Affleck Replaces Bale in Malick’s Next, ‘Battleship’ Costs $200 Million and Bugs is Coming Back

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Leading off today’s roundup is word Ben Affleck and Rachel Weisz have joined the cast of Terrence Malick’s next movie, with Affleck stepping in for Christian Bale in the untitled romantic drama. There was a time, say five or so years ago, where I would have dreaded such news, but Affleck has continued to grow as a performer while I’ve grown a bit tired of Bale. Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko were also announced as the initial cast members back in February. Production is set to begin in the beginning of October in Oklahoma, where Affleck was recently seen picking up some goods at a Bass Pro Shop for some fishing equipment. Considering we don’t have any kind of synopsis just yet that’s about all we have to go on. Now, if they could only come up with a release date for The Tree of Life.

Moving along, we have an update on Battleship, courtesy of The Wrap. Jeff Sneider has the exclusive on Hamish Linklater (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) being cast as a brainy scientist, joining a wildly diverse cast that already includes Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Alexander Skarsgard (“True Blood”), Rihianna and Tom Arnold. Peter Berg (Hancock) will direct the movie, which tells the story of an international fleet teaming up to battle an armada from outer space. Battleship is set to begin production in Hawaii at the end of the month and has set a release date for May 18, 2012.

Speaking of Battleship, did you hear the budget for this bad boy is looking at $200 million already and this is before any kind of marketing. Considering this is a film headlined by Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna I’m not sure this is sound decision making. Is there any other way to look at this that doesn’t make it seem like a major risk?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) has been cast in the title role of The Courier, according to Deadline‘s Mike Fleming. Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) directs the story of a courier who finds himself pursued by corrupt cops, double-crossing feds and rival crime bosses when he’s hired to deliver a briefcase to a notorious underworld figure. The 3:10 to Yuma team of Derek Haas and Michael Brandt are penning the script. Morgan has been blowing up of late, having recently wrapped the thriller The Fields alongside Sam Worthington, the Red Dawn remake and the Hillary Swank thriller The Resident. He’ll move onto The Courier after he completes work on Peace, Love and Misunderstanding with Catherine Keener and Jane Fonda

Borys Kit of Heat Vision reports Michael Vartan (Never Been Kissed) will star alongside Zoe Saldana in the actioner Colombiana for director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3) and producer/co-writer Luc Besson (Taken). Saldana plays a hitwoman in pursuit of the mobster responsible for the murder of her parents, which she witnessed as a child. Vartan will be her boyfriend, an artist who is her only escape to normalcy. Production will begin in the coming months in Chicago with a release date set for September 2, 2011.

Apparently every young actor in Hollywood wants to star opposite Denzel Washington in the drama Safe House. Deadline reports Ryan Reynolds is considered the frontrunner to take the role of a young CIA agent who must transport a dangerous criminal (Washington) to a safety after both are attacked at a safe house, but Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Kitsch, Chris Pine, Sam Worthington, Garrett Hedlund, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth and Jake Gyllenhaal are also being considered. Is it too late to throw the names of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emile Hirsch into the hat?

Also at Deadline, Mike Fleming reports Warner Bros has hired Elf scripter David Berenbaum to write a live action/CG Bugs Bunny feature in hopes of reviving the character. Bugs was last seen on the big screen in the 2003 Brendan Frasier dud Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

A spec script by Matt Cooke for Triple Nine is drawing attention from both director John Hillcoat (The Road) and Shia LaBeouf, according to Jeff Sneider of The Wrap. The story involves a group of crooked cops planning a major heist who realize they must kill one of their own to pull it off. The lead character, and surely the one being targeted by LaBeouf, is the upstanding young officer chosen as the victim. The film’s title comes from the police code (999) indicating an officer needs immediate assistance. It sounds like an intriguing premise for a cops and robbers story, but is Shia risking overexposure by taking on so many high profile projects? In addition to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Transformers 3, he already has a quartet of projects in development including two Tony Scott pictures in Hell’s Angels and the John Grisham adaptation The Assoiate.

Lastly, we have a couple notes via Twitter updates:

Writer/director Rian Johnson’s (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) time travel thriller Looper, starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will begin filming in January. [Production Weekly]

Josh Hartnett will star in Tomorrow, another time travel thriller. [Worldview Entertainment]

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