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The Deal Report: July 29, 2005

The Deal Report: July 29, 2005 — The biggest upcoming projects in entertainment

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MOVIES

Christina Ricci will aim to one-up Nicole Kidman in the indie comedy Penelope, but not just in the acting department. ”It’s a modern-day fable about this girl whose family lineage is cursed,” says the actress, who will be joined on screen by producer Reese Witherspoon. Cursed with what? ”I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say. . .should I just say it?” Yes, please. ”She’s born with a pig’s nose! And the only way to break the curse is for someone of her own kind to accept and love her. My agent was actually afraid to send the script to me because she thought I’d be offended.”. . .The Passion of the Christ-meister Mel Gibson is on a one-man mission to keep the country’s dead-language scholars fed. Why else follow up his 2004 Aramaic blockbuster with Apocalypto, an adventure set 500 years in the past and told entirely in an ancient Mayan dialect? Disney plans a splashy summer rollout for the film in 2006. . . .Add Stacy ”Fergie” Ferguson to the list of actors whom director Wolfgang Petersen is submerging in his remake of the 1972 disaster epic The Poseidon Adventure. The Black Eyed Peas singer will also perform three original songs co-written with John Legend and fellow Pea will.i.am. . . .The Amityville Horror star Ryan Reynolds gets points for knowing his Hitchcock. ”It’s kind of like Strangers on a Train,” the lanky Canadian says of his next film, the dark comedy Horrible Bosses. ”Three guys decide to off each other’s boss, so that they have an alibi. It’s a return for [director] Frank Oz to that sort of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels vibe he used to do.”

BOOKS

Having conquered the Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Know-It-All author (and ex-EW staffer) A.J. Jacobs is moving on to a lighter tome but a heavier topic in The Year of Living Biblically. ”The idea is that I’m going to spend a year of my life obeying the Bible as literally as possible. So, it’s the Ten Commandments, but also the less-publicized rules, like not shaving the beard.” Jacobs is also working on a Know-It-All screenplay — ”except on the Sabbath, of course.” Thoughts on casting your doppelgänger? ”I’d be delighted with Ben Stiller or Jeremy Piven. . .but those are just my personal favorites. I’ll take anyone — I’ll be happy with Armin Mueller-Stahl.”