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Screen Talk: The tale of Healey's human touch

Hollywood loves a good human- rights story. As long as it has box office potential. So it is no surprise that the story of human-rights activist Jack Healey has attracted heavyweight backing for its transition to the big screen.

Sony is bankrolling the film and the director Barry Levinson, no less, will helm the story of Healey who left the priesthood to live on the streets where he raised issues regarding human rights. Harley Peyton wrote the first screenplay, which is getting a polish from Kelly Masterson. Healey is big news stateside and heads the Human Rights Action Centre, a non-profit based in Washington, DC, employing the arts and new technologies to stop human-rights abuses.

Whale of a time

Whales trapped under ice in the Arctic Circle sounds like a bit of a cold lead when searching for box-office lucre. But the nonfiction book Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event by Tom Rose is cutting some ice at Universal. It seems the true story of a small-town news reporter and a Greenpeace volunteer who enlist the help of not one, but two rival superpowers to save the large underwater mammals will be made. Kristen Bell, Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski are all set to jump on board.

Shia value for money

Perhaps value for money is a redundant concept for most when considering Hollywood's excesses. But every year, Forbes, the magazine for rich people about rich people, eyes a list of actors who offer the biggest bang for the buck. Agents, studio chiefs and producers pore over the hotlist because everything helps when it comes to negotiating payments with talent. This year, for the second year in a row, Shia LaBeouf emerges as the actor giving the best investment return. For every $1 LaBeouf was paid, the movie in which he appeared earned $81 in profit. Think Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Anne Hathaway came second place, thanks to the $1bn that Alice In Wonderland took at the box office. That's $64 in profit for each $1 she earns. Rounding out the top five were Daniel Radcliffe ($61 in profit for each $1 paid), Robert Downey Jnr ($33) and Cate Blanchett ($27). Hollywood loves an A-list.

Phoenix is still a star

While the rest of the world debates, Hollywood waits when it comes to whether or not Joaquin Phoenix's acting career is over. The star, who spread confusion across town by proclaiming his own retirement from acting to pursue a hip-hop career, is certainly still on most casting wish lists. While Casey Affleck's is-it-real-or-is-it-an-elaborate-put-on documentary I'm Still Here gets ready to roll out across cinemas, the film's star, Phoenix, has recently been circled for a part in The Sitter, and even got a real offer from Fox to play a drug dealer in the Jonah Hill comedy about a college student who is talked into babysitting the three misfit children next door. But he hasn't taken it yet, as he wrestles with his complicated relationship between the craft of acting and its attendant celebrity. At least that's Hollywood.

Amongst friends

Casey Affleck when he's not shooting his mate Phoenix in a documentary fantasy project, does, of course, have his own acting day job. The younger Affleck brother is in negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight's The F-Word – the "f word" in this case being friendship. Elan Mastai's script revolves around a young man who falls for a young woman, but hides his attraction for her until she can admit to reciprocal feelings. Alex Holdridge is set to direct the romantic comedy based on the play Cigars and Toothpaste by T J Dawe and Michael Rinaldi.