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Production Watch: Carell Goes Dramatic; Thurman, Biel & Butler Mix Their Genres

by Sophia Savage
February 23, 2011 6:45 AM
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Steve Carell announced that he was leaving The Office last June. Since then, his two films, Dinner for Schmucks and Date Night--neither of which broke $100 million at the domestic box office -- took a back seat to animated Despicable Me ($251.5 million domestic, $528 million worldwide). His transition into movie-stardom is less of a sure thing than his The Office character Michael Scott. Anne Thompson examined his career last August and concluded that, like many great comedians, "the trick has been making the near-impossible transition from dundering guffaw-getter to leading man…Carell knows how to make moviegoers split their sides laughing; it's much more difficult to widen his appeal as a dramatic actor or romantic lead." Now Carell will star in Mandate Pictures' quirky drama Dogs of Babel.

He hopes to play a linguistics professor who finds his wife dead in their backyard and is convinced, despite the police deeming it an accident, that something more happened. He attempts to train his dog, the only witness, to talk in hopes it will solve the mystery. The story is an adaptation of Carolyn Parkhurst's 2003 novel. The hunt for a director is on: Todd Philips was once attached while the adaptation was at Focus Features. Gawker warns Carell to "please don't go all late-'90s Robin Williams on us, Steve. A serious role once in a while is perfectly fine, but no one wants to spend too much time with the overly sensitive clown. We do not need another What Dreams May Come. We did not need the first one." That's harsh. One reason that Michael Scott has been such an anchoring success for The Office is that Carell plays the character as if he were in a full-on tragedy. Remember Little Miss Sunshine (pictured above).

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- Gabriele Muccino (Seven Pounds, The Pursuit of Happyness) will direct Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel and Gerard Butler in Nu Image/Millennium Films' Playing the Field. The script, written by Robbie Fox (So I Married an Axe Murderer), follows an ex-professional soccer player who agrees to coach his son's soccer team. Soccer moms attack the new coach, and he must fend off their advances. Biel plays his ex-wife and Thurman plays another parent. Butler is also co-producing with his Evil Twins partner Alan Siegel. Thurman, Biel and Butler are also playing the field of movie genres, each with a slate of new projects in the works:

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Thurman co-stars with Michael Angarano in Max Winkler's Ceremony (April 8). She also appears as Lois Lane in a short included in Movie 43. In post-production is Thurman's Bel Ami, co-starring Robert Pattinson and Christina Ricci, based on Guy de Maupassant's short story. And in prep are Foolproof, a thriller from Christoffer Boe; UK production Eloise in Paris, an adaptation of Kay Thompson's 1950s children's book, from director Charles Shyer (Alfie, Father of the Bride); Will Raee's Girl Soldier, an action-drama about the use and abuse of children in armed conflict and the people fighting to save them, and of course, Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 3, slated for a 2014 release.

Butler's upcoming projects include genre-hopping Machine Gun Preacher, directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction), in which he plays a drug dealer/biker turned crusader for the rights of Sudanese children used in armed conflict. Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon co-star. Buter is executive producer of the Lionsgate film, which is scheduled to come out this September. Butler is also attached to Antoine Fuqua's sci-fi drama Afterburn, an adaptation of James Ellroy's 1950s crime-thriller White Jazz, and How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Biel, meanwhile, also has a handful of titles in production, including Bill Purple's The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea with Chloe Moretz and Zach Braff, David O. Russell's Nailed, and Garry Marshall's celeb-packed New Year's Eve. Among her projects in development, which she is also producing, are Privalidged Information, a based-on-true-life thriller, and Patricia Riggen's Vivaldi.

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