Today’s collection of casting tidbits concerns siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski’s next ambitious project, Cloud Atlas, and news that Grammy-winning musical starlet Whitney Houston looks to return to the big screen in a remake of the film Sparkle.

Both of these productions are expected to reach theaters by the latter half of 2012 – since Cloud Atlas and Sparkle (or, rather, the studios behind them) both hope to gain attention during next year’s award season.

With Beyoncé’s pregnancy having forced Clint Eastwood’s A Star Is Born – another remake of a famous musical melodrama – to be put on indefinite hold, that means there’s room for Sparkle to occupy its planned release date in Fall 2012. How’s that for unexpected conveniences?

Cloud Atlas

The Wachowskis are returning to more philosophical and thought-provoking material (following the failure of Speed Racer) with Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed novel – a work so dense and complex that a third filmmaker, Tom Tykwer, has been recruited to work alongside the Matrix duo.

Screen Daily has learned that Hugh Grant is the latest addition to Cloud Atlas‘ star-studded cast, which includes Oscar-winners Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Jim Broadbent – alongside respectable types like Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and Jim Sturgess.

Cloud Atlas deals with several different characters – separated by space and time, but united by the similar nature of their struggles – as is revealed in the official description of Mitchell’s novel (see below):

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation — the narrators of “Cloud Atlas” hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

It’s a precarious undertaking, no doubt, and the filmmakers behind Cloud Atlas plan to further link each individual narrative thread by having the cast play multiple roles – including individuals of different genders and race. Suffice it to say, the final product should be interesting, if nothing else.

Sparkle

Whitney Houston hasn’t graced the big screen in fifteen years, since her appearance in Penny Marshall’s remake of The Preacher’s Wife. Now, the former fashion model/award-winning musician is negotiating to headline another re-working of an older film: Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 film about three sisters from Harlem (circa the 1950s) who find fame and fortune as a musical girl group – and subsequently see their personal lives unravel, due to the pressures of said success. In other words, the predecessor to Dreamgirls.

Variety has the scoop on Houston entering talks to co-headline the new Sparkle, which will open in 1968 Detroit and take place during the rise of Motown. The plot of the remake is said to revolve primarily around the youngest of the three sisters, Sparkle (“Sparks”), who will be played by American Idol-winner Jordin Sparks (not kidding). Mike Epps (The Hangover) will costar in the film, which is slated to begin production next month.

Jumping the Broom helmer Salim Akil will direct the Sparkle remake, which is being scripted by his wife, Mara Brock Akil (Cougar Town). Akil’s inexpensive wedding-oriented rom-com managed to become somewhat of a sleeper hit earlier this year – and entertained moviegoers by presenting a surprisingly fresh spin on a tired plot formula. So perhaps he can do likewise with the all-too-familiar storyline of the Sparkle remake.

That said – who else could do without having to see the word “remake” for a while?

Cloud Atlas begins filming overseas in Europe this week. Look for it to arrive in theaters by about a year from now.

Sparkle, as mentioned before, start shooting next month. It too should hit theaters before the end of 2012.

Source: Screen Daily, Variety