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The week in casting news

-After months of speculation, it looks like Will Smith will definitely be suiting up again as the anti-Superman Hancock.  Two writers have been hired to write the sequel to Smith’s 2008 blockbuster hit under the close supervision of the Fresh Prince and his director Peter Berg, who will likely be helming the second installment as well.  The writers in question are Adam Fierro and Glenn Mazzara, veterans of FX’s stellar cop series The Shield.  While a production start date has yet to be announced, expect to see Hancock 2 in theaters by 2011.

Blake Lively graduates from Gossip Girl to a role in Ben Affleck’s next directorial effort, The Town.  Joining a cast that includes Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall and the director himself, Lively plays the ex-girlfriend of Affleck’s character, a Boston crook trying to stay one step ahead of the FBI.

-Speaking of Mad Men, Hamm’s co-star, the bodacious Christina Hendricks, just landed a role in Katherine Heigl’s next romantic comedy, Life as We Know It, which follows a single gal (Heigl) and guy (Josh Duhamel a.k.a. Mr. Fergie) who unexpectedly become parents when their mutual best friends die and award them custody of their young daughter.  Hendricks is stuck in the standard “best friend” role, but here’s hoping it leads to bigger and better parts in the future.

-The new thriller Vanishing on Seventh Street is staffing up with cast that includes Thandie Newtown, Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo.  The film takes place in a city where citizens are mysterious disappearing through supernatural events.  A group of five residents-including a nurse (Newton), a subway operator (Leguizamo) and a reporter (Christensen)-try to get to the bottom of the mystery before they vanish themselves.

-Universal abandoned its plans to make a big-screen version of the Xbox hit Halo, but the studio is forging ahead with another planned video game adaptation, Bioshock, based on the Take-Two Interactive first-person shooter.  Pirates of the Caribbean mastermind Gore Verbinski was originally set to direct, but opted to produce the movie instead.  The assignment has now gone to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who proved his action chops 28 Weeks Later.

-A&E shed some light on its planned reality series Jackson Family Dynasty, which follows the remaining members of the Jackson Five in the wake of their brother’s untimely death.  Although production started relatively recently, the network still plans to get the series on the air before the end of the year.

-Only weeks after being kicked off American Idol, Paula Abdul has found a new gig…on VH1.  The singer-turned-semi-professional talent judge will be the host of the re-launched VH1 Divas franchise, which has been off the air for the past four years.  Leona Lewis, Miley Cyrus and former Idols Jordin Sparks and Kelly Clarkson are among the announced singers appearing on early episodes.

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