1.) Marvel has narrowed their search for the lead role of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy down to Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas), Zachary Levi ("Chuck") and a third mystery contender. Interestingly enough, Levi wasn't one of the five names to appear on a short list for the role last month. He is, however, already filming his role as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World, replacing Joshua Dallas, who played the character in the first Thor film. Seems like it could lead to confusion if Levi winds up playing both Quill and Fandral, but this thing is likely far from over. Marvel is targeting an August 1, 2014 release for Guardians of the Galaxy with James Gunn (Super) at the helm. [Variety]
2.) Box-office phenom Chad Michael Murray is negotiating to join the ever-selective Nicolas Cage in a remake of the Christian-themed film Left Behind. It would appear the "One Tree Hill" star would actually assume the lead in this one, as his character is the same one Kirk Cameron played in the 2001 original, which followed a group of survivors during the first few hours after the rapture, and its two sequels. So is there still hope for Murray's once-promising career that appeared to have been (ahem) left behind? Or is this movie just dead on arrival? Left Behind will shoot in the spring on a budget of just $15 million, which is still considerably more than the original's $4 million budget. [Deadline]
2.) While it was originally planned as a direct-to-video release, Disney has announced their Cars spin-off Planes will now land in theaters on August 9, 2013. You'll notice the word Pixar didn't appear anywhere in that first sentence, and that's because the film isn't coming from Pixar. Perhaps even more troubling is that it isn't even being made at Walt Disney Animation Studios, the home of recent hits like Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. Instead, the film comes from the DisneyToon Studios, the branch responsible for direct-to-DVD releases like Bambi II and Kronk's New Groove. But hey, I betcha they'll sell a lot of backpacks! Not that we needed it, but consider this further proof that the Pixar brand is continuing the move away from art and more in the direction of pure commerce. [THR]
4.) Say what you want about Vin Diesel, but when he gets passionate about a project, it eventually gets made. That was certainly the case with Riddick, which despite a 9-year lay-off after The Chronicles of Riddick is finally coming out in September. The other project he has been talking about for years is his proposed Hannibal trilogy. No, not that Hannibal. He's talking about Hannibal of Carthage, who led his army against the Roman Empire around the year 200 BC and is generally considered one of the greatest military commanders in history.
Diesel's hope is to direct and star in the film, which would also tell of his father Hamilcar's war efforts. Despite Diesel's persistence and talk of Denzel Washington possibly playing the father, the film's hefty price tag has studios running in the other direction. But it now appears the project has picked up some steam after Diesel posted a message about (seemingly) receiving studio support, and I have to say I'm happy for the guy:
When a dream is born in your childhood...
When you spend a decade daring to pursue it...
The day, a head of a studio says... "I want to make all three films of your Hannibal trilogy!"
It takes a minute to sink in...
Shhhhh... it's still sinking in."
5.) Finally, Kristen Stewart has confirmed she will return to star in the planned Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, which has been long said to be more of a Huntsman spin-off focusing on Chris Hemsworth's character, but Stewart let the cat out of the bag with ET saying:
"Oh, it's gonna be f--ing amazing. No, I'm so excited about it, it's crazy," she says about the sequel. "I'm not allowed [to talk about it]. The other day I said that there was a strong possibility that we're going to make a sequel, and that's very true, but everyone was like, 'Whoa, stop talking about it.' So no, I'm totally not allowed to talk about it."
Director Rupert Sanders is not expected to return and little else is known about the project at this point, but considering the first film made only $396 million worldwide on a hefty $170 million budget, I have to assume Universal will be guarding the pocketbook a little closer on this sequel.