John Sciulli/
Mike Bruno
July 13, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Theron teams with Babel writer Arriaga
Charlize Theron will star in and executive produce The Burning Plain, a drama that marks the feature directorial debut of Babel screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. Much like the Mexican writer’s past scripts, Plain will consist of a series of storylines exploring a similar theme. Theron will play a woman who tries to find common ground with her parents after a turbulent childhood. She will next be seen starring in the Paul Haggis-directed In the Valley of Elah. In addition to teaming with director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu on Babel, Amores perros and 21 Grams, Arriaga also wrote the Tommy Lee Jones-directed The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (which won him the Best Screenplay Award at the 2005 Cannes Festival) and has directed TV and documentaries. Burning is scheduled to start shooting in November, financed by 2929 productions, which says it will be done on a budget of less than $20 million. (Variety)

Midnight Potter screenings set record
Wednesday’s midnight screenings of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix brought in $12 million, burying the previous midnight premiere record of $8 million set by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. The record for the biggest full-day Wednesday opening is held by Spider-Man 2, which hauled in $40.4 million in 2004. Phoenix may come close to that record, opening on 4,285 screens domestically, the widest domestic and international opening in Warner Bros.’ history. (Variety)

Saoirse Ronan joins Lovely Bones
Saoirse Ronan will join Rachel Weisz and Ryan Gosling in the movie adaptation of Alice Sebold’s book Lovely Bones, which Peter Jackson is directing for DreamWorks. Ronan will play the book’s central character, Susie Salmon, a young girl who is murdered but continues to observe life on earth after she’s gone, including her death’s impact on her family and her murderer’s plotting to kill again. Weisz and Gosling are playing the grieving parents. Jackson wrote the script with Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. Shooting is planned to begin in October. Ireland’s Ronan, who appeared in the Irish television series Proof and The Clinic, is quickly making a name for herself in Hollywood: She will be seen later this year in Death Defying Acts, with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Guy Pearce, I Could Never Be Your Woman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, and Atonement, with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. She will also start work on the Gil Kenan-directed The City of Ember this summer. (Hollywood Reporter)

Indy 4 starts shooting in Hawaii
Indiana Jones 4 began shooting in Hawaii’s Big Island this week with footage scheduled to be taken at several spots, including a waterfall near the coast and a secluded piece of Shipman Estate property near Keaau. Additional footage was shot in New Haven, CT. Studio officials will reveal almost nothing about the movie, the first Jones installment in 18 years. The title is rumored to be Indiana Jones and the City of Gods or simply Indiana Jones IV. It will release in May 2008, starring Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf, Cate Blanchet, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, and Ray Winstone. (Hollywood Reporter)

Rockwell, Huston starring in Choke
Sam Rockwell and Angelica Huston will star in Choke, the movie adaptation of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’s 2001 novel, which will mark the directorial debut of actor Clark Gregg (The New Adventures of Old Christine, State and Main), who also wrote the adaptation. The movie is a black comedy that follows Victor Mancini (Rockwell), a sex addict who runs a con scheme that involves deliberately choking in restaurants to fund his mother’s (Huston) care at a private mental hospital. He falls in love with his mother’s doctor and discovers that he is unable to perform with the one woman he actually likes. Production is starting this week. Rockwell is set to start work on Frost/Nixon for Working Title and next appears in the Warner Independent Pictures drama Snow Angels, opposite Kate Beckinsale. Huston will next appear in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, which is set to release in early 2008. (Hollywood Reporter)

Writers Guild talks start next week
Negotiations get underway next week between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood producers ahead of the October expiration of the WGA’s current contract. The WGA’s key demands include compensation for writing for new-media platforms and expanding jurisdiction into reality and animation, while Hollywood studios are proposing a revamp of the entire system of residuals for writers, actors, and directors for reuse of movies and TV shows because of the way new-media platforms are changing the revenue landscape. A stalemate between the two sides has TV networks preparing for the possibility of a writer strike in the fall. (Variety)

Singing Bee premiere wins Tuesday for NBC
The Tuesday night premiere of NBC’s Singing Bee was the night’s top show in viewership and adults 18-49, averaging 13.1 million viewers and a 5.0 rating/14 share. Bee edged out Fox’s telecast of the Major League Baseball All-Star game, which averaged 12.5 million viewers. (Hollywood Reporter)

Lifetime taps Dutton, Pena for original movie, renews Army Wives
Charles S. Dutton will direct and star alongside Elizabeth Pena in Lifetime original movie Racing for Time, which will air next year. Inspired by the true story of Noel Chesnut, the movie is about a prison guard (Dutton) who creates an unconventional sports program for violent female offenders at a juvenile correctional facility in an attempt to teach them teamwork and build their self-esteem while breaking down racial divides. In other Lifetime news, the network announced that it will renew its series Army Wives, granting a 13-episode second season to the scripted series, which has become the top-rated original show in Lifetime’s 23-year history. (Variety)

CELEBRITY NEWS A week after being seen getting cozy with Zach Braff, Drew Barrymore was spotted Tuesday night cuddling and kissing Spike Jonze at a Klaxons show in L.A.

Liz Smith: Charlie Sheen proposed to girlfriend Brooke Mueller by presenting her with a radiant cut, 11-carat, natural yellow diamond set in a platinum ring he had created by Alon Barak of Beverly Hills.

Rush & Molloy: Ian Ziering reportedly got a callback to replace Bob Barker on The Price Is Right.

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