Movies ahead for Clooney and Scorsese; a TV project afoot for Hayek; and a new book from Tori Spelling

By Michelle Kung and Adam B. Vary
Updated December 06, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: George Clooney: Jon Kopaloff/


Jonathan Demme is returning to non-fiction filmmaking. The Manchurian Candidate director is currently shooting He Comes in Peace, a documentary about ex-Prez Jimmy Carter and his book-signing tour for his latest release Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. (Variety, 12/5)

Kevin Spacey has lined up newcomer Jim Sturgess (Julie Taymor’s upcoming Beatles musical Across the Universe) to co-star with him in the card-counting drama 21. Based on Ben Mezrich‘s 2002 non-fiction bestseller Bringing Down the House, the Robert Luketic-directed project is expected to start filming next February. (Variety, Dec. 4)

Woody Harrelson is hopping aboard the Trans-Siberian, a crime thriller being helmed by The Machinist director Brad Anderson. Co-starring Samantha Morton (In America), Kate Mara, and Sir Ben Kingsley, the story revolves around an American couple who travel from China to Moscow on the titular train and encounter (what else?) deception and murder. Filming starts Dec. 11. (The Hollywood Reporter, Dec. 3)

George Clooney is one busy guy. He just finished filming Ocean’s 13 and is in pre-production on his next directing project, the period football film Leatherheads, in which he’ll also star. (The Office breakout star John Krasinski also just signed up to join Clooney and Renee Zellweger in the film). Then he’ll star in the Coen bros. film Burn After Reading. You’d think the guy would take a break after that, but nope, he’s just signed on to two more projects that will keep him busy through 2009. First up, White Jazz, a James Ellroy adaptation in which Clooney will play a bent LAPD vice cop framed for murder by his higher-ups. Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck) will produce the Warner Independent project with Clooney. Then Clooney will direct The Belmont Boys, an Oceans-esque project about seven crooks who reunite 30 years after a botched heist. (Daily Variety, 11/30; Hollywood Reporter, 12/1)

Susan Sarandon and Jonathan Tucker (Hostage, Pulse, The Deep End) have signed on to In the Valley of Elah, Paul Haggis‘ first directorial project following 2005 Best Picture winner Crash. Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron also star in the Warner Independent drama about a father (Jones) who searches for his son (Tucker), whose gone AWOL after a tour in Iraq. (Tucker is also starring in Haggis’ upcoming NBC drama, The Black Donnellys.) (Hollywood Reporter, 12/1)

Martin Scorsese is developing The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal and Trial by Combat in Medieval France — about the final duel authorized by the French government in 1386 — into a feature film with an eye to direct for Paramount, although not necessarily as his follow-up to this year’s The Departed. (Daily Variety, 12/1)

Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin will join Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Peter Sarsgaard in Rendition, an international political thriller about a CIA analyst (Gyllenhaal) who witnesses the brutal interrogation by Egyptian police of a foreign suspect in a U.S. suicide bombing plot who happens to have a pregnant American wife (Witherspoon). Streep will play the government officer who orders the transfer, or rendition, of the national to Egypt, and Arkin will play a U.S. senator. Gavin Hood, who won a Foreign-Language Film Oscar this year for his South African drama Tsotsi, is directing the New Line project, currently filming in Los Angeles. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/30)


— Perhaps Ugly Betty Executive Producer Salma Hayek has been catching up on the show immediately following hers. The actress has just announced that she has set up an as-yet-untitled drama about first-year Ivy League medical school students at 20th Century Fox Television. She will again exec produce with partner Jose Tamez under their Ventanarosa shingle. (Daily Variety, 12/5)

Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill, Vols. 1 & 2) is joining the sixth season of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. She’ll play a member of a black family who moves into Larry David’s house following a Hurricane Katrina-esque natural disaster. (The Hollywood Reporter, Dec. 4)

Allison Janney (The West Wing) is in talks to star in a CBS sitcom produced by Two and a Half Men‘s Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn. (Daily Variety, 12/1)

Glenn Close is returning to cable channel FX, this time as a series regular. She’ll play a tough New York lawyer in the as-yet-untitled project, developed by FX and Sony Television. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/30)

Meg Ryan will produce and star in The Best Awful, a mini-series for the network based on Carrie Fisher‘s sequel to her semi-autobiographic best-seller Postcards From the Edge. Fisher will also produce, with American Beauty producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks and screenwriter Richerd LaGravenese. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/30)

— Speaking of HBO: The channel has reinvented the mob drama, the western and Roman sword-and-sandal intrigue? So what’s next? Comic books, of course. The pay-cable channel is working on bringing the Vertigo comic Preacher to its lineup of hour-long fare. If you’re unfamiliar with the comic, it’s pretty heady stuff: A Texas preacher is given powers by an angel/demon hybrid called Genesis, teams up with his ex and an Irish vampire, and sets off across the country to find a dilatory God and hold him to account. Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote and directed Daredevil and next year’s Ghost Rider, is penning the pilot for Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, The Whole Ten Yards) to direct. (Hollywood Reporter, 11/29)


Philip Roth is penning his final Zuckerman novel, Exit Ghost. The book will follow the secluded writer’s return to New York, where he will come across the new cadre of literati and an old friend in his final days. The Houghton Mifflin book is set to debut in October, 2007. (Publisher’s Marketplace, 11/30)

Tori Spelling will pen a ”self-deprecating” memoir about her life as an actress and a disinherited heir for Simon & Schuster’s Simon Spotlight Entertainment division, according to the publisher. The book is due out in Spring 2008.