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Aug. 6, 2003
Pitt, Wahlberg Leave Pics; Thomas to Direct Affleck

Most of the big casting news announced today has been set in motion by actors leaving projects rather than actors signing on to projects.

First off, there's Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a romantic spy thriller about a couple whose marriage has become tired and boring … until they realize that each of them is an assassin hired to kill the other.

Originally, Nicole Kidman was to star with Brad Pitt; Kidman bailed out in July because of scheduling conflicts with The Stepford Wives. Then Catherine Zeta-Jones' name was bandied about for a bit, but it now appears that she can't do the project either, nor can Angelina Jolie, Pitt's other approved co-star.

And now word has come down that Mr. Pitt himself is about to ask for a separation from Mrs. Smith, thanks to the ubiquitous "scheduling conflicts" — Pitt's currently filming Troy in Mexico.

Potential Pitt replacements include Will Smith (Smith as Smith? Sounds like fate …), to whom an offer has reportedly been made, and Johnny Depp.

Doug Liman is still set to direct, though the Sept. 1 production start date is likely in jeopardy.

The next big-name actor to jump ship on a project is Mark Wahlberg, who has left The Jacket, a supernatural thriller that will be directed by John Maybury. It's unclear why Wahlberg left.

Wahlberg was to play a soldier convicted of a murder and being tortured who has the feeling that he's traveling through time.

Reportedly, Adrien Brody has been offered the lead, which would be his first starring role since his Oscar-winning turn in The Pianist — he's also on board to co-star in M. Night Shyamalan's The Woods with Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, and William Hurt.

Finally, there's been news surrounding an upcoming Ben Affleck project: Betty Thomas (Private Parts, The Brady Bunch Movie, Dr. Dolittle, 28 Days) has signed on to direct Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

The comedy tells of a man (Affleck) who attends his younger brother's wedding and is mysteriously visited by the ghosts of his ex-girlfriends. (It remains unclear why all the girlfriends have kicked the bucket.)

Production is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter contributed to this report.

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