Funny people taper smiles for 'Informant'

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"The Soup" host Joel McHale, Scott Bakula and a host of comedic actors are set to star opposite Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh's darkly comic thriller "The Informant" for Warner Independent Pictures, Participant Media and Groundswell Prods.

Bakula and McHale, who is in final negotiations, will play FBI agents working with agri-business insider Mark Whitacre (Damon) to stop a price-fixing scam. The film is based on Kurt Eichenwald's 2000 best-seller "The Informant: A True Story."

Other new cast members known for their comedic turns are Mike O'Malley (CBS' "Yes, Dear"), Andrew Daly ("Semi-Pro"), Adam Paul (Starz's "Hollywood Residential") and Melanie Lynskey (CBS' "Two and a Half Men"). Comedian-actors Tom Wilson, Rick Overton and Tom Papa will round out the cast.

Although the subject matter is serious, one behind-the-scenes informant said Soderbergh is looking to create a thriller with dark comedy elements. He chose comedic actors who haven't been overexposed on film, planning to have them play their roles seriously and have a humorous tone emerge naturally.

The prestige film is a breakthrough for McHale, who has gained a cult following on the same E! series that gave Greg Kinnear his start. It also marks one of the biggest big-screen roles for Bakula ("Quantum Leap," "Enterprise").

Jennifer Fox and Gregory Jacobs are producing for Participant and Michael London's Groundswell. Scott Z. Burns adapted the book for the screen. Principal photography is set to begin this month.

McHale is repped by Gersh and Sonesta Entertainment. Bakula is repped by ICM.
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