Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon

Do you have a void in your heart that only yet another YA trilogy starring a pleasantly quirky but truly misunderstood teenage girl who needs to beat the odds in a mildly futuristic society can fill? Reese Witherspoon got your back. Lionsgate, the company that brought The Hunger Games trilogy off the page and onto the screen — as four movies! — has heard about this Divergent business and is clamoring for the next YA adaptation to line up after Katniss and crew are done with their adventures. They’ve chosen “The Outliers,” an upcoming novel trilogy from Kimberly McCreight that hasn’t even hit the shelves yet — but they’ve got the film rights all lined up and Witherspoon on board to produce.

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If anyone has seen Legally Blonde or Sweet Home Alabama one of the approximately 700,000 times they have played on daytime TV during the past decade, you would know two things to be true: that Reese Witherspoon is the queen of romantic comedies, and that the woman is a spitfire. Save for the unspeakable This Means War, she’s left the ro-mcom genre alone for a few years, choosing instead to exercise those dramatic acting chops that got her the Best Actress Oscar in 2005 for Walk the Line. Currently, she’s doing just that by filming Jean-Marc Vallée‘s Wild, the adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Wild tells Strayed’s personal tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Coast, by herself after her life spins out of control. She has some things to work out, okay? Witherspoon recently tweeted the first look at herself as Strayed, in her hiking getup “on set” in Oregon. Looking a little bedraggled and saddled with gear, it’s different from what we’re used to seeing from the usually glamorous star. And that’s potentially a good thing – gritty gets the gold.

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Because, let’s face it, she’s an actual real-life Disney princess, Reese Witherspoon has signed on to play one in Happily Ever After. The story checks in on that beautiful, aspirational prince and princess we all fall in love with ten years after they ride off into the sunset and the woodland creatures presumably stop dancing in celebration. The project, from Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 creator Nahnatchka Khan, is a comedic look at what happens after the Disneyified romance wraps up after that blissful hour of singing and courtship; like any marriage, even the ones that are supposed to end up “happily ever after” take work and commitment to stay that way. While Disney may be very self-aware by taking on this tongue-in-cheek idea (that their biggest ideal isn’t realistic), it just seems like Khan would have better luck getting her message across with a different studio, without it getting sanitized. Disney’s probably not going to let Princess Reese talk about her crappy sex life or watch her Prince hit the bottle too hard.

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devils_knot

Four highly publicized documentaries in, it should go without saying that the West Memphis Three ordeal has taken up its fair share of screentime. The necessity for a narrative feature is a questionable one, and despite the potential promise of Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot, the film ultimately stands as a prime example why the story shouldn’t be adapted into a narrative feature – at least not a narrative feature this lazy and uninteresting as this one. Even with a cast that includes Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Kevin Durand, Dane DeHaan, Bruce Greenwood, Amy Ryan, and Mireille Enos, Egoyan has delivered one of the worst big screen takes on a true story of this magnitude in quite some time, an eye-popping failure of both execution and emotion. Egoyan fails to engage with not only his audience but also the actual material he’s attempting to portray on screen, making Devil’s Knot one of the year’s most disappointing misfires.

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What is Casting Couch? It’s the news roundup that’s gathering together one last batch of casting reports before it takes a brief Comic-Con break. Read on for news regarding screen beauties like Linda Cardellini, Ashley Greene, and John Lithgow, and then we’ll see you again next week. After recent performances in dramas like Smashed and The Spectacular Now, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to be leaving her past of performing in genre work behind in order to take more dramatic roles. Deadline is reporting that she’s just signed up for her third new job is just a few weeks, and this one will see her joining the Jeremy Renner-starring Gary Webb biopic, Kill the Messenger, as the character of Dawn Garcia, who was Webb’s editor at the “San Jose Mercury News.” Just a year or so ago people might have been questioning if she could pull this off, but now it’s clear that she can. Let’s just hope that all of these new bonafides don’t keep her from still doing the occasional cheesy action movie now and then. It’s important to let your hair down.

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dicaprio

What is Casting Couch? It’s likely the only news roundup on the Internet today that has nothing to do with new iPhone features. Instead we’re dealing with movies, and their casting of names like Josh Duhamel, Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon, and Sofia Vergara. History buffs are usually fascinated by Grigori Rasputin—who was an advisor to the Russian Imperials at the beginning of the 20th century—because political rivals shot him, stabbed him, poisoned him, and nuked him while he was hiding in a fridge, and the guy still somehow managed to keep living. Movie fans are likely to be fascinated by Rasputin because Warner Bros. has just bought a script about his life, called Rasputin, and they’re developing it as a starring vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. This, of course, means that we’re going to get the chance to see DiCaprio grow a crazy long beard and likely try out a Russian accent, which just sounds like so much fun. [Deadline]

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reilly

What is Casting Couch? It’s just coming out of a holiday weekend, so it doesn’t have all that much casting news at the moment. But how about we put all of the actors we’re reporting on in stylish sunglasses to celebrate the kickoff of the summer season? It would be pretty hard to argue that Marvel Studios’ recent slate of interconnected superhero movies hasn’t been a huge success. Marvel movies have pleased longtime fans, cultivated a generation of new fans, and made gobs and gobs of money. Everyone knows that you’re not truly a success in the movie business until you’ve worked with John C. Reilly though, so Hitfix is reporting that the studio is currently trying to get the living legend on board one of their upcoming projects. Apparently an offer has gone out for him to play Rhomann Dey in Guardians of the Galaxy. Things are a bit more confusing than that though, because while Dey was an alien member of the intergalactic Nova Corps in the comic books, apparently in the movie world he’s going to be a human agent of SHIELD who works as the liaison between the organization and this new team of space heroes. Weird.

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kendrick

What is Casting Couch? It’s the news column that’s got its ear to the ground, listening for any juicy tidbits coming out of Cannes. Today people like Uma Thurman, Seann William Scott, Amanda Seyfried, and Bruce Willis all got new jobs. Zach Braff hasn’t yet had much of a career as a film director, but if there’s one thing he’s got more experience shooting than most people, it’s tiny girls wearing giant headphones. So chances are Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick will be a perfect fit for the cast of his new movie, Wish I Was Here. The Wrap is reporting that she’s just joined the film in the role of Janine, a chick who’s into cosplay and who the Josh Gad character becomes enamored with. However you feel about the controversy surrounding Braff’s Kickstarter funding of this film, you have to admit, added Anna Kendrick just made going to see it sound a whole lot more enticing.

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LilyCollins

What is Casting Couch? An attempt at keeping you in the loop regarding all of your favorite actors’ careers. Today we’ve got new jobs for lovely ladies Emilia Clarke and Alison Brie as well as lovable lads Daniel Radcliffe and Logan Lerman. The pre-production history of the film adaptation of author Seth Grahame Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a long and troubled one. To the point where you basically wish Regina George could tell Hollywood to stop trying to make the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies thing happen. But, alas, it looks like the movie has emerged from development hell into development purgatory once again. Variety is reporting that this time around they’ve attached Lily Collins to star as the Elizabeth Bennet character, with Charlie St. Cloud helmer Burr Steers apparently on board to direct. Here we go again…

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Editor’s note: Allison’s review originally ran during Sundance earlier this year, but we’re re-posting it as Jeff Nichols’ film hits theaters in limited release this weekend. What would be most exciting to two young boys living a slightly boring life along a river bank in Arkansas? An adventure, of course. And that is exactly what Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) think they have found when they come across a peculiar sight — a boat trapped high up in the tree tops thanks to a recent flood. But what the two boys end up finding in that boat is a much bigger adventure because they are not alone, and are not the only ones looking to get it down. Enter Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a charming drifter living on the boat who, unlike the boys, is not looking for adventure, he is looking for a way off the island that the boat (and Mud himself) is trapped on. Ellis is quickly drawn to Mud with his cross-heeled boots and endless stories, but Neckbone is more wary, especially when Mud asks the boys for a favor. Ellis remains intrigued, and it becomes clear that it is not simply the prospect of adventure that has his attention, it is Mud’s story explaining why he is stranded on that island — the pursuit of true love.

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jeff

Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter are no lightweight cinematic affairs, and writer/director Jeff Nichols certainly didn’t pull any emotional punches when making them. While both Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter put put their audience through the emotional ringer, his third film, Mud, is a departure. While Nichols’ old-fashioned picture deals with heartbreak, for both youngsters and oldies, it’s more of a crowd-pleaser than the filmmaker has made previously. That’s not because Nichols decided it was time to lighten up and make a movie for everyone, however, but unlike Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, his last film follows the perspective of two kids. Centering the feature on children gives Mud a more innocent and adventurous spirit, while also pushing Nichols as a filmmaker on a technical level. Here’s what Mr. Nichols had to say about his “big American movie”:

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Joaquin Phoenix

What is Casting Couch? It’s heading into the weekend with three pieces of casting news about three actors everyone has actually heard of. Star power! Remember how rumors were going around that Robert Downey Jr. was going to be the star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming project, Inherent Vice? Well, turns out that didn’t pan out. Don’t let the news that Downey and Anderson aren’t teaming up get you down for long though, because Variety has a report that says Inherent Vice is now going to star Joaquin Phoenix instead. Though opinions on The Master were a little divided, pretty much everyone agreed that Phoenix’s performance in that film was powerful enough to be hypnotic, so it should be great to watch the actor being directed by Anderson again. And, seeing as this one is supposed to be more of a comedy, it should feel fresh watching Phoenix doing something that isn’t so creepifying.

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Mud

If there was one film missing from our 2013 film guide, I’d say it was Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. Although he only has two films under his belt, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Nichols has quickly risen to prominence as an A-list art house director. With Mud, the filmmaker finally has his chance to move into the mainstream, and this first trailer for the film does a decent job of pushing it as something easily digestible. Take a peak at Jeff Nichols’ newest film (via Yahoo! Movies):

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While most movie-going audiences familiar with author Nick Hornby know him best for seeing his own written works turned into films (like High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and About a Boy), the writer has recently begun adapting other authors’ books into screenplays. We know, it’s a bit complicated. Hornby notably penned the screenplay for An Education, based on Lynn Barber’s memoir, and recently finished the script for Brooklyn, which is based on a Colm Toibin novel. Next up, Hornby will adapt another memoir for the big screen, turning his talents to Cheryl Strayed‘s “Wild,” a tome that Strayed wrote about her soul-saving 1,100-mile solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon‘s production company, Pacific Standard, will produce the project, and Witherspoon is also expected to star. Witherspoon also personally drafted Hornby for the film, telling Deadline that “Nick’s innate blend of humanity and humor are a perfect match for Cheryl’s raw emotional memoir.” Hornby was just as filled as praise, commenting that he “loved Cheryl Strayed’s memoir. It’s moving, funny, painful and brave, and the moment I’d finished it I wanted someone to let me have a go at adapting it, because it was clear to me that it could make a wonderful movie. I’m thrilled to be given the chance; the fact that this chance was given to me by Reese Witherspoon, a great actress who feels exactly the same way about the book as I do, makes this project all the more exciting.” What a lovefest! ComingSoon rustled up the book’s official […]

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Well, here’s one for the half-off pile. Deadline Westwood reports that Lionsgate Summit is hellbent on giving us yet another narrative feature film based on a self-help book. Joining the ranks of the decidedly “just okay” features He’s Just Not That Into You and What To Expect When You’re Expecting will soon be Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. If this film is not about two aliens falling in love, I’ll be (more) disappointed (than I already am). We’ve known about the possibility of this project since 2010, but that lessens no blows. Based on John Gray‘s book of the same title, the adaptation of the non-fiction guide to relationships will be helmed by commercial director (of course) Bryan Buckley, making this project his feature debut. The script has been adapted by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, and there is no word on exactly what sort of shape, aim, or tone it will take. Also, no reason for this project to even exist has been cited. And it’s been touted as a vehicle for Reese Witherspoon, who appears to have forgotten that she once won an Oscar.

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Atom Egoyan‘s upcoming drama based on the real-life tragedy of the West Memphis 3, Devil’s Knot, has been quite slowly accumulating cast members, with news on each new member of the production trickling out over the course of many months. Reese Witherspoon joined the cast in December as Pam Hobbs, the mother of victim Stevie Branch, and Colin Firth signed on in February to play Ron Lax, a private eye who offered his services to the WM3 before their trial in 1993. While the project itself was announced all the way back in August, with such delicate material to cover, perhaps Egoyan is taking his time in picking his cast (what an idea!). Devil’s Knot has now added its third major cast member, and it is indeed a delicate role that is being filled – Deadline Seattle reports that The Killing star Mireille Enos will play Vicki Hutcheson in the film. Those who are familiar with the WM3 tragedy and trials surely know Hutcheson’s name – she became a key witness during the 1993 investigation into the murders of children Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers, a witness who later recanted her statements. The film continues the Golden Globe-nominated actress’ foray into features – she will next be seen in Gangster Squad and World War Z.

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Jason Segel

When the script for Sex Tape was first acquired by Sony in a deal that reportedly reached seven figures, there was talk that it already had three names attached. The story of a bored, suburban couple who make and then misplace a sex tape was said to be starring Jason Segel and Reese Witherspoon, and it was going to be directed by Nick Stoller. Well, various aspects of that report either didn’t work out or were never true in the first place, because people are talking about Sex Tape again, and only one of those names is still attached. THR reports that while Jason Segel is still on board to play the male lead, a deal with Stoller was never reached, and now Jake Kasdan has signed on to be the director. Witherspoon isn’t mentioned at all in this new report, and, as a matter of fact, they go as far as to say that the female lead hasn’t yet been cast, and Cameron Diaz is thought to be a front-runner for the role.

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Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard, a production company that the actress formed earlier this month, has decided on its first project, and it sounds like something that could be both popular among and enriching for little girls. Witherspoon and her people have decided to adapt M.A. Larson’s “Pennyroyal’s Princess Boot Camp” series of children’s novels, which are apparently about a boot camp where young princesses are trained to do battle against wicked witches. According to Heat Vision, Larson’s first “Princess” book is his debut as an author, and he’s set the series up as a two-book deal with Putnam publishing. A Googling of these “Princess” books and a children’s author named M.A. Larson is currently bringing up next to nothing, so it appears that the debut in this series has yet to be released. We’ll just have to trust Witherspoon’s word that they actually exist somewhere. About her attraction to the mysterious boot camp books, and why she intends on both producing and taking a supporting role in the upcoming film adaptations, Witherspoon says, “Finally, there is a princess story that reflects the values young women truly want to embody. These princesses are strong, independent, and fierce, and the knights are their match. In telling their story, Larson has created a magical universe that everyone will love to get lost in.”

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I am fully aware that I after I reveal what I am about to reveal, I may very well have my Official Lady Card revoked – but I’m willing to accept that. Deadline Harriman reveals that Ryan Murphy has signed a “preemptive deal” in the seven-figures with Sony Pictures to make a film titled One Hit Wonders, a musical comedy that will center on three washed-up pop singers from the ’90s who join together to make a super group. The film has yet to be penned, but it will be written specifically for Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, and Cameron Diaz, who will play the singers, along with Beyonce, Andy Samberg, and the rest of the Lonely Island boys in unspecified (but obviously musical) roles. Here comes the part where I throw myself onto the fire – I think this sounds eighteen shades of awful, almost unspeakably terrible. The real kicker for me is this tidbit – “The project came out of a dinner that Murphy had at the Soho House, with Paltrow, Diaz and Witherspoon. They wanted to do something fun together, and kicked around ideas until they settled on One Hit Wonders.” How I wish this had just stayed a funny jag between friends and not something that the rest of us have to be subjected to. While musical comedies are usually delightful, something about a pack of Hollywood A-list friends getting together just for the sake of getting together turns my tummy, and the attachment of Ryan Murphy, […]

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This Means War is, as McG puts it, exactly what you think a McG movie is. It’s as commercial and open as a movie can get, something the director has no shame about. Plenty scoff at the idea of loving the tag of a “populist” filmmaker, not McG. Clearly he sees his films as being more than dumb fun, though, and strives to make sure they’re not that. Films similar to This Means War usually don’t strike audience members as being a “personal” project in some fashion. That doesn’t seem to be the case for McG, as he puts it. This Means War has a scene featuring two of the leads discussing Alfred Hitchock, and you can just feel the director taking the opportunity to talk through his characters. It’s a fanboy touch, and he came off as the most energetic kind in our conversation. Here’s what McG had to say about embracing the title of a populist filmmaker, leaving behind med school for music and film, and reflecting on Terminator Salvation:

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published: 04.18.2014
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published: 04.18.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.17.2014
D+

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