Screen Talk: Reconstructing comedy

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The Independent Culture

Unique is a word often used in Hollywood to elevate one project above another in the clamour for attention. It is currently the word being bandied about for a comedy pitch from the writer-director Rob Pearlstein, which also enjoys the favour of actor Ed Helms, who is currently on screens as Stu in Warner Bros' The Hangover Part II.

Pearlstein's pitch, entitled True North, is said to centre on a high-powered workaholic father who slips into a coma for two years, after an horrific plane crash. The once good-looking fellow then comes around to discover he's undergone reconstructive facial surgery and looks nothing like his former self. Cut to him tracking down his family and his attempts to reconnect with them. Unique indeed.

Norse power

It seems like Chris Hemsworth has only just put down his hammer, but plans are already afoot for the actor to reprise his role as Thor. The Norse god of war certainly sounded enough box- office thunder to light up exec faces at Disney and Marvel Studios, the team behind the first film. The money men have already set a July 2013 release date for the warrior god to return. But the director Kenneth Branagh is not destined to be in the chair for the sequel, rather the British name is to take a back-seat producer role for the second coming. And for the record, Thor ironed out a healthy $437m at the worldwide box office. And the studio has only just begun counting the cash from other sources, such as pay-TV runs and home entertainment.

Waking the dead

For most cinemagoers, Haley Joel Osment's claim in The Sixth Sense that he sees dead people remains a career-defining moment. That was now more than 10 years ago, in 1999. While he has gone on to several roles, the now 23-year-old actor is looking to breath life into his resume with an updated version of Frankenstein. Osment is to star in Jay Russell's adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic. Inspired by Steve Niles's graphic novels, Wake the Dead, Osment will see dead people as projects. He is lined up to play Victor Franklin, a college student toying with human death and its limits. The movie is expected to come to life, sometime in 2013, for release.

High stakes poker

The game of poker remains a draw for Hollywood. Aside from the myriad TV shows devoted to the aged card game and movies featuring the gambling pastime, it also occupies the town's rich and famous, often in the privacy of their own homes. Now Tobey Maguire, Nick Cassavetes, Alec Gores, who at one point tried to buy Miramax last year with his brother, and the Welcome Back, Kotter actor Gabe Kaplan have found themselves named in lawsuits for money owed after unlicensed poker nights. Maguire's lawyers say that if the Spider-Man star ends up being required to pay any money, the $300,000-plus that the actor is being sued for should be reduced. According to the lawyer, Maguire also lost $168,500 to a convicted con man, the hedge-fund manager Bradley Ruderman, during the allegedly illegal poker matches held at luxurious LA hotels. Stakes are always high in Hollywood. Ruderman was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme earlier this year.

Palicki strikes back

If you get knocked down, it is best to jump straight back up in Hollywood. Just ask actress Adrianne Palicki who wasted no time after discovering NBC passed on the Wonder Woman pilot show. She has signed on the dotted line to join G I Joe 2: Cobra Strikes in the lead role of Lady Jaye in the sequel directed by Jon M Chu. Palicki joins returning cast members Channing Tatum, Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee, and new cast members RZA, D J Cotrona, Dwayne Johnson and Elodie Yung for the Paramount-backed sequel.