Movie File: Jack Black, Terrence Howard, Marques Houston, Hilary Swank & More

Black, Dustin Hoffman and Jackie Chan slated to voice computer-animated comedy 'Kung Fu Panda.'

Close your eyes and imagine Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Jackie Chan together in a room. Now, imagine a slovenly panda, a warrior monkey, and a tough-as-nails martial artist, and you've got "Kung Fu Panda," the upcoming computer-animated comedy from the home of the "Shrek" films. DreamWorks has cast double Oscar-winner Hoffman as Shifu, the militant master who must transform Black's Po the Panda from a lazy wastrel into a kung fu master before their enemies take over their home, the Valley of Peace. "Rush Hour" veteran Chan will provide the voice of Master Monkey, a souped-up simian who is everything Po hopes to become. When Po unwittingly reveals himself to be the savior in a long-revered prophesy, the three team together to whip him into shape before it's too late. Lucy Liu is in discussions to join the film as Master Viper, another instructor who teaches Po that playing coy can be used to his advantage. Red-hot "Deadwood" actor Ian McShane, meanwhile, has signed on to voice the villain, a powerful snow leopard named Tai Lung. The film is slated for release in May of 2008. ...

Terrence Howard has already had the kind of year most actors only dream about, mixing it up in everything from "Crash" to "Hustle & Flow" to "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." Now, thanks to a new film he's announcing, Howard will end 2005 with a bang — a gavel bang, to be exact. "I'm about to do Thurgood Marshall for New Line Cinema," Howard beamed with pride about the project, titled "The Crusader," about the life of the first black Supreme Court justice. "It's such a tremendous story, and so important. Thurgood Marshall was so influential in moving toward integration and equal rights. He was part of the legislative process in making sure that what Martin Luther King and [others] were marching for was going to be accomplished." Howard sees the film as a biopic along the lines of "Ray" or "Walk the Line," and hopes his film will similarly call attention to an important figure. "They say in order to know your future, you've got to know your past," Howard observed. "These icons, these huge human landmarks who've been tried by the trials of human life and have managed to be successful, and who've been so open about what they've gone through — this is how we can turn their stumbling blocks into stepping stones." ...

With "Doom" in her rear-view mirror, actress Rosamund Pike will show her versatility later this month in "The Libertine," a steamy period drama that is already generating awards-season buzz for its superstar lead actor. "Johnny Depp plays a 16th-century kind of rugged drunkard libertine, and I play his wife," she recounted. "He's having an affair with an actress, but I'm on one level sort of the wife who ... they kind of had a very, very sexy relationship when they started going out, but she doesn't fulfill him entirely. But they can't break up, because they've still got this intense connection." ...

Between takes on the set of her upcoming thriller "The Reaping" in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 11-year-old Annasophia Robb could be seen in a pink sweatsuit, wearing a sensible helmet and trying hard to stay on a skateboard. Asked about her new hobby, the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" actress revealed that she's taking a (very literal) crash course for her next role. "I am doing another film straight after this film and it's called 'Doubting Thomas,' " she beamed. "We're filming that in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I play a skater chick." Acknowledging that her character is an Avril Lavigne type, Robb revealed that "it's gonna be a kids' movie" and that "Cheaper by the Dozen" actor Forrest Landis will play the titular fibber who has trouble convincing anyone that he's overheard a plot to kidnap the president's daughter. "I am the little boy Thomas' best friend, and he always is telling lies and getting into trouble. And it's just about what happens with one of his lies, and how we work it out together." ...

When Chris Klein and writer/director Paul Weitz last worked together, moviegoers got a taste of "American Pie." Now they've stuck with the same country but moved on to bigger topics, having recently wrapped "American Dreamz," a dark comedy that might leave a taste even more pungent than "Pie." With a cast including Mandy Moore, Hugh Grant and Dennis Quaid as the president, the film uses hypothetical comedy to comment on everything from "American Idol" to the war in Iraq. "[In the film], 'American Idol' is so popular that, for ratings, the president of the United States is gonna be a celebrity judge in the finals," Klein said of the concept behind the film, in theaters next year. "I play William Williams, who gets dumped by a contestant on the show, and I decide my life has no meaning, so I go to Iraq only to get injured and come back. And the ex-girlfriend's new agent decides that it's wonderful dramatic television to have a war-hero boyfriend cheer for her in the audience to get voters on her side. Not only that, the mujahedeen [terrorists] figure out a way to get a suicide bomber in the finals, so that he can blow up the president." Klein compared the film to the 1997 political spoof "Wag the Dog," then smiled and added that " 'Wag the Dog' certainly isn't going to have Hugh Grant's dry humor. And we do." ...

Joking that he's committed himself to the "Chronicles of Narnia" films for the rest of his life, director Andrew Adamson has revealed plans to adapt all seven books of the classic C.S. Lewis series. After "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" hits theaters next month, Adamson will get to work on "Prince Caspian." After that, he plans to direct and/or produce all the other "Narnia" tales, insisting that each book will be made into its own movie rather than being combined, à la "Lemony Snicket." ...

"I gotta mix it up for myself, keep myself on my toes," insisted double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, sounding much like her determined "Million Dollar Baby" boxer. "[I want to] keep trying things that scare me, wonder if I can do them." It is this mindset that she recently shot a very different role in "The Black Dahlia," a crime thriller that casts the famously tomboyish Swank as a sexy femme fatale. "I finished it back in May ... great dresses, great costume, hair, makeup," she grinned. "It actually takes place in 1947 and is based on the ['L.A. Confidential' author] James Ellroy book 'The Black Dahlia' — which is a true story that happened in Los Angeles that was actually never solved, but this was James Ellroy's take on what happened. Brian De Palma directed it — Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart ... I'm in a supporting role, I come in on like page 62, but I had a ball." The mystery of "The Black Dahlia" will be explored in theaters next year. ...

"I don't know if I can ... I feel like they'd want my first child if I revealed any secrets," Anna Faris laughed when asked about the upcoming fourth installment of her "Scary Movie" franchise. "Well, we do a lot of 'The Village'," she conceded, adding that her character spoofs Bryce Dallas Howard's blind heroine. "There's some funny gags with the idea of being blind ... we spoof pretty much anything that made a lot of money." Faris also said that "Scary Movie 4," which comes out next April, will be a bit tamer than the first two Wayans-powered movies. "It'll be closer to '3,' because the two originals were R-rated. They were a little raunchier, and the third one was PG-13, and I think we'll do another PG-13 this time." ...

"We have a lot of ideas that are in the works right now," offered Marques Houston, referring to his partnership with the "You Got Served" co-star he considers his brother. "We have another script called 'Nine Millimeter,' where Omarion and I play two undercover cops." Omarion and Houston hope that, as they develop their first true action script, the result will be something worthy of their two idols. "We're kinda like the mini 'Bad Boys,' like Martin [Lawrence] and Will [Smith]; those are definitely a pair of our favorite actors."

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