Malkovich in saddle for racing movie

The latest film news from Hollywood and beyond

John Malkovich has signed up to play the horse trainer Lucien Laurin.
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John Malkovich is set to join Diana Lane in Disney's upcoming racehorse drama, Secretariat, The Hollywood Reporter writes. Malkovich will play Lucien Laurin, a jockey well known to American equestrians for training the horse (named Secretariat) that won America's 1973 Triple Crown race. To be directed by Randall Wallace, Secretariat will focus on the relationship between the horse and its owner, Penny Chenery (Lane), a housewife who knew nothing about racing when she took over her ailing father's farm in Virginia. Malkovich's recent films include the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading and the Clint Eastwood drama, Changeling.

The Iraqi film In the Sands of Babylon has taken the top prize at San Sebastian's recent Cinema in Motion showcase for films from the Arab world and Portuguese-speaking Africa. Mohamed al Daradji's film shows the descent into hell for an Iraqi soldier who was captured on the so-called Highway of Death in 1991 as he returned from Kuwait. Other films taking part in the San Sebastian event include Imam Kamel's Nomad Home and the Palestinian director Kamal Aljafari's Port of Memory, which tells the story of a Bedouin woman who flaunts her tribe's traditions by studying, working and then marrying an Egyptian. Shot in a documentary style, the film is set in a militarised zone between Egypt and Israel. Al Daradji's sequel to In The Sands, Son of Babylon, will world premiere in competition at the Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi.

Stephanie Szostak, previously seen in The Devil Wears Prada, has been cast as the female lead in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Dinner for Schmucks, Variety reports. Jay Roach, will direct the film, which revolves around what the trade paper calls the "most pathetic" guy invited to a weekly dinner party hosted by a friend. Szostak joins Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch, and Paul Rudd in the film, which is based on a French comedy. Schmucks begins filming this autumn for a summer 2010 release.

The trend of turning toys into feature films is getting a female touch with Universal Pictures acquiring rights to the world's best-loved doll, Barbie. The studio plans to create a live-action movie based on Mattel's best-known brand, which remains the number-one toy for girls after 50 years on the market. Mattel's Richard Dickson will serve as an executive producer on the film. The producer Laurence Mark is looking for writers. In most cases, storylines for films based on toys, such as the recent box-office hit Transformers, have to be created entirely from scratch. Let's hope the writers don't forget Ken.

India has submitted Harishchandrachi Factory, a regional film about the making of India's first feature film to represent the country in this year's foreign-Oscar race, The Hollywood Reporter writes. Directed by Paresh Mokashi, the film tells the story of India's godfather of cinema, Saheb Phalke as he travelled to London to learn about filmmaking before shooting Raja Harischandra in 1913. Harishandrachi is only the second Marathi-language film India has submitted to the Oscars. The first was the 2004 title Shwaas. Regional films remain a strong business in India despite strong competition from Bollywood. The Bollywood films Fashion, Dev D, Delhi 6, New York and Kaminey were among 12 features under consideration to represent the country at the annual Academy Awards.

Paul Dano has signed on to play a scientist in Fox's untitled action-comedy, formerly known as Wichita. James Mangold (Walk The Line) will direct the film which co-stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz as an FBI agent and a wholesome Midwestern woman who get caught up in a case revolving around one of Dano's mad inventions. according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cathy Konrad, Todd Garner, Steve Pink and Joe Roth are producing for the studio. Filming is to begin in Boston next month.

Warner Bros is hatching plans for a sequel to its new Sherlock Holmes franchise ahead of its December launch, Variety reports. The studio has hired the writing team of Kieran and Michele Mulroney to pen the script for the sequel, which will be based on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories from Arthur Conan Doyle and on the comic book Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritche directs the first film in the franchise, which stars Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Robert Downey Jr.