Billie Piper, Helen McCrory join ‘Penny Dreadful’ ensemble


Billie Piper, Helen McCrory, Danny Sapani and Simon Russell Beale have joined the cast of the London-set drama series “Penny Dreadful,” Showtime said Monday.

The 19th century-set psychological thriller is to begin filming this fall for a 2014 premiere on the network.

The “Penny Dreadful” ensemble also includes Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Reeve Carney, Rory Kinnear and Harry Treadaway.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

‘Now You See Me’ tops DVD sales chart


The magic-themed heist flick “Now You See Me” is the top-selling DVD and Blu-ray in the United States, Rentrak announced Monday.

Coming in at No. 2 on the DVD and Blu-ray sales roster for the week ending Sept. 8 is “The Great Gatsby,” followed by “The Walking Dead: Season 3″ at No. 3, “Epic” at No. 4 and “Sons of Anarchy: Season 5″ at No. 5.

Rounding out the top tier are “Pain & Gain” at No. 6, “Spartacus: War of the Damned” at No. 7, “The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season” at No. 8, “Super Buddies” at No. 9 and “The Lords of Salem” at No. 10.

The No. 1 DVD and Blu-ray rental for the week ended Sept. 7 is “Pain & Gain.”

“Now You See Me” is No. 2, “Olympus Has Fallen” is No. 3, “Oblivion” is No. 4, “42″ is No. 5, “Mud” is No. 6, “Empire State” is No. 7, “Scary Movie 5″ is No. 8, “The Place Beyond the Pines” is No. 9 and “Admission” is No. 10.”

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Jackman talks about the responsibility of starring in ‘Prisoners’


Australian actor Hugh Jackman, a married father of two, says he felt a tremendous responsibility to the real-life families of kidnapped children as he made his new thriller “Prisoners.”

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski, the film co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Maria Bello and Viola Davis. The story follows a distraught father who holds captive the troubled young man he believes kidnapped his 6-year-old daughter and her 7-year-old friend while they were playing outside on Thanksgiving.

“The research we did … you know, as an actor, you do everything you can to convince yourself, to pretend to be somebody else and dive into their shoes and their experience and bring that to life,” Jackman said during a recent press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“Of course, part of the research was looking into really what happens in this situation, so you can get information on what happens on Day 1, Day 2. Do you print flyers? How do you react? What happens emotionally, mentally?” the 44-year-old actor explained.

He then recalled how he realized while reading some real-life stories and watching video clips of heartbroken families, “This is happening now.”

“There are many, many people who have gone through this, are going through this,” he emphasized. “And I left not so much with information about how to play the role, but I left with a weight of the responsibility that all of us had to treat this subject seriously. To treat it with respect, to know people are going through this and not just glorify it in any way or titillate an audience, but to actually make them think about the realities of this. This touches on real, elemental fears that we all collectively have. I think that”s why it was cathartic to film and cathartic to watch. There”s a reason we don”t just go to comedies every night. Somehow, as humans, we also need to touch on the real elemental fears that we push down every day of our lives and collectively delve into it and discuss and think about it and feel. So, this film, there is a responsibility and, hopefully, we did do it justice.”

The “X-Men” star said he first read the screenplay for “Prisoners” before he made “Les Miserables,” the movie musical which earned him a 2013 Oscar nomination. “Prisoners” wasn”t made earlier than it was, however, because its producers wanted to make certain they hired a director who could weave the story into the complicated, dark and fascinating tale they felt it had the potential to be.

“The script came towards me probably a year before Denis came on board and I loved Aaron”s script and [producer] Keira Davis loved Aaron”s script and it was the kind of script that could have been a more generic thriller [in the wrong hands,]” Jackman noted. “It could have veered that way and Keira was like, ”We”ve got to find the right director.” And it was a year later when Keira came to me and said, ”You have to see this [2010] film — “Incendies,”” which I had embarrassingly not seen. And [she said,] ”You”ve got to meet Denis.” And, bang, that was it. In the DNA of Aaron”s script was a more ambitious thriller. Not just one that grips you, keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you go, ”Whoa, that was great!” But one that makes you contemplate and think for days after. On many levels, I think.

“So, hats off to Keira and Alcon Entertainment in making a more ambitious thriller and, thank goodness, they introduced us to this man,” he concluded, referring to the director at his side.

“Prisoners” opens in North American theaters Friday. The R-rated movie is earning rave reviews from critics, according to the aggregate website RottenTomatoes.com

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

AMC developing ‘Walking Dead’ companion series


AMC says it is developing a companion series to its Georgia-set zombie apocalypse drama “The Walking Dead.”

Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert are on board as executive producers, with AMC Studios set to produce the as-yet-untitled companion series, which has a target on-air date of 2015.

“Building on the success of the most popular show on television for adults 18-49 is literally a no-brainer,” Charlie Collier, AMC”s president and general manager, said in a statement Monday.

“We look forward to working with Robert, Gale and Dave again as we develop an entirely new story and cast of characters. It”s a big world and we can”t wait to give fans another unforgettable view of the zombie apocalypse.”

“After 10 years of writing the comic-book series and being so close to the debut of our fourth, and in my opinion, best season of the TV series, I couldn”t be more thrilled about getting the chance to create a new corner of ”The Walking Dead” universe,” said Kirkman. “The opportunity to make a show that isn”t tethered by the events of the comic book, and is truly a blank page, has set my creativity racing.”

Co-starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and David Morrissey, Season 4 of “The Walking Dead” is to begin on AMC Oct. 13.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Daniela Ruah pregnant with first child


“NCIS: Los Angeles” actress Daniela Ruah has announced she is pregnant with her first child.

Ruah, 29, is engaged to stunt man and former Navy Seal David Olsen. The actress is due to give birth this winter.

“I”m so thrilled about having a baby boy and starting a new chapter as a parent with David,” she told People.com Sunday.

“It”s amazing how in love I am with this little person I”ve only seen on a black and white screen. I”m starting my own family and there is no other feeling like it.”

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

‘Saturday Night Live’ adds six featured players


“Saturday Night Live” has added six featured players for the New York sketch comedy series” 2013-14 season, NBC announced Monday.

Joining the cast will be Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O”Brien, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan.

“SNL” is to kick off its 39th season Sept. 28, with Tina Fey as guest host and musical act Arcade Fire.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Jonathan Rhys Meyers doesn’t believe ‘Star Wars’ buzz


Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers says “Star Wars: Episode VII” director J.J. Abrams hasn”t spoken to him about appearing in the sequel.

Since the project was announced, Meyers” name has been floated by the media and fans as a possible cast member, particularly because the actor and filmmaker previously collaborated on 2006”s “Mission: Impossible III.”

“Look, I”ve worked with J.J.,” Rhys Meyers told EW.com about the “Star Wars” buzz. “But I don”t believe rumors.”

Should the “Match Point” and “The Tudors” star be offered a role, it would likely be playing a villain, not a hero, the entertainment industry news website said.

“I play bad guys because I look like one,” Meyers said with a laugh. “There”s something in my physicality that”s quite intense and lends me to being feral. I mean, I”d love to be this lovely relaxed guy doing rom-coms, but I just don”t get those types of offers. I suppose I”m forever sort of the anti-hero.”

Meyers, 36, is to star in NBC”s new series “Dracula,” starting next month.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Cumberbatch, Knightley to star in Alan Turing bio-picture


Principal photography has begun in Britain on the film “The Imitation Game,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, producers said.

The pair previously appeared together in “Atonement.” Their new movie, which started shooting during the weekend, is about “one of Britain”s most extraordinary unsung heroes, Alan Turing,” a synopsis said.

Turing was a pioneer of modern-day computing, credited with cracking the German Enigma code during World War II.

“Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British Establishment, but his work and legacy live on,” the synopsis said.

Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum is directing this adaptation of the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. The film will co-star Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Allen Leech and Matthew Beard.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Justin Matthew Sargent to star in ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’


Justin Matthew Sargent is to begin playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Broadway musical “Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark” Monday night, producers said.

Reeve Carney, the show”s original Peter Parker, played his final performance Sunday night so he can start shooting the new Showtime drama series “Penny Dreadful.”

Sargent is best known for his portrayal of bartender-turned-rock-star Drew in Broadway”s “Rock of Ages.”

“We looked for our new lead in Los Angeles and New York. During Justin”s rehearsals as the alternate Peter Parker/Spider-Man, we realized this is the guy to take over for Reeve. He is one of Broadway”s great rockers,” producers Michael Cohl and Jere Harris said in a joint statement Monday.

The blockbuster musical “Turn Off the Dark” features music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge of U2, and a book co-written by Julie Taymor, Glen Berger and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, with direction by Taymor and Philip William McKinley.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International

Scottish entertainer Billy Connolly undergoes treatment for cancer


Billy Connolly”s publicist says the Scottish comedian and actor has undergone surgery for prostate cancer, and has been diagnosed with Parkinson”s disease.

“Billy Connolly recently underwent minor surgery in America after being diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer,” the 70-year-old entertainer”s spokeswoman told the BBC Monday.

“The operation was a total success, and Billy is fully recovered,” his representative said. “In addition, Billy has been assessed as having the initial symptoms of Parkinson”s disease, for which he is receiving the appropriate treatment.”

The publicist said Connolly plans to resume work as soon as possible.

“Billy has been assured by experts that the findings will in no way inhibit or affect his ability to work, and he will start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand in the new year,” she said.

Connolly”s film credits include “Brave,” “Quartet,” “Muppet Treasure Island,” “The Boondock Saints” and “Mrs. Brown.”

Copyright 2013 by United Press International