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Screen Talk: 'The Ward' goes to...

Horror hit-maker John Carpenter is lining up a bevy of beauties for his latest psychological fright-fest.

The director has lined up Danielle Panabaker to star opposite Amber Heard in 'The Ward', a project billed as a psychological horror thriller. The movie follows a girl (Heard) who is admitted to a psychiatric ward, meets other girls there with distinct personalities and discovers a mysterious girl haunting the halls at night. Panabaker will play a snobbish patient in the institution, who flirts with orderlies and faces electroshock therapy. Mamie Gummer also has been cast as a patient.

Penn runs out

The plans for MGM's update on 'The Three Stooges' got a slap in the face when Sean Penn pulled out. The two-time Oscar-winning actor-writer-director is taking a leave from his Hollywood career to focus on his family. Peter and Bobby Farrelly have spent the better part of a decade trying to get 'Stooges' off the ground, and in March they pulled off a major casting coup securing Penn as Larry, Jim Carrey as Curly and Benicio del Toro as Moe, as highlighted in Screentalk. Now MGM and the Farrellys, who wrote the script and are slated to direct, have to decide whether or not they will wait for Penn or seek to find a new actor.

Fantasy team

It's the standard beginning of any fairy tale but now MGM is backing a fantasy adventure entitled 'Once upon a Time'. The film aims to have fun with fairy-tale conventions the way the 'Shrek' movies and 'Enchanted' did and sees Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty uniting to go in search of their missing fellas, the Charming Brothers. Mike Mitchell has been hired to direct the project, based on the original screenplay written by Charles Vignola, Kevin Marcus and Bradley Marcus. Mitchell is now directing 'Shrek Forever After', the fourth instalment of the 'Shrek' franchise set for a release next year.

Reese lines up another hit

Reese Witherspoon is not just a pretty face. Or an acclaimed actress. She is also turning her hand to producing again and is developing a script, 'Pharm Girl', about one woman's odyssey through the drug industry for her production banner Type A. She's lined herself up to play the lead role in the picture, which is being developed with backing from Universal Studios. 'Bad Santa' writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are penning the screenplay and are in talks to direct. The script details the story of a woman (Witherspoon) who gets a job at a pharma powerhouse but begins to see the underbelly of the industry as she rises through the company's ranks.

Sitting back on past glories

Ancient Greece is all the rage with Warner Bros. The studio has won a major bidding war to pick up an Ann Peacock-penned script, 'Odysseus'. Her script centres on Odysseus, the famed king of Ithaca, who returns to his island after 20 years of fighting the Trojan wars, only to find his kingdom under the brutal occupation of an invading force. Odysseus single-handedly defeats every last man and takes back his wife, his son and his kingdom. Word is the studio wants it to be an out-and-out revenge movie rather than a sleepy sword-and-sandal epic. Jonathan Liebesman is attached to direct. The studio is prepping production on a remake of 'Clash of the Titans', starring Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson.