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Fox greenlights Shyamalan thriller

Plus: Cruz and Kingsley to star in adaptation of Philip Roth novella, Will Smith tackles another rags-to-riches movie, and more…

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Fox picks up new Shyamalan thriller
20th Century Fox has picked up M. Night Shyamalan’s spec script for The Happening, a paranoid thriller he wrote and will direct in Philadelphia this August. Shyamalan will also produce with Sam Mercer and Barry Mendel, who produced Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The movie is slated for an August 2008 release and will be the director’s first R-rated project. The story is about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity. The budget is estimated at about $57 million, and Shyamalan says he plans to cast a big male star for the lead. (Variety)

Cruz, Kingsley to star in adaptation of Philip Roth novella
Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, and Patricia Clarkson will star in Lakeshore Entertainment’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s novella Dying Animal. Isabel Coixete (The Secret Life of Words) will direct. The story is about a student who has an affair with her professor and returns years later with a revelation. Nicholas Meyer wrote the script; he previously adapted Roth’s The Human Stain for Lakeshore. Production begins in April. (Variety)

Will Smith, Columbia tackle another rags-to-riches project
Columbia Pictures has optioned Jeff Henderson’s memoir Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras for Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Escape Artists. The book tells of how Henderson went from street drug dealer to executive chef at the Cafe Bellagio in Las Vegas. He learned gourmet cooking while serving a prison sentence for dealing crack cocaine. (Hollywood Reporter)

Box office sales rose in 2006
The U.S. boxoffice bounced back from its 2005 slump, increasing 5.5 percent in 2006 to $9.49 billion in ticket sales and jumping 3.3 percent in admissions to 1.45 billion. The average cost of a ticket rose from $6.41 in 2005 to $6.55 in 2006. The increases fell short of 2004’s record domestic boxoffice sales of $9.54 billion and 2002’s modern-day high 1.64 billion admissions. (Hollywood Reporter)

Brosnan and Seyfried joining Mamma Mia!
Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried (Big Love, Mean Girls) are set to join Meryl Streep in Universal Pictures and Playtone’s movie adaptation of the ABBA Broadway musical Mamma Mia!. The story revolves around a bride-to-be (Seyfried) whose mother (Streep) never disclosed the identity of her father. The bride tracks down three potential fathers and invites them to her wedding. Brosnan will play the main father figure. (Hollywood Reporter)

McAdams, Pena, Robbins starring in Burger drama
Rachel McAdams, Michael Pena, and Tim Robbins have been cast in The Return, a drama being directed by Neil Burger. The story is about three soldiers, played by McAdams, Pena, and Robbins, who feel lost after returning from the Iraq War and end up on an unexpected road trip mission across the U.S. Shooting is scheduled to begin May 1 on a budget of less than $20 million. (Hollywood Reporter)

Monaghan cast in Fessenden horror movie
Dominic Monaghan will play an 18th century gravedigger in I Sell the Dead for producer-actor Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) is in final negotiations to play a priest who takes confession from Monaghan’s character. Production is slated to begin in May after Monaghan finishes shooting for Lost and before Perlman begins Hellboy 2: The Golden Army shoot for director Guillermo del Toro and Universal Pictures. (Hollywood Reporter)

Idol creator gets drama pilot
Simon Fuller is doing a half-hour drama pilot for Fox. The as-yet untitled show is a primetime soap about blue-collar families. Fuller created the project with British writer-producer Mal Young (Doctor Who) who will executive produce with Fuller. (Hollywood Reporter)

8 Mile director signs TV deal with CBS
Curtis Hanson, director of 8 Mile, signed an overall deal with CBS Paramount Network Television, which will see him create, develop, and produce shows in all genres for the studio via Hanson’s Deuce Three Prods. (Variety)

Robbins helming drama pilot for Showtime
Tim Robbins will write, executive produce, and direct one-hour drama pilot Possible Side Effects for Showtime. The show will explore the dynamics of a dysfunctional family as well as the politics, research, bureaucracy, and greed surrounding the pharmaceutical industry’s search for the next billion-dollar drug. (Variety)

Paramount adapting Nerve.com columnist’s memoir
Paramount Vantage acquired film rights to British-born sex columnist Grant Stoddard’s memoir Working Stiff. Writers Emily Cook and Kathy Greenberg (Ratatouille) will write the script. The book is about Stoddard’s tale as London school dropout turned New York sex columnist for Nerve.com where he wrote a weekly column, ”I Did It for Science.” (Variety)

U.S. State Department cites Borat in human rights report
The State Department’s annual human rights report cited the Kazakhstan government’s revocation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s webpage domain (www.borat.kz) in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by those who are critical of the country’s government. ”The government deemed as offensive the content of a satirical site controlled by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and revoked the .kz domain,” the report stated. Baron Cohen moved the site to http://www.borat.tv. (Reuters)

IN THE GOSSIPS

Page Six: Tom Cruise will be on set every day with Katie Holmes as she shoots the comedy Mad Money.

Rush & Molloy: At a fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama, the star-struck Democratic presidential candidate asked Beyonce for her autograph.

People.com: On Tuesday’s The View, Rosie O’Donnell said Idol is racist to allow Antonella Barba to stay on the show after booting Frenchie Davis in Season 2.

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