Lindsey Bahr
March 04, 2014 AT 12:00 PM EST

• Leonardo DiCaprio is no longer attached to star as the scrappy Florida beach bum Travis McGee in the big-screen adaptation of John D. MacDonald‘s The Deep Blue Good-by (the first in a 21-book series). Though it was being developed for DiCaprio, who earned an Academy nod for his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, the actor decided to exit due to scheduling conflicts. Still, the project does seem to be moving forward for 20th Century Fox: It was just announced that Wolverine‘s James Mangold is in negotiations to direct, and Mystic River‘s Dennis Lehane penned the most recent draft of the script. DiCaprio’s Appian Way will still produce the project as well. Sound off in the comments if you have any ideas about who should play McGee in Leo’s absence. [Deadline]

• The Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong, Stalingrad) has signed a multi-picture deal with Marvel. The German actor is playing brilliant former Nazi officer and leader of HYDRA Baron Von Strucker in Ultron, and is described as a secondary villain in the pic set for a May 1, 2015, release. [Empire Online]

• Whoopi Goldberg is set to star in and produce The Christmas Pearl, based on Dorthea Benton Frank‘s novel about a tense Christmas reunion. Pearl — the family’s former maid — comes back as a ghost to help mediate the fraught family time. Goldberg will play the ghost. [Variety]

• Jim Piddock (The Prestige) will join Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) in Kill Your Friends, a dark comedy based on John Niven‘s 2008 novel about an A&R agent operating with middling success in the mid-’90s Britpop scene who decides to commit himself to doing whatever it takes to succeed. He leaves a trail of bodies in his wake, apparently. Owen Harris, best known for his TV work (Misfits, Holy Flying Circus) is set to direct. [Deadline]

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