The last several weeks have been slow in movie news, as Hollywood loves taking holiday vacations five times longer than what the rest of the world can manage. This week, however, enough news stories came out to fill a couple Weekly Ketchup columns of ten news stories each. Here, then, are the cream of the crop, at least in terms of high-profile stories, because at least half of them are arguably “Rotten Ideas.” There’s casting news for The Dark Knight Rises (the next Batman movie) and Prometheus (formerly known as the Alien prequel), as well as potential new movies for Robert Downey Jr, Beyonce Knowles and the former governor of California.
After months of speculation, Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros this week lifted the veil of secrecy about the identity of two of the villains in The Dark Knight Rises. Or, perhaps more accurately, we know who at least one of the villains is. Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle, who the world knows better as Catwoman, but the press release doesn’t say explicitly that Selina Kyle is Catwoman, or that the role is that of a villain. Catwoman’s role in the comics, particularly in the last 15 years, has been sort of a mixture of both a villain and a hero (the modern Catwoman’s a burglar with a heart of gold, basically). Tom Hardy (Inception, Star Trek: Nemesis) was announced as cast as a mysterious role last year, but now we know that he will be playing Bane. Bane is most famous for being a villain addicted to the strength-enhancing drug Venom (no connection to the Spider-Man villain), and for breaking Batman’s back. Bane appeared as a supporting villain in Batman and Robin, but the casting of Tom Hardy suggests a more subtle portrayal (Americans know him as skinny from his roles in Inception and Star Trek: Nemesis, but as seen in Bronson, he can also bulk up quite impressively). Warner Bros has scheduled The Dark Knight Rises for release on July 20, 2012.
Last month, there was a story online that the title for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel was actually going to be called Paradise, which was quickly debunked by 20th Century Fox. However, we learned this week that the basic idea of that story (that the movie would be called something other than Alien) was in the right direction, if not exactly correct. The project that was formerly known as “the Alien prequel” now has the title of Prometheus, along with quotes from Ridley Scott and LOST cocreator (and the latest writer of Prometheus) Damon Lindelof about how the change came to be. “The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative,” Scott said, while Lindelof added, “In a world flooded with prequels, sequels and reboots, I was incredibly struck by just how original Ridley’s vision was for this movie. It’s daring, visceral and hopefully, the last thing anyone expects.” As for that title, Prometheus was a Titan in Greek mythology who Zeus punished for giving mankind the gift of fire. The news doesn’t stop there, however, as Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels), who has been known to be the front runner for the lead role for a while now, has officially been cast as scientist “Elizabeth Shaw.” 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott are still looking for the other female lead role of Vickers, and are reportedly considering either Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron. 20th Century Fox also announced this week a release date of March 9, 2012, but it was Disney that made news with that date, quickly deciding to slate their own big sci-fi epic John Carter of Mars for March 9, 2012 as well.
Now that his eight years as the governor of California are over, bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger is now considering returning to his second career. Talking to an Austrian website, Schwarzenegger revealed that he is currently reading three scripts, only one of which he gave details on. “I would play an older soldier, who gets the order at the ending of the war to kill a bunch of kids. But he doesn’t do it and gets them to safety at the risk of his life and it has all kind of adventure. This script is based on a true story!,” Schwarzenegger said. From that information, it’s easy to figure out that he is talkign about With Wings as Eagles, which has been in development as a potential Schwarzenegger starring vehicle for at least 15 years now. Now 63, Schwarzenegger has also said that he plans on focusing more on drama than action movies, comparing his current career position to that of Clint Eastwood’s. The next question for With Wings as Eagles, if Schwarzenegger does indeed choose it as his next movie, is which director he might work with. That question mark is why With Wings as Eagles is one of the week’s “Fresh Developments” for now. As a final footnote, it’s worth mentioning that this news also broke in the same week that Schwarzenegger’s father-in-law Sargent Shriver died from Alzheimer’s Syndrome complications at the age of 95.
In 2005, Marvel Studios finally acquired the film rights to Black Panther after over a decade of development. At one time, Wesley Snipes was in talks to follow up Blade in a movie that would have adapted the African ruler-turned-superhero into an Indiana Jones-type adventure hero. Six years later, Marvel has finally put Black Panther back into active development by hiring documentary writer/editor Mark Bailey (Pandemic: Facing AIDS) to work on a script adaptation. Bailey may seem like an odd choice to adapt a superhero movie, but Marvel (and Marvel projects at other studios) actually has a history of choosing writers and directors outside the action genre. The connection between Mark Bailey and Black Panther may be the inherent politics and gravitas of T’Challa’s role as the proud leader of the African nation of Wakanda, known for its advanced technology and natural resources. Mark Bailey is also working on adapting the non-fiction book The Last of the Tribe: The Epic Quest to Save a Lone Man in the Amazon for director Doug Liman (Fair Game, Mr. and Mrs. Smith).
Hollywood is obviously deeply in love with the current trend of remakes and reboots, but there are a few titles where remakes are actually part of a tradition. Perhaps the most obvious is A Star is Born, which started in 1937 (starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March), was revived in 1957 (with Judy Garland and James Mason) and most recently again in 1976 (starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson). Warner Bros has been trying to get a fourth version made for over 10 years, with Will Smith often mentioned as the male star in the story of an upcoming female performer who falls in love with an older male star. Beyoncé Knowles has long been mentioned as the potential star, and this week, Beyoncé was confirmed as starring. The bigger news, however, may actually be the older star, Clint Eastwood, who has been hired to produce and direct (but not star, which would be… sort of weird). Although Clint Eastwood may not seem an obvious choice for a movie that is likely to be heavy on modern R&B and pop, Eastwood’s career actually includes a number of music-related movies such as Honkytonk Man and the Charlie Parker biopic Bird. Clint Eastwood has also composed (or collaborated on) the scores of some of his recent movies like Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. With Beyonce and Eastwood signed, the next step for the fourth version of A Star is Born will be to find the older male lead.
One of the biggest casting stories of 2010 was the decision by Walt Disney Pictures to recruit Robert Downey Jr to star in Oz, the Great and Powerful, their prequel to The Wizard of Oz, which does for the Wizard what the Broadway musical Wicked did for the Wicked Witch of the West. This week, however, Downey dropped out of the project, which is the second time in the last few months that he has left a big-budget movie. George Clooney has now signed to replace Robert Downey Jr. in the science fiction movie Gravity, which also stars Sandra Bullock (who herself was cast after a long process that started with Angelina Jolie). Disney is now hoping to sign one of their favorite stars, Johnny Depp, to replace Robert Downey Jr, but Depp’s own schedule is very busy (and he sort of just recently played a similar character in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland). The week in RDJ news doesn’t end there, however. DreamWorks Animation has announced plans to adapt one of the animated shorts, Peabody and Sherman, that was a regular feature on the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show back in the 1960s. Mr. Peabody was an incredibly smart talking dog, who along with “my boy Sherman,” went on time travelling adventures to solve the great mysteries of history. DreamWorks has signed Robert Downey Jr. to provide the voice for Peabody in a fully CGI 3D movie that the company is scheduling for release in 2014. The directing job is going to Rob Minkoff, who was the codirector of The Lion King and Stuart Little before going solo with movies like Stuart Little 2, The Haunted Mansion and Forbidden Kingdom. Peabody and Sherman (not necessarily the final title) was adapted by the screenwriting team of Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin, who were producers and writers on That 70s Show, and have more recently cowritten Tooth Fairy, Surviving Christmas and Yogi Bear. This writer is actually a pretty big fan of the original Peabody and Sherman shorts (they were my favorite part of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show), but this story lands in the Rotten Idea section for a few reasons. First, there is the fact that it comes along with Downey’s departure from Sam Raimi’s long awaited first movie after leaving the Spider-Man franchise last year. Finally, the credits of both the screenwriters and the director include several movies with either low or mixed average scores on the Tomatometer.
Paramount Pictures announced in September their plans to adapt the Spike TV series Deadliest Warrior as a big screen movie. That news just barely missed making that week’s Ketchup, but now just four months later, we now have enough information about the actual movie plans to land it a spot as one of this week’s Rotten Ideas. Paramount has hired screenwriters John D. Payne and Patrick McKay to adapt the history-based reality show which each episode pits fighters from different historical periods up against each other to determine who would win in a fight. Example episodes of Deadliest Warrior include “Apache vs Gladiator,” “Spartan vs Ninja,” “Attila the Hun vs Alexander the Great,” and “Jesse James vs Al Capone.” Payne and McKay are new screenwriters who don’t yet have any produced movies to their credits, but they did recently sign on to script a movie called Goliath, based upon the Biblical character that famously fought the young, future King David. It’s easy to see the connection between the two movies, with Deadliest Warrior possibly being like Goliath if instead of a young kid with a rock, he was facing off against an Aztec Jaguar warrior or a Somali pirate. There’s no word yet as to how the concept of Deadliest Warrior will be adapted as a movie, but a good guess would probably involve some sort of time travel. Deadliest Warrior is being coproduced by producer/director Shawn Levy, who may decide to direct (although that is not yet confirmed). Levy is currently working on the upcoming Real Steel, and has also directed the two Night at the Museum movies, which obviously share some similar concepts with Deadliest Warrior.
When you ask someone to guess the best-selling book series of all time, they might guess J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books (which would be the correct answer). The series that come in after Harry Potter is where people might get really surprised, however, and that leads us today to the 5th best selling book series of all time: Choose Your Own Adventure. In 185 books published from 1979 to 1998, young readers were given a choice as they read each book, with prompts to proceed to a given page based upon which direction the reader wants the story to go. In today’s interactive world, Choose Your Own Adventure would be a great idea for a video game series, and has already been used by many YouTube video creators. What Choose Your Own Adventure does not seem particularly well suited for is a movie, since ostensibly, you can’t allow 200 people in a movie theater to decide how a movie’s story is going to unfold. That, however, may be exactly what a new production company called Red Crown has in mind with their announcement this week of plans for either a theatrical movie or a TV series based upon Choose Your Own Adventure. One possible route that Red Crown might have in mind might be similar to the 1985 comedy Clue (based on the board game), in which each theater had a different ending out of three different possibilities. Producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg of Red Crown has a producing filmography which includes the Golden Globe-winning 2010 movie The Kids Are All Right, as well as other indie movies like Grace is Gone and Lonesome Jim.
After producing a remake of The Karate Kid which proved to be a box office succcess for son Jaden Smith, Will Smith is now considering producing a 1980s remake for daughter Willow Smith as well. The project Will Smith has in mind for his daughter is a new movie based upon the newspaper comic strip character Little Orphan Annie, which was adapted as a Broadway musical in 1977, and then as a musical movie in 1982. In the comic strip, Little Orphan Annie is a plucky little redhead girl with spooky pupil-free eyes who is adopted by a very wealthy man coincidentally named Daddy Warbucks. There’s no word yet as to what sort of adaptation this latest remake will be, such as whether it will be set during the Great Depression of the 1930s or modern times, whether the music will be adapted faithfully or changed, or whether or not Willow Smith will wear spooky contacts to cover up her pupils. One thing that is known about the music is that rapper Jay-Z may be involved. Jay-Z recently collaborated with Willow Smith on her single “Whip My Hair,” and in 1998, he released the hit song “Hard Knock Life,” which heavily sampled the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the original Broadway musical Annie. It should be interesting to see if Will Smith’s going to let his 10-year-old daughter sing along with Jay Z’s song, considering the adult language. The idea of Will Smith producing a remake of Annie for his daughter is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas mostly because it seems like a movie that will exist solely because, well, Will Smith has a ton of money. Past productions of Annie have gone through exhaustive and massive talent searches to find the perfect young girls to star. Willow Smith won the casting call for this version of Annie on October 31, 2000.
Following the departure of studio executive Jessica Goodman after 13 years, Warner Bros is looking to ramp up development of several remakes based on properties that were formerly under her aegis. Two of the projects that are being considered are remakes of the 1973 robot science fiction movie Westworld (originally written by Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame) and director Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 classic revisionist western The Wild Bunch. That last idea would have normally been the most Rotten Idea of the week, but it is the third concept that actually got additional news, and is arguably even more of a Rotten Idea. Lethal Weapon was a 1987 buddy cop action movie starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover which went on to have three successful sequels. Warner Bros has hired LAPD police officer-turned-screenwriter Will Beall, the writer of the WB project Gangster Squad, to start work on a Lethal Weapon remake. The plan to reboot Lethal Weapon entirely follows over a decade of development on a possible Lethal Weapon 5, which would have seen Mel Gibson and Danny Glover returning as the mismatched partners Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. As noted in this article, Lethal Weapon was a movie and a franchise that “was considered an ‘event’ movie in the late 1980s [but now] seems almost quaint in 2011.” In order to reboot Lethal Weapon, Warner Bros would have to find a new pair of actors who have the same chemisty as Gibson and Glover, and in particular, the casting of “a new Mel Gibson” seems like one few actors would be qualified for, or if they were, would want to take on.