers.
* Marianne Pryor will receive the Jablow Award for devoted service to the Guild.

The 63rd annual Writers Guild Awards will take place on Saturday, February 5, 2011 in New York City at the AXA Equitable Center and simultaneously in Los Angeles at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel-Grand Ballroom.

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Hammond Analysis: Oscar After SAG, DGA

Pete Hammond

This has been one of the most schizophrenic awards seasons in recent memory. It has consisted of two distinct contests: first, the critics awards cycle which had The Social Network in a walk. Now the industry awards which completely reversed that decision, blanking the Facebook movie and honoring the royal dilemma story to the point where everyone involved with The King’s Speech may just want to start getting their own speeches ready for the Kodak Theatre on February 27th. The last of the major Guild contests comes next Saturday at the WGA awards, which is always a bit of an anomaly since that Guild ruled The King’s Speech and some other screenplays ineligible. (Harvey can take that night off.) This is the one Guild contest The Social Network can count on without question. Aaron Sorkin’s adapted screenplay is a lock at WGA – and at the Oscars.

The King’s Speech capture of SAG’s Ensemble award Sunday completes a clean sweep of the three all-important Guild contests so far that also included surprise wins at the Producers Guild last weekend and the Directors Guild Saturday night. Afterwards, a producer for a rival film emailed me a one-word response that says it all: “WOW”. A consultant for another film in the race even went so far as to message me: The Social Network is clearly out. Where do those votes go? Because it ain’t gonna be TKS with no competition.” It’s an interesting question since Oscar races are all about gaining momentum at the right time, and then … Read More »

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Scribes John Collee, Karl Gadjusek Join Verve

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 10:36am PST
Mike Fleming

Verve has signed John Collee, the Australian writer whose credits include Master & Commander, Happy Feet, Creation and Legend of the Guardians. Collee had been at CAA. He is currently scripting Walk with the Dinosaurs, the animated that that IM Global recently sold to Fox for $65 million at AFM. Collee is also repped by Kaplan Perrone and The Agency Group.

Verve also signed Karl Gadjusek, who has written on The Mechanic and the upcoming Unknown and Trespass. He most recently rewrote The Best and the Brightest (Unman) for Paramount and Montecito, a remake of the 1971 John Mackenzie film. Gadjusek continues to be managed by Benderspink.

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Jonah Hill Launches Production Company, Signs First-Look TV Deal With Fox

By | Monday January 31, 2011 @ 9:40am PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Multihyphenated Jonah Hill has launched his own production company, JHF. In the company’s first major move, JHF has signed a first-look TV development deal with Fox. Under the deal, Fox has bought an untitled single-camera comedy spec written by Hill, which he may direct. The network will also have first rights to future JHF projects in television. “Jonah is one of the most prolific young talents in comedy today, and possesses a fearless, wickedly smart sensibility that’s perfect for FOX,” said Fox’s entertainment president Kevin Reilly. Read More »

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