Hilary Duff At War With John Cusack, ‘Departed’ Won’t Die: Sundance File

Cusack racks up Iraq films; Vera Farmiga talks Scorsese sequel; Nick Cannon battles zombies.

PARK CITY, UtahJohn Cusack has Iraq on his mind, and the war has inspired him to star in the just-purchased Sundance drama “Grace Is Gone,” as well as a recently wrapped satire co-starring Hilary Duff. “We did another one called ‘Brand Hauser’, and it’s another movie about Iraq. ['Grace'] is restrained and respectful because it’s about families, but ‘Brand Hauser’ is about the people trying to exploit war — the war profiteers,” Cusack said of the film, which he also wrote and produced. “That one’s more like we’re trying to take a fire hose and blow it right in their faces. Hilary plays a tacky pop star of Central Asia, and she’s great. We had a great time, and she rocks in the film.” Cusack’s hope is that “Hauser,” which is due in theaters later this year and will likely mark a rare ‘R’-rated film for Duff, will entertain people but also remind them of the seriousness of the situation. “I watched the Bears go to the championship game, and I forgot about everything; the next day you hear on CNN that 22 people had been killed. How do you not address it?” Looking to the Cold War satire “Dr. Strangelove” as his template, he hopes that “Hauser” will similarly skewer this conflict. “Believe me, if we could hit that, we’d be doing alright. Because [Strangelove]‘s a classic.” …

“The Departed” just won’t live up to its name. Last week MTV News brought you exclusive scoop on a possible sequel (and prequel) to the Martin Scorsese crime drama straight from the mouth of Mark Wahlberg. Now, we’ve heard from another star of the flick who’s being coy. Vera Farmiga, co-starring with Sam Rockwell in the Sundance thriller “Joshua,” danced around the sequel question when asked for comment at the festival. “Mark and I do survive, don’t we? It’s plausible then.” Rockwell, for one, is curious — badgering his co-star and asking “Who’s writing the script?” Farmiga laughed off his question but did posit a sequel title. “What’s the opposite of ‘The Departed’?” she smiled. “Maybe ‘The Arrival’?” …

Nick Cannon‘s fans might consider their favorite star versatile, but who knew that he was a zombie geek? “I’ve been a fan of those George A. Romero films, and I had the opportunity to get out there and cut some zombie heads off,” Cannon grinned this week, telling us about his first horror role in this summer’s “Day of the Dead” remake. “It was amazing; probably the most fun I’ve had on a film.” Eager to be a part of the recent zombie renaissance, Cannon hopes that his violent Sundance flick “Weapons” and working with a zombie icon will open him up to a whole new audience. “[Romero] was the producer,” Cannon said of the man behind such flicks as 1968′s “Night of the Living Dead”. “Steve Miner was the director; he created [several] ‘Friday the 13th’ [films], so he’s another icon in the game. …

The first two “Underworld” flicks were money-making successes, so where’s the final chapter of the trilogy? According to star Scott Speedman, the studio wants a third movie, but he isn’t sure if he and the series’ other two driving forces will have anything to do with it. “I think they want to, I just don’t know if everybody’s going to be involved,” said Speedman, who was disappointed after learning that his “Weirdsville” press tour wouldn’t reunite him with his former leading lady after all. “The director [Len Wiseman] and Kate Beckinsale were supposed to be here, but she’s sick,” he said of Kate’s nasty case of walking pneumonia. “I don’t know if Len’s going to want to do [another 'Underworld']; he’s doing ‘[Live Free or] Die Hard’ now, and stuff like that. It’s a real hard movie to make.” Though the box-office receipts from the first two make a third flick inevitable, Speedman held his ground. “If they’re not doing it, I’m not gonna do it.” …

Oh Lord, won’t you buy her a star-making role? Zooey Deschanel is at the Sundance Film Festival promoting her latest indie flick “The Go-Getter,” but it’s her next role as Janis Joplin that has fans predicting a big breakout. “It wasn’t the type of stuff I listened to, which made it more interesting,” the 27-year-old said of the classic rock behind “The Gospel According to Janis,” a “Walk the Line”-like biopic she hopes to film later this year. “I always appreciated [Joplin] as a performer, but it wasn’t until I got involved in that project — which, it still hasn’t been made yet but I’ve been working with them for awhile — that I really started watching a lot of footage of her and listening to what she had to say, listening to her music and reading biographies about her. I find her not only a really fascinating performer, but also a fascinating person. And really intelligent; it’s such a shame that it was so clouded by her dysfunction.” Adding that “getting in touch with the dysfunction is probably going to be the most challenging thing,” the tiny actress has been working hard to transform herself, but revealed she won’t be gaining pounds à la Robert De Niro to portray the troubled rock legend. “She actually wasn’t [overweight]. I’ve had a lot of people say that, but especially towards the end of her life she was very thin because she was back on drugs. She yo-yo’d. Physically, she was quite different than me, that’s true; but that’s just cosmetic.” Deschanel (who sang in movies such as “Elf” and “Winter Passing”) and director Penelope Spheeris plan on using makeup and prosthetics for the transformation. “I’m really interested to find out who [Joplin] was beyond ‘Oh, she died of a drug overdose,’ ” Deschanel said of her most high-profile role yet. “That’s what a lot of people think, and they don’t realize what a truly gifted person she was.” …

It looks to be a difficult year for James Franco on the big screen. This summer he’ll be tangling with none other than Spider-Man in the third installment of the blockbuster franchise, and soon after, Tommy Lee Jones will be on his case. While talking about his turn in the haunting Sundance drama “An American Crime,” Franco clued us in on his small part in “In the Valley of Elah,” writer/director Paul Haggis‘ eagerly awaited follow-up to “Crash.” “It’s based on a true story about some soldiers who return from Iraq and end up murdering one of their fellow soldiers,” Franco outlined the plot. “Tommy Lee Jones is the father of the murdered soldier, trying to uncover what happened.” Franco is one of Park City’s heavy hitters, boasting a second Sundance role in director Justin Lin‘s Bruce Lee comedy “Finishing the Game.” …

Go west, young man — just don’t expect to be happy. Playing in the Park City snow while promoting the quirky “Rocket Science,” actor Nicholas D’Agosto spoke about another upcoming film that will take him from an idealistic young writer to a burnt-out statistic. “I did a film over the summer called ‘L.A. Blues,’ a comedy with Dave Foley and Anthony Michael Hall,” D’Agosto revealed. “It’s sort of a ‘Diner’-esque kind of thing about a bunch of guys that sit around a bar and talk about life, all bitching and moaning.” While Hollywood may be called the Dream Factory, the entertainment industry kills the dreams of the five characters — leading one to attempt suicide. “All of us in some way have some connection to the business, whether it is entertainment therapy, actor or agent,” D’Agosto said. “[My character] wants to be a writer. I come out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and by the end I’m bitter.” It may sound depressing, but it’s not, D’Agosto insisted. “It’s an out-and-out comedy,” he said. “There’s a clip of me where I [pee] myself, which I think is kind of fun.”

Check out everything we’ve got on Hilary Duff, “The Departed” and Nick Cannon.

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