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Casting Net: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael B. Jordan in talks for 'Triple Nine'; Plus James Franco, more

• 12 Years a Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), and Casey Affleck (Out of the Furnace) are in talks to star in Triple Nine, a crime drama from director John Hillcoat (The Road). Oscar-winners Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) have also been circling the long-gestating project, which follows a group of corrupt police officers looking to plan a heist. Affleck would be replacing Charlie Hunnam in the pic. [The Wrap]

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Critical Mass: Christian Bale revels in the shadows in 'Out of the Furnace'

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Is anyone a better movie actor right now than Christian Bale? (Okay, I’ll give you Daniel Day-Lewis… but it’s close and getting closer.) The 39-year-old Welshman is fully in his prime, demonstrated most recently by two powerful performances landing in the heart of Oscar season. The flashier role might be in David O. Russell’s American Hustle, which doesn’t open until Dec. 20. In Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, which opened Wednesday and expanded Friday, he plays the good-intentioned ex-con whose pursuit of justice — after his ne’er-do-well brother (Casey Affleck) goes missing — puts him on a collision course with a terrifying meth-king hick (Woody Harrelson).

Set around the decaying stacks of Pennsylvania steel mills around the eve of Obama’s 2008 election, Furnace never flinches from its dreary first impression, using Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard to positive effect as the types of craggled faces who survive this iron underworld. There’s not a lot of hope or change for these characters. As EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes, “Like 1978′s The Deer Hunter, Cooper’s devastating death trip nails the bond between two no-hope men pushed to violent extremes.”

Bale has always been drawn to characters with violent impulses — from Batman to Patrick Bateman to boxer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter. Playing a superhero never seemed to limit his range, but now that he’s free of the cowl for good, it will be fascinating to watch the next phase of his career. The critics seem to think he’s off to a great start.

Before you head to the theater, click below to see what the leading critics are saying about Out of the Furnace.
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'Out of the Furnace' clip: Casey Affleck picks Christian Bale up from prison -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Christian Bale doesn’t normally like to watch himself on screen. But his new film for director Scott Cooper, Out of the Furnace (in theaters Dec. 6), has turned out to be an exception.

“It’s stunning. Scott is a hell of a director. It’s wonderful and I keep going in and watching it,” says Bale. “I keep calling Scott and going, can I please see it again?’” He laughs. “It sort of hypnotized all of us and the great thing for me is how much has come through in the end. As an actor you hope for the best, and sometimes you get experiences with the work when you’re really surprised it didn’t happen on film. There’s nothing you can do about that — that’s up to the director and editor to muster with what you’ve given them. But, this one — holy crap! It really came through.”

Out of the Furnace, which also co-stars Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, and Zoe Saldana, centers on Bale’s character, Russell Baze, a quiet steelworker in Braddock, PA, who takes care of everyone around him — especially his younger, troubled brother (played by Casey Affleck). There’s a lot of painful twists of fate in this film that are best left unspoiled, but without ruining too much, you’ll note that in the exclusive scene below, Bale’s character is (happily) getting out of prison. And you’ll see exactly why this film is generating some Oscar buzz for this performance. (Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite movies of the year.)
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'Out of the Furnace' trailer: Tattooed Christian Bale versus badass Woody Harrelson -- VIDEO

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The new trailer for Out of the Furnace, a gritty rust-belt crime drama from Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), sings a new tune.

The first preview – which showed Christian Bale seeking vengeance against the hillbilly crimelord (Woody Harrelson) who might have made his brother (Casey Affleck) disappear — was accompanied by Pearl Jam’s “Release.” This new clip opts instead for a whispery cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”

In the movie, Affleck plays a returning Iraq War vet who turns to bare-knuckle brawling to pay back some debts. He finds trouble when he has to decide whether he can make more money by winning or losing — and disappears. Enter his older brother (Bale), who is trying to walk the straight-and-narrow but seems to have a history with this type of mountain justice. The trailer seems determined to evoke The Fighter… if it were crossed with Winter’s Bone.

Watch the trailer below. READ FULL STORY

'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' director David Lowery on Joanna Newsom, keeping viewers in the dark

On Saturday, New York’s IFC Center screened Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and held a Q&A session with director David Lowery afterward. The 2013 Sundance selection, now in theaters, follows escaped convict Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) desperately trying to reunite with his wife and partner-in-crime Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara).

Here are some interesting things we learned about the indie-Western film:

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints began with an image. “The first thing that ever came to mind was that I wanted to make an action movie,” Lowery said. “And my idea of how to start an action movie was a guy breaking out of prison. But that didn’t work out. So I kind of put that idea away for a while. This image of a guy that I put in that script walking around in the woods just surrounded by nature, and that is in the movie, and that quickly corresponded to this other image of the same character carrying a little girl away from the scene of something terrible. And that image wound up in the movie too.”
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'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' poster and director David Lowery on Rooney Mara, violence, and indies

It’s Texas sometime in the 1970s and Ruth Guthrie and Bob Muldoon are in love. But in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, the passionate, earnest couple cannot stay together. There’s a confrontation with the police, and Bob (Casey Affleck) ends up in prison, while Ruth (Rooney Mara) raises their daughter alone. But Ruth’s quiet life is upended when she gets word that Bob has escaped from prison.

With Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in theaters on Aug. 16 (and VOD on Aug. 23), director David Lowery crafts a tightly constructed, lyrical portrait of people tied together by love, tragic circumstance, and obligation. And even though there are guns, wounds, threats, and betrayals, Lowery has somehow managed to make nearly every character empathetic. EW spoke with Lowery about the film, his love of Robert Altman, his use of violence in the film, and the state of independent movies. Take a look after the break. WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS.

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'Out of the Furnace' trailer puts Christian Bale into the fire -- VIDEO

The new trailer for Out of the Furnace drops us into the life of Russell Baze (Christian Bale): He works, he has a great girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), and he takes care of his sick father. A family man, Russell is thrilled when his brother (Casey Affleck) returns from active duty.

But his bro gets mixed up in a crime ring and goes missing, and Russell’s life quickly unravels. He must confront the leader of the gang, Curtis DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), and demand that his brother be set free.

Watch the action unfold, with shots of the film’s other stars, including Forest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe, as Russell goes on a desperate hunt to save his brother and put his life back together, all to the tune of Pearl Jam’s “Release.”
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'Ain't Them Bodies Saints': Casey Affleck isn't about to let Rooney Mara go -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

In Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Casey Affleck stars as an escaped convict who sets out for home to reunite with his wife (Rooney Mara) — who is also his former partner in crime — and meet their daughter, who was born while he was in prison. Promising writer/director David Lowery won accolades at the Sundance Film Festival, where his movie received winning comparisons to the early work of Terrence Malick.

Saints is getting a special critics screening this week at the Cannes Film Festival, and will open in U.S. theaters on Aug. 16.

In an exclusive video from the movie, Affleck’s Bob chases down Mara’s stubborn — and apparently insecure — Ruth. Watch it below. READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2013: IFC scoops up rights to Rooney Mara-, Casey Affleck-starrer 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, one of 16 films in this year’s U.S. dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, has scored a deal for U.S. distribution rights with IFC Films.

Written and directed by Texas-based Filmmaker David Lowery, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster. Set in 1970s rural Texas, the film tells the tale of outlaw couple Bob Muldoon (Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Mara). During a shootout in the Texas hills, Ruth wounds a local officer (Foster), but Bob takes the blame, and when he escapes from prison four years later, he sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Nicole Kidman may channel Princess Grace; 'Community' star Ken Jeong in for 'Pain'

• Not much is being revealed about the character that Community’Ken Jeong will play in the upcoming Michael Bay film, Pain and Gain, about a group of bodybuilders who run an extortion ring. But chances are it’s not a deadpan ob/gyn. He’s reteaming with Bay for the first time since Transformers: Dark of the Moon to play a character named Johnny Wu. The film, which also stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson just started shooting in Miami. [THR]

• Steamy Casey Affleck is gearing up to star alongside previously announced leads Christian Bale and Zoe Saldana in Relativity’s upcoming drama Out of the Furnace. Affleck and Bale will play brothers living in the Rust Belt who dream of a better life. Sam Shepard will also be joining the cast, playing the brothers’ uncle. The project is directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), so will we get to see them play some blues? [Indiewire]

Read more:
‘Crazy Heart’ director nabs Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, and more for ‘Out of the Furnace’
Casting Net: Nicole Kidman replaces Rachel Weisz, Bruce Willis lands action role with a ‘Bullet
‘Community’ boss ‘confident’ about season 4 chances

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