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With 'Oranges,' Hugh Laurie of 'House' (and possibly 'Gossip Girl' Leighton Meester) could take the film plunge

February 8, 2010 |  3:47 pm

It can be a crapshoot when TV actors step from the small screen into features; for every George Clooney or Steve Carell, there's a Zach Braff or Katherine Heigl.

Lau But a buzzed-about new movie called "Oranges" may be trying exactly that. The project, a dark dramatic comedy about an older man who has an affair with the daughter of a family friend, has been on Hollywood's radar for several years now. Back in 2008, the Jay Reiss-Ian Helfer script landed on the Black List, the grouping of the entertainment industry's most desired screenplay. (It came in at No. 2, ahead of vaunted projects like "Inglourious Basterds" and just behind the "The Beaver," the Mel Gibson-Jodie Foster collaboration that could hit later this year.) And it's being produced by Anthony Bregman, an indie producer with serious bona fides -- like, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" bona fides. (Glen Basner's Film Nation and Leslie Urdang's Olympus Pictures, incidentally, are financing "Oranges.")

Now the project may have another claim to fame: It could mark the first lead feature role for Hugh Laurie, who plays Dr. Gregory House on the hit Fox medical series. Sources say that Laurie is in discussions to play the lead role of the creepy/sympathetic older man. The British actor  has done voice work and a number of supporting parts in films such as "Sense & Sensibility" and "Stuart Little" but has never carried a movie before. Of course his work as a darkly comic presence on Fox for the past five-plus should make him familiar to audiences. And he has a versatile acting background, starring in a range of roles with former partner Stephen Fry.)

The "Oranges" TV credentials don't stop with Laurie, though. Sources say two candidates have jumped to the top of the list for either the lead female role or possibly another role:  "Gossip Girl" Leighton Meester and former "That '70s Show" co-star Mila Kunis. The latter has been turning a few film tricks of late -- she starred as the romantic/action co-lead in "The Book of Eli," and is playing a nemesis figure opposite Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky's upcoming "Black Swan." Meester, known for the pincers-out Blaire Waldorf character on "Gossip Girl," would be wading into newer waters (a foray that would mark an interesting litmus test for CW stars on the big screen -- just as Chace Crawford attempts same in "Footloose").

Television roles can in some ways be more demanding than film, since they require a much higher arc over many hours of episodes, not just a three-act transformation. But, of course, everything is also more magnified on the theatrical screen, so when actors seem too small for a part, or try too hard, the results can be disastrous.

In a poetic twist, boith Meester and Kunis are set to star opposite each other in the upcoming comedy "Date Night." The film is headlined by Steve Carell and Tina Fey -- so Kunis and/or Meester could at least have a successful TV-film path in which to follow.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Hugh Laurie of "House." Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

Comments () | Archives (25)

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Hugh and Leighton has somehow glazed over this May-Dec affair before on a Season 2 episode of House. Wherein the latter guest stars as a stalker crushing on Dr House. I personally would rather see Mila Kunis on the role.

Ummmm... Laurie's never carried a film before? What about Maybe Baby (2000) or The Girl from Rio (2001).

I WILL see anything Hugh Laurie is in!! Can't wait!!

I think they mean he has never carried a film with wide release and serious backing before?

I would prefer Leighton in this role over Mila. She has that libidinous Lolita thing going for her.

I like Hugh a lot and would love to see him in a film, I know he could do it, but this just creeps me out. And I think it does, because if Meester got the role then it would be too much like the episode on "House" where she hit on him. She's just way too young for him.

Art imitates life, right Hugh...

Regarding "Maybe Baby" and "Girl from Rio," neither were good films and both bombed at the box office. Since this is the criteria Hollywood uses to gage whether or not an actor can carry a film, so far the verdict would have to be a resounding no.

Meester has a teen version of "Single White Female" coming out from Screen Gems this year. Think it's called "The Roommate," so, that will be her theatrical litmus test.

Meester played a girl in love with House on the tv series in season three. They had a lot of chemistry together. This could work for or against Meester in the role. It could make viewers think of Laurie as House involved with the character on the tv show. If Laurie were allowed to use his British accent, that may change the perception that House is involved with the younger woman.

I hope he doesn't get the job, wasn't Hugh Laurie uncomfortable with his character House having a relationship with Cameron because Jennifer Morrison is 20 years younger than him?

leighton would be great in this role. as other here said she has the whole lolita thing going on and she looks amaizing. i think mila would not really have the same chemistry with hugh laurie as leighton would. fingers crosssed they both get roles....but let leighton be the lead!!!!

Hugh Laurie would do an amazing job. He is a terrific actor and very prolific. He needs a big movie, though, and I"m not sure this would be it, but if it is, he is the best for this role. Of course, he can carry it. He is amazing, as he has shown over and over again. He just needs a great role like the one he has in House. He is a method actor, so he will do a great job. As for the female part, I'm not sure about any of these two choices. I'd rather see him with a much better actress.

LEIGHTON! She owns Mila.

Never mention George Clooney and Steve Carell as comparative figures in the same breath again. Carell with Heigl maybe. Carell doesn't have the chops and hasn't come close to having the success in film that George has.

You are wrong about Hugh Laurie and his movie background. He starred with Joley Richardson (sister of the late Natasha) in a delightful British movie entitled, "Maybe Baby" before he became famous in this country for "House, md." Do your homework.

It would be great to see Hugh Laurie in another movie. Don't really like either female lead options (with HL) but they'd do fine in the role. I think Ashley Greene would work better though.

Regarding the comment on Hugh's movie "Maybe Baby" and the "Girl from Rio",having bombed ,that person obviously watched the over edited version that the U.S distributed.The original U.K. version is a much fairer gage of Hugh's ability to carry a movie,something he is very capable of doing. A movie is only as good or great as the written words provided,and the ability of the actor to make you believe their character exists, something Hugh accomplished in both movies.The man can go from doing "Monty Python-ish comedy to showing what a person going through drug withdrawl looks like ,I'm pretty sure he can do a movie.

Also, I wanted to address this ,so called journalist on his lack of research knowledge.Did Steven Zeitchik ever hear of the internet? A person could probably find out where Jesus lost his sandals,and this guy can't find movies that Hugh Laurie starred in?! Made for T.V. movies count ,so there is "All or nothing at all" , "A place of Lions" , "40 something" that ones a series."Peter's friends" was also a movie in theatre's. Your fired Steven.

I prefer Leighton in the role. They had a lot of chemistry together. As others here said she has the whole lolita thing going on and she looks hot

First lead role? What about Maybe Baby and Girl From Rio?

I'm a big fan of the show House and Hugh Laurie, but "Oranges" sounds awful. Do we really need another movie about a man having an affair with a woman half his age? I just hope it's less cliched than it sounds.

Also, Hugh Laurie has played the lead in at least two other feature movies. Whether or not they did well at the box office seems behind the point. It's inaccurate to call this his first lead role.

Leighton will be awesome. She is a great actress. Please cast her. She will own the role...

What a great news!
I love Hugh Laurie, and I'm sure he'll be great. Leighton starred with him at the begining of the third series, and I rather prefer Mila. I have seen them both at "Gossip.." and "That 70's...", but I think that Jackie Burkhardt was so much better!!!

Congratulations Jay, can't wait to see the movie. All your hard work has paid off, we ALL knew it would. Love you!!

I love Hugh Laurie, and I'm glad he's starring in a movie! Leighton Meester is pretty and all, but I'd rather Mila Kunis or someone else get the role. As previously mentioned, Laurie and Meester have done this on House before. It's just too reminiscent of the tv show.


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