New gigs for Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, and Wilmer Valderrama -- and other entertainment projects in the works

By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 22, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT


James Gandolfini has first-look deal at HBO Although Tony Soprano may bid arrivederci to HBO this spring, James Gandolfini has inked a three-year producing deal with the cable network and its sister feature film wing, Picturehouse. Upcoming projects for his newly formed Attaboy Films production company include Hemingway, a biopic directed by Philip Kaufman (Quills), with Gandolfini as the novelist, and a documentary about Iraq war vets tentatively titled Occupation Iraq. (Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 22)

Jimmy Kimmel to host upcoming ABC game show Set for Life ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has been announced by the network as the host of its upcoming game show Set for Life. Produced by Endemol USA (Deal or No Deal, Big Brother), contestants on the show will play for a monthly monetary prize that lasts their entire lives. No premiere date has been set.

Kal Penn’s days numbered, literally, on 24 Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle star Kal Penn will play a role in the 2007 season of Fox’s 24 as a guy somehow involved with a terrorist plot and a local Islamic leader. Also seen (but not heard) in this summer’s Superman Returns, Penn has the drama The Namesake out this fall and is slated for Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam some time in the future. (Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 21)

Jane Krakowski takes over 30 Rock Move over, Rachel Dratch. Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal) has stepped in as the lead actress in the show-within-a-show on NBC’s fall comedy 30 Rock, replacing the slot Dratch vacated when she took on the unusual task of playing multiple recurring roles on the series instead. (Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 18)


Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo drive on Reservation Road In the first venture of the new partnership between Focus Features and publisher Random House, Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo will star in an adaptation of John Burnham Schwartz’s 1998 novel Reservation Road. Adapted for the screen by Schwartz and director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), the film, explains Ruffalo, ”is about two fathers with 10-year-old boys. The father I play is involved in a hit-and-run with his son. It is an accident but I end up killing his son and I am also dealing with a custody battle. It is heavy but that’s the kind of meaty role I like to do. It’s a challenge. It is not always going to be fun on set.” (Variety, Aug. 16, additional reporting by Carrie Bell)

Wilmer Valderrama says he’s in CHiPs That ’70s Show star Wilmer Valderrama says he’s definitely set to slip into the tight uniform of Officer Poncherello for a feature remake of the classic NBC TV series CHiPs, currently in development at Warner Bros. ”That movie is really close to my heart,” he says, ”because I grew up watching that show and Eric Estrada was a role model to me. You didn’t see many faces like mine on TV back then and he was one of the only actors I could look at and feel like my dream to act could become a reality.” No word on who’ll play Officer Baker. (Additional reporting by Carrie Bell)

South Park guys announce two feature films Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo behind South Park, have announced two live-action feature films with Paramount Pictures. The first, My All-American, a youth-oriented comedy; the second, Giant Monsters Attack Japan!, which takes this week’s Snakes on a Plane Memorial Plot in the Title Award. Parker will direct and Stone produce both films, but for the first time scripting duties will be handled by other writers. (Variety, Aug. 22)

Daniel Craig, Eva Green to pick up The Golden Compass Fresh off finishing his role as the sixth James Bond, Daniel Craig will dive into the world of The Golden Compass, part of a planned filmed trilogy of Philip Pullman’s cult fantasy novels collectively known as His Dark Materials. Craig will play Lord Asriel — not to be confused with Chris Kattan’s SNL character Asriel Abyss — an enigmatic fixture in the life of the main heroine, Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards). Joining Craig will be Casino Royale costar Eva Green, as a witch who aids Lyra in traveling between worlds. Chris Weitz (About a Boy) is writing and will direct for New Line Cinema. (Variety, Aug. 18)

Christopher Walken to romance John Travolta in Hairspray The cast of Hairspray — the movie musical of the Broadway musical of the John Waters movie — is finally complete, with Christopher Walken set to play Wilbur Turnblad, husband to Edna Turnblad (i.e., John Travolta in drag). Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) will direct the New Line Cinema project. (Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 17)

Wes Anderson to make The Darjeeling Limited Inimitable auteur Wes Anderson’s next project will be The Darjeeling Limited for Fox Searchlight, a travelogue that follows three brothers, played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody, on a trek through India. Anderson, Schwartzman and Roman Coppola (yes, Francis Ford’s son) penned the script. (Hollywood Reporter/Variety, Aug. 16)


Smashing Pumpkins reunite, sort of, in the studio The Smashing Pumpkins are in the studio working with producer Roy Thomas Baker on their first album in seven years. So far, only the band’s frontman, Billy Corgan, and its drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, are known to be involved; no word on whether old guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky have come back into the fold. (Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 18)


Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson lend voices to American Idol karaoke videogame American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson will appear in Konami’s Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol, a videogame for the PlayStation 2 that boasts an artificial intelligence that allows for specific critiques of a player’s singing abilities. The game will ship in time for the holidays.