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Sundance 2015: Jack Black, Kristen Wiig and Sarah Silverman lead the laugh pack to Park City

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Over the past three decades, the Sundance Film Festival has transcended its humble origins as founder Robert Redford’s field of art house movie dreams to become North America’s vanguard showcase for independent cinema. Just ask Owen Wilson or Steven Soderbergh, Amy Adams or Quentin Tarantino, all of whom got their starts at the fest: it’s the place where seriousness of intent and raw talent combust under the blinding world spotlight to create new stars.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the fest’s 2015 installment, which kicks off in Park City on Jan. 22. An influx of Hollywood funny people basically remade Sundance in their own image.

With today’s unveiling of the festival’s much-anticipated line-up of Dramatic and Documentary competition films, as well as its NEXT section (which highlights digital technology and cutting-edge storytelling), it’s impossible to ignore the roll call of well-known comedians appearing in both comedic and dramatic movies this year. Among them: Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Nick Offerman, and Flight of the Conchords co-star Jemaine Clement. READ FULL STORY

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig crack each other up in 'Skeleton Twins' outtakes

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Some people were surprised when The Skeleton Twins, which reunited Saturday Night Live all-stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, was a drama about attempted suicide and marital malaise. No one, however, will be surprised to learn that the outtakes from the dark film are a laugh riot.

After spending seven seasons together on SNL and even playing a married couple in 2009’s Adventureland, the duo has “a brother-sister relationship in life,” Hader told EW, before the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. “We had such a shorthand with each other. The chemistry was just built in, which is nice. We were laughing a lot.”

“They are like brother and sister,” said director Craig Johnson. “I just stood in the corner, silent and in awe of these two people when they would just riff back and forth. They would be on set in between takes just going off on bits that were completely improvised, but were just so funny and so quick. … They know each other’s brains so well.”

All that, and more. But who knew the gag reel’s secret weapon would be Luke Wilson? READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Jessica Chastain and Kristen Wiig in early discussions for 'The Martian'

• Jessica Chastain is in early discussions for The Martian. She would play the female lead opposite Matt Damon in Fox’s sci-fi film, which Ridley Scott is directing. Based on the e-book by Andy Weir, the film follows an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and must fight to survive and make his way home. Simon Kinberg originally brought the book to Scott, and will produce alongside Aditya Sood through Kinberg’s Genre Films Banner. Fox’s Steve Asbell will oversee the film for the studio. [Variety]

[Note: Deadline and THR reported that Kristen Wiig is also in early talks for a lead female role in the film.]

• Johnny Knoxville will star alongside Jackie Chan and Fan Bingbing in Skiptrace, which Renny Harlin is directing. Knoxville is replacing Seann William Scott. The film, which just began shooting in China, follows a Hong Kong detective (Chan) who pairs with an American gambler (Knoxville) to save his niece and take out the city’s biggest criminal. Chan, Brian Gatewood, Esmond Ren, Damien Saccani, and Charlie Coker will produce. Jay Longino, Gatewood & Alessandro Tanaka, Geoff Moore & David Posamentier, and BenDavid Grabinski were involved in the script, which Rodney Rothman is polishing. Dasym Entertainment and Talent Internation Film are co-financing and co-producing. The film was approved as a co-production by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT). [Deadline]

• Julie Engelbrecht has signed on for the Breck Eisner-directed The Last Witch Hunter, joining Vin Diesel, Michael Cane, Elijah Wood, and Rose Leslie. The German actress will make her American film debut in the Lionsgate/Summit film. The film follows an immortal witch hunter (Diesel) who must team with a witch to stop the covens of New York City from releasing a plague on humanity. Engelbrecht will play the evil Witch Queen. Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama wrote the script, based on a pitch by Cory Goodman; D.W. Harper and Melisa Wallack worked on the script as well. Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, and Diesel will produce. One Race’s Samantha Vincent and Adam Goldworm will executive produce. Summit will manage the film’s North American release. [Deadline]

• Missi Pyle has signed on for Director’s Cut, a dark satire directed by Adam Rifkin. Pyle will play herself in the story about a psycho superfan, played by Penn Jillette. The fan wins a walk-on role for Pyle’s most recent film through a crowdfunding site, and later kidnaps her, forcing her to re-shoot the film in his dungeon studio. Interestingly, the film is a crowdfunded project itself, which Neil Patrick Harris, Ben Stiller, and Joan Rivers, among others, contributed to. In total, it raised $1,164,928 with 4,736 donors through FundMe. Jillette, Rifkin, and Penn & Teller manager/producer Peter Adam Golden are producing the film, which is currently shooting in LA. [Deadline]

• Douglas Booth has joined Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, whose source material comes from Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The British actor will play Bingley. L, friend to Mr. Darcy, in the story of heroine Elizabeth Bennet who encounters the undead in Regency-Era England. Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, and Jack Huston also star in the film. Brian Oliver, Allison Shearmur, Sean McKittrick, Natalie Portman, Annette Savitch, Tyler Thomson, and Marc Butan will produce. Additionally, Sierra/Affinity is producing with Cross Creek Pictures who will manage foreign sales. [Deadline]

Adam Sandler, Kristen Wiig, and Arnold Schwarzenegger bring films to Toronto

The 2014 Toronto Film Festival, which begins Sept. 4, added seven Galas and 17 Special Presentations to its lineup, including a semi-serious Adam Sandler project from Tom McCarthy, the director of The Station Agent and The Visitor. In The Cobbler, Sandler plays a man who has the unique ability to walk in his customers’ shoes. The movie features Dustin Hoffman, who also stars in Boychoir, François Girard’s tale of an orphan’s steep learning curve at a prestigious music school. In Welcome to Me, Kristen Wiig plays a mentally unstable woman who wins the lottery and decides to sink her winnings into a talk show.

Toronto is one of the major launching pads for awards season and a market for 2015 acquisitions. Last year, Dallas Buyers Club was one of TIFF’s world premieres that rocketed into the Oscar race, and this year’s slate already includes potential contenders like Foxcatcher, Wild, and The Theory of Everything.

GALAS

Boychoir
François Girard, USA
World Premiere
An orphaned 12-year-old boy is sent to prestigious music school where he struggles to join an elite group of world-class singers. No one expects this rebellious loner to succeed, least of all the school’s relentlessly-tough conductor who wages a battle of wills to bring out the boy’s extraordinary musical gift.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger and Garrett Wareing READ FULL STORY

'Skeleton Twins' director: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader really are like siblings

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Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play a pair of estranged siblings who are reconnected at a particularly dark moment for both in the Sundance drama The Skeleton Twins. And, when a depressed Milo (Hader) leaves Los Angeles to live with a similarly depressed Maggie (Wiig) and her earnest, goofy husband (Luke Wilson), it’s not exactly a seamless homecoming, with fights, lies, and past traumas weighing on the once-inseparable twins throughout.

But writer-director Craig Johnson didn’t cast two of today’s most likable comedians to just destroy them with melodrama. There are moments of pure joy, too, including a standout sequence, teased in the trailer, where Milo and Maggie break into a cheesy ’80s classic to ease a particularly tense moment. As Owen Gleiberman wrote after the film’s Sundance premiere, “This is a tenderly sincere, and smart, and beguiling, and penetrating movie about the way that ordinary messed-up people can wind up stumbling through their lives.”

EW spoke to Johnson about directing Hader and Wiig and how that whole Starship sequence came together.

READ FULL STORY

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader try to get back on track in 'The Skeleton Twins' trailer

Kristen Wiig’s post-Bridesmaids movie career has been a little bumpy: She didn’t have much to do, for instance, in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or Anchorman 2. But the first trailer for The Skeleton Twins hints that her next film may finally find her in a starring role again.

Wiig appears in the movie alongside Bill Hader. From Sundance, Jeff Labrecque described The Skeleton Twins as “a full-on drama” where Wiig and Hader “play Maggie and Milo, twins who used to be close but now live on different sides of the country. Neither is particular happy with their lives, and when they both narrowly avoid death on the same day, they end up reuniting and confronting the issues that have kept them apart.”

The movie also stars Luke Wilson as Wiig’s husband and is produced by Mark Duplass, who starred in director Craig Johnson’s 2009 debut feature True Adolescents.

The Skeleton Twins will be in theaters on September 19th, 2014.

Casting Net: Kristen Wiig to direct, star in buddy comedy; Plus, Oprah Winfrey, Kylie Minogue, more

• Kristin Wiig is set to make her directorial debut on an untitled buddy comedy that she and her Bridesmaids co-scribe Annie Mumolo will write together. The story is about “best friends who find themselves in over their heads and out of their depths, which were, perhaps, not too deep to begin with.” Wiig will also star in the pic, which TriStar chairman Tom Rothman joked will be “a searing and depressing drama, which is what the world needs right now.” [New York Times] READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Daniel Radcliffe runs toward 'You Shall Know Our Velocity'; Plus, Bradley Cooper, more

• Daniel Radcliffe is attached to star in You Shall Know Our Velocity, based on Dave Eggers‘ best-seller, which tells the story of a a pair of friends — one bookish and awkward and one who fancies himself a ladies man — who resolve to scatter their friend’s ashes among the pyramids. They also decide to give away the $32K insurance payout that they got after their friend was killed to anyone in need. Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) is set to direct the pic, which is eyeing a spring 2015 shoot. Author Wells Tower adapted the script. [THR] READ FULL STORY

'Hateship Loveship' trailer shows a quiet Kristen Wiig -- VIDEO

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The Kristen Wiig who dressed up as Harry Styles and joked around on The Tonight Show is nowhere to be found in the new trailer for Hateship Loveship, a film based on the Alice Munro’s 2001 short story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.”

Wiig plays Johanna Parry, a meek woman working as a nanny in the home of an elderly man (Nick Nolte) who needs help taking care of his granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). After Johanna sends a silly, innocent letter to Sabitha’s father, the always-in-trouble Ken (Guy Pearce), it’s intercepted by Sabitha and her friends, who turn the correspondence into a fake courtship. Their prank is the catalyst that makes Johanna question the direction her life is going — and what she wants out of it.

Watch the trailer below: READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: Bill Hader talks 'Skeleton Twins' and his Bond-villain dream -- VIDEO

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At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader is one-half of the Skeleton Twins. The other half is a familiar face: His fellow SNL vet Kristen Wiig.

Hader and director/writer Craig Johnson talk about the sibling drama, and how Hader would be (almost) perfect as Daniel Craig’s next foe, in the interview with EW’s Anthony Breznican below:
READ FULL STORY

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