The veteran French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud moves to his own filmmaking rhythm. He makes epic tales, often with his characters set against a harsh environment such as in 1997's Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt, as independent international productions that appear without warning. Sometimes no-one notices they appeared, as happened with the virtually unknown 2007 comedy His Majesty Minor, which allegedly starred Vincent Cassel and Jose Garcia, but Annaud also has a filmography that includes 2004's Two Brothers, 2001's Enemy at the Gates, 1992's The Lover and 1986's The Name of the Rose.
His latest feature, which debuts internationally just next month, is Black Gold, a drama that looks at the rivalry between the rulers of a two Arab states, which is exacerbated by the discovery of oil just as a new generation is coming to power. Based on the Hans Ruesch novel The Great Thirst, the eclectic cast includes Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty), Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In), Frieda Pinto (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet).
Newell to renew Cold War
British filmmaker Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral) has a standard piece of British period drama out in March, with the latest adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, starring Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus), Helena Bonham-Carter (Les Miserables) and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), but he's currently at work on a more modern piece. Reykjavik will dramatise the 1986 summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the new leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, which lead to an unlikely thaw in Cold War relations. As Reagan, Newell – who probably would like everyone to please forget about 2010's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – has Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys), while Gorbachev will be played by the in-demand Austrian Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained).
Gervais and Fey make nice for Muppets
Important news for those people who try never to think about what exists beneath the screen's frame: noted comics Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying) and Tina Fey (Date Night; pictured) will star alongside some real stars – Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear – in the 2014 sequel to last year's Muppets reboot. The small screen duo, neither of whom have an outstanding lead role in a movie to their name, suggests a more sardonic partnership than the previous film's pairing of Amy Adams and Jason Segel.
Fassbender finds new bandmates
Everyone wants a piece of Michael Fassbender, and the star of Prometheus and Shame has already finished further films for Ridley Scott (The Counselor) and Steve McQueen (Twelve Years a Slave), as well as an untitled work from Terrence Malick. Now he's trying something different: a comedy. In Lenny Abrahamson's Frank, Fassbender will play the enigmatic leader of an eccentric British pop band, who gets into head of his latest recruit, to be played by Domhnall Gleeson (Shadow Dancer). Co-starring are Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight) and Scoot McNairy (Killing Them Softly), and hopefully Fassbender will have to have his singing dubbed just to prove that he's not perfect.