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Casting News -- March 9, 2009

Ashlee simpson

Ashlee Simpson-Wentz has been cast as the lead in the CW's upcoming Melrose Place update. The singer-actress will play Melrose Place's newest resident, Violet, a bright-eyed but shrewd small-town girl and recent L.A. transplant who has come to town with a secret. (In other Wentz acting news, Simpson-Wentz and husband Pete Wentz will guest star as Bonnie-and-Clyde wannabes in the March 18 episode of CSI: NY.)

Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan will star with Chris Rock in Death at a Funeral, a remake of the 2007 British comedy. Danny Glover, Regina Hall, James Marsden, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, Loretta Devine, and Ron Glass round out the cast. The film will be directed by Neil LaBute; Rock also is producing and co-writing.

Malin Akerman (Watchmen) and Ryan Phillippe will star in the indie drama The Bang Bang Club, set in apartheid-era South Africa. The film is based on a memoir by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. Akerman will star as a photo editor of the so-called "Bang Bang Club," four combat war photographers -- Marinovich (Phillippe), Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek and Silva -- whose photographs captured the final bloody days of white rule in South Africa.

Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss has been cast opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in the romantic comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? Parker and Grant will play an estranged NYC couple who witness a murder and are placed in a witness-protection program in a small Wyoming town; Moss will play Parker's executive assistant, with a controlling and almost obsessive-compulsive personality.

Nick Nolte will star in Warrior, a drama set in the world of mixed martial arts fighting. Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Jennifer Morrison will also star. Nolte plays an ex-Vietnam vet boxer-turned-steel mill worker whose family was torn apart by his alcoholism; the now-sober and remorseful dad welcomes back his youngest son (Hardy) and trains him to compete in a mixed martial arts tournament. Production begins in April in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rita Wilson has been cast in Universal's untitled Nancy Meyers project, which also stars Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. Wilson will portray one of Streep's best friends and confidantes.

-- Daniel Lehman

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