The writing team turned joint filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made a huge splash in 2006 with Half Nelson, the story of a young Brooklyn high school teacher hiding a crack addiction that featured a soulfully shattering performance from Ryan Gosling. 2008's Sugar and 2010's It's Kind of a Funny Story didn't receive the same acclaim, although they indicated the breadth of the American pair's interest and their commitment to distinct and fully realised characters. Now they're preparing to cast their next feature and the names involved suggest a possibly curious screen chemistry.
Mississippi Grind is the story of a young gambling addict who joins up with a veteran deep in debt for a trip across various haunts in the American south so they can stay ahead of their various inquisitors and make enough money to cover themselves. For the (de)mentor Boden and Fleck have cast Australian Ben Mendelsohn, who is one of several participants in 2010's Animal Kingdom (pictured) whose career has been irrevocably changed by the acclaimed crime thriller. Relocated to Los Angeles, Mendelsohn has since done sterling work in the likes of Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond the Pines, and it will be fascinating to see his screen dynamic with Ryan Reynolds, the not quite leading man who was exemplary with Denzel Washington in Safe House but adrift in the comic book failure Green Lantern.
Weaver 'n' Woody
Another Animal Kingdom graduate is the Academy Award-nominated Jacki Weaver, who has been added to the cast of Woody Allen's untitled 2014 film. The 2013 effort – Blue Jasmine with Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin – hasn't been released yet, but Allen is already filming in the south of France with Weaver and fellow cast members Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Colin Firth (The King's Speech). Weaver has a slew of roles in post- and pre-production, including The Voices, a horror comedy from Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) that also features Reynolds (Safe House). Reynolds, who will forever be Van Wilder to a few dedicated fans, is diversifying from the major Hollywood productions of the last few years.
Mirren plates up for Hallstrom
Helen Mirren will hopefully add some steel to the next film from Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen). In The Hundred Foot Journey she'll play the chef and proprietor of a traditional restaurant in a small French town who acquires an unexpected rival in the form of an Indian restaurant started by émigrés.
Auteuil is a God
When independent filmmakers from continental Europe started to obtain a profile and enjoy releases in Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jaco Van Dormael was at the forefront with Toto the Hero, and he's now finally at work on his first film since 2009's metaphysical science-fiction fantasy Mr. Nobody. Fille de Dieu will be set in Van Dormael's native Brussels, where it turns out God lives and has an antagonistic relationship with his daughter. It is a black comedy, and as the Creator the filmmaker has cast Daniel Auteuil (Cache, The Valet), the veteran French actor who starred in The 8th Day for Van Dormael back in 1996.