This week’s Ketchup includes a CGI movie adaptation of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, new character information for the fifth Spider-Man movie, and new roles for Ben Affleck, Anne Hathaway, and Jamie Foxx.
This Week’s Top Story
GOOD GRIEF, IT’S A CGI PEANUTS MOVIE, CHARLIE BROWN!
Hollywood has been procuring and securing film rights to so many intellectual properties for so long that when a deal is made for one of the few remaining treasures, it’s especially surprising. Such was the shock this week when 20th Century Fox revealed that the pieces are already in place for a CGI animated feature film based on the late Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. This deal is already far enough along that Peanuts has a director, a script, and a scheduled release date on November 25, 2015. That date will mark the 65th anniversary of the comic strip, and the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Peanuts will be produced by the Blue Sky Studios team under the direction of Steve Martino, who previously gave us (as codirector) Horton Hears a Who! and Ice Age: Continental Drift. The Peanuts script was written by Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz, his grandson Bryan Schulz, and Bryan’s screenwriting partner Cornelius Uliano, with all three also producing. What’s as yet unknown is exactly what the Peanuts feature film will be about, except in the very broad strokes that Peanuts was always about. The lead character of Peanuts is sad sack grade schooler Charlie Brown, and his peripheral cast includes his pet beagle Snoopy (who entertains a dream life as the Red Baron fighter pilot), his sister Sally, the bossy girl Lucy and her brother Linus, Schroeder the musician, the messy Pig Pen, Woodstock the bird, and gal pals Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Still reading this paragraph? Here is an image of the Peanuts gang as if they had been created by Alan Moore.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BEN AFFLECK’S DEAL-HEAVY PRE-ARGO WEEK: LIVE BY NIGHT AND FOCUS
Sometimes, deal-making in Hollywood seems so heavily driven by what movie is coming out that one has to wonder how deals ever get made when an actor stops making them for a while. Warner Bros is releasing Argo today, and so it appeared the big priority at the studio this week was to find ways of keeping Ben Affleck busy there for the next couple of years. The most obvious allure of working with Affleck is that he is now three movies (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo) into being a nearly complete package, as producer, director, and actor. So, Warner Bros has begun discussions with Affleck to make his next P/D/A project an adaptation of Live By Night, the latest novel by author Dennis Lahane, who also wrote the book that Gone Baby Gone was based upon. Live By Night is the second of a planned trilogy (following The Given Day, which WB also has the rights to), and is set in Affleck’s hometown of Boston during the 1920s, and involves organized crime. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company will also be coproducing Live By Night. Before Affleck directs Live By Night, however, he may also star in another Warner Bros project called Focus, which was written and will be directed by the Crazy, Stupid Love team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Ficarra and Requa had developed Focus as a reunion project for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but that deal has since fallen apart, with Ben Affleck now being eyed for the lead instead. The story of Focus will revolve around “a veteran con man who gets [romantically] involved with a newcomer to the grifter business.”
#2 MARY JANE WATSON CAST IN THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
With a release date already set for May 2, 2014, Sony Pictures is not wasting much time in getting preparations in order for the sequel to this past summer’s reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. To date, this has included securing returning actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, director Marc Webb, and a screenplay that has already received at least one rewrite. This week, we found out about at least two new (to the reboot) characters being cast. First up is the future Mrs. Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, who was played by Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi-directed movies. Shailene Woodley, who costarred with George Clooney in The Descendants, is currently in early talks to be the new Mary Jane Watson. Sony Pictures is also looking for a new actor to play Harry Osborne, the best friend destined to relieve his father as the Green Goblin (in the comics, at least). Finally, there are rumors that the sequel will feature the first live action depiction of the classic Spider-Man villain Electro, as “one of the villains” (note the emphasis on the plurality, there). Presuming that casting continues apace, filming is expected to start on this Amazing Spider-Man sequel sometime in early 2013.
#3 TROLLHUNTER DIRECTOR STICKS WITH GIANT MONSTERS WITH ENORMOUS
Giant monsters are returning to Hollywood. This fact has been known for a while, and it’s mostly thanks to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros, which are the production company and studio behind next summer’s Pacific Rim, and 2014’s reboot of Godzilla. There have been (mostly smaller) movies paving the way for this mini-genre return, and one of them was the Norwegian monster movie Trollhunter. Now, that film’s director Andre Ovredal has teamed up with one of the producers of Hitman for an adaptation of a comic book series called Enormous that fits right in with Pacific Rim and Godzilla. The setting of Enormous is a near future where an ecological catastrophe leads to giant monsters taking over the planet, leading to the near extinction of the human race, and the lead character is a woman who attempts to save children from being devoured. The Enormous feature film is being planned as part of a larger media event that will also include a TV series and a “high end” digital Web series.
#4 ERROL FLYNN RETURNS TO THEATERS (SORT OF) IN THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD
Errol Flynn was one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s most larger-than-life stars, and the 50+ years since his 1959 death have seen this reflected in his being a recurring supporting character in various films (a posthumous trait he shares with Orson Welles). Now, a feature film is being planned that will turn the focus entirely towards Flynn himself, during the final years of his life. Kevin Kline is set to play Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood, which will tell the story of his relationship with a much, much younger 17-year-old girl named Beverly Aadland (who is yet to be cast; Susan Sarandon will play her mother). The Last of Robin Hood was written by, and will be directed by, the team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who previously collaborated on the independent film Quinceañera.
#5 ANNE HATHAWAY TO STAR IN THE LOW SELF-ESTEEM OF LIZZIE GILLESPIE
Just a few weeks after the premiere of her new show The Mindy Project, writer-turned-actress Mindy Kaling has set up a new romantic comedy feature film, as well. In The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie, the lead role will not be going to Kaling, however, as Anne Hathaway has been cast instead. The premise will see Hathaway playing a woman with lowered expectations who only dates “losers,” whose life is changed when she finds herself pursued by a man who is not a loser. Funny how guys like that are rarely referred to as “winners.” Mindy Kaling cowrote The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie with Brent Forrester, and she is also expected to take a supporting role. The comedy is still seeking a director, and a romantic lead actor.
#6 JAMIE FOXX AND KEN JEONG COME TO AN UNUSUAL ARRANGEMENT
Jamie Foxx and Ken Jeong have agreed to an unusual arrangement that will ostensibly serve both their purposes as actors branching into screenwriting. Basically, both actors have agreed to star in movies written by the other. Ken Jeong wrote After Prom, which Jamie Foxx will star in as one of two high school friends who years later must now perform the parent roles as their own teenage children attend prom. Likewise, the movie that Jamie Foxx wrote for Ken Jeong to star in is called All-Star Weekend, and is about two friends who find themselves fans of opposing NBA stars (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, specifically). Jamie Foxx will also be directing All-Star Weekend, will have a supporting role, and the other lead role will be played by Kevin Hart.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 KATEE SACKHOFF IS THE SECOND MEMBER OF THE FEMALE EXPENDABLES
When the concept of a female version of The Expendables was first introduced earlier this year, online writers seemed to have great times imagining the cast. The first actress announced was Haywire star Gina Carano, who did indeed make some writers’ lists. The second actress, announced this week, is Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff, who… well, yeah, she didn’t really make anyone’s list. This story isn’t a Rotten Idea because of anything against Katee Sackhoff herself, really. It’s just that Ms. Sackhoff is not really perceived as a movie action star (not theatrically released movies, anyway). And so, the fact that she’s the second actress announced makes this movie’s ambitions seem arguably a little less stellar than the male version. What this version of The Expendables needs to announce, very soon, are some “major” movie stars. That’s all we’re saying. Otherwise, it might just fall off the collective radar altogether.
#2 FIFTY SHADES OF GREY IS STILL HAPPENING AS A MOVIE. SIGH.
Once upon a time, there was a Twilight fan who wrote some fan fiction that imagined the vampire and human girl engaged in S&M. Then, in something of a Cinderella story, that fan changed the names and the setting, and published the fan fiction as a book called Fifty Shades of Grey, and people actually went out and bought the book. With, like, actual U.S. Federal Reserve Notes, complete with presidents’ faces on the front and everything. Anyway, well, Universal Pictures and Focus Features are teaming up for a movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. This news had actually broken for the first time earlier this year, but this week, the studios announced a screenwriter that will actually work on adapting the book into a script, which makes it news all over again. The screenwriter is Kelly Marcel, the creator of the failed FOX series Terra Nova, and also the writer of the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, the behind-the-scenes drama about Walt Disney’s struggles to produce a live action adaptation of Mary Poppins. So, right here, if the world needed it, is the thorough line that connects Julie Andrews with softcore erotic bondage fantasies. Oh wait, the world already had the 1981 Blake Edwards film S.O.B.
#1 NICOLAS CAGE AND HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN TO STAR IN A MOVIE SET IN 10TH CENTURY CHINA: OUTCAST
It’s another week with a new Nicolas Cage movie being announced, and this column has faced recent suggestions that Nicolas Cage movies inherently get “Rotten Idea” labeling without other evidence to back it up. Well, like manna from Heaven, to answer this writer’s prayers on that issue, this week, we have Outcast. In this independently produced historical action epic, Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones) have been cast as “warriors” during 10th Century China who have to save a princess. Not much else is known about the story, but really… let’s just process all of this. Does anyone reading this think that Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen are ideal choices to play, well… anyone in 10th Century China? Here’s a Wikipedia page that might help explain why this is a particularly Rotten Idea for a movie. Outcast was written by relative newcomer James Dormer, who wrote a 2011 independent no-stars-necessary-or-present action film called The Holding, and it will mark the directorial debut of stuntman Nick Powell.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.