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Role Call: Hollywood’s Weekly Casting News

[IMG:L]Wahlberg Is Getting into Shyamalan’s Head
Mark Wahlberg’s no dummy. He knows an interesting movie to work on when he sees it. The Oscar nominee has signed on to star in M. Night Shyamalan‘s thriller The Happening, which is set to start production in August in Shyamalan‘s hometown of Philadelphia for a Friday June 13, 2008, release. The film revolves around a family on the run from an apocalyptic threat to humanity. Wahlberg will play Elliot Moore, the science teacher at the center of the event. Wahlberg also recently signed on to the boxing drama The Fighter for director Darren Aronofsky. I’ve never been a fan of boxing movies, but if eccentric director Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) is helming one, I may have to make an exception.

[IMG:R]Mirren Joins Nat’l Treasure 2 Melee
Taking a break from all the DRAMA, Oscar winner Helen Mirren has signed on for National Treasure: Book of Secrets for some light-hearted action. She’ll play Nicolas Cage’s mother in the sequel to the hit 2004 film. Cage will once again play treasure hunter Ben Gates, who finds out one of his ancestors is implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, thrusting him into a globe-spanning adventure to clear his family name and find a missing treasure along the way. Jon Voight returns as Gates’ father, as does love interest Diane Kruger, sidekick Justin Bartha and kindly cop Harvey Keitel. Also onboard is Ed Harris as the bad guy. Jon Turtletaub returns as director, and Jerry Bruckheimer is producing. What could go wrong? Don’t answer that.

[IMG:L]Sandler Wrangles Dugan for Next Comedy
Director Dennis Dugan is set to re-team with frequent collaborator Adam Sandler for the comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. The film centers on a Mossad agent (Sandler) who fakes his death so he can move to New York and become a hairstylist. Sandler’s BFF Rob Schneider is already signed up to play an East Yistannen cab driver. Dugan previously directed Sandler in Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, as well as the Sandler-produced Benchwarmers. Before this, however, Sandler is releasing I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which he and Kevin James star as straight firefighters who pretend to be gay so that they can receive domestic partner benefits. It comes out in July. I’ve said it before, Sandler has got the Midas touch when it comes to this stuff.

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[IMG:R]Ice Cube Sticks with Family Comedies for Now
Sigh. Ice Cube should really consider stretching his abilities but instead, he keeps going for the big bucks. The rapper/actor is attached to star in Tough Love, another family-friendly comedy on the heels of his upcoming sequel Are We Done Yet?. Inspired by the life of former New England Patriots defensive back Tebucky Jones, Tough Love centers on a tough-as-nails NFL player who realizes that his kids have become spoiled brats. In an effort to toughen them up, he forces them to spend their summer in the mean streets of Oakland, Calif., where he grew up. Along the way, he realizes that he also might have some things to learn. See? Light on plot, big on the dollar signs.

[IMG:L]Katherine Heigl: The New Meg Ryan?
Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl could be having trouble getting money out of the hit TV show’s producers, but on the big screen, she’s turning into America’s newest sweetheart. She’s set to star in the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which plays on the adage, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” Scripted by The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKennaHeigl will play a single woman who has served as a bridesmaid 27 times. She is enlisted once again for the job, and this time it’s particularly painful: Her sister is marrying the man she herself is madly in love with. Heigl is also building big buzz over her upcoming Knocked Up, the Judd Apatow-directed romantic comedy in which Heigl stars with Seth Rogen.

[IMG:R]Tatum Poised for Hunk-Dom
What The Notebook did for Ryan Gosling, could work wonders for hottie Channing Tatum (Step Up). New Line Cinema, which had a sleeper hit with The Notebook, has snapped up screen rights to another Nicholas Sparks bestseller, Dear John, with Tatum attached to star. The story revolves around a soldier, while home on leave, who falls hard for a gorgeous but conservative college student. Though they plan to wed, time and distance take a toll on their commitment to each other. “This was a lot like The Notebook, in that it is populist romantic fiction that is like candy you just don’t want to put down,” New Line production president Toby Emmerich told Variety. “We talked about the things that were important to Nicholas, and it turns out he is a fan of Channing Tatum…who is in a similar position to where Ryan Gosling was when he did The Notebook.” Oh, I’m so there.

[IMG:L]Murphy, Rhys, Knightley and Lohan Have Time of Their Lives
Cillian Murphy and Matthew Rhys have signed on to join Keira Knightley and Lindsay Lohan in The Best Time of Our Lives. The independently financed film chronicles the relationships among Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Rhys), his wife Caitlin (Lohan), his childhood friend Vera Phillips (Knightley) and her eventual husband William Killick (Murphy). I’m slightly dubious on the Lohan casting, but if she pulls this off (because she didn’t in Bobby), then maybe, just maybe, we can accept her as a bonafide actress. Out all these rehab-ed party girls, I’m secretly rooting for her.

[IMG:R]Gervais, Kinnear Go Boo
Now, this is a fascinating pairing. Ricky Gervais and Greg Kinnear will star in the romantic comedy Ghost Town. The story centers on a dentist who has a near-death experience during routine surgery and gains the ability to see dead people who ask him for help in contacting the living. Steven Spielberg‘s go-to screenwriter David Koepp (War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones 4) will direct. OK, who’s playing the dentist?

Until next week…

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