Stars Snared in Charlotte’s Web

Superstar Julia Roberts has signed on to voice the title arachnid in Paramount Picture’s live-action/animated hybrid adaptation of E.B. White’s beloved children’s book, Charlotte’s Web. Also joining the voice cast are gab-show queen Oprah Winfrey, Monty Python alum John Cleese, popular character actor Steve Buscemi (Ghost World, Fargo), comedian Cedric The Entertainer, Country singer and TV star Reba McEntire, Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, Sideways co-star Thomas Haden Church and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin (a.k.a. Andre 3000).

This latest cinematic take on the classic tale is being produced Jordan Kerner under his Kerner Ent. Banner, and co-produced by Paramount Pictures, Walden Media and Nickelodeon Movies. Gary Winick (13 Going on 30) is directing from a screenplay by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, with production scheduled to begin Jan. 31 in Melbourne, Australia.

Charlotte’s Web is the story of a kind-hearted spider who befriends a pig named Wilbur and saves him from the slaughterhouse by spinning messages in webs above his pen. Ubiquitous child actor Dakota Fanning will star as Wilbur’s human pal, Fern.

Winfrey will lend her voice to Gussy, the barn’s maternal but irreverent goose, with Cedric as fellow goose Golly. Cleese shows up as Samuel the sheep and Buscemi takes on Templeton the pack rat, a role made famous by Paul Lynde in the original animated version. McEntire and Kathy Bates will voice ironic cows Betsy and Bitsy, while Church and Benjamin play dimwitted crows Brooks and Elwyn.

Edgar Bronfman is exec producing the film alongside Kerner Ent.’s production topper, Paul Neesan, and Nick Movies’ Julia Pistor. Also exec producing is Bernie Williams. Overseeing for their respective companies are Walden Media’s exec VP of production, Alex Schwartz, and Paramount production president Karen Rosenfelt.

Illustrated by Garth Williams and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, Charlotte’s Web is the best-selling children’s paperback of all time. Since its initial printing in 1952, the book has sold 45 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 23 languages.