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''Rachael Ray'' taps Valerie Bertinelli

Plus: David Benoiff writing Universal’s Kurt Cobain biopic, Toni Collette starring in Showtime’s Steven Spielberg comedy pilot, Ellen DeGeneres cancels taping of her talk show over dog adoption flap, and more…

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Bertinelli joins Rachael Ray
Valerie Bertinelli has been hired as a ”celebrity content buddy” for CBS daytime talk show Rachael Ray. The actress and Jenny Craig spokeswoman will develop segments that provide an inside look at her as a mom and working woman. The deal will kick off with a trip to New Orleans for a ”girls’ guide to the gridiron” at a Monday Night Football game. The segment, which will air Oct. 23, will also feature Bertinelli in the studio making Louisiana gumbo with Ray. Bertinelli appeared as a guest on Ray’s show earlier this year where she talked about her very public weight loss. Terry Wood, president of creative affairs and development at CBS Television Distribution, says Ray and Bertinelli ”get along like sisters.” Wood responded to questions about future potential for a separate talk show hosted by Bertinelli and produced by Ray by saying, ”Anything is possible for Valerie because of her great relationship with the audience.” Bertinelli, former star of the late-’70s sitcom One Day at a Time, recently starred in the Hallmark Channel telefilm Claire and is set to co-star in Lifetime’s upcoming telepic True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. (Hollywood Reporter)

Benoiff writing Cobain biopic for Universal
Universal Pictures has acquired movie rights to Charles Cross’ Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, and set up writer David Benoiff (The Kite Runner, Troy) to write the script. The movie is a co-production between Working Title and Reveille Motion Pictures. Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan, Ben Silverman, and Graham Larson will produce with Cobain?s widow, Courtney Love, who is serving as executive producer with Howard Weitzman. The principals involved would not say whether they had locked down Nirvana music rights, which has been a problem for other filmmakers attempting to chronicle Cobain’s life. Love owned nearly all rights to the Nirvana catalogue until last year when she sold about 25 percent to Larry Mestel, a former executive at Virgin Records, Love’s former label, who has since formed Primary Wave Music Publishing. Cobain formed Nirvana in 1987 with bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl, who now fronts the Foo Fighters. Nirvana, along with fellow Seattle bands Pearl Jam and Alice and Chains, is often credited with launching the seminal ”grunge” movement of the early 1990s, led by the strength of their first major single, ”Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cobain committed suicide in 1994 at the age of 27. Benoiff is also writing the Gavin Hood-directed X-Men spin-off film X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Brothers, the Jim Sheridan-directed drama. (Variety)

Collette tapped for Showtime’s Spielberg pilot
Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense) has landed the title role in Showtime’s upcoming comedy pilot, The United States of Tara, from Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Television. The actress will play a wife and mother who has multiple-personality syndrome. The project will show Tara in all her personalities, including an aggressive male biker, a promiscuous teenage girl, and a Martha Stewart-like homemaker. The pilot is set to shoot sometime next year. Collette’s recent and upcoming film credits include Evening, Nothing Is Private, and Hey! Hey! It’s Esther Blueburger. (Hollywood Reporter)

DeGeneres cancels tapings
The controversy surrounding Ellen DeGeneres and her dog adoption caused the comedian to cancel Thursday’s taping of the Friday and Monday episodes of her talk show. ”It’s been a long week and a tough week and we decided to take a long weekend and be back on Tuesday,” said Laura Mandel, a spokeswoman for Telepictures Productions, which produces The Ellen DeGeneres Show. DeGeneres has been in the media spotlight all week following an emotional plea on her show in which she begged an animal rescue agency to return a dog — that she adopted and subsequently gave to her hairstylist — back to its new family. DeGeneres said she gave the dog to her hairstylist and her two children because it could not get along with her cats. The agency said DeGeneres signed a contract saying she would only return the dog to the agency itself and later ruled that the hairstylist’s family could not have the dog because of a rule against giving small dogs to families with children. The agency says it has received death threats since DeGeneres’ on-camera plea, in which she broke down in tears. At a taping of the show Wednesday (Oct. 17), DeGeneres told the audience she wouldn’t talk about the matter again unless the dog was returned to her hairdresser. (Hollywood Reporter)

Watts tapped for Birds remake
Naomi Watts will star in Universal’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Universal is not rushing to get the movie into production pre-strike. Watts will next be seen in Warner Independent’s Funny Games. She is currently filming The International and will follow that up with First Look’s adaptation of Amy Sutherland’s Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World’s Premiere School for Exotic Animal Trainers. (Variety)

Practice, Big Bang get full season orders
ABC’s Private Practice and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory were given full season orders on Thursday (Oct. 18). Bang is the first freshman comedy to get a full season green light. Private Practice, the spin-off to ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, is the season’s top-rated new series and has held down the Wednesday No. 1 slot among adults 18-49 over the past four weeks. To date, the show has averaged a 4.7 rating and 12 share among adults 18-49 and 12.8 million viewers. The Big Bang Theory has averaged a 3.6 rating and 9 share with adults 18-49 and an average of 9 million viewers. (Variety)

Filmmakers to develop Fellini story
Work will start early next year on Viaggio a Tulum (Voyage to Tulum), a Mexico-based story written by Federico Fellini. The story, which the director did not start work on during his lifetime, is about Fellini’s trip to Mexico to meet the famous mystic Carlos Castaneda. The director wrote the story in 1985, and it was published as a book by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera a year later, but it was never made into a film. The movie will start shooting in January in Mexico and at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios with a budget of at least $5 million. Documentary maker Marco Bartoccioni will direct. The news came out of the Business Street market at the second RomaCinemaFest, which got under way Thursday (Oct. 18). (Hollywood Reporter)

Bruce Dern directing daughter and wife in indie feature
Bruce Dern will make his feature directorial debut in the indie drama Hart’s Location. He will also star for the first time in the movie with daughter Laura and wife Diane Ladd. The story is about a daughter attempting to get back custody of her son and seeking out her father, who left her when she was 3 years old. Laura Dern previously worked with her mother on Rambling Rose, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Wild at Heart. (Variety)

Gotham Awards to honor Roger Ebert
Film critic Roger Ebert will be honored at the 17th annual Gotham Awards on Nov. 27 at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios. The Gotham Awards celebrate independent movies and films set in New York. Ebert is only the second film critic to receive the Gotham Awards Tribute; in 1995, Gotham honored Pauline Kael. Ebert has recently gone through a series of major cancer surgeries, but he says he is now cancer-free. (AP via Yahoo!)


People.com: Britney Spears has come to a financial settlement in the $1,000 range with the owners of a car she damaged in an alleged hit-and-run, though she still faces two misdemeanor criminal charges for hit-and-run causing property damage and driving without a valid California driver’s license.

TMZ: Vanessa Hudgens denies rumors that Disney has dumped her from the cast of High School Musical 3.