The Taormina Film Festival is preparing a tribute to actor James Gandolfini, who died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday while in Rome for the festival, where he was to receive the Taormina City Award. Gandolfini, only 51, was best known for his iconic role as mob boss and family man Tony Soprano on the HBO series The Sopranos, for which he won three Emmys. Festival directors Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said of Gandolfini, "He was the American actor that better than anyone else has been able to interpret the Italian-American with his personality full of contrasts, ambition, pain, humor. He was the face of the golden age of television, but also a memorable film actor." Sesti and Rocca are organizing the tribute. Read more here.
Cillian Murphy is joining Chris Hemsworth as part of the cast of In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard. Heart of the Sea is a film adaptation of the book by Nathaniel Philbrick, which details the true story of the 1820 Essex whaling ship that was attacked by a sperm whale, leaving a stranded crew. Murphy, known for his roles in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and Inception, will be playing the ship's second mate Matthew Joy, with Hemsworth (Thor) leading as first mate Owen Chase. Read more casting news here.
A film adaptation of the best selling Fifty Shades of Gray is in the works, and Sam Taylor-Johnson has just been chosen to direct. Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) has her work cut out for her with this erotic romance that outsold the Harry Potter books. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel told reporters to expect an NC-17 rating. Release date and castings have yet to be announced, but the film is expected to open in summer 2014. Read more here.
This Saturday, Varèse Sarabande Records commemorated its 35th anniversary with a Music of the "Star Wars" Universe concert, performed by the Golden State Pops Orchestra. Varèse was the first record label ever to specialize exclusively in film music, and Saturday's festivities were part of what is becoming a year-long celebration. Last month GSPO performed a revue in honor of the label, with Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, Danny Elfman, and other film scoring giants in attendance. Read more about the label and upcoming concerts here.