Screen Talk: Ready to rumble n the legal jungle

 

Acting heavyweights Christopher Plummer (above left) and Frank Langella are set to spar in front of the camera for Stephen Frears.

The pair have been cast in Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – though neither, obviously, will be boxing in the ring. The HBO film details the legal fight between Ali and the US government when the fighter became a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Having been drafted into the Army in 1966, Ali declined to serve, citing his belief that the war was against the teachings of the Koran. When he appeared at an armed services induction in 1967 and refused to step forward when his name was called, he was arrested. Legal wranglings ensued and the case ended up in the US Supreme Court in 1971. Shawn Slovo has written the script and the hunt for an actor to play Ali is underway. Plummer will portray Supreme Court associate Justice John Marshall Harlan II. Langella will portray Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Lost cause

Good news and bad for lovers of epic poetry. The long-planned, special effects-laden cinematic take on John Milton's Paradise Lost has been shelved. Bradley Cooper was set to star as Lucifer, leading a cast which included Djimon Hounsou, Casey Affleck and Camilla Belle. Alex Proyas was down to direct. Now, the production giant Legendary Pictures has said no to bringing Milton's war between heaven and hell to life. Why? The project was going to need "Avatar-like" special effects – with a projected budget of more than $120m, it was all just a little too costly.

 

A creature feature gets some help

Hollywood is going great guns for the vogue genre "young adult", expecting big things from The Hunger Games at the box office. Now Beautiful Creatures is being lined up as the next big hit. Adapted from the young-adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it is already attracting grown-ups to its cast. Emma Thompson has signed to play the dual role of Mrs Lincoln, a small-town religious firebrand, and Sarafine, the dark witch who possesses her. Jack O'Connell and Alice Englert (above centre) are due to play the characters at the heart of the supernatural coming-of-age story about two star-crossed teens, a local boy and a mysterious new girl, who uncover dark secrets about their families, history and town. The Help's Viola Davis also stars in the film, which is backed by Warner Bros.

 

Murders, mean streets and Muppets

One of the hottest prospects in Movieland right now is a film-noir script about a down-on-his-luck detective who gets embroiled in a make-or-break career investigation. So far, so unoriginal? The reason that this particular script, Happytime Murders, is attracting heat is that it stars a Muppet. The project is being developed by Brian and Lisa Henson, children of Jim, and has as its gumshoe star a blue Muppet. Word is, the script is hilarious. And, after all, an adult comedy with a bad-ass Muppet hero is long overdue.

 

Write time, write place for Boone film

Greg Kinnear (above right) and Jennifer Connelly have proved to be a lucrative casting coup for the bittersweet comedy Writers, by newcomer Joshua Boone. The movie, scheduled to shoot in the US in March, tells the story of a fractured family trying to rediscover one another over the course of a year. The project was one of thousands of projects being sold to distributors at this year's European Film Market, held during the Berlin Film Festival. The movie has been pre-sold to territories around the world before a camera has even turned, and will now be seen in places as far afield as Singapore, India, Canada and Latin America – and on airplanes around the globe.

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