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Will Ferrell replaces Downey Jr. in Woody Allen pic

Will Ferrell replaces Downey Jr. in Woody Allen pic. The ”Old School” comic gets the nod after insurance problems force Downey out

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Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell: Mickshaw/WireImage.com

Woody Allen wanted fellow tabloid fixtures Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder to star in his next movie. Instead, he’s getting Will Ferrell and Radha Mitchell. Variety reported this weekend the casting of Ferrell, who becomes the second recent ”Saturday Night Live” player to win a plum role in an Allen picture. (Current ”SNL”-er Jimmy Fallon costars opposite Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, and Allen in the writer-director’s romantic comedy ”Anything Else,” which opens Sept. 19.)

Allen’s negotiations with Ryder, who had costarred in his 1998 ”Celebrity,” never came to fruition. Downey was ready to play the male lead, but semi-independent studio Fox Searchlight couldn’t budget the cost of the insurance to cover the actor, who’s been reportedly clean and sober for two years. Instead, Allen has cast Australian actress Mitchell, perhaps best known for her starring roles in 1998’s indie ”High Art” and the Vin Diesel sci-fi chiller ”Pitch Black,” and Ferrell, who has made a specialty lately of man-child roles. (Besides his recent hit ”Old School,” he’s playing a tall human raised among Santa’s wee toymakers in this fall’s ”Elf.”)

As always, Allen is keeping his plot and title under wraps, but Ferrell and Mitchell’s costars will include Amanda Peet, Chloë Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller, and Wallace Shawn. And with goofy Farrell in the lead, we’re guessing this won’t be one of Allen’s occasional bleak, Bergman-esque dramas. Shooting begins Sept. 22.