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Susan Sarandon in 'Big Valley' + Leelee Sobieski 'Finding Bliss' Acquired

Susan SarandonSusan Sarandon as Victoria Barkley in a big-screen reboot of the 1960s Western series Big Valley. Sarandon may not make one forget Barbara Stanwyck, but that would be a great casting coup.

In the hit TV series, the veteran Stanwyck played the widow matriarch of the Barkley Ranch in California's San Joaquin Valley of the 1870s. Her grown children were Richard Long, Peter Breck, and a pre-Dynasty Linda Evans, and there was also a pre-Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors as Big Mama Barkley's stepson.

According to The Hollywood Reporter / Reuters (via Cinematical), Sarandon is “in talks” to play the tough widow who feared nothing. Kate Edelman Johnson, daughter of one of the show's creator, producer Louis F. Edelman (writer A.I. Bezzerides was his partner), is producing the project, written and to be directed by Daniel Adams (The Lightkeepers, The Golden Boys). Shooting is supposed to begin in May in New Mexico and Michigan. Perhaps Linda Evans and Lee Majors will have cameos?

Barbara Stanwyck's Victoria Barkley was nominated for three Emmys, winning one. Stanwyck also earned three Golden Globe nominations.

Another Western TV series that is scheduled to hit theaters in the not-too-distant future is Gunsmoke, to – possibly – star Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds. If Sarandon doesn't get to play Victoria Barkley, I'd forget Pitt and Reynolds and I'd cast her as Sheriff Matilda Dillon instead.

Finding Bliss by Julie Davis

Julie Davis' Finding Bliss, a romantic comedy set in the realm of the adult film industry, has been acquired by Phase 4 Films – which, perhaps not coincidentally, recently bought the rights to another movie dealing with (at least some) XXX material, Brigitte Berman's documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. Starring Leelee Sobieski, Denise Richards, Jamie Kennedy, Kristen Johnston, Caroline Aaron, and Matt Davis, Finding Bliss is scheduled to be released in spring 2010.

Leelee Sobieski in Finding Bliss

The following synopsis is from the Phase 4 Films press release: “Finding Bliss follows aspiring filmmaker Jody Balaban (a strong performance by Sobieski), who quickly realizes the closest she'll ever get to directing is directing traffic on the studio lot.   That is, until porn company Grind Productions comes calling. The studio head (brilliantly played by Kristen Johnston) offers Jody a job as a film editor on Grind's first 'cross-over' adult feature, hoping the film school grad will bring a romantic, accessible point of view to the hard-core material. Preconceived notions and judgments fly out the door when Jody falls for porn director Jeff Drake (Matt Davis) and befriends porn star Dick Harder (a full frontal Jamie Kennedy) and the film becomes both a witty battle of the sexes and raunchy comedy dealing with one girl's search to find love and friendship in the most unlikely of places. “

Also from the release: “Finding Bliss marks the third feature written and directed by Julie Davis. Her last film, Amy's Orgasm, was called 'candid, funny, and deeply authentic' by the Daily Variety and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called her first film, I Love You, Don't Touch Me!, 'a debut of a fresh new voice, one that's honest, sexy, and consistently funny.'  Finding Bliss premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and was the closing feature at the Gen Art Film Fest.”

Photos: Phase 4 / LightShow Entertainment

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is currently accepting entries for the 2010 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. As per the Academy's press release, up to five $30,000 fellowships will be awarded through the program in November.

For the first time, the entire application process this year, including the submission of entry scripts, will be done online. No scripts will be accepted via mail or e-mail. Online applications, rules and other details are available at www.oscars.org/nicholl.

More from the release: “The Nicholl Fellowships competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $5,000 from the sale or option of a screenplay or teleplay, or received a fellowship or prize of more than $5,000 that includes a 'first look' clause, an option or any other quid pro quo involving the writer's work. To enter, writers must submit a completed application online, upload one PDF copy of their original screenplay in English and pay the entry fee before 11:59 p.m. PT on May 1, '10. The regular entry fee is US$45; an early-bird entry fee of US$30 is available for those who enter prior to 11:59 p.m. PT on April 1, '10.

“Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a new feature-length screenplay during the fellowship year. The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl Fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

“Last year's competition drew a record 6,380 entries. Since the program's inception in 1985, 113 fellowships have been awarded.”

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