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Universal drops wide theatrical release of 'Stretch': director Joe Carnahan takes to Twitter

Universal Pictures will no longer be releasing director Joe Carnahan’s low-budget action comedy, Stretch, in wide release this March as initially planned. As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the studio opted out of its initial plans to distribute the film starring Patrick Wilson nationwide — an endeavor that can cost upwards of $30 million in marketing costs — after seeing the finished product.

According to the trade paper, and confirmed by EW, Carnahan and his producer Jason Blum tried shopping the under-$5 million movie to other studios looking for a wide release. When none of the other studios bit on the expansive release strategy the producers wanted for the film described as “cool, offbeat and little,” the film-making team returned to Universal where Blum houses his production company.

Now, the film, whose tone one source compared to an After Hours or Get Him to the Greek, will likely receive an alternative release strategy that could involve a partnership with a Netflix or other direct-to-video partner. In Stretch, Wilson, who also starred in Blum’s Insidious franchise, plays a chauffeur who picks up a difficult billionaire client (Chris Pine) in his stretch limousine for a night of increasingly dangerous events. Jessica Alba, Brooklyn Decker, Ray Liotta and Ed Helms also appear in the movie.

Blum, who gained significant notoriety in recent years for his hit low-budget series Paranormal Activity, has parlayed his films’ successes into a new producing strategy where each film is capped at a $5 million budget. Such flexibility gives Blum and his filmmakers more autonomy when making movies and less pressure to turn a profit. For example, The Purge, made for $3 million, opened in June and grossed $89 million worldwide. (A sequel is due this June.) Another Blum film, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, only made a bit over $1 million theatrically, but did well in its video-on-demand window and was still profitable because of  its $1.5 million budget.

Still, Universal’s decision to bail on its initial wide-release strategy casts a pall over the film, one Carnahan (The A-Team and The Grey) tried to rectify Tuesday evening on Twitter. The director declined to comment to EW, as did Universal, but you can read Carnahan’s Twitter rant below.

Casting Net: Topher Grace in talks to take on time travel in 'Interstellar'; Plus, Danny McBride joins Cameron Crowe pic, more

• Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3) is in talks to join Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar in a supporting capacity. Naturally, no details were given about the nature of the role, but we’re hoping this could be the beginning of a Topher Grace career reboot. He has a number of projects in the works including The Invitation with Zachary Quinto, The Calling with Susan Sarandon, and A Many Splintered Thing with Aubrey Plaza and Chris Evans, a.k.a. April and not Andy.  [Deadline]

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Casting Net: Keira Knightley heads to 1920s New York; Plus, Elizabeth Banks joins Beach Boys biopic, Martin Starr meets 'Veronica Mars,' more

• Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina) is attached to produce and star in an adaptation of Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist for Fox Searchlight. Set in 1923, the story follows Rose, a typist for the New York City Police Department. She’s old-fashioned and set in her ways till she befriends the new woman in the office, Odalie, who is glamorous and modern and loves to have fun at speakeasies. But Rose gets a little obsessed, hence the comparisons to The Talented Mr. Ripley. There’s no director attached yet. Knightley will be appearing next alongside Chris Pine in Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan (in theaters December 25), and with Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine in Can a Song Save Your Life. [THR]
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Casting Net: Philip Seymour Hoffman in talks to join Tom Hardy pic; Plus, James Badge Dale, more

• Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (for Capote) is in negotiations to join the Soviet thriller Child 44, based on Tom Rob Smith’s novel. Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) is directing the adaptation with a script from Richard Price (Ransom). The terrific cast includes Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, and Joel Kinnaman. Hoffman’s next projects include The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, where he’ll play Plutarch Heavensbee, Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man with Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright, and God’s Pocket, directed by Mad Men’s John Slattery. [Deadline]

• James Badge Dale may not be a household name just yet, but he is in three of the summer season’s biggest releases: Iron Man 3, World War Z, and The Lone Ranger. He’s also just joined Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, and Chris Pine in the action-comedy Stretch from Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures. It will reunite him with Joe Carnahan who directed him in The Grey. He’ll also be appearing in the JFK assassination drama Parkland. [Variety]
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