The Back Room Edition - Each week we'll give you an insider's look at some of the big casting news and rumors
In a throwback to themes of yore, Hollywood is going Western. This week, it was announced that Susan Sarandon is in talks to step into boots once worn by Barbara Stanwyck in a feature adaptation of The Big Valley. Originally a TV series, The Big Valley ran on ABC from 1965 to 1969 and chronicled the trials and tribulations of the Barkley clan, a wealthy ranching family in 1870s California. Set somewhere near Stockton, the show focused on Victoria Barkley and her three sons played by Richard Long (a lawyer with Robert Goulet eyes), Peter Breck (a black-leather clad tough guy with a heart of gold) and Heath, the illegitimate son of her deceased husband played, in his first major TV role, by Lee Majors. In the role of Victoria’s daughter was a so-blonde-it-hurt-your-eyes pre-“Dynasty,” pre-shoulder padded Linda Evans as Audra. The series ran in syndication following its original run and could often be found on afternoon TV in the LA-area sandwiched in between commercials for Cal Worthington Dodge. I may be dating myself with my admission of that knowledge but it bears noting that a memorable episode centered on the sons transporting a load of could-explode-at-any-minute nitro-glycerin up the mountains and through the valley. I just caught an early episode of a much more recent ABC series, Lost, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t use a similar plot device. Meanwhile, another seminal TV Western, "Gunsmoke,” is getting the feature remake treatment as well. The CBS Films adaptation is said to have several A-list actors in the running to play Dodge City Marshal, Matt Dillon. Brad Pitt has emerged as a top contender for the role as has Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds of course is next starring in a bigscreen adaptation of a different sort, Green Lantern. Circling the wagons back to Sarandon, a part in that film, it was announced this week, has gone to Sarandon’s ex, Tim Robbins, who will play Senator Hammond, the disapproving father of the movie's villain.
Penelope Cruz made headlines this week when a rumor floated that she is may be starring in the next film from renown auteur - and notorious aviophobe - Lars von Trier. European press reports noted that the controversial director told Danish television has always had Cruz in mind and that she is circling his next film, Melancholia, which explores the "psychology view of a disaster." Von Trier’s last picture, Antichrist, elicited strong emotions from critics – among them hisses and boos at the film’s Cannes screening last year and rapturous accolades on many top ten lists. In what would likely be a less psychologically taxing role, Cruz is also rumored to be in negotiations to join Johnny Depp in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. Rob Marshall is directing the fourth installment which would pit Cruz as a foil – and equal - to Depp’s Jack Sparrow. In other Johnny Depp news, he’s rumored to hook up with director Emir Kusturica for his upcoming biopic about the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa. Cruz’ BFF Salma Hayek is said to be circling the project. While not as controversial as Von Trier, Kusturica is still a one-of-a-kind auteur who always makes an impression – both as a director and as a character to encounter, though the effect of the latter is harder to describe. I vividly remember back in 2005, when he was president of the Cannes jury, getting involved in an extremely long and in-depth conversation with him while exiting a party on the Majestic Hotel beach. The thing is, I still can make no sense of what was said. More recently – last October - I sat at a table with him at an event in Lyon. Different time, different event, same story. Still no idea what we talked about…
Is it onomatopoeia or is it me? Taylor Lautner – he of the Twilight films and the several million-dollar mid-section – is newly-attached to two upcoming films whose titles just sort of make you go, “hmmm.” Not only was the actor, who recently turned 18 and has skyrocketed to the top of the list of highest-paid Hollywood teens, recruited by Universal to play the title role of Stretch Armstrong in the studio’s bigscreen adaptation of the Hasbro toy, he’s also now said to be attached to a spec script called (ready?)...Abduction. The script, by Shawn Christensen, is expected to rev up a major bidding war among the studios. According to a report by Deadline. Com, Lautner would play a teen who has long felt disconnected from his parents, and, when he figures out the reason, it unleashes a chain of violent events. Oh, and lest I forget, Lautner will also play “Max Steel” for Paramount. So, to recap: ABduction, Stretch ArmSTRONG, Max STEEL…my God, imagine what they’ll come up with when the kid turns 21.