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Annapurna Pictures Drops Out Of 'Side Effects' Over Casting; Potential Options Emerge, While Catherine Zeta-Jones Joins Cast

by Drew Taylor
January 24, 2012 9:50 PM
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Side Effects

Well, that was quick. Just one week after announcing it had signed on with Open Road, the distributors of Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller, “Side Effects,” Megan Ellison’s Annapurna pictures has backed out of the project (however, Open Road is staying put). It's not all gloom and doom for "Side Effects" though, as Soderbergh's "Traffic" co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones has just signed onto the project (via Deadline).

Variety's report doesn't state reasons why Annapurna backed away, but well-placed sources tell us it had to do with the casting of Blake Lively as a troubled young woman who develops a dangerous love triangle between her doctor (Jude Law) and her newly paroled husband (Channing Tatum). Zeta-Jones, whose husband Michael Douglas is a frequent Soderbergh collaborator, would play another of Lively's doctors. Insiders tell us, despite the setback, financing should be locked back into place shortly, foreign sales are already taken care of, and an April start date in New York City is still a go. The big question is whether or not Lively will stick around (or if another studio also isn't super keen on her leading the picture, as Annapurna weren't), but a number of potential names are already being spit-balled in case she doesn't, including Rooney MaraMichelle Williams and two females that were being eyed for supporting roles in Soderbergh's now defunct version of "The Man From Uncle," Emily Blunt and Imogen Poots.

Studios that were interested (before Annapurna, Summit and Paramount) each had their sometimes divided thoughts on who should lead the cast. Variety seems to think that the financing shake-up could jumble the entire cast, which is possible, as it eventually became a perfect mix-and-match (under the director's eyes anyhow) but right now we're hearing the biggest question mark, if there is one at all, is Lively. Frankly, it's a disappointing move by Annapurna. "Green Lantern" wasn't great, obviously, but Lively deeply impressed in "The Town," the very underseen, "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee," and Soderbergh obviously has an eye for talent that hasn't quite blossomed.

More on this one as it develops.

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  • walterwhite | March 10, 2012 10:39 AMReply

    Blake Lively "deeply impressed" in the Town??? is that a joke...? she was awful. let's face it this movie would NOT have worked with lively in the lead, rooney mara is literally infinitely better.

  • Edward Davis | January 30, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    So yeah, to all the doubters. Told ja.

  • Haters always hating | January 26, 2012 7:05 AMReply

    Clark, how about you let the directors decide who should be in their movies, not the message board commandos. Get it? Obviously some big name directors don't agree with your assessment of her acting. She's young, and unproven, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have potential. That's what they see in her. Megan Ellison was way out of line here, especially given her background. The arrogance of your post though, believing that you know more than A-list Academy Award winning directors, is breath taking. It's the kind of arrogance you'd read on gossip sites, which is why I wrote that. Making films are risky no matter what, that's the way it goes. I oppose, on principle, having financiers dictate to directors who they should or shouldn't hire though. If this were some other actor that weren't in tabloids there would be universal outrage at the financier. But because it's Blake Lively and people have opinions on her personal life and whatnot you seem to think this action was justified and that's why I call bull shit on your feigned outrage against Lively. You don't like her? Stop reading tabloids and/or watching Gossip Girl. After all, how did Michelle Williams start out again? Oh ya, as the third lead in a forgettable shallow teenage TV show. Up until a year ago Rooney was known for B-type horror flicks. They all start somewhere. Stop being an ass.

  • Clark | January 28, 2012 7:55 PM

    Oh hey there Blake Lively's publicist! My bad. I know you get all butt hurt when someone insults your precious Blake. First of all, lets go over some basic reading comprehension. What I said in my previous post: "The responses have nothing to do with tabloid covers or her character on TV. And everything to do with her lack of range and skill. Casting her as a lead is a risky move. She has had minor roles in all of the films you listed above and was surrounded by a strong ensemble." What you ASSumed I said: "The arrogance of your post though, believing that you know more than A-list Academy Award winning directors, is breath taking." When and where did I say that I know more than an Oscar winning director, let alone ANY director? She lacks skill and range, MY opinion which is evidently shared by a number of people who have posted on this page. When I start saying "The following directors believe she lacks skill and range"- then you may call me out on my arrogance. If you need me, or anyone else, to add the word "I" before every sentence so that you have a better understanding of what is designated as MY opinion versus the opinion of a third party, then I will be sure to do that... all for your sake. Apologies if you think I was generalizing. In MY (there you go.... all for you and clarity) opinion, she is a terrible actress. End of story.

  • anna | January 26, 2012 10:16 AM

    Take a chill pill, Blake!

  • Haters always hating | January 25, 2012 7:00 PMReply

    Some people act like they are personally offended by Steven Soderbergh wanting Blake Lively. So the haters here know more about making films than: Steven Soderbergh, Oliver Stone, Ben Affleck, and Rebecca Miller (Daniel Day-Lewis' wife and daughter of Arthur Miller). You don't like her, why? Because you don't like her character on TV or that she's covered in tabloids? Get over yourselves, please. Blake hasn't done anything to you and you have nothing invested in this. If Soderbergh wants Lively then so be it, he's the director. It's his choice. This is a movie blog, not Just Jared. If you want to trash celebrities you don't like, do so over there.

  • Ripley | January 26, 2012 7:18 AM

    I am convinced that the views expressed in some blogs, be they negative or positive, are the product of a strategy. Drown the baby before it becomes a menace to the reigning kings or queens or let’s fabricate a new idol, who will be allowed to reign a while before we trash him/her and come up with the next one. People will rise to the bait and will repeat the mantras: ‘mumbles’, ‘talentless’, ‘ugly’, ‘slut’, ‘hot’, ‘talented’, ‘A-list’, ‘D-list’, etc. , and very often the level of comments (i.e. ‘Gosh, he is so hot that my ovaries are exploding’) is AWFUL. If a film is unsuccessful of successful, this is generally not ascribable to the actors but to the script and the director, and I don’t think that Ozu or Bergman ever gave a damn about box-office results.

  • Clark | January 25, 2012 11:55 PM

    "You don't like her, why? Because you don't like her character on TV or that she's covered in tabloids?" Have you read any of the comments below? The responses have nothing to do with tabloid covers or her character on TV. And everything to do with her lack of range and skill. Casting her as a lead is a risky move. She has had minor roles in all of the films you listed above and was surrounded by a strong ensemble (Savages is out of the conversation because no one has seen it so we can't speak about its quality). No one is trashing her based on her "celebrity", this is a film site and we're speaking about potential casting in a film that she may be in. Take your own advice and get over yourself ;)

  • Kirithraki | January 25, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    "Soderbergh obviously has an eye for talent that hasn't quite blossomed."

    Enter: Channing Tatum. Exit: All believability.

  • Ripley | January 25, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    I do not believe this rumour. It would be so out of this world. Many films which made the history of cinema had lead actors who were taken from the street. If a director is good, he can literally draw blood out of stones. In Europe nobody would dream to challenge the choice of a lead by a director, since a film is the director's baby. I read an interview to Sean Penn, who is undoubtedly the most gifted American actor, where he mentions that the prerequisite of a successful actor is 'watchability', which according to him is not related to beauty or talent. I think that Lively is in a way more watchable than some of the actresses mentioned in some of these posts as very talented and more deserving. Who the heck knew who Rooney Mara was before The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (not a blockbuster, by the way) anyway? Just the Facts: I could not agree with you more.

  • Ripleys Believe it Or Not | January 25, 2012 4:46 PM

    Lively is more watchable? You consider mumbling in front of a camera "watchable"? And since when has Michelle Williams, a 3 time Oscar nominee, been unwatchable? Or Emily Blunt?

    Your definition of watchable is incredibly narrow and if it has nothing to do with beauty or talent, then... what exactly makes one watchable? Eye contact? How well they can memorize their lines? Just being present?

  • Just the facts | January 25, 2012 12:48 PMReply

    I don't believe any of this nonsense about Blake Lively either. There's nothing more dumb than message board hate. Jesus, it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between gossip sites and legitimate film sites these days. Annapurna knew Blake was in when they originally agreed to finance. This decision came on Friday NIGHT, that should tell you everything. Friday was the day Steven Soderbergh's latest movie opened. It didn't open well. That's why this has happened, Annapurna probably wanted a smaller budget. It's so awesome that playlist is now starting rumors.

  • Ripley | January 25, 2012 5:39 PM

    I do not find Emily Blunt very watchable or talented, I am afraid. As for Michelle Williams, I saw only one of her films. She was good but I was not swept away. Read my post. 'Watchability' is a definition coined by Sean Penn, not by me. I suppose it is the equivalent of "charme'. If everybody would adhere to your argument we would have the same actors in all the films irrespective of whether they have or not the 'physique du rôle' and nobody else would have a chance to try themselves and grow in their trade. Besides, even Oscar winners fail to deliver at times. Why should anyone be so upset that Lively was chosen instead of so and so? It is obvious that Soderbergh deemed she was adequate for the role. The vehemence/contempt deployed in these posts is worthy of a more important cause. Live and let live.

  • Paul | January 25, 2012 12:15 PMReply

    If any of this Blake Lively BS is true (I highly doubt it is), if Oliver Stone can knock SAVAGES out of the park I would not be surprised to see people change their tune.

  • Team Blake | January 25, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    When did Megan Ellison become such an expert on acting that she could tell an Academy Award winning director who he could or could not hire? Wasn't Megan Ellison dancing on top of bar tables and making out with girls in front of paparazzi just two years ago?

  • f | January 25, 2012 11:33 AMReply

    Deeply impressive in The Town?? All she did was mumble for five minutes. You aren't thinking with your brain when it comes to Blake Lively.

  • SARAH | January 25, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    Blake Lively was not impressive at all in the Town - a completely forced and bland performance. Ditto for Pippa Lee. She's completely OVERRATED and thats not because of Gossip Girl, thats because of her acting.

  • A Baby Named Jesus | January 25, 2012 9:15 AMReply

    If this is true I am extremely disappointed in Megan Ellison. After all, prior to committing to PTA's THE MASTER all she was ever known for was being a spoiled rich party girl who went LA club hopping. If her father wasn't super loaded would we even be talking about her at all? Her involvement financing one or two big time pictures doesn't give her the gravitas to suddenly cast such aspersions against others. After all, Megan has not proven herself yet either.

    Blake Lively is young and still unproven too, but she has shown that she can act when given the right material. This was way off base for Megan Ellison, IMO. Get over yourself please.

  • anna | January 26, 2012 10:25 AM

    Who are you to tell Megan Ellison how she should spend her money?

  • Clarity | January 25, 2012 4:41 PM

    Considering it is her money, it gives her a lot of leverage. Baby Jesus, you should know better!

  • Iron CLAN | January 25, 2012 1:34 AMReply

    Lol @ two Oscar nominees being replacements for Teen Choice Award winner Blake Lively. Williams' needs to stay away from troubled women roles because she's done that. She's way too talented to stick to the same ol'. Give it to Mara, let her fade away.

  • Tikiram | January 25, 2012 1:29 AMReply

    Wait- Michelle Williams is a BACKUP for BLAKE LIVELY? Are you serious?

    And no Blake Lively is not a good actress. She was mediocre at best in The Town (her accent was the only thing that sounded inauthentic) and she has been consistently bland and mumbly in every film. But pairing up with Channing Tatum is a great idea- two failures in one film! Woo hooooooo.

    (That was very harsh but I can't believe Michelle Williams and Blake Lively were in the same sentence... had to get my anger out. Apologies Playlist. You are kind souls.)

  • Tikiram | January 25, 2012 5:07 AM

    Lively was never officially cast in Oz. She was circling the role but it was ultimately offered to Williams. There was never an official offer made to Lively. Check Variety not gossip sites. The role came down to Williams (who the studio wanted) and Hilary Swank (who Raimi wanted). She was cast in Stone's film, you are correct. With his recent track record, I'm sure he'll knock it out of the park ;)

  • jonesy | January 25, 2012 2:03 AM

    Go yell at Sam Raimi and Oliver Stone while you're at it. There were reports Raimi cast Lively as Glinda in Oz: The Great and Powerful before the role taken over by Williams when Lively dropped out for Oliver Stone's Savages. She was reportedly Stone's first choice, but Universal wanted Jennifer Lawrence. The role opened up when Lawrence dropped out to for Hunger Games. Some directors march to their own beat.

  • Jeff | January 25, 2012 12:38 AMReply

    Don't want to complain about Ellison after she has funded the projects of so many great filmmakers. She's got to know, however, that if you're going to work with The Bergh, you've got to trust him. His quirky casting is part of the deal.

  • Ashley | January 25, 2012 12:30 AMReply

    I don't get what all the hate for Blake Lively is about, and it's very short sighted if you ask me. Everyone starts somewhere. Everyone criticizing her for her show Gossip Girl, give me a break. Guess where Williams started? As a main character on teen drama similar to Gossip Girl. Get over yourselves and stop prematurely judging people. I say they have some integrity and stick with their choice of Lively. She can act. Anyone who has see two of the above mentioned movies (The Town and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) can attest to that.

  • Jonesy | January 25, 2012 2:16 AM

    As I remember it, Katie Holmes was considered the standout on Dawson's. Michelle and Rooney both have some clunkers in their CV, including horror flicks. Good writing and directing can do wonders for young actors. Lively shined in Pippa Lee and a little known film called Elvis and Anabelle with Max Minghella, and was good albeit miscast in The Town.

  • Blue | January 25, 2012 1:39 AM

    Ashley, I don't think it's premature. It's not like people are saying she's a bad actress based on nothing. She has been around long enough for people to have an idea of her range. Unfortunately, she's just not that great of an actress. She isn't a horrible actress but she's nothing special which puts her in the "meh" category. She was good in The Town but her accent was over the top especially in comparison to Cooper, Affleck, and even Renner. It was more mimicry than natural. Pippa Lee was not a stretch for her. She's consistently bad on Gossip Girl, which isn't doing her any favors. Blame it on the writing if you want, but it is possible to rise above the material (i.e. Michelle Williams in Dawson's Creek is a great example). She has a very bland style of acting.

  • Kendall | January 25, 2012 1:30 AM

    Michelle Williams was impressive on Dawson's Creek. Arguably the best thing. NO ONE will ever say that about Blake Lively. Williams had "Dick" and "The Station Agent" very early on... Blake Lively has... uh nothing.

  • Lea | January 24, 2012 11:15 PMReply

    Why would they choose a bad tv teen show actress known for her bed hopping over Rooney or Williams who can act?? Smart move to pull out.

  • padre | January 24, 2012 10:55 PMReply

    Who chooses Blake Lively over Megan Ellison('s money)?!! This is not an artistic hill you stand and die on. It makes no financial or artistic sense at all. Also might Variety's "jumbling of the cast" result in Channing Tatum falling out and into a bottomless pit of forgetfulness, or is Steven's new bff welded to his side now?

  • sam | January 24, 2012 10:50 PMReply

    Something is off here. They presumably knew the cast when they decided to back it and announce it to the public.

  • Sam | January 24, 2012 11:07 PM

    That's why I say something is off with the reason these "sources" are giving. I can't believe Annapurna did not know the cast Soderbergh intended to use when they agreed to back the movie or that they would allow their involvement to be publicized if they disputed the casting to the point of pulling out. Maybe there was never a firm deal in place?

  • JohnF | January 24, 2012 10:22 PMReply

    There has been so many films moved and cancelled in the last month..I don' t think
    rooney or michelle williams or emily were originally available to shoot a movie in the spring. things change and it all opens up a lot of possibilities. read an early draft of this was fun

  • Nybloggerratt | January 24, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    Love Rooney!!!

  • Matthew | January 24, 2012 10:14 PMReply

    Love Rooney, but why is she more bankable than a TV star? Got excited for Lively to break out with this role.

  • Ashley | January 25, 2012 12:35 AM

    I agree and Lively is underrated in my opinion. And given the amount of horrible actresses who coast by on their looks (Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba), it would be nice to see a chance given to one who has both looks and talent. I've seen Lively in most of her film roles and she has what it takes. I love Rooney Mara as well but she's going to have no problem getting roles.

  • KitCo | January 24, 2012 10:09 PMReply

    Begs the question why Mara and Williams weren't cast ahead of Lively in the first place. But Mara may need to take a break from playing troubled young women.

  • Crystal | August 25, 2012 6:55 PM

    Ashley, an underreated actress would not get treated as an A list star which Blake Lively does (at least by Hollywood). Nor would they land endorsements and covers of big name fashion labels and magazines especially Vogue which Lively was on the first time when her career only consisted of a low rated CW show and two teen movies.

    If she has what it takes it's just too bad she can't show it in Gossip Girl which she's terrible in. I refuse to watch any movie she's in because of her performance on that show. It doesn't matter if her character is angry, sad or happy...she does the same facial expression for all of her scenes.

  • sam | January 24, 2012 10:46 PM

    Because Soderbergh likes to cast his own films. Now you know why he is retiring.

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