Hanks' Da Vinci Code sequel fast-tracked
Sony Pictures has officially set a February 2008 start date for production on Angels & Demons, the Da Vinci Code sequel, which is slated to hit theaters in December 2008. The quick decision is one of the biggest to transpire amid Hollywood's current deal-making frenzy due to the looming writers strike. Tom Hanks is reprising his role as religious conspiracy investigator Robert Langdon, and director Ron Howard, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and producer Brian Grazer are all back for the second movie adapted from Dan Brown's mystery novels. Casting is now underway. Although The Da Vinci Code grossed a relatively disappointing $217.5 million domestically in 2006, it was a smash hit overseas where it banked a jaw-dropping $540.7 mil. Due to the success of that film, Sony greenlit Angels & Demons, whose 2000 book Brown had actually written before 2003's The Da Vinci Code became an runaway bestseller. (Variety)
Foxx to investigate Zebra Murders
Jamie Foxx will play a detective investigating a series of racially motivated killings in The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights. The project is based on Prentice Earl Sanders' memoir (written with Bennett Cohen) about his experiences as a trailblazing African American lawman in San Francisco in the 1970s. Sanders later became San Francisco's first black police chief. Hot screenwriter du jour Matthew Michael Carnahan, who penned Foxx's recent action thriller The Kingdom, is on board for the script. (Hollywood Reporter)
Back to You leads new-series pickups
Fox has picked up a full season of Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton's much-heralded TV news comedy Back to You, and the network tacked on an additional two episodes for good measure. The order thus amounts to 24 installments pretty impressive for a program that has commanded a merely decent average of 7.4 million viewers and isn't even the top-rated new comedy of the fall. That honor goes to the Christina Applegate amnesia farce Samantha Who?, which ABC is said to be ready to commit to for a full order; so far the network has called for six additional scripts. (Variety)
De Niro and Mann get Frankie Machine up and running
Heat collaborators Robert De Niro and Michael Mann are returning together to the crime-drama genre that made them both famous with Frankie Machine, an adaptation of Don Winslow's 2006 novel The Winter of Frankie Machine. Mann will direct De Niro, who was previously attached to the film about a retired mobster who, just as he gets out, they pull him back in. (Variety)
Springsteen works more Magic at No. 1
Despite a 42 percent decline in sales, Bruce Springsteen's Magic returned to the top position on the album charts, three weeks after debuting at No. 1. On a remarkably slow week, the Boss' CD moved 77,000 copies just a few hundred more than last week's top seller, Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus, which fell to No. 2. Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good, Josh Groban's Noel, and Jimmy Eat World's Chase This Light rounded out the top five in a week that was off nearly 5 percent from the previous seven-day frame and almost 20 percent down from the same stretch a year ago. (Hollywood Reporter)
Harrelson enlists in Stone's Pinkville
Woody Harrelson is joining Bruce Willis, Michael Peña, and Channing Tatum in Oliver Stone's Vietnam-era drama Pinkville. The film revolves around the 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which American troops killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese villagers. Harrelson will play the troubled officer in charge of the force that committed the murders. He and Stone previously worked together on Natural Born Killers. (Hollywood Reporter)
Fanning sisters join Diaz in My Sister's Keeper
Thespian prodigies Dakota and Elle Fanning have agreed to play Cameron Diaz's daughters in My Sister's Keeper for director Nick Cassavetes. The film is an adaptation of Jodi Picoult's 2004 novel about a young girl (to be played by 9-year-old Elle) who sues her parents for emancipation after they conceived her in hopes that her genes would save the life of her cancer-stricken sibling (13-year-old Dakota). The project reunites Cassavetes with screenwriter Jeremy Leven and producer Mark Johnson, two key members of his team behind the hit tearjerker The Notebook. It's due to start shooting early next year. (Variety)
Governator's wife to NBC: I Won't Be Back
California First Lady Maria Shriver has announced that she's permanently done with her work as an NBC News anchor and correspondent. Shriver, a two-decade NBC veteran, had been on an extended leave during her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger's term as governor of the Golden State, but earlier this week she told a women's conference that her interests had diverged with those of network newscasts. Watching coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death solidified the decision in her mind, she said. ''It was then that I knew that the TV news business had changed and so had I. I called NBC News and told them I'm not coming back.'' (AP via Yahoo!)
Access Hollywood: At a press conference announcing a $100 million promotion deal with Ciroc vodka, Diddy denied he punched a man outside a New York nightclub earlier this month, saying, ''I don't fight over girls.''
New York Daily News: Foxy Brown is in solitary at Rikers after tussling with another inmate.
Ben Widdicombe's Gatecrasher: 50 Cent and Lance Bass jokingly begin a feud over sales of their respective new memoirs.