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Ron Howard is by no means critically reviled, but as a director he hasn’t had the sort of career that gets hardcore cinephiles all hot and bothered, either. So while we’ve been curious about Rush, his Formula 1 racing drama, it’d be a stretch to say it was one of our most anticipated releases of the year.

In the wake of its Toronto Film Festival debut, however, we may have to reconsider. Early reactions have ranged from solid to positively glowing, with plenty of reviewers noting that Howard has managed to avoid his usual sentimentality. As a matter of fact, praise was lavished on just about everyone involved, including stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, screenwriter Peter Morgan, and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Hit the jump to read the reviews.

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Rush

The Ron Howard project we’ve covered most extensively in this space is probably the fourth season of Arrested Development, but we’re also pretty pumped for his other big release of 2013, the Formula One racing drama Rush.

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl play James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two real-life racing rivals that spent the ’70s neck-in-neck with one another. Their intense competition only intensified in 1976 after the latter suffered a horrific crash that put him in a coma, only to return to the track weeks later. Watch the first trailer after the jump.

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Every once in a while we get an update on the planned biopic of late Queen frontman and consummate showman Freddie Mercury. For quite a while Borat star and Hugo supporting actor Sacha Baron Cohen has been set to play the mustachioed singer, but beyond that we’ve heard fairly little.

But founding and current Queen guitarist Brian May says the film is still moving forward. There’s been a delay, and so contrary to previous reports shooting is now planned for spring 2013 with a release to follow in 2014, but the thing is still happening. Read More »

Rush reunites director Ron Howard with his Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen), to tell the story of real-life racing rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, whose competition came to a head during Formula 1 series in the mid-’70s. Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Cabin in the Woods) plays Hunt and Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) is Lauda, who nearly died in a terrible crash in 1976, but strapped himself back into the driver’s seat only weeks later to challenge Hunt. Also appearing in the movie are Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Christian McKay, and Natalie Dormer.

We’ve seen on-set pics from the production, but the still above is one of four images that recently hit the film’s official site. Given the fact that the opening date is more than a year away we’re not likely to see much footage any time soon, but the official stills give us a fairly good idea of how things look, at the very least. Read More »

With Cannes around the corner, new film projects are cropping up, and deals are being signed. As Germain mentioned earlier we’ll see a lot of indie projects cropping up in the next couple weeks, but there are also studio projects moving forward.

For instance, Antoine Fuqua has added another project to his slate. Chicagoland, written by Peter Morgan, now has the director attached at New Line. It’s one of several films to which the director is attached, but he jumps on and off films with seeming alacrity, so it’s hard to say if this one will get made under his guidance. (For reference, the last theatrical film Fuqua made was the 2009 release Brooklyn’s Finest. He’s been attached to a good half-dozen or more since then.) The most interesting film on his slate, however, the Eminem-starring boxing drama Southpaw, seems to be pushed into the ether at this point while Eminem rides the latest wave of his music career.

There isn’t a lot of info about Chicagoland, but the script has been vaguely likened to Fuqua’s greatest success, Training Day. It seems like that comparison has been thrown at other films to which Fuqua has been attached, too. So we’ll see if it helps this one; a Peter Morgan script certainly isn’t a bad thing. [Variety]

After the break, Gavin O’Connor, who made the sadly under-seen film Warrior, will direct Yakuza, a thriller set in Japan. Read More »

As Sacha Baron Cohen‘s new comedy The Dictator strolls towards theaters, I know some have been wondering if his plan to play late Queen singer Freddie Mercury remains intact. As it turns out, that plan has not changed, and now Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) is the frontrunner to direct the film that has the backing of remaining Queen members Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon. Read More »

Olivia Wilde has landed the coveted role of ’70s supermodel Suzy Miller in Rush, Ron Howard‘s Peter Morgan-scripted drama about the real-life rivalry between British Formula One driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian racer Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Miller married the womanizing Hunt, but then fell in love with Hunt’s friend Richard Burton. Burton agreed to pay the $1 million divorce settlement that Hunt owned Miller, and then married Miller.

Howard is reportedly eyeing Russell Crowe to play the supporting role of Burton, but it doesn’t sound like negotiations are too far along at this time. Rush began preliminary shooting last month, but real principal photography is starting soon. [Deadline]

After the jump, Billy Crudup gets to show off his comedic chops while Helen Hunt, Maggie Grace, and Aaron Paul get to fight breast cancer.

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It’s an action/thriller casting break this evening, featuring the return of some classic actors to familiar old stomping grounds. So after the break you’ll find:

  • Peter Stormare is a bad guy in Arniold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand,
  • Anthony Hopkins will hunt a serial killer in Solace,
  • and Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and John Travolta may be confirmed for The Expendables 2.

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I’d like to make this the ‘leading lady’ edition of Casting Bits, but I don’t think Caleb Landry Jones would like that very much. (Jason Segel would probably be OK with it.) Still, after the break you’ll find that two films have chosen their lead actresses, while Jones joins Jordan. Ahem. To wit:

  • Alexandra Maria Lara (above) takes the (female) lead in Ron Howard’s racing movie Rush,
  • Cody Horn will be the leading lady in Soderbergh’s Magic Mike,
  • Caleb Landry Jones, aka the First Class version of Banshee, joins Neil Jordan’s Byzantium,
  • and, as a final note, Jason Segel appears to be confirmed for Judd Apatow’s This is Forty.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds featured three breakout performances by actors who were previously little-known to US audiences. Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender have gone on to very high-profile studio work, but Daniel Brühl, who played the Nazi sniper hero Frederick Zoller, has taken his time choosing Hollywood roles. (He has continued to work, doing so mostly in Europe.)

Now he is in talks for a film by a major Hollywood player — he’s looking at the role of Austrian Formula One champ Niki Lauda for Ron Howard‘s racing movie Rush. Read More »