Sean Penn to film crazy, funny movies
There was a period when Sean Penn couldn't find the right acting roles and his first film as a director, 1991's The Indian Runner, shone so fiercely that it appeared his future looked to be behind the camera. But since the mid 1990s the complex American artist has proven himself the actor of his generation – think Dead Man Walking, The Thin Red Line, Mystic River, 21 Grams, and Milk – while his intermittent filmmaking hasn't kept pace. Penn's fourth and most recent film as director, Into the Wild, came out in 2007, but now it appears that he has two directorial efforts close to happening in consecutive years.
The first is The Comedian, the story of an ageing, minor comic mainly known for his vituperative insults who finds himself undertaking community service after hitting a heckler with his microphone. Penn's leading man will be Robert De Niro, who continues to work non-stop but has found time for some more challenging parts in recent years – see Stone and Being Flynn – amidst the Focker flicks and various action movie mentor roles. Opposite De Niro will be Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig, who is looking to get away from her neurotic, comic screen persona.
After that intriguing production wraps, Penn is looking to get back to nature's harshness with Crazy for the Storm, an adaptation of Norman Ollestad's memoir about his relationship with his demanding father, who pushed his son to excel in skiing and surfing from an early age. At the age of 11 Ollestad was the sole survivor of a light plane crash during a blizzard in California's San Gabriel Mountains. The boy had to find his way to safety, relying on the winter survival skills his father had taught him. Penn will have to find the right child actor, but if Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) accepts Penn's offer to play Ollestad senior the casting will be on its way.
Huppert acts busy
As an actor of choice for the likes of Claire Denis (White Material) and Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher, Amour), Isabelle Huppert is one of the most esteemed stars of the European cinema, working in a variety of often demanding roles. Next up she joins a predominantly South Korean cast for director Sang-soo Hong (Woman on the Beach) in In Another Country, makes one of her intermittent visits to America for the crime thriller Dead Man Down opposite Colin Farrell (In Bruges) and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) for Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and then links up with Chilean editor and filmmaker Valeria Sarmiento, who is finishing the projects of her late husband, the revered Raul Ruiz (Time Regained), who passed away last year at the age of 70 having directed almost 100 features. In the Napoleonic-era epic Lines of Wellington, Huppert will co-star with John Malkovich (Burn After Reading) and Catherine Deneuve (Belle de Jour).
Saldana scores Simone role
Zoe Saldana was in Avatar, the most commercially successful film of all time, albeit motion captured and given blue skin. Since James Cameron's epic and a role amongst the crew of the rebooted Star Trek, she's mainly made action films, such as The Losers and Colombiana. Now she's looking to stop fighting and try something different, signing on to a music biopic. Saldana will play Nina Simone, the iconic African-American jazz singer and pianist whose success coincided with the civil rights movement. Nina will be written and directed by Cynthia Mort, who previously wrote the Jodie Foster revenge thriller The Brave One , and gives Saldana a character potentially on a par with Marion Cotillard's Edith Piaf from La Vie en Rose.