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(2007)

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Elizabeth Banks cast as Laura Bush

Elizabeth Banks cast as Laura Bush
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Elizabeth Banks is going from the world of adult films to the White House.

The actress, who recently wrapped shooting Kevin Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno", is in final negotiations to portray Laura Bush in "W," Oliver Stone's biopic on the life and presidency of George W. Bush.

Josh Brolin already is on board to play Bush in the biopic, which begins shooting in late April in Shreveport, La.

Stone wrote the screenplay with his "Wall Street" co-writer Stanley Weiser.

Moritz Borman, who worked with Stone on "World Trade Center" and "Alexander", is producing, as is Jon Kilik.

Beverly Hills-based QED International is financing and handling sales.

Banks, repped by UTA and Untitled, next appears opposite Eddie Murphy in the comedy "Meet Dave" and then opposite Aaron Eckhart in "Meet Bill".

'Bill' sees dollar signs in Toronto

'Bill' sees dollar signs in Toronto
More news from Toronto

TORONTO -- As the curtain fell on the Toronto International Film Festival during the weekend, a final flurry of activity saw First Look Studios pick up the GreeneStreet Films comedy "Bill" in the heftiest sale of the fest.

The Weinstein Co. acquired North American rights to the music documentary "Joy Division" for a price in the low- to mid-six figures. And IFC Films acquired U.S. rights to Guy Madden's "My Winnipeg", which earned the fest's award for best Canadian feature film.

First Look paid more than $3 million late Thursday for U.S. rights to "Bill", starring Aaron Eckhart and Jessica Alba. Maple Pictures snapped up Canadian rights in a mid-six-figure deal.

There was a widespread perception at this year's 32nd festival that sales weren't as robust as those of the past two years. These saw multi-million deals for movies such as "Thank You for Smoking" and "El Cantante". But festival Sales and Industry Office head Giulia Filippelli said she's tracked more than $50 million in business this year, around the same amount as last year. "A lot of films were sold for many countries, not just North America," she said.

U.S. fare speaks to Toronto in fest lineup

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TORONTO -- The Toronto International Film Festival on Wednesday unveiled its most American-friendly lineup in years, capped off with new titles from Renny Harlin, Paul Schrader and Robin Swicord.

Toronto boasts no official competition. But the Hollywood contingent booked for the twice-nightly gala screenings at Roy Thomson Hall looks set to turn the high-profile venue into an industry shindig.

Among the six new gala titles are Harlin's "Cleaner", a Sony Pictures Entertainment thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson as a cop-turned-crime scene cleaner; the Richard Attenborough-directed love story "Closing the Ring", starring Shirley MacLaine, Mischa Barton and Neve Campbell; and Schrader's "The Walker", a ThinkFilm release starring Woody Harrelson and Lauren Bacall that comes to Toronto by way of Berlin, Cannes and Sydney.

Also joining the Roy Thomson Hall party are two Sony Pictures Classics releases: Kenneth Branagh's Michael Caine-Jude Law starrer "Sleuth", which first bowed in Venice, and Swicord's "The Jane Austen Book Club", starring Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman and Maria Bello. Also booked for a gala is French director Alain Corneau's "Le Deuxieme Souffle", starring Daniel Auteuil and Monica Bellucci.

Those titles join such earlier Roy Thomson Hall entries as Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe", Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream", Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton", Gavin Hood's "Rendition", Terry George's "Reservation Road" and Aristomenis Tsirbas' "Terra".

Toronto, which in recent years has stepped up efforts to make its festival more Hollywood friendly, also has included 28 U.S.-produced films in its 50-strong Special Presentations sidebar.

The latest Special Presentations titles include the Michael Moore documentary "Captain Mike Across America", Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann's "Bill", Gillian Armstrong's "Death Defying Acts" and Jason Reitman's "Juno", the follow-up to "Thank You for Smoking", which was a Toronto festival breakout hit two years ago.

Also joining today are the latest works from Jonathan Demme, Alison Eastwood, Brian De Palma, Thomas McCarthy and Anand Tucker.

Toronto will unspool 352 films between Sept. 6 and 15 -- 261 features and 91 shorts. The lineup includes 101 world premieres and 108 North American premieres, many of which will bow in Venice before jumping the pond to Toronto. In addition, 71 of the films are directorial debuts.

The festival lineup promises a strong French contingent, including a dozen titles arriving in Toronto with U.S. distribution deals in hand.

High-profile French titles looking for U.S. distribution include Amos Gitai's "Disengagement", Claude Chabrol's "La Fille Coupee En Deux", which will bow in Venice, and Eric Rohmer's "Les Amours D'Astreet et De Celadon," another North American premiere by way of Venice.

John Kochman, executive director of Unifrance USA, said the strong French presence in Toronto is due primarily to festival co-directors Piers Handling and Noah Cowan remaining "unreconstructed Francophiles" eager to program French titles in their event.

Other new titles announced Wednesday include Wayne Wang's "The Princess of Nebraska" and "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," both portraits of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. Wang will bring the two indie titles films to the festival's Masters program.

Toronto added eight more documentaries to its Real to Reel section, including films by Paul Crowder and Murray Lerner, Olga Konskaya and Andrea Nekrasov, Julian Schnabel, Ran Tal, Philippe Kholy and Grant Gee.

In addition, the previously announced "Body of War", co-directed by Ellen Spiro and talk show legend Phil Donahue, will see its premiere accompanied by a live performance by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who wrote original songs for the Iraq documentary.

The festival has its usual complement of films about war and political protest that, according to festival co-director Noah Cowan, reflect a "seriousness of purpose and a real sense of drive to tell political stories."

"In many ways, the body of films recalls the American independent movie of the 1970s," he added.

American auteur films including Alan Ball's "Nothing Is Private", a drama about sexual politics and bigotry set against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War, De Palma's war drama "Redacted" and Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" reflect anti-war "provocation," Cowan said.

Toronto's lineup also includes a surprising number of crime-themed dramas, including Alexi Tan's "Blood Brothers", a drama about three friends taking on a life of big-city crime; Comeau's fugitive drama "Le Deuxieme Souffle"; Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," a thriller about a botched robbery; Brad Furman's "The Take", about the aftermath of an armored car heist; and Ira Sachs' "Married Life", a drama about a husband who kills his wife to spare her the shame of divorce.

Cowan said that the crime-themed movies this year recall the '70s-era vigilante movies that coincided with Vietnam.

"When the U.S. is faced with wars that are frustrating in their inability to be totally understood, that comes out in their films," Toronto's top programr said.

"Just as the 1970s, there's films that reflect paranoia about government and police corruption and which come from a frustration and rage about what's happening in the world," he added.

Other Toronto highlights announced Wednesday include talks by President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, an update on Bill Maher and Larry Charles' anti-religion documentary and a briefing on the ongoing crisis in Darfur courtesy of International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and Don Cheadle.

Toronto is set to open Sept. 6 with Jeremy Podeswa's "Fugitive Pieces" and close 10 days later with another Canadian film, Paolo Barzman's "Emotional Arithmetic".

A complete list of titles screening at Toronto follows:



Galas:


"Across the Universe", Julie Taymor, U.S.

"L'Age Des Tenebres", Denys Arcand, Canada

"Blood Brothers", Alexi Tan, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong

"Caramel", Nadine Labaki, Lebanon/France

"Cassandra's Dream", Woody Allen, Britain

"Cleaner", Renny Harlin, U.S.

'SNL's' Wiig on pace for 'Walk Hard'

Kristen Wiig is in final negotiations to co-star opposite John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer in Columbia Pictures' comedy Walk Hard for producer Judd Apatow.

Directed by Jake Kasdan from a script by Apatow and Kasdan, the film centers on a singer (Reilly) who overcomes adversity to become a musical legend. Wiig will play the role of Edith, wife of Reilly's character.

The film is scheduled to start shooting this month in Los Angeles.

Sony's Matthew Tolmach and Jonathan Kadin are shepherding the project for the studio.

Wiig, who is in her second season on Saturday Night Live, will play the female lead in Columbia's upcoming comedy The Brothers Solomon, opposite Will Arnett and Will Forte. She also co-stars in Apatow's upcoming Universal comedy Knocked Up and in the indie Bill, opposite Aaron Eckhart, Jessica Alba and Elizabeth Banks.

Wiig is repped by UTA and Odenkirk Talent Management.

Alba Replaces Lohan

Alba Replaces Lohan
Fantastic Four star Jessica Alba has snatched up Lindsay Lohan's role in the new movie Bill, after the teen actress abruptly quit the film because the first-time directors weren't well known enough. The movie, which also stars Aaron Eckhart and Amanda Peet, began production yesterday. Lohan, 19, pulled out of the film on Tuesday, claiming she only wanted to work with big-name directors. Alba recently worked with the producers of Bill on the movie Awake. Lohan is already working on her next project, Georgia Rule, starring Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman.

Alba, Banks fill GreeneStreet's 'Bill'

Alba, Banks fill GreeneStreet's 'Bill'
Jessica Alba and Elizabeth Banks have signed on to star opposite Aaron Eckhart in the comedy Bill for GreeneStreet Films. The screenplay was written by Melisa Wallack, who also will co-direct with her husband, Bernie Goldman. The story centers on Bill (Eckhart), who, fed up with his job, his wife (Banks) and his life, finds himself the reluctant mentor of an unruly teenager. His life hits an all-time low when he catches his wife having an affair. But with the help of Lucy (Alba), an intriguing saleswoman, he regains his lost sense of self. Lindsay Lohan, who was attached to play the unruly teen, recently dropped out of the film.

Lohan Quits New Movie

Lohan Quits New Movie
Mean Girls star Lindsay Lohan has walked away from her new movie, Bill, after refusing to work with the film's first-time directors because they're not well known enough. The movie, which also stars Aaron Eckhart and Amanda Peet, was scheduled to already be in production. Lohan is said to be concentrating on her next film, Georgia Rule, starring Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman. A source told Fox News correspondent Roger Friedman, "She's just going to stick to working with big-name directors now." Lohan will next be seen in A Praire Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman and starring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Kevin Kline, among others.

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