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Role Call: Hollywood’s Weekly Casting News

[IMG:L]Anna Nicole: Revisited
And so it begins. Singer, dancer and one-time Playboy magazine model Willa Ford will star as the late Playmate Anna Nicole Smith in a biographical film Anna Nicole, about the billionaire’s widow that starts shooting next week. Of course, it makes sense the movies would start rolling out. Smith’s tragic life is just too juicy to pass up. And like Smith, who sprang to fame as a model for the Guess? fashion line and as a Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, Ford once posed nude for the men’s magazine. Variety reports the independently produced movie would cover Smith‘s life from the age of 17 until her Feb. 8 death in Florida from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, five months after giving birth to a baby girl, Dannielynn. Ford, 26, a Florida native, began singing at age 8 in a children’s choir and released her first album, Willa Was Here in 2001, billing herself as the “bad girl of pop.” This should indeed be like watching a train wreck.

[IMG:R]Ford, Liotta and Penn Team Up
Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta and Sean Penn—that’s quite a lineup. The actors will star in the immigration drama Crossing Over, scripted and directed by Wayne Kramer (The Cooler). Ford is set to play an enforcement agent who stages raids designed to corral illegal immigrants, while Liotta plays a bureaucrat. More cast members will be added and shuttled in and out. Penn, however, has just a cameo in the film, spending three days shooting a small role as a border patrol agent. Ford usually does interesting work when he plays someone less than savory, so this could be a good one.

[IMG:L]Whitaker and Washington Debate
Can you believe Oscar-winners Forest Whitaker and Denzel Washington have never starred in a movie together? I know, hard to fathom. But that’s all about to change. The two actors are in negotiations to star in the period drama The Great Debaters. Washington is also is on board to direct the project, which chronicles the true story of professor Melvin B. Tolson (Washington), who formed a debate team at a small black college in the 1930s. The team went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships. Whitaker will play the father of one of the debaters and a rival to Washington‘s character. So full of DRAMA.

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[IMG:R]Go, Speed Racer!
Christina Ricci is joining Matrix creators Larry and Andy Wachowski‘s live-action adaptation of the 1960s cartoon Speed Racer. Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman already have boarded the high-octane Warner Bros. project, which is based on the anime series created by Tatsuo Yoshida for Japanese audiences and later imported to the U.S. Speed centers on a young race car driver, Speed (Hirsch), and his quest for glory in his thundering, gadget-laden vehicle Mach 5. Ricci will star as Speed’s girlfriend Trixie, his formidable ally on and off the track. Goodman will play Pops, a race car owner and builder, while Sarandon is on board as Pops’ wife, the backbone of the family as well as the Mach 5 Go Racing Team. You know, I really want to be excited ‘cause I’ve been a huge Speed Racer fan for a long time, but those Wachowski brothers disappointed me so with the last two Matrix films. I just hope their egos are finally in check, and they can just have fun with this.

[IMG:L]DiCaprio Tells Lies
Leonardo DiCaprio is in early talks to star in the adaptation of the new David Ignatius novel, Body of Lies. Ridley Scott will direct the project, in which DiCaprio plays an ex-journalist-turned CIA agent who’s sent to Amman to work with Jordan’s intelligence chief to track an Al Qaeda leader rumored to be planning attacks against America. There’s a lot of these type movies coming up. Hope this one won’t fall into overkill territory because it does sound intriguing. First, though, DiCaprio is re-teaming with his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet on Revolutionary Road, the Sam Mendes-directed DreamWorks drama that shoots in April

[IMG:R]Stiller, Schwartzman Experiment
Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman are starring together in the comedy The Marc Pease ExperienceSchwartzman plays the title character, a man 10 years out of high school and still living in the past, when he was the star in his high school’s musicals. Stiller plays Pease’s former teacher/mentor, Mr. Gribble. Broadway actress Anna Kendrick plays a high school senior romantically involved with both of their characters. Sounds a little like the same character Jason Schwartzman played in Rushmore, only grown up. I love Schwartzman and teaming him up with Ben Stiller is just pure genius. Now, if this was only being directed by Wes Anderson, but alas it’s not to be.

[IMG:L]Acting Heavies Turn Erotic
Peter Sarsgaard and Dennis Hopper are joining Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson in an untitled film based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novella Dying Animal. Cruz plays a sophisticated graduate student who gets tangled up in an erotic affair with her hedonistic professor (Kingsley), a cultural critic obsessed with female beauty. What does an “erotic affair” mean exactly? Aren’t all affairs erotic? It’s the same as saying “torrid.” I digress. Several years after the heartbreaking end of their relationship, she returns with a shocking revelation that forever changes his life. Hmm, she had his baby? I’m just taking a stab.

[IMG:R]The Office Hothead Gets a Movie
Judd Apatow, the guy who brought us The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and Ed Helms, the guy who plays anger-management candidate Andy on The Office, are teaming up for A Whole New Hugh. Helms will star and co-write the project about three guys who try to boost their friend’s confidence by making him appear to be successful. Apatow enthused to Variety about Helms, calling him a national treasure, before waggishly adding that “the nation does not know it yet.” Us loyal Office watchers might have to agree.

[IMG:L]Broderick Loses His Mind
Matthew Broderick, Virginia Madsen and Alan Alda have signed on to star in the comedy Diminished Capacity. Broderick will play the lead role, a man who suffers memory loss after getting hit on the head. He then takes a trip with his Alzheimer’s-addled uncle (Alda) and his high school sweetheart (Madsen) to a memorabilia show as the group concocts a scheme to sell a rare baseball card. Not sure how the memory loss factors into all that, but OK, I’ll go with it.

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Until next week…

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