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You may recall that a couple of years back, Lee Daniels was debating between two civil-rights themed projects. He ultimately settled on the White House drama The Butler, which opens next month. But the other, Selma, hasn’t been forgotten entirely — it’s just in new hands now.

Ava DuVernay, the rising star behind last year’s Sundance drama Middle of Nowhere, has taken over the project. David Oyelowo remains attached to play MLK, as he has since 2010. Hit the jump for more details on the project.

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Left to his own devices Lee Daniels makes films that are eccentric and sometimes just way the hell out there. (The Paperboy) But he has called his newest film, The Butler, “a big compromise” and explained that the film might be “the closest I will come to as a work-for-hire.” Does that mean that, on the relative scale of whackadoo films, The Butler will be far closer to “normal” than anything else he’s made?

Hard to say at this point, but the first trailer suggests that there’s some weird stuff going on here. There’s the parade of cameo players appearing as a string of US Presidents. Among them is John Cusack‘s turn as Richard Nixon, which is… interesting. Then there’s Alex Pettyfer playing an uber-douchebag cotton farm overseer, and the digital effects and makeup that shave a few decades off lead Forest Whitaker in some scenes.

Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served several different President as the White House butler, and the trailer suggests the film traces his entire life story, using it to frame the sweep of the civil rights movement. It’s a good story, but this trailer looks a lot like a parody that might show up on SNL. So we’ll see — maybe The Butler will be just as crazy as the rest of Daniels’ work. Read More »

Matthew McConaughey is having one hell of a year. Having already drawn praise for turns in Richard Linklater’s Bernie, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, and William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, the onetime Failure to Launch star is now heading into fall with Lee DanielsThe Paperboy.

Inspired by true events, The Paperboy centers around wayward young man (Zac Efron) and his journalist brother (McConaughey). When a woman (Nicole Kidman) approaches them for help in getting her death row inmate boyfriend (John Cusack) out of jail, they investigate the murder that put him there. David Oyelowo and Macy Gray also star. The first theatrical trailer has just hit the web, and you can watch it after the jump.

Last King of Scotland actor David Oyelowo has been poised on the brink of stardom for some time now, and while he’s not quite there yet he could be soon. He’s due to appear in a slew of buzzy projects over the next couple of years, including Lincoln, Jack Reacher, and The Butler. If he does well in them, he could very well be the subject of breathless THR profiles within another year or two.

His starring turn in Ava DuVernay‘s award-winning Sundance drama Middle of Nowhere isn’t likely to boost his fame or fortune by much. But precisely because it’s so low-key, it could prove a better showcase for his dramatic chops than some of his bigger movies. Emayatzy Corinealdi leads the cast as Ruby, a medical student who puts her career on hold when her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) is sent to jail. Oyelowo plays a bus driver who develops an interest in her. Watch the trailer after the jump.

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Even as Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to Precious, The Paperboy, makes its debut at Cannes this week, the filmmaker’s wasting no time assembling a stellar cast for his next project, The Butler. The talented Forest Whitaker leads the picture as Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served under eight different presidents from 1952 through 1986, with Oprah Winfrey and rising star David Oyelowo signed to play his wife and son.

And the cast only gets more buzzworthy from there. The roster also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nicole Kidman, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and John Cusack. Now we can add Minka Kelly to the list as well, as Daniels says he’s cast her to play Jackie Kennedy to Matthew McConaughey‘s John F. More after the jump.

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A couple years ago, Precious director Lee Daniels went back and forth on the idea of filming the life of longtime White House servant Eugene Allen for the movie The Butler, or making a civil rights drama called Selma. In the end, he made neither, choosing instead to shoot The Paperboy with Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, based on Peter Dexter’s novel of the same name.

But with that film complete, Daniels has cycled back around to The Butler, and is in the process of casting the film. We’ve heard about quite a few possible actors (Hugh Jackman, Oprah Winfrey, Liam Neeson), some of whom were set for roles in Selma before that project died. The only casting that seemed close to set for The Butler was David Oyelowo, who was said to have the title role.

Now Oyelowo is still in talks for the movie, but it looks like he’ll play Allen’s son, instead of the title character. In the lead role is likely to be played by Forest Whitaker. Read More »

Chuck actress Yvonne Strahovski is in final talks for I, Frankenstein, Stuart Beattie‘s adaptation of the comic book by Kevin Grevioux. Aaron Eckhart leads the cast as Frankenstein’s classic monster, who in the present day goes by Adam and stands between humanity and the supernatural demons who would overtake them.

Bill Nighy was previously announced as being in talks to play the villain, a demon prince determined to unlock the secrets of Frankenstein’s reanimation. Strahovski is negotiating for the female lead, a scientist who’s tricked by the demons into helping them create an undead army. Miranda Otto and Socratis Otto (no relation) also star.

Strahovski recently starred in Killer Elite with Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro, and will next appear in My Mother’s Curse with Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, and Adam Scott. I, Frankenstein is scheduled to begin shooting this winter in Australia. [The Hollywood Reporter]

After the jump, rising star David Oyelowo books yet another high-profile project, and Elle Fanning and Alessandro Nivola try to stop things from exploding.

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Christopher McQuarrie‘s adaptation of Lee Child‘s thriller novel One Shot is moving forward with Tom Cruise in the lead role of hulking ex-military cop Jack Reacher, who is drawn into a strange plot involving sniper shootings in a mid-size town.

To say that fans have been unenthusiastic about that casting choice is an understatement. A recent re-read of the novel gave me a good idea of how the character will be adapted to suit Cruise, and so I’m ready to see what McQuarrie is going to offer. But I’ve had many conversations with others who aren’t so sure. Cruise seems quite aware of that uncertainty, as he talks publicly about his role in the film. Read More »

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