The latest news from Hollywood
+ The formulaic conceit behind Zac Efron‘s upcoming 17 — adult steps into teenager’s shoes — is being elevated by some genius casting. Not only will Leslie Mann (Knocked Up) be playing Efron’s wife, but we’ve learned that Thomas Lennon — a.k.a. Reno 911!‘s short-shorts-wearing Lieut. Jim Dangle — will portray the best friend to Efron’s adult character. Lennon seems like a perfect sidekick for his straitlaced costar, and this one-two casting punch may be just what an Efron movie with no musical numbers needs.
+ Santa Monica drama students, beware: You could be discovered at a bat mitzvah by Steven Spielberg. That was the case for Alden Ehrenreich, the 17-year-old who — due to a fateful video appearance at a celebration attended by the director — is now the lead in Francis Ford Coppola‘s upcoming Tetro. The script is a secret, but Ehrenreich will feature prominently in the Argentinean saga that should begin shooting before the end of the year. Matt Dillon, who was set to reteam with his Outsiders director, is now out of the movie. No word on who will take his place, but sources say Eric Bana, Mark Ruffalo, Keanu Reeves, and Joaquin Phoenix are being considered. Javier Bardem is expected to nab a different role. (Coppola could not be reached for comment.) As for Ehrenreich, Spielberg’s fortuitous spotting led to a meeting with DreamWorks casting execs and turns on CSI and Supernatural before landing Tetro. Mazel tov! — Nicole Sperling
+ While sitcoms continue to go dark because of the ongoing writers’ strike, at least one comedy is trying to keep the lights on. A show source confirms that ABC’s According to Jim, which may return as early as this winter for a seventh (yes, you read that right) season, resumed production this week in L.A. even though its writers are picketing. Jim Belushi, who also serves as an executive producer and director, will help run the show, though it’s unclear whether he’ll write, too. Seven episodes have already been shot.
+ Daphne Zuniga (Melrose Place) will join the cast of One Tree Hill as a mogul who runs Brooke’s (Sophia Bush) company. That show is also scheduled to return later this year. — Lynette Rice
+ If it seems like the Spice Girls are everywhere these days — world tour! new album! Posh! — well, they are. But there’s one place you probably won’t be seeing them anytime soon: the Billboard album charts. This week, Capitol Music Group shipped 600,000 copies of their Greatest Hits solely to Victoria’s Secret outlets nationwide, and the lingerie retailer purchased them outright. But Hits‘ first-week Secret sales won’t be reflected on the charts because the store is not SoundScan-enabled like Wal-Mart. Not that Capitol minds one bit: As far as the label is concerned, the disc already went gold — and that’s before its digital sales are tallied and its wider release on Jan. 15, 2008. — Shirley Halperin