Plus: WGA and AFTRA debate Ellen DeGeneres' working during the writers strike, Xzibit joins Oliver Stone's ''Pinkville,'' Kanye West's mother dies at 58, and more...
Mickey Rourke
Credit: Kevin Mazur/

Rourke replaces Cage in Wrestler
Mickey Rourke has replaced Nicolas Cage as the star in director Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming indie drama The Wrestler. There is no word as to why Cage left the project. Rourke will play Randy ”The Ram” Robinson, an over-the-hill fighter who returns to the ring for one last shot at glory. Aronofsky wrote the script with Robert Siegel. Filming is scheduled to start in January. Rourke has returned to acting in recent years after a brief foray into boxing. Following a well-received performance in Sin City, the actor went on to do Stormbreaker and the just-wrapped, John Madden-directed Killshot. He also stars in the ensemble cast of The Informers, director Gregor Jordan’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel. Rourke was arrested for DUI in Miami last week, allegedly riding a Vespa while under the influence. (Variety)

WGA, AFTRA debate still-working DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres’ decision to continue putting on her show during the writers strike has prompted an exchange between the Writers Guild of America East and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. On Friday (Nov. 9), WGAE issued a press release criticizing DeGeneres. ”Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise,” it stated. It also mentioned the recent dog adoption controversy: ”We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn’t even stand by writers for more than one day — writers who have helped make her extremely successful.” AFTRA executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth responded with a letter to WGAE chief Mona Mangan that pointed out that DeGeneres is contractually obliged to work. ”As you know, AFTRA members such as Ms. DeGeneres who are working under the AFTRA Network TV Code (which covers The Ellen DeGeneres Show), are legally required by the no-strike clause of that contract to report to work and perform their AFTRA-covered responsibilities,” Hedgpeth wrote. ”Ms. DeGeneres, along with thousands of entertainment-industry workers represented by AFTRA and other unions who are bound by similar no-strike clauses, are also reporting to work as legally required.” Mangan responded back with a letter saying, ”Beyond any issue of membership, there is the obvious ethical issue, which is clearly present in Ms. DeGeneres’ decision to write and produce a show without writers in the face of an industry-wide walkout by 12,000 writers.” (Variety)

Xzibit joins Stone’s Pinkville
Hip-hop artist and Pimp My Ride host Xzibit has been cast in director Oliver Stone’s drama Pinkville. He joins Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, and Woody Harrelson in the movie about the 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which more than 500 people — mostly women, children, and the elderly — were killed by U.S. soldiers. Xzibit will play a soldier who is convinced that he was right to have carried out his orders. He is also is shooting American Inquisition, with Alfre Woodard, Anthony Mackie, Charles Dutton, and Tim Blake Nelson. (Hollywood Reporter)

Kanye West’s mother dies
Donda West, mother of hip-hop star Kanye West, died Saturday (Nov. 10) in Los Angeles. The retired professor and former chairwoman of the Chicago State University English department was 58. West wrote a tribute to her in his song ”Hey Mama,” with lyrics, ”See you’re unbreakable, unmistakable/ Highly capable, lady that’s makin loot/ A livin’ legend too, just look at what heaven do/ Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama).” Cause of death has not been disclosed. (People)

Scrubs creator promises series finale — eventually
In light of the ongoing writers strike, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence says he will not cross the picket line to do a series finale, but promises that he will eventually put one together and fight to make sure it gets aired. ”I will use all my leverage to end this show properly, even if it means I have to do all the voices myself and call people up to read it over the phone,” he said. Seven of this season’s 18-episodes of Scrubs have not been written, which means the show could go into reruns as soon as January. (Hollywood Reporter)

Rispoli, Rosemont in Fox’s Oaks pilot
Michael Rispoli (The Black Donnellys) and Romy Rosemont (Prison Break, Brothers & Sisters) have been tapped to star in Fox’s drama pilot The Oaks for director Michael Cuesta (Dexter, Six Feet Under, L.I.E.). The show weaves together the stories of three families: a young couple in 1968 who have just lost a child, a family of four in 1988, and a pregnant couple in 2008. The families all live in the same house and are haunted by the same spirit. Rispoli and Rosemont have been cast as the parents of the 1988 family. Showrunner Shawn Ryan’s (The Shield) show has recently been described as having taken a more comedic, blue collar turn. Shooting is already underway. (Hollywood Reporter)

Walsh, Ward, Badgley in Stepfather
Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), Sela Ward (House, Once and Again), and Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) will star in The Stepfather, a Screen Gems remake of the 1987 thriller. Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) is also in negotiations for a role. The story is about a teenage boy (Badgley) who discovers his soon-to-be stepfather (Walsh) might be a psycho who murdered his previous family. Ward plays the boy’s mother; Palicki would play his girlfriend. Terry O’Quinn (Lost) played the stepfather in the original as well as in a 1989 sequel. Nelson McCormick (Prom Night) is directing the remake from a script by J.S. Cardone. Production is set to begin next spring. (Variety)


Rush & Molloy: Harlem drug kingpin Leroy (Nicky) Barnes says the movie American Gangster depicts him as ”a footnote in Frank [Lucas’] life when it was the other way around. This whole thing about him being an entrepreneurial genius is nonsense,” Barnes says from his safe location within the government’s federal witness protection program. ”I didn’t see it. I did business in all five boroughs, Atlanta, D.C., Philly, and Baltimore. Frank had 116th St. and maybe a few places in New Jersey.” Barnes added that he liked the way Cuba Gooding Jr. potrayed him in the film. Amy Winehouse’s husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, was charged Saturday (Nov. 10) in a witness tampering case related to an upcoming assault trial.

Page Six: Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons shot an anti-dog-fighting PSA set to debut on YouTube Nov. 13. The spot shows a tiny, blindfolded Jack Russell terrier being offered up to a pit bull. ”There is nothing slick, cool, or glamorous about dog fighting,” Simmons states. ”It hurts the human spirit as much as it hurts the animals.”