Movie File: Steve Carell, Will Smith, Mekhi Phifer, Anthony Hopkins, ‘Halo’ & More

'40-Year-Old Virgin' star signs on for sequel to 'Bruce Almighty.'

The good news is that Steve Carell is starring in another movie; the bad news is that Jim Carrey probably is not. Now that the “40-Year-Old Virgin” star is the toast of Hollywood, Carell has made a deal to headline “Evan Almighty,” a sequel to the 2003 comedy blockbuster “Bruce Almighty.” The film will focus on Evan “My tiny little nipples went to France” Baxter, the cocky news anchor portrayed by then-supporting actor Carell in the original film. This time around, Baxter will be approached by God and ordered to build a Noah-type ark in preparation for a flood of biblical proportions. Carrey, who turned down sequels to hit films like “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber,” is once again expected to sidestep a second chapter. Jennifer Aniston is also not expected to reprise her character from the original, although director Tom Shadyac will return, and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman is in negotiations to once again play the charismatic man upstairs. …

Hollywood superstar Will Smith can likely afford a good daycare provider; during the filming of his next movie, however, he’ll be able to do the baby-sitting himself. Jaden Smith, the 7-year-old offspring of Will and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, will be making his feature-film debut in the upcoming “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Easing himself into the family business, the aspiring actor will be taking on a role he should know well: the son of Will Smith. In the film, the former Fresh Prince will play Christopher Gardner, a struggling salesman who gets custody of his son just as he’s about to begin an intensive career-making program. The drama, which will mark the American debut of Italian filmmaker Gabriele Muccino, is about to begin principal photography while eyeing a 2006 release. …

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Mekhi Phifer (“8 Mile”) is readying his acting muscles — and his vocal cords — for a “Ray”-like biopic that could bring him so much fame that he’ll never be “Tired of Being Alone” again. Producer John Wells (“A Home at the End of the World”) and Phifer are attached to an upcoming film on the life of Al Green, the ’70s soul singer who later became an ordained minister and switched over to gospel music. The film is currently searching for additional actors and a director, as well as a date to begin production. … Cannibalistic homicidal maniac Hannibal Lecter … as a hotel doorman? Not quite. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, Anthony Hopkins has signed on for “Bobby,” an Emilio Estevez-championed film that revisits the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Inspired by both fictional and factual accounts of the hours leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, “Bobby” will focus on a long list of characters — including the doorman — present at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, the site of the politician’s shocking murder. Demi Moore is in talks to portray a lounge singer in the film, which is set to start shooting in late October. …

Back in June, Xbox-maker Microsoft got some buzz by deploying messengers dressed as “Halo” hero Master Chief to several big Hollywood studios in the hopes of finding a backer for a big-screen “Halo” feature. It seems to have worked. Either that, or movie studios have simply decided to jump aboard a franchise whose last game, “Halo 2,” made more money on launch day than any new film released last year. Variety reports that Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox have signed on to bring “Halo” to the silver screen, with a release set for 2007. Alex Garland, who wrote “28 Days Later,” will handle the script. … Ryan Phillippe will play FBI agent Eric O’Neill in the forthcoming espionage thriller “Breach” alongside Oscar winner Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”). Based on actual events, “Breach” centers on Phillippe’s character, who is handpicked to work for the operative Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), the head of a new division designed to guard classified FBI intelligence. O’Neill’s immense respect for his mentor is shattered when Hanssen’s treacherous motives are uncovered. “Shattered Glass” scribe Billy Ray will direct. …

If the name Pell James isn’t on your radar yet, it might be time to start taking notice of the 28-year-old blonde beauty. Currently garnering attention alongside Bill Murray in “Broken Flowers,” she takes center stage with her first starring role in this week’s “Undiscovered” and, as she recently exclaimed, has just been cast in a film by one of today’s most in-demand directors. “I’m shooting the David Fincher movie ‘Zodiac,’ ” she revealed, citing the Jake Gyllenhaal serial-killer film from the “Fight Club” mastermind. “I’m so excited because I get hacked to death. It’s so cool because you get to work with the prosthetics people and you can imagine with David Fincher it will be the crème de la crème of special effects. I’m going to get a whole-body cast, and I get stabbed … it’s going to be great, and apparently he’s so meticulous with the stunt and coordinating the whole thing.” James didn’t have much else to offer about her character’s personality, but said “Zodiac” begins filming September 13 and she’s looking forward to dying “very soon.” …

Veteran actor Brock Peters, whose face came to symbolize racial tension in the 1962 multiple-Oscar-winning film “To Kill a Mockingbird,” died Tuesday at age 78. The stage-trained actor crafted the classic movie’s iconic character Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, before going on to appear in more than 50 other television and film productions. In addition to “Mockingbird,” Peters worked in such notable films as “Soylent Green,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and the fourth and sixth installments of the “Star Trek” series. His television appearances, meanwhile, included “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Cagney & Lacey” and “Mission: Impossible.” …
Zachary Levi is best known for his work on the television show “Less Than Perfect,” but he’s getting ready to cross over to the big screen — with a movie about cross-dressing, no less. “I just finished doing ‘Big Momma’s House 2′ with Martin Lawrence,” the actor reported this week about the sequel to the 2000 comedy. “I play his partner — his awkward, white, new-to-the-force partner for the FBI. Kind of like myself, only not really in the FBI,” he laughed, “but still white and awkward.” The sequel is currently scheduled for a January 2006 release. … Ryan Gosling picked up indie cred playing a neo-Nazi in “The Believer,” then won the hearts of teenage girls while showing his versatility with the romantic weeper “The Notebook.” So where does he go from here? “It’s called ‘Stay,’ ” the hunky 24-year-old said of his next film, due in October. “It’s got Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in it … I play a mental patient who’s going to kill himself,” he smiled while talking about the film from “Finding Neverland” director Marc Forster. “It’s a happy family thing. It’s awesome.” …

Veteran actor Jeff Bridges has starred in dozens of films since his debut in the early ’70s, but he recently revealed that one of his proudest achievements is the 1998 cult classic “The Big Lebowski.” “Yeah, there is so much great stuff in it,” he smiled, “[When I'm] changing the channels on the TV and I come across [one of my movies], normally I’ll watch a scene or two and then change the channel, but with ‘Lebowski,’ I can’t. I’ll just wait until [John] Turturro licks the bowling ball, just wait until all these good spots — it’s just filled with them.” Bridges says he enjoyed becoming “The Dude” so much, in fact, that he’s volunteering to bring the character back if writers/directors the Coen Brothers will let him. “I would love to work with them again, on a sequel or whatever they come up with,” he said. The armies of fans who attend “Lebowski Fest” events every year will no doubt be excited by the news that the Dude may buff up his bowling ball and roll again, possibly even on Shabbos. … The upcoming romantic-comedy spoof from the creators of “Scary Movie” has a new title. The film, which stars Alyson Hannigan and Carmen Electra and makes fun of everything from “When Harry Met Sally” to Peter Jackson‘s upcoming “King Kong,” will now be called “Date Movie.” It opens January 13. … The writers and director are claiming that “Old School” is back in session, but will the party still be a Mitch-apalooza? Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong, who oversaw the breakthrough 2003 comedy, have received the green light from DreamWorks for a sequel, but stars Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson have yet to sign on. …

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