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VARIETY – Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano has joined the cast of DreamWorks’ “Ghost in the Shell.”

The live action Hollywood film is an adaptation of the iconic Japanese anime film originally directed by Mamoru Oshii.

Kitano will play Daisuke Aramaki, chief of Public Security Section 9 — and boss of the cyborg cop heroine played by Scarlett Johansson.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, the live-action “Ghost in the Shell” has been slated by fans and commentators for its non-Japanese/non-Asian casting choices, so the inclusion of Kitano, well known abroad for his award-winning films and powerful performances, usually as a gangster or cop, may calm, if not still, such criticism.

Kitano is one of Japan’s top directors and one of the country’s best known actors and comedians. He usually performs under the name Beat Takeshi.

The “Ghost” role follow his recent lead performance in the Wayne Wang erotic drama “While the Women Are Sleeping,” which premiered at Berlin and is currently on release in Japan. It also Kitano’s first Hollywood film since playing a gangster in the sci-fi thriller “Johnny Mnemonic” in 1995.

Paramount is set as the global distributor of “Ghost,” following a switch from Disney. Release is set for March 31, 2017.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Michael Pitt, perhaps best known for playing a gangster on Boardwalk Empire, has nabbed the villain role in Ghost in the Shell, the adaptation of the manga series by DreamWorks.

Rupert Sanders is directing the long-in-the-works sci-fi movie, which is eyeing a late February start in New Zealand.

Scarlett Johansson is a special-ops cyborg in a task force named Section 9 that deals in the most dangerous criminals and extremists.

Pitt will play a character known as the Laughing Man in the manga. The antagonist is a bitter and vengeful man with a body that is part robot. He has a unique sense of style and has been described as a bad guy filtered through the lens of a street artist.

Pilou Asbæk is also in the cast.

Ari Arad, Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing the pic. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are executive producing. Jonathan Herman wrote the script.

Ghost in the Shell has a release date of March 31, 2017, with Paramount distributing worldwide.

Pitt also just signed on to star with Imogen Poots in indie art thriller The Sleeping Shepherd and is part of the ensemble cast of Criminal, a thriller which also features Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot and Gary Oldman.

Pitt is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Schreck Rose.

The first official poster for Hail, Caesar!, Scarlett’s upcoming film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen has been released. It’s due for theatrical release on February 5, 2016 and as lovely as it would be to have some promotional appearances from Scarlett, it seems unlikely as production on Ghost in the Shell is reportedly about to begin in New Zealand. I wish Scarlett the best of luck with that, and in the meantime, I can’t wait to see this one!

THE WRAP – Scarlett Johansson is in final negotiations to star in Sony’s raunchy comedy “Move That Body,” TheWrap has learned.

Sony acquired the script by Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs in a heated bidding war over the summer. The project has been described as “The Hangover” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Aniello (“Broad City”) is set to direct, while Downs is attached to co-star. The duo will also produce under their Paulilu banner along with Matt Tolmach and Dave Becky.

The script, which was voted to the 2015 Black List on Monday, follows five friends who rent a beach house in Miami for a bachelorette weekend and accidentally kill a male stripper.

Johansson is coming off “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and will next be seen in the Coen brothers’ showbiz comedy “Hail, Caesar!” She has Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” and Disney’s “The Jungle Book” on the horizon, and is also attached to star in “Ghost in the Shell” for DreamWorks.

Johansson is represented by CAA, LBI Entertainment and attorney Kevin Yorn of Morris Yorn.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Black Widow never has it easy.

Onscreen, Natasha Romanov has an agonizing backstory and is working like hell to do enough good to erase the red from her moral ledger, redeeming a history of bad deeds that we are only allowed to imagine with acts of heroism that defy belief.

Offscreen, much of what Scarlett Johansson’s character does is scrutinized through the lens of gender politics. As one of the few female protagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (until recently), some view her not just as an individual character but as a representative for all womankind. That’s heavy lifting even for a superhero.

Amid accusations that her story arc in Avengers: Age of Ultron was stereotyped and offensive — because, like Tony Stark, she expressed a desire to step back from saving the world (and maybe find someone in it to love, and love her back) — Black Widow became a lightning rod.

Some accused writer-director Joss Whedon of sexism for a storyline that involved Widow developing romantic feelings for Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in the comic-book version of the Beauty and the Beast folktale. Others were outraged that Widow expressed regret over the juvenile assassin program that forced her to be sterilized. Still others took offense at that complaint, saying the desire to have a family doesn’t mean a woman can’t have a career (beating the hell out of evildoers, or otherwise).

NPR’s pop culture critic Linda Holmes astutely noted that even if you swapped out Widow’s story in Ultron with the arcs of any of her male co-Avengers, each would still “raise questions of whether the story was influenced by gender stereotypes.” If she was Iron Man, she’d be the problem-causer. If she was Captain America, she’d be the uptight one. If she was Hulk, she’d have out-of-control emotions. And so on…

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DEADLINE – Sam Riley is in early talks to star in DreamWorks’ Ghost In The Shell opposite Scarlett Johansson. No deal has been set yet and the situation is still fluid, but there is a desire from both sides for one to get made. Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) is directing with Paramount on board to co-finance the film, which is based on the bestselling Japanese sci-fi franchise.

The story follows a female special ops cyborg (Johansson) who leads a fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 for Hanka Robotics. The unit is devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, led by The Laughing Man (Riley) who will stop at nothing to destroy Hanka’s advancements in cyber technology. Johansson’s Lucy co-star Pilou Asbæk is also on-board to co-star.

Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing from a script by Jonathan Herman. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are exec producing.

Riley is currently set to star in SS:GB, the Len Deighton adaptation that James Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade have written. German director Philipp Kadelbach, who won plaudits and awards including the International Emmy for German World War II miniseries Generation War, is set to direct. The project, which is being exec produced by Sid Gentle’s Sally Woodward Gentle and produced by Patrick Schweitzer (Doctor Who), is set up at the BBC.

Riley is repped by Tavistock Wood Management and WME. He next stars in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which Martin Scorsese is exec producing and stars Brie Larson; and Burr Steers’ Pride And Prejudice And Zombies opposite Lily James.

At long last, the first trailer for Hail, Caesar! has been released–and it looks great! The Coen Brothers film is due for release on February 5, 2016 and the impressive cast includes George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich, and Frances McDormand. Scarlett’s character is DeeAnna Moran, and some background on her character can be found in the synopsis below. I’m sure this will be a great role for her.

In 1950s Hollywood, Eddie Mannix is Capital Pictures’ head of physical production and, most importantly, the studio fixer. His job is to maintain the clean reputation of the company and its stars, keeping them free from controversy. Mannix is advised that studio star Baird Whitlock has disappeared after not showning up for work on the current production of “Hail Caesar, a Tale of Christ’s Life.” He initially believes Whitlock has been drinking, but receives a call from a group of communists who claim to have kidnapped him and want a ransom. As Mannix gathers the cash, he simultaneously deals with an unhappy director who is working on another project, while innocent young starlet DeeAnna Moran is pregnant and unmarried. Mannix must handle all of this while keeping the gossip columnists off the scent. When Mannix is approached by an aviation company with an offer of a less-hectic, and rather lucrative, job, he must ultimately determine his true skills and passions.

Beautiful! Next spring will be a busy time for Scarlett with not only The Jungle Book, but also her role in Captain America: Civil War (which is due for a May release) to promote. Those at D23 were treated to footage of Scarlett in both films, but unfortunately, it seems she was not in attendance at the event.

IGN – A new poster for Jon Favreau’s version of The Jungle Book was revealed by Disney today at the D23 Expo. It shows Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera staring down a curios Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi. Take a look below. The Jungle Book premiers April 2016.

Disney revealed some new footage as well, showing Bill Murray singing Bear Necessities under his breath, and the big reveal of Christopher Walken as King Louie, Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Marvel Studios kicked off Disney’s D23 Expo on Saturday with a tease of its upcoming clash of the titans, Captain America: Civil War, in which the red, white, and blue good-guy battles the red and gold good-guy Iron Man over who should control the fate of superpowered beings.

10:48 a.m. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige takes the stage, recalling being at the first D23 in 2009, where they teased the ambitious plan to unite their characters in a shared universe. “Today, 2015, I stand here, and we have now completed Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I want to say think you,” he said. “So the question is what am I going to talk about today. It seems to make sense … to talk about the beginnings of Phase 3.”

10:50 a.m. “The first one I’m going to talk about today is Doctor Strange,” Feige said. “The goal is to continue expanding what a comic book movie is, what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. The comics traverse these dimensions, and film by film, we try to do that in a cinematic way,” Feige said.

Tilda Swinton is playing The Ancient One, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is co-starring as Mordo, while—everyone knows—Benedict Cumberbatch will be the good doctor. “He’s an extraordinary character, brings in a whole other dimension—hmm, multiple dimensions—to the Marvel universe,” Cumberbatch said in a video intro. He promised a “mind-blowing experience… Girls, cars, explosions, astral projection into multiple realms. The usual.”

10:53 a.m. Doctor Strange doesn’t start shooting until November, so there’s no footage to show, Feige says. But he is reluctant to appear before people who camped out all night for the panel empty handed. Here comes a collection of concept art.

10:55 a.m. Images in the concept art reel reveal the classic origin story: a wounded surgeon seeking alternate ways to heal his destroyed hands finds his way to a mystical Eastern sanctuary that leads him to an order that holds the keys to another dimension.

10:56 a.m. “It’s going to be as satisfying as any movie made, and as weird as any movie we’ve made,” Feige says.

10:58 a.m. Doctor Strange will be the second movie in Phase 3, so Feige shifts now to the first film in the line-up: Captain America: Civil War.

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I’ve added some new photos of Scarlett on the set of Captain America: Civil War in Atlanta yesterday (May 14).

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