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Whitaker set to join Reeves in LAPD drama

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Whitaker set for Night Watchman
Fresh off his Best Actor Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker is in final talks to star alongside Keanu Reeves in The Night Watchman, directed by David Ayer. Reeves was attached last month to play a member of an elite group of LAPD cops whose ruthless tactics to solve murders and battle gang violence falls into question with his peers. Whitaker will play a captain of the elite unit. James Ellroy wrote the script. Shooting is slated for May 21 with Fox Searchlight and New Regency financing. (Variety)

Jason Alexander doing ABC comedy
Jason Alexander has been cast in an untitled ABC comedy pilot about eccentric characters in a police precinct. Alexander will play an internal affairs superintendent. The role originally was developed as a regular, but Alexander is set to recur if the pilot is picked up as a series and become a regular if it goes beyond that. Sarah Lafleur and Jillian Armenante will play homicide detectives. Alexander will next be seen in The Grand, which will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Hollywood Reporter)

Winstone joins Indy 4
Ray Winstone (The Departed, Chronicles of Narnia, Sexy Beast) has joined the cast of the fourth Indiana Jones movie. The story is being kept under wraps, but Winstone will reportedly have a major part in the project, possibly a sidekick to Harrison Ford. Cate Blanchett has also been attached to star. Winstone will next be seen as the title character in Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming Beowulf. Shooting for the still as-yet untitled Indy 4 begins in June in Los Angeles and an undisclosed second location. Paramount plans on a May 2008 release. (Hollywood Reporter)

Escape developing Iraq movie for Denzel Washington
Escape Artists has acquired rights to a first-person essay published in January in the New York Times as a possible starring vehicle for Denzel Washington. The project, Journal for Jordan, is based on Dana Canedy’s essay, which details a 200-page journal her fiance, 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, wrote for their son before he was killed in Baghdad in October, one month before he completed his tour of duty. He left for Iraq before his son was born. The journal imparts advice to the son on how to live a proper life and to prepare him for a life without his father. Crown is releasing a book based on the essay. Jonathan Burnham Schwartz will adapt the essay for Escape. The project will likely wind up at Columbia Pictures, where Escape has a first-look deal. (Hollywood Reporter)

MPAA’s Valenti suffers a stroke
Former head of the Motion Picture Association of America Jack Valenti, 85, suffered a stroke last week. The extent of permanent brain damage is not yet known. The illness forced Valenti to miss a planned tribute to him at the AFI Dallas festival. (Variety)

Amazing Race creators to helm Oprah reality show
Amazing Race creators Bert Van Munster and Elise Doganieri have signed on with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to executive produce her first of two upcoming ABC reality shows, Oprah Winfrey’s The Big Give. The show follows a group of 10 people who are challenged to find dramatic and emotional ways to use money and resources to help others. A contestant will be removed each week, and the winner will have their wildest wish granted. ABC has ordered eight episodes of Big Give, which is expected to air sometime this year. No details are available yet on the second reality show. (Variety)

VH1 doing Monterey documentary
VH1 is producing a documentary commemorating the 40-year anniversary of the Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey 40. D.A. Pennebaker will serve as a consultant for the project, which will look at the 1967 concert that helped kick off the Summer of Love and served as the first major U.S. appearance for Jimi Hendrix. Monterey 40 will air June 16, the anniversary of the fest, as part of VH1’s Rock Doc series, which in coming months will also include Last Days of Left Eye, about the late TLC singer Lisa Lopes, and 1977, a two-part, four-hour documentary about that tumultuous year in New York history. (Variety)

Rob Lowe signs as series regular on Brothers
Rob Lowe will expand his extended guest appearances on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters into a role as series regular next season. The show originally planned on using Lowe as a guest in a few episodes, but his appearances as the romantic foil to star Calista Flockhart helped boost ratings and he ultimately signed on for the full season as a ”special guest star.” He will be a regular cast member for the second season. (Reuters)

Dancing tops ratings on Monday night
The two-hour Dancing with the Stars won Monday night for ABC, averaging 20.1 million viewers and a 5.8/15 in adults 18-49. Those numbers were down slightly from last week’s premiere. (Hollywood Reporter)

Marco Schnabel to direct Meyers’ Love Guru
Marco Schnabel is making is directorial debut on the Mike Meyers’ comedy The Love Guru for Paramount Pictures. Meyers, who co-wrote the project with Graham Gordy and will produce, previously worked with Schnabel on all three Austin Powers movies when Schnabel was a lower level director. The movie is about a self-help guru named Pitka. Production is scheduled to start in August. (Hollywood Reporter)

New Line offers movie rentals via Xbox Live
New Line has made new release and library titles available for digital rental via the Microsoft Xbox Live video download service, which enables Xbox users to download video for viewing on their televisions. Movies will be available in standard and HD formats. New Line joins Paramount, Warner Bros., and Lionsgate providing movies to the service. A&E is also partnering with Xbox this week, joining CBS, MTV Networks, WB, and Paramount TV as Xbox Live TV content providers. Microsoft will release its Xbox Elite console next month, which has a larger, 120 GB hard drive. It will retail for $479. It will also offer a larger drive as an add-on component for existing Xbox users for $179. (Variety)

Kimmel, James tapped to host ESPYs
Jimmy Kimmel and NBA star Lebron James will co-host ESPN’s ESPY Awards this year. The two-hour show will be taped in Los Angeles on July 11 and air July 15. For the fourth time in the awards’ 15-year history, fan votes will determine the winners. (Hollywood Reporter)

New Line picks up Smolinski novel
New Line Cinema has acquired rights to Jill Smolinski’s upcoming novel The Next Thing on My List. The story is about a woman who gets in a car accident that kills her 24-year-old passenger. When the woman learns that the victim had a list of things she wanted to do before she reached 25, she decides to do the items on the list to honor her. Wendy Finerman (The Devil Wears Prada) will produce. (Hollywood Reporter)

Caro directing memoir adaptation
Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) will adapt and direct Ken Dornstein’s memoir The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky for Warner Bros. Pictures. Dornstein’s memoir tells the author’s story of coming to terms with the death of his brother David, who died with 269 others in the 1988 Pam Am Flight 103 airline terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. Caro will tell the story largely through a series of flashbacks. Richard Suckle and Mosaic Media Group’s Charles Roven will produce. (Hollywood Reporter)

Rights to O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It up for auction
The court-ordered auction of rights to O.J. Simpson’s quasi-confessional book If I Did It will be auctioned on April 17 in Sacramento, CA. Proceeds will go toward paying off the 1997 $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch aborted plans to publish the book and air an accompanying TV interview last November after public outcry. Publisher Judith Regan, who landed the book deal and conducted the interview, was fired from her HarperCollins imprint, ReganBooks, shortly afterward. (Reuters)

IN THE GOSSIPS

Page Six: Rose McGowan was upset when her decree that she be the only one allowed to wear red at the Grindhouse premiere was defied by two minor cast members.

People.com: Todd Bridges, 41, confirms that he is very much alive, following widely spread rumors of his death, and says he has been sober for the past 14 years.

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