Move became necessary with thesp's drug arrest

NEW YORK — Hank Azaria is negotiating to replace Robert Downey Jr. in “America’s Sweethearts,” the Revolution Studios comedy, from a script by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan, that will be directed by Joe Roth, and star Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack and Crystal.

The comedy takes place during a movie junket, when a film company attempts to fool the press that America’s sweethearts, a husband-and-wife acting team (Cusack and Zeta-Jones), are in love even when it’s fairly evident they loathe each other.

Azaria is in talks to play Zeta-Jones’ lover. Downey was set in that role, but while Revolution has been discreet, his participation effectively ended after his recent arrest for drug possession. Roberts plays Zeta-Jones’ sister, who’s in love with Cusack’s character.

The film will begin shooting in early January and with Downey facing a late-December court date that could put him behind bars again, “America’s Sweethearts” had little choice but to move on.

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