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'Maleficent' TV spot: Beware of Jolies bearing gifts! VIDEO

Maleficent

Wicked meets Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent, an upcoming live-action film that promises to tell the true story of the Mistress of All Evil. Of course, as this is a Disney flick, it may turn out that Mal (Angelina Jolie) is less evil than misunderstood. Just check out the way she tries to bond with innocent, apple-cheeked Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) in this new TV spot: “Aurora, there is an evil in this world, and I cannot keep you from it,” Maleficent purrs. Hmm — so perhaps the whole sleeping curse and wall o’thorns around Aurora’s castle were simply meant as a protection from some even bigger bad. Perhaps Maleficent can fight off that evil with her wicked-sharp cheekbones?

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Academy Nicholl Fellowships: Stars turn out to honor new screenwriters

There’s no such thing as a sure path to success in Hollywood, but the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting is as close as you’re going to get. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the five 2013 finalists just over two weeks ago, and already the honorees are fielding calls from agents, managers and studios eager to work with them. At least one has already signed with an agent and a manager.

The program, now in its 28th year, allows aspiring screenwriters who have never earned more than $25,000 writing fiction for film or television to submit an original script for the chance to win one of five $35,000 fellowships, intended to allow the recipients the time and money to produce another original script in the next calendar year.

In years past, the Nicholl Fellowships Committee, chaired by Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, held a dinner for the finalists before sending them off to craft their next scripts, but this year the Committee wanted to do something a little more special. So Thursday night, the Academy hosted an event at their headquarters in Beverly Hills for both Academy members and the public, and invited notable actors to read scenes from each of the finalists’ scripts. “This is something we’ve wanted to do for years,” said Hurd. Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs), directed the live reading, Julie Lynn produced, and actors Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Elle Fanning (Somewhere), Anthon Yelchin (Star Trek Into Darkness), and Taraji P.Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) perform for an audience of 1,500.

“These are new screenwriters, all of whom are so fantastic and imaginative and haven’t yet had their creative edges knocked off of them by the torturous development process,”  Isaacs told EW at a reception before the reading. “All the scripts are original and interesting and have an optimism and a zing that you rarely find with someone who’s been here for too long. We need new blood and new stories and new imaginations to prop up this town. Things, and people, get stale here very quickly. We need a constant injection of fresh approaches, and every single one of these scripts has it.”

For the five finalists, it’s a pretty significant jolt from anonymity into a promising new career path, made possible partly by the pedigree and promise of previous fellows. Alums include Jeffrey Eugenides, a 1986 Fellow who won the Pulitzer for his novel Middlesex, Susannah Grant, a 1992 Fellow who picked up an Academy Award nomination for Erin Brockovich, Destin Daniel Cretton, a 2012 Fellow whose Short Term 12 wowed critics and festival audiences this year, Mike Rich, whose Nicholl script was made into Finding Forrester, Andrew Marlowe, a 1992 Fellow who created the series Castle, and many others. “One of last year’s winners, James DiLapo, said in his speech last year that he would sell his kidney to write Star Wars VII,” said Academy Nicholl Fellowship director Greg Beal. “That didn’t come about but earlier this year he signed a two picture deal with Warner Bros. The first picture was to adapt The Odyssey…in space.”

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Tribeca Film Festival announces shorts lineup with films featuring Elijah Wood, Elle Fanning, more

For short films, the Tribeca Film Festival is a must. Winning the award for Narrative Short or Best Documentary Short automatically qualifies a film for the Academy Awards. Their track record isn’t too bad either. Shawn Christensen’s Curfew had its New York premiere at the Festival and went on to win the Academy Award.

This year, Tribeca will show 60 short films in eight categories, from a variety of new and returning directors (including Christensen with Grandma’s Not A Toaster), and featuring performances from a number of Hollywood stars. Elijah Wood plays a standup comic who attempts a daring set in Setup, Punch (Worst Day Ever category), Elle Fanning deals with eating disorders and societal standards for beauty in Likeness (Skin Deep category), and Dominic West plays an inventor who loses his wife and must figure out another way to raise his child in The Girl with the Mechanical Maiden (Deadbolt category).

In the press release announcing the lineup, TFF Director of Short Film Programming and Initiatives Sharon Badal said, “These short programs run quite the emotional gamut, and we look forward to surprising our moviegoers with some very unique stories this year.”

Click past the jump for the full list.

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Casting Net: Carey Mulligan to hunt for rich husband in 'Nancy and Danny.' Plus: Tom Hardy, Zoe Saldana, Joy Bryant

• Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon are attached to star in The Long Red Road, an adaptation of Brett C. Leonard‘s play about an alcoholic named Sam (Hard), who’s drinking his life away on a South Dakota Indian reservation. Shannon would play his older brother; Leonard will pen the adaptation. In 2010, Hardy headlined the world premiere of the play at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. That production was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it’s not clear whether he will join the feature film version. [Variety]

• Zoe Saldana will play the singularly voiced singer Nina Simone in the long-in-the-works biopic Nina, and David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) will play her longtime manager Clifton Henderson. Cynthia Mort (who wrote The Brave One and created HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me) is directing from her screenplay. [THR]

• Joy Bryant (NBC’s Parenthood) has joined the untitled adaptation of David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which itself was previously adapted into the 1986 romcom About Last Night… starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. Bryant will play a Los Angeles woman who enters into a one-night stand with a man (Michael Ealy) that becomes a full-blown relationship, to the strenuous objection of their respective friends (Regina Hall and Kevin Hart). Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) is directing from a script by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette). [Deadline]

• Elle Fanning (Super 8) is attached to an adaptation of Kevin Henkes Newbery award-winning YA novel Olive’s Ocean, a coming-of-age tale about a teenager who learns a girl named Olive, who had recently died, had admired her from afar. First-time feature screenwriter Christina Hammonds Reed is penning the script. [Deadline]

• Along with landing a high profile release date next JuneKick-Ass 2 added two more actors to its ranks. Morris Chestnut will play the legal guardian for Chloe Moretz‘s Hit Girl (a role that seemingly was originated by Omari Hardwick in the first film). And Robert Emms (War Horse) will play Insect Man. Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) is directing. [Deadline/Deadline]

• Speaking of Morris Chestnut, he’s also joining the thriller The Hive, as the love interest for Halle Berry‘s 911 call operator, who fields a frantic phone call from a kidnapped girl (Abigail Breslin). Brad Anderson (The Machinist) is directing from a script by Richard D’Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts). [Deadline]

Read more:
Casting Net: Robert Pattinson to play Lawrence of Arabia. Plus: Tobey Maguire, Dermot Mulroney, Robin Wright
Casting Net: Aaron Paul taking ‘A Long Way Down.’ Plus: Eric Bana, Christoph Waltz, Richard Dreyfuss
Casting Net: Steve Carell will help Will Ferrell ‘Swear to God.’ Plus: Heather Graham’s back for ‘The Hangover Part III’

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