This week's casting news sees two A-listers step back from their blockbuster fare, and Ken Loach finds inspiration in a whisky bottle.
5 Apr 2012 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 8:30 PM

Johnny Depp needs a co-star and the list of applicants is long. The Pirates of the Caribbean mainstay, who has gone from eccentric television graduate to the fulcrum of blockbusters, will next star in a remake of The Thin Man. The 1934 film, based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, spawned half a dozen sequels as audiences took to the wisecracking banter enjoyed by retired detective Nick Charles and his wealthy heiress wife Nora. The crime-solving pair was original played by William Powell and Myrna Loy, and now Depp will reprise Nick for director Rob Marshall (Chicago, the last Pirates extravaganza).

As for Nora, who like many leading ladies of the 1930s could verbally give out as good as she got, the casting process has resulted in a shortlist of eight actresses: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Isla Fisher, Eva Green, Carey Mulligan, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Kristen Wiig. That's a diverse selection – Stone (Crazy Stupid Love) is 23, while Weisz (The Mummy, The Deep Blue Sea) is 42; Fisher (Wedding Crashers) is an expert comedienne, while Green (Casino Royale) is known for dramatic longing. The part will probably go to whoever Depp has the ever mysterious “chemistry” with, so there's no chance Angelina Jolie will be crashing the process (which is a shame, because she could potentially be great getting razzed in a screwball comedy).

Like Depp, Robert Downey Jr. is one of the half dozen leading box-office draws in Hollywood, a position he's attained through playing the droll and armour-suited Iron Man, who's in The Avengers later this month and Iron Man 3 next year, and a revisionist Sherlock Holmes. Eventually Downey Jr. will have to do something else, and right now he's favouring The Judge, a comic drama about a successful lawyer who returns home after his mother's death to find that his father, a judge, is suspected of her murder. Downey Jr. is a mercurial talent, but he's remade his career by sailing untouched through blockbusters. In the new project he might not be able to keep his distance.

Scottish newcomer Paul Brannigan has the lead role in Ken Loach's forthcoming feature, The Angels' Share. The actor plays Glasgow petty criminal Robbie, who is determined to make a fresh start when he becomes a father for the first time and finds that one of Scotland's oldest professions – distilling whiskey – may hold the promise of a new career. Loach's 27th feature is social realism at the lighter end of his scale, and the co-stars include Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) and John Henshaw (Loach's recent Looking for Eric).

After a prominent succession of roles, including an unsettlingly fierce urban terrorist in 2008's The Baader-Meinhof Complex and a female pontiff in 2009's Pope Joan, the German actress Johanna Wokalek has been quiet recently. She's now back at work on something different – the romantic comedy The Pursuit of Unhappiness, where she'll play a single and neurotic young Berliner opposite David Kross (War Horse) for director Sherry Horman, whose last film Desert Flower was not especially good but proved to be a sleeper hit in Germany.