Nick Jonas confirmed to return for the 'Jumanji' sequel. Recording artist and actor Nick Jonas is set to reprise his role as Alex in the "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" follow-up from Sony Pictures. Jonas is returning alongside Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan as well as director Jake Kasdan. Jonas' Alex/Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough was the fifth player discovered in the game. He is a young aircraft pilot who had been stuck in Jumanji for 20 years. Also set to come back are the four avatar-transforming teens -- Ser'Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner and Alex Wolff. In addition, as previously reported, Awkwafina is in final negotiations for a significant role, while Danny DeVito and Danny Glover have officially signed on to join the cast. The studio is remaining tight-lipped on the plot to the sequel, which is slated to be released in theaters Dec. 13. Kasdan co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner. Kasdan, Matt Tolmach and Seven Bucks execs Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia are producing the project. Jonas, repped by WME, Philymack Management and Schreck, Rose, Dapello, most recently completed production on Roland Emmerich's "Midway" as well as the Doug Liman-directed post-apocalyptic thriller "Chaos Walking" at Lionsgate. (PageSix)

Dwayne Johnson says he was 'first choice' to host the Oscars but 'couldn't make it work'. The Oscars almost got to smell what the Rock is cooking. Dwayne Johnson tweeted Wednesday that he was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' "first choice" to host the Oscars this year but "couldn't make it work" because he's busy working on a sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Responding to a fan who threw out his name for the hosting job, Johnson wrote, "Ah mahalo dude, I was their first choice to host this year, and my goal was to make it the most fun and entertaining Oscars ever. We all tried hard but couldn't make it work since I'm shooting Jumanji. Academy and I were super bummed but maybe one day down the road." A rep for the Academy, which organizes the Oscars, did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment. Kevin Hart, who costarred with Johnson in Welcome to the Jungle (itself a sequel to 1995's Jumanji), was previously named as this year's Oscar host but stepped down after homophobic tweets he had written in the past were resurfaced. Hart apologized for his previous comments in a tweet shortly after he dropped out, and again on his Sirius XM radio show, Straight from The Hart. Instead of finding a replacement, the Oscars will instead be without a host this year. Kerry Burke, the new ABC Entertainment president, said Hart's high-profile departure has actually been a boon to the Oscars because it has kept the show "in the conversation." "It's really compelling. People really care," she told reporters during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. The 91st Annual Academy Awards will air live Feb. 24 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. (Eonline)

Zac Efron was not too good-looking to play Ted Bundy ... in fact, the director says Zac's looks underscore the very, very dark point of the flick. Joe Berlinger, the director of "Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile," told our photog Wednesday in NYC ... Zac's looks were a plus, but they took a backseat to his acting chops. Joe clearly couldn't be more pleased with Zac's performance, echoing reviews that called it "career-changing." That said, Joe notes Bundy was able to disarm people with his looks and charm, and the film makes a statement that people who seem desirable on the outside are capable of monstrous conduct. Joe says Bundy was a testament to the notion of perceived normalcy ... everything you see on the outside may look acceptable, but it's often not what it seems. The movie was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and Netflix acquired the distribution rights. Gotta say ... Zac's come a long way from "High School Musical." (TMZ)

Casey Affleck Sets 'World to Come' With Production Banner. Affleck will star alongside Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby and Jesse Plemons in the drama, heading to the European Film Market. Casey Affleck's production company Sea Change Media is set to produce the The World to Come, the new feature from director Mona Fastvold and screenwriters Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, adapted from Shepard's acclaimed short story. Alongside Affleck, the film will star Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Emmy-nominated Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission: Impossible - Fallout), and Emmy-nominated Jesse Plemons (FX's Fargo, Vice). Sea Change Media's Affleck and Whitaker Lader will produce. Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa of Killer Films will executive produce. David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks and James Johnston of Sailor Bear will also executive produce, marking their fourth collaboration with Affleck following The Old Man & the Gun, A Ghost Story, and Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa of Killer Films will also executive produce. The project will reteam Affleck and Ron Hansen, author of Academy Award-nominated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Based on Jim Shepard's short story of the same name, The World to Come tells the story of two women who forge a close connection despite their isolation in the mid-19th-century American frontier. The Washington Post called the original short story "an astonishingly powerful demonstration of fiction's capacity to transport us across time and space"; and The New York Times praised both "Shepard's quick character sketches ... [and] his ability to convey compressed, cinematic action," traits that inspired Shepard and co-screenwriter Hansen to adapt the work for the screen. "Prior to receiving the screenplay for The World To Come I hadn't considered directing a film that I did not conceive of myself but as I turned its last few pages, I knew it was what I wanted to make next," said Fastvold. "Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard's script is beautiful -- it is a rich and engrossing character study of four second-generation Americans battling the elements and eventually each other. I am exhilarated to collaborate with Sea Change Media, Sailor Bear and Killer Films, as well as such an accomplished cast and crew. Our shared vision for the project is bold and ambitious; these are the ideal partners to bring this vital and important love story to life." Added Affleck: "Mona is very smart and has an exciting vision for this film. The remarkable talents of Katherine, Vanessa, and Jesse are the perfect combination for this movie. We are grateful to Killer Films for coming on board to help guide the production. They have a long, successful, and prestigious history making special movies like this. And we always love working with our mates at Sailor Bear." (Hollywood Reporter)

Paramount Puts Brakes on 'World War Z' Sequel. The follow-up to the 2013 Brad Pitt hit, with David Fincher in the director's seat, was on its way to a spring or early summer production start in Atlanta. Paramount's zombies are being iced. The studio is halting preproduction on the high-profile sequel to World War Z, the 2013 hit that starred Brad Pitt. The follow-up, with David Fincher in the director's seat, was on its way to a spring or early summer production start in Atlanta. Paramount and producers at Pitt's Plan B shingle began making calls to the crew on Wednesday morning. Sources say that budgetary issues came to a head, but it's unclear how or how long those issues have been brewing. Also unclear is whether the project will go back into development or if it is being shelved indefinitely. Paramount and CAA, which reps Pitt and Plan B, had no comment. The development is the latest obstacle for the sequel, which was put into motion soon after the initial movie, an adaptation of the Max Brooks novel that looked at a zombie epidemic from a worldwide perspective, grossed $540 million worldwide. That same year, J.A. Bayona came on board as director, and in 2015 Paramount announced a release date of 2017. By 2016, Bayona was gone and a nearly yearlong, on- and off-again negotiation with Fincher began. Once Fincher was secured in February 2017, execs energized at the prospect of a reuniting of the team behind Seven, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had to watch the project move in fits and starts and even push shooting due to various scheduling and script development issues. (Hollywood Reporter)

STX Circling U.S. for 'King of the Jungle' Comedy Starring Seth Rogen, Michael Keaton The film is set to tell the "wild true story" of how John McAfee cashed in his tech fortune, left civilization and moved to the jungle in Belize. STXfilms is in final negotiations to take U.S. distribution rights to King of the Jungle, a comedy based on the "wild true story" of rogue tech magnate and 2020 U.S. presidential candidate John McAfee, with Seth Rogen and Michael Keaton in talks to star. The film -- which IMR first introduced to buyers at the AFM in late 2018 and will continue foreign sales at the European Film Market in Berlin -- is being directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) from a script by Golden Globe and Emmy winners Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. STX has committed to a wide U.S. theatrical release. Based on Joshua Davis' Wired magazine article "John McAfee's Last Stand," King of the Jungle will tell the story of how McAfee (Keaton), creator of the McAfee anti-virus software, cashed in his fortune, left civilization and moved to the jungle in Belize. There, he set up a Colonel Kurtz-like compound of guns, sex and madness. In the film, Wired magazine investigator Ari Furman (Rogen) accepts what he thinks is a run-of-the-mill assignment to interview McAfee, but once he arrives in Belize, he finds himself pulled into McAfee's "escalating paranoia, slippery reality and murder." The film will be produced by Jeremy Steckler of Conde Nast Entertainment, Zaftig's Charlie Gogolak, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, MadRiver's Marc Butan, Endurance's Steve Richards, and Epic's Joshua Davis. CAA Media Finance is brokering the deal with Carolyn Steinmetz and Jordan Lichtman at STX. Rogen is represented by UTA and Principal Entertainment LA; Keaton is represented by ICM Partners and Ziffren Brittenham. IMR recently sold The Report to Amazon in an eight-figure Sundance deal. Its EFM slate also includes Black Flies with Mel Gibson and Tye Sheridan; Guy Ritchie's next film Bush; Ruin with Margot Robbie and Matthias Schoenaerts; and John Michael McDonough's The Forgiven starring Ralph Fiennes. (Hollywood Reporter)

Berlin Jury President Juliette Binoche Calls Harvey Weinstein a "Great Producer". The French actress reiterated she was never a victim of the embattled mogul and that she wants to "let justice do what it has to do." French actress Juliette Binoche on Thursday defended Harvey Weinstein's track record as a Hollywood producer, while recognizing he had been a sexual predator. "As a producer, he was wonderful, most of the time. I think he was a great producer," the Oscar winner, who is president of the Berlin Film Festival jury, said during the jury press conference. "We shouldn't forget [that], even though it has been difficult for some directors and actors, and especially actresses." Added Binoche: "I want to see peace to his mind and let justice do what it has to do." After Weinstein was accused of assaulting dozens of women, the #MeToo revolution swept over Hollywood and elsewhere. Binoche on Thursday reiterated earlier statements that she had never been a victim of the Hollywood producer. "I never had any problems with him. I could see he had problems," she said. The festival opening press conference saw the world of the personal and political blur as jury members talked about Time's Up, Netflix and their upcoming film screenings and deliberations. Binoche said she expected politics and social issues to loom large when she and her jury members judge this year's festival selection. "The world is quite egotistical at the moment. A lot of rich countries are closing their borders, and also the climate changing, there's a lot of questions happening and a lot of urgency," Binoche told the media representatives. "I don't know what the discussions will be, but (the political issues) are very much in our minds. I'm amazed to see governments not working as seriously as they should." Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang welcomed being able to leave the "American-centric" cinema bubble in Hollywood to consider weighty political films in Berlin in his jury role. "I come to Berlin to get away from that mindset and be open to a world to where we can see films from around the world." The #MeToo and Time's Up movements came up elsewhere, including when U.K. producer-director Trudie Styler (Freak Show) applauded the Berlinale for the higher number of competition films directed by women. "We can say, speaking as a woman, that this is not only courageous, but a stepping forward moment that (festival head) Dieter Kosslick has created," she said. This year's jury will assess a Berlin competition lineup where seven of the 17 titles in the running, or 41 percent, are directed by women. And Netflix came up as an issue at the Berlin press conference when Oscar-winning Chilean director Sebastian Lelio pointed to the video streaming giant being both an opportunity and a challenge for indie filmmakers. "Film is not digital, It is a language. As long as it keeps being spoken, it will be alive," Lelio said. At the same time, he questioned if indie films with "real cultural relevance and penetration" can survive in the marketplace without a theatrical release and Netflix and other streamers debuting them online. "We are at a crossroads. Things are changing, and I don't think film is going to die, but I'm a defender of the collective experience of film in theaters," he said. Lelio's A Fantastic Woman bowed in Berlin before winning the 2018 Oscar for best foreign language film. The international presser came as Berlin kicks off on Thursday night with the New York-set drama The Kindness of Strangers from Danish director Lone Scherfig, and starring Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim, Andrea Riseborough, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel and Bill Nighy. The 69th Berlinale runs through Feb. 17. (Hollywood Reporter)

Woody Allen says Amazon Studios got cold feet and backed out of a four-movie deal ... over the old molestation allegation about him and his daughter -- and now he wants MAJOR payback. Woody filed a lawsuit Thursday against the studio for at least $68 million! In the suit, he says Amazon was all in, as of Aug. 2017, to distribute his movie, "A Rainy Day in New York" ... starring Selena Gomez and Timothee Chalamet. Allen says the movie was shot, edited and ready for release -- but according to the suit, Amazon backed out in June 2018. He says he demanded an explanation, and the studio would only say it was due to "renewed allegations" and Woody's "controversial comments." Even worse ... Woody says Amazon committed to distribute three other films as well but reneged on all of them. He says Amazon never spelled it out for him, but in the suit Woody says he thinks it's related to a "25-year old, baseless allegation" he molested his and Mia Farrow's adopted daughter, Dylan. Now 'Rainy Day' is sitting on a shelf somewhere, and Woody's suing Amazon for breach of contract and damages ... $68 mil worth. (TMZ)


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