Filed in Projects White Bird in a Blizzard
Christopher Meloni Joins ‘White Bird’

EMPIRE – It’s been a few months since we heard anything about Gregg Araki’s latest film, which, back then had Shailene Woodley attached and was simply called White Bird. Now the full title appears to be White Bird In A Blizzard and the movie has added Christopher Meloni, Eva Green, Shiloh Fernandez and Gabourey Sidibe.

Not much is known about what they’ll all be doing, besides the fact that Woodley will be playing a young woman whose life is changed dramatically when her mother disappears. Araki wrote the script and is in pre-production on the film, which will shoot, we assume, soon in case Woodley has to go and report to the Amazing Spider-Man sequel set. Though even if she does finally lock in the Mary Jane role on Spider-Man, chances are she could also work on other things in between shooting blocks.

Meloni, meanwhile, is keeping his film career ticking along after a long stretch on cop drama Law & Order: SVU. With that now finished, he’s got plenty of movies set to arrive, including Jackie Robinson drama 42, comedy They Came Together and a tiny indie pic about some bloke who can leap tall buildings in a single bound called Man Of Steel, which arrives on June 14.

Filed in Appearances Photo Updates
Film Independent’s Live Read of Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’

Shailene celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday and I’ve added some new photos from last night taken at Film Independent’s Live Read of Woody Allen’s Manhattan at the LACMA to the gallery. Be sure to take a look!

Filed in Divergent Projects
Why Lionsgate Thinks ‘Divergent’ Can Replace ‘Twilight’

THE WRAP – Lionsgate may have one mega-franchise ending in “Twilight,” but the studio reassured investors and analysts Friday that it has already unearthed the next big thing in young adult entertainment.

The way it plans to keep cash registers ringing through 2014 lies with “Divergent,” a series of novels by Veronica Roth aimed at tweens and set in a futuristic dystopia. Book sales are tracking ahead of where “Twilight” and Lionsgate’s other major franchise “The Hunger Games” were at a similar point in their life cycles, Lionsgate executives said during the company’s second-quarter conference call. Moreover, the fan base for the novels is a passionate one.

“We’re putting it out to our fans right now that we think this is the next big franchise,” Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer said.

“Divergent” will star Shailene Woodley, the beautiful and youthful actress who turned heads in last year’s “The Descendants.” Neil Burger (“Limitless”) will direct the story of a young girl who rebels against her repressive society.

The film is set to open on March 21,2014, roughly the same slot where “The Hunger Games” opened earlier this year. The timing, Feltheimer said, is wholly intentional.

“By putting it, frankly, in the original ‘Hunger Games’ time slot, we’re indicating the amount of support we have,” he said.

Though Lionsgate and Summit, the studio it purchased for $412.5 million earlier this year, are readying for the end of “Twilight,” there are still profits on the horizon from the vampire franchise. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” hits theaters next week and Feltheimer said that advance ticket sales are ahead of where they were for the previous film in the series.

Anticipating the taste of teenagers helped propel Lionsgate to a remarkable third quarter. Thanks to strong home entertainment sales from “The Hunger Games,” the studio reported second-quarter profits of $75.5 million, while revenue jumped 97 percent to $707 million.

Filed in News
Shailene Cast In Live-Read Event of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Jason Reitman’s staged live-readings of famous movie scripts has become a must-see Los Angeles event, but the next one will pay tribute to the big city on the opposite coast.

Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the 1979 story of a New Yorker who falls in love with his best friend’s mistress, will be the next film recreated by Reitman at the Film Independent series, set for Nov. 15 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“From the onset of the Live-Read series, we wanted to hit all the major writers and Woody Allen is simply one of the greatest screenwriters of all time,” the Up in the Air and Juno filmmaker tells EW. “He has ability to match pathos and comedy and drama and then turn it all on a dime. If you’re going to make a series based on dialogue, you can’t find much better than Woody Allen.”

Reitman, whose other films include Thank You For Smoking, Young Adult, and next year’s Labor Day, began staging these readings last year, doing new versions of The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, and Reservoir Dogs, among others. He also staged The Apartment in New York and brought a version of American Beauty to the Toronto Film Festival.

Once he decided on Woody Allen, the hard part was choosing which story he wanted to do. “There are so many well-written screenplays. Some would have gone with Annie Hall or Crimes and Misdemeanors, or one of the recent ones like Vicky Cristina Barcelona. For me, there was just something about the tightness of Manhattan, how few characters there are and the way it uses the city.”

The script was co-written by Marshall Brickman, a longtime collaborator of Allen’s who also co-wrote Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan Murder Mystery.

“It opens with this beautiful monologue about Manhattan, and he speaks about the city with love and fear and admiration,” Reitman said. That scene plays out over images of life in the city, and although some still frames from the movies do appear on a giant screen during the readings, Reitman says, “it will be interesting to just hear the dialogue without seeing all that.”

It’s also a perfect movie for both those who live in New York, and outsiders who are fascinated by it, Reitman says. “Diane Keaton is a transplant, new to the city, versus Woody Allen who is the most obvious native. He is the picture they would put in biology book if you needed a diagram of a New Yorker.”

Those two key roles remain under wraps until the reading next Thursday, but Reitman has some of the casting to reveal:

Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney’s combative eldest daughter in The Descendants, will play the part of Tracy, the high-school girl Allen’s character is dating. The role was originated by Mariel Hemingway, who received an Oscar nomination for it.

Fred Savage, who recreated the little-kid version of himself in Reitman’s live-read last year of The Princess Bride and the role of lickspittle Brandt in their staged version of The Big Lebowski, will co-star as Yale, the part of Allen’s best friend, originated by Michael Murphy.

Parenthood star Erika Christensen has agreed to step into Meryl Streep’s shoes for the role of Jill, the ex-wife of Allen’s character — who is writing a book about him.

Mae Whitman, who co-stars with Christensen on Parenthood, will play Yale’s wife Emily, originated by Anne Byrne.

And Jason Mantzoukas, perhaps best known as the wooly bearded Rafi on The League, will play Dennis, which was originated by the late, great Saturday Night Live comedy writer Michael O’Donoghue.

Filed in Divergent Projects
Why Shailene Woodley is Perfect for “Divergent”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Well Divergent fans, the time for tests and simulations is over! Things are finally ramping up on the movie front with our first bit of casting news: we may have found our Tris! As we reported yesterday, actress Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Descendants) is currently in talks to play the 16-year-old protagonist of Veronica Roth’s popular YA trilogy. And, truth be told, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Here are five reasons why I’m excited by this casting:

1. Woodley was one of the contenders to play Katniss in The Hunger Games: The role ultimately went to Jennifer Lawrence, of course, and Woodley has since admitted that the other actress was the right choice. She told MTV in March: “Yeah, I definitely auditioned. It wasn’t, like, a great audition. But I think that Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for that role.” Why is this a good thing? It means she’s familiar with the kind of audience Divergent will attract and that she’s prepared to take on the responsibility of playing a character that could draw lot of attention — media and otherwise.

2. She’s got cred as an actress: Okay, I know a lot of people will be scandalized by the fact that their potential Tris was also the star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But have you seen The Descendants? Woodley delivers a powerful performance as a drinking, cursing teen seething with resentment for her father. Imagine how hard it is to act as though you dislike George Clooney. The girl should have gotten an Oscar for that alone. Plus, she comes with a stamp of approval from Clooney himself: “She really elevates that role from a stereotype. You can write and direct it. But at the end of the day, someone has to play it.”

3. She’s committed to her TV show: Say what you will about Woodley or The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but even in the midst of all the hubbub surrounding The Descendants, Woodley stayed firmly committed to the ABC Family series for another two seasons. It has since been cancelled, but Woodley never made the move to ditch it herself in favor of her burgeoning film career. She respects her work, regardless of what anyone says. That’s who I want to see sign on to a franchise that has such lasting potential: someone who will stick with it through the end (which you know is going to be four movies) even if she gets higher profile offers. (There’s rumors E L James wants her for Fifty Shades of Grey…)

4. She has a young face: As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and I really do), she doesn’t look 16. That fact doesn’t exactly hurt the movie, but I think it would be a little more powerful to see someone who looks like a teenager; that is, like someone too innocent to have to face such rough circumstances. Woodley’s got this look — her rather effeminate voice, her full cheeks, those sad eyes. No, she doesn’t look badass, but Tris isn’t a killing machine when she arrives at Dauntless. She’s a secret Divergent and she’s scared. I want my Tris to reflect that and I think Woodley’s up the task.

5. She looks like she can kick ass: Like I said, Woodley’s not a badass, but she looks like she could be. She’s no Hollywood waif. Slim, yes, but realistically so. (I felt dirty Googling this, but here she is in a bikini to give you an idea.) Aren’t you tired of too-thin girls getting these meaty action roles and tossing 400 lb men over their shoulders? Ridiculous. There are a lot of physical fights in Divergent and I want to see someone I believe could win. Tris is small, but she’s strong. Woodley looks like she could be too.

But enough about me. What do you think of your possible Tris?