It feels like James Franco is attached to pretty much everything these days, but now there’s one less Franco project we have to look forward to. According to JustJared.com, the star has pulled out of The Iceman, a biopic of Mafia hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski. Franco was lined up to play Robert “Mr. Softee” Pronge, the “mentor assassin” to Kuklinski (Michael Shannon); Ray Liotta and Maggie Gyllenhaal were also set to star in the picture, by director Ariel Vroman. However, with Franco gone, “it looks like this project might fall apart,” a source told the site.

Details of Franco’s exit have not been revealed, although the same source blames “key contractual issues that didn’t involve financial terms.” The rest of the cast sounds too interesting to waste, so I’m hoping the movie can still come together out even without Franco’s involvement. If not, well, there’s always The Ice Man, the competing project starring Mickey Rourke. [Cinema Blend]

After the jump, Franco’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes co-star Tom Felton gets to play a good guy for once, and Ruben Fleischer is still adding people to the cast of Gangster Squad.

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The theme of this Casting Bits seems to be “rising stars,” as All My Children‘s Ambyr Childers stakes out a spot in an all-star cast, War Horse star Jeremy Irvine leads a movie starring Britain’s finest, and Thor actress Jaimie Alexander signs on to co-star with the Governator himself. Read more after the jump.

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Nick Nolte Joins ‘Gangster Squad’

Briefly: Here’s one more reason to be excited about Ruben Fleischer‘s upcoming ’40s-set LA ‘cops vs. mobsters’ story Gangster Squad. Nick Nolte is taking a role in the film; he’ll be Bill Parker, “the new chief of police in Los Angeles,” and a Chief who isn’t in the pocket of big-time LA gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). The character is a WWII vet and the guy who gives the gangster squad its mandate to bust Cohen and other organized crime goons.

Nolte joins a cast that also includes Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Mirielle Enos, Giovanni Ribisi, Holt McCallany, Robert Patrick, Frank Grillo and Sullivan Stapleton. I don’t know exactly what has Nick Nolte showing up all over the place lately, but I love it. He’s in the David Milch/Michael Mann HBO show Luck, as well as the upcoming films Warrior (pictured above), Parker and The Company You Keep. [Deadline]

Not only is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life one of the most beautiful films of the year, it’s also sparked some of the most fascinating online discourse. Critics are fairly divided, with some arguing that “The Tree Of Life has a vision that makes most movies look like crude stick drawings,” while others opine, “Tree of Life? Tree of sanctimonious mopey male egotism disguised as a search for meaning, more like.” Overall, though, the film has a high ranking on Rottentomatoes and has performed respectably at the box office.

But one thing that I’ve heard numerous times is that Sean Penn is wasted in this film. And a recent interview that Penn gave seems to affirm that the strong-willed actor himself believes his character was not put to good use. Hit the jump to read his comments.
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Here’s a massive post-weekend catchup casting roundup, with a headlining turn from Jean-Claude van Damme. How can you resist the Muscles From Brussels? Answer: you can’t. Just give in to his suave, over-confident appeal. After the break you’ll find details about:

  • JCVD taking part in a sci-fi film called UFO,
  • Danny Glover joining the cast of a different sci-fi thriller, Mentryville,
  • Sullivan Stapleton becoming the latest member of the Gangster Squad,
  • Nico Tortorella from Scream 4 joining Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan in an indie,
  • and What to Expect When You’re Expecting adds more.

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Here’s a lovers and spouses collection of casting news, leading off with a nice change of pace report of an actor being cast as the ‘love interest’ for a major actress, rather than the other way around. After the break you’ll find:

  • Matt Dillon will woo Anette Bening in Imogene,
  • The Killing actress Mireille Enos joins Gangster Squad,
  • Stephanie Szostak cozies up to Ryan Reynolds in RIPD,
  • and some of the Jersey Shore knuckleheads appear with famous fictional whackos The Three Stooges.

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Glee star Darren Criss has landed a part in Imogene, a dark comedy by American Splendor directors Shari Springer Bergman and Robert Pulcini. The Michelle Morgan-penned script revolves around a New York playwright (Kristen Wiig) who fakes a suicide in order to get her ex-boyfriend’s attention. Instead of winning him back, however, she winds up forced to move in with her gambling-addicted “tacky Jersey Shore mother” (Annette Bening).

Criss will play “a younger love interest” who catches the eye of Wiig’s character, but let’s be real — the really intriguing bit of info here is the fact that Bening will be, as Vulture put it, “channel[ing] Snooki” to play “the mother who’s a little inappropriate all the time.” Shooting for the project will begin in New York City this summer. [ThePlaylist]

After the jump, Frank Grillo picks up two new roles on either side of the law, and Patricia Clarkson gets ready to scare the living daylights out of Ron Fucking Swanson.

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Emma Stone in Talks For ‘Gangster Squad’

Briefly: One of Emma Stone‘s biggest breaks was being cast in Ruben Fleischer‘s Zombieland. Superbad was a good introduction for many audiences, but Zombieland led to Easy A and Spider-Man. Now she’s likely to re-team with the director for his true-life 1940s LA cops and mobsters film Gangster Squad. Read More »

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