PARK CITY, Utah — "That's an exclusive, right there," Nick Cannon laughed Saturday, taking a momentary breather from the nonstop parties here at the Sundance Film Festival to reveal that he'll next star in a high-profile biopic about a tennis legend. "I'm trying to focus on this Arthur Ashe project; we're setting it up right now." The "Wild 'N Out" host will undergo intense lessons with his racket in the months to come, and hopes to begin filming the story of the barrier-breaking three-time Grand Slam champion later this year. "To me, the guy is an icon — not only in sports, but as an African-American," Cannon said, explaining why he took the role. "With all Ashe did for the culture, and acting as a civil-rights leader, I believe it's time that story needs to be told. We've been working closely with Arthur's wife, and getting the right director for the project. Will Smith is producing it too, so it's gonna be a big project." Adding that he never met Ashe, who died in 1993 ("I read about him in the textbooks"), Cannon revealed that the currently untitled flick will go by the "Walk the Line" formula of ending its depiction once the icon hits the approximate age of the actor portraying him. The film will focus on Ashe's youth — not his final years, when he became a prominent activist in the struggle against AIDS (which he'd contracted during a blood transfusion, and which ultimately took his life). "No, I don't think we're gonna touch on that," Cannon said. "We wanna deal with the rise of Arthur Ashe, and how he got to be who he was. It'll be the young-man years." ...

Winona Ryder has an urge to purge — especially when it comes to her soon-to-shoot return trip to Westerberg High School for a second take on the classic flick "Heathers." "There's been a lot of different talk about it, and I just got the whole outline," the star said, revealing that the hotly anticipated sequel has moved one step closer to reality. "It's brilliant." But wait a minute, wasn't everyone but Winona so very dead at the end of the 1989 classic? "Yeah, he died at the end," Ryder shrugged, singling out co-star Christian Slater as one of the dearly departed who might be resurrected. "I want him to come back as sort of the Obi-Wan," Ryder grinned. "I'm excited about it." Floating around Sundance to premiere her upcoming comedy "The Ten," Ryder undoubtedly knows that the Heathers are timeless — even if, to paraphrase the cult classic, much of it is so 1989. ...

Over the last few years, fans and critics alike have applauded movies that peeked at the lives behind the music of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash. Now, believe it or not, it's Liberace's turn to grab the mic. According to "Epic Movie" scribes Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, Nicolas Cage is in talks to play the flamboyant piano player in a new musical biopic. "We met with Nicolas Cage last year and he really wanted to star in it; he wanted to direct himself in it too," Seltzer revealed. Famed for his outrageous costumes and candelabra, Liberace was an anachronism in the uptight 1950s. According to the spoof-centered writing duo, however, their first straight-ahead script is arriving at a time when the world has finally caught up. "Certainly last year 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Capote' opened some doors for that type of movie," Friedberg said, referencing Liberace's apparent homosexuality. "It seems to be attracting a good level of talent, and we believe it will be made." ...

Sitting in a Sundance lounge — in the type of random environment that actually had celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis preparing meals just a few feet away — legendary actor Anthony Hopkins was preparing explanations for his trippy New Frontier-category flick "Slipstream." But first, he was willing to indulge questions about "Beowulf," the big-budget animated blockbuster that will be on everyone's mind in November. "Robert Zemeckis is directing it, and it's in the same format as 'The Polar Express,' " Hopkins said, referencing the groundbreaking visuals that render animated humans and animals as nearly photo-real. "It's that sort of thing with an amazing reality. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it will look terrific." Based on the classic work of literature, the epic fantasy flick tells the story of a Scandinavian warrior who must do battle with the hideous monster Grendel. "Angelina Jolie is in it, and a whole bunch of people. It took about three years to make it," said Hopkins, who provides the voice of King Hrothgar. "It's going to be amazing." ...

In any Western, it's always the wife who frets, worries, pleads, prays and pressures her husband not to leave. It may be a thankless role, but the upcoming remake of a 1957 classic has a lead actress happy to keep the tradition alive. "I just finished '3:10 to Yuma,' " Gretchen Mol reported from the snowy sidewalks of Utah, discussing a flick that has her alongside high-octane stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. "They were wonderful. It's really exciting to be near them, and to watch them work. It was inspiring." Focusing on a captured outlaw (Crowe) held captive by a local rancher (Bale) seeking justice, the flick casts Mol as Bale's none-too-pleased wife. So does that make her a good guy or a bad one? "Yeah, I'm one of the henchmen," the innocent-looking Mol said with a laugh. "[No], I'm a good guy." The flick is due in theaters October 12. ...

"I just finished a movie called 'The Strangers'; it's a thriller," "Underworld" heartthrob Scott Speedman reported while talking up "Weirdsville", a funky crime drama he has at the Sundance alternative fest, Slamdance. "It's coming out in July, and it's about two people out in the middle of nowhere. I've asked my girlfriend to marry me, and we're going to go into the city but first we have to stay at my parents' summer house. There, we get terrorized by three people." Searching for a parallel to the flick, which casts Speedman opposite Liv Tyler, the actor invoked the name of a Dustin Hoffman film so violent it was banned in England for nearly 20 years. "It's a 'Straw Dogs' kind of a thing, and it's one of the better scripts I've ever gotten to do. ... There's a whole containment thing and a terror — a slow terror — that keeps it from becoming a slasher flick. It's a nice, slow build."

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