This Week’s Ketchup includes movie development news for directors Edgar Wright and Russell Crowe (yep, he’s doing that, too, now), and such real life sources of material as the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the lives of comedian Bill Hicks and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
This Week’s Top Story
THE MINIONS FROM DESPICABLE ME GETTING THEIR OWN MOVIE IN 2014
This story is about a movie that has been quietly been getting made for a while now, sort of in secret, but the clues to its existence have been around, too. Two years ago, on July 9, 2010, Universal Pictures released Despicable Me, the first animated CGI movie in a partnership with Illumination Entertainment. Universal and Illumination went on to produce and release Hop and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and other films in development include new versions of The Addams Family, The Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, and Woody Woodpecker, and a Dr. Seuss biopic. Illumination’s next film will be Despicable Me 2 (7/3/13), and this week, the world discovered that the fifth film will be a Despicable Me spinoff, making that franchise responsible for 3 out of Illumination’s first five films. The spinoff doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have a release year (2014), and an already familiar leading cast in the Minions, the goggle-wearing little yellow henchmen of Groo. The Minions also speak their own language (that combines elements of many), which means that there will almost certainly have to be other English-speaking characters to help move the storyline along. Production of the Minions movie will start almost immediately after Despicable Me 2 wraps. The script has already been written by Brian Lynch (cowriter of Hop and Puss in Boots), and Pierre Coffin (codirector of the first two Despicable Me films) and Kyle Balda (codirector of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) will codirect.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 EDGAR WRIGHT AND J.J. ABRAMS JOIN FORCES FOR COLLIDER
One of the hot prospects earlier this month at San Diego Comic Con was confirmation that director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs the World) and Marvel Studios are getting closer to finally making the Ant-Man movie. Meanwhile, Edgar Wright is also preparing to finish his “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with the pub crawl adventure The World’s End. This week, however, we learned about about yet another project which will likely come after both The World’s End and Ant-Man, and this one unites Wright with another fan favorite. Edgar Wright and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company are collaborating on a mystery-cloaked science fiction project for Paramount Pictures called Collider. Although there are other possibilities, the most likely subject for a movie called Collider is the Large Hadron Collider, which recently made big news by demonstrating evidence of the theorized Higgs boson. Whatever it’s actually about, Collider is being written by screenwriter Mark Protosevich (The Cell; cowriter of I Am Legend), who has also worked on scripts for Jurassic Park IV, the videogame adaptation Mass Effect, and the English remake of Oldboy.
#2 $155 MILLION DEAL GIVES DREAMWORKS ANIMATION CHARACTERS LIKE LASSIE AND CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST
This week, DreamWorks Animation announced a $155 million deal to purchase the holding company Classic Media, which now gives the studio the rights to dozens of classic characters. The result of this deal will be a new subsidiary called DreamWorks Classics. Some of the characters that this deal includes (but is not by any means limited to) are Where’s Waldo?, many Rankin/Bass specials like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Filmnation titles like Fat Albert and Masters of the Universe, Harvey Comics characters like Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost, the Jay Ward titles like Rocky and Bullwinkle and George of the Jungle, and many other properties including Dick Tracy, Gumby, Lassie, and Mr. Magoo. This deal basically makes it much easier for DreamWorks Animation to proceed with potentially dozens of new projects. What is not covered within DreamWorks’ rights, however, are already signed deals with other companies, such as Disney’s upcoming live action The Lone Ranger, with Johnny Depp as Tonto. One upcoming DreamWorks Animation film that definitely does fit in nicely with this new venture is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which is already in production, and scheduled for release on March 14, 2014. No specific deal was mentioned as being the next likely DreamWorks Animation adaptation, but this stable of licenses is so large, that one has to imagine that DreamWorks will be announcing something soon.
#3 JEREMY RENNER MIGHT BREAK THE JULIAN ASSANGE DEADLOCK
What sometimes happens with film development in Hollywood is that many different producers and studios might all get the idea for similarly-themed movies around the same time, until one or two of them get the nudge they need to actually make a movie. In the case of the true story of Julian Assange, founder of the controversial secret documents source WikiLeaks, there are at least four potential movies in development at DreamWorks, HBO, Universal, and by producer Megan Ellison. This week, it was revealed that Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Avengers) is actively seeking the lead role in DreamWorks’ project. Screenwriter Josh Singer (who doesn’t yet have a produced credit) adapted the untitled script based on the books WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding, and Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. There’s no commitment yet, but DreamWorks is also currently discussing the project with director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters), who’s currently looking for his next big project after directing the two halves of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.
#4 RUSSELL CROWE MAY MAKE HIS DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH A BILL HICKS BIOPIC
One of Russell Crowe’s pet projects for many years has been a biopic about American stand up comedian Bill Hicks, which Crowe was planning on starring in as Hicks. Russell Crowe does actually bear a resemblance to Bill Hicks, and it’s easy to imagine the boisterous Australian taking on Hicks’ on stage persona. However, Bill Hicks died when he was 32, and Russell Crowe is now 48, meaning that the window of opportunity for Crowe to actually play Bill Hicks may soon be completely shut (if it isn’t already). We learned this week, however, that this doesn’t mean that Crowe has given up on the Bill Hicks biopic, as he is now determined to make his directorial debut with the project instead. To that end, longtime Crowe friend Mark Staufer has written a script for the untitled project, which will effectively be his feature film debut as writer, as well. What’s still unknown is who Russell Crowe might now have in mind to play the groundbreaking comedian instead.
#5 NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH SOMEWHERE IN TIME OR TIME AFTER TIME… THE TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE, TIME AND AGAIN
Tom Cruise is headed to London this weekend to get ready for the start of filming the science fiction action film All You Need is Kill (and probably take in some Olympics). That film will be directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), but even with all that going on, Liman also signed on this week for another (but very different) science fiction project at Lionsgate. Time and Again is the name of an illustrated novel by the late Jack Finney about a modern man who volunteers for a military experiment that sends him back to 1882, where he falls in love, and must choose between the past and the present. In both title and theme, Time and Again sounds like it belongs to the small but fan favorite mini-genre of time travel romances that includes Somewhere in Time and Time After Time.
#6 RIDLEY SCOTT IMAGINES DISASTER WITH THE DAY BRITAIN STOPPED
As this column is being written, the opening of the 2012 Olympics is getting underway in London, with authorities there undoubtedly considering myriad different ways the massive sporting event could go badly. One has to imagine that director/producer Ridley Scott was thinking this exact thing recently. Ridley Scott and screenwriter Steve Zaillian have acquired the feature film rights to of the 2003 BBC dramatic documentary The Day Britain Stopped. That TV movie depicted a fictional series of chain reaction events that lead to the United Kingdom’s transportation system collapsing, resulting in dozens of lives lost. Steve Zaillian has worked with Ridley Scott in the past on Hannibal and American Gangster, and his screenwriting credits also include Gangs of New York, Moneyball, and Schindler’s List. Rather than a direct remake, Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian are planning a feature film that is more loosely inspired by the ideas behind The Day Britain Stopped. The next step will be to find a screenwriter to adapt their ideas to the page, with Steve Zaillian taking a producer role, rather than adapting the script himself.
#7 THE 2010 GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL GETS ITS OWN MOVIE AS DEEPWATER HORIZON
A cynic could say that a horrible disaster and/or tragedy hasn’t really made its full mark until Hollywood has made a movie about it. It’s barely two years later, but such appears to be getting closer to happening for the April 20, 2010 oil spill at the BP rig Deepwater Horizon. And now, Summit Entertainment is moving forward with plans for a movie by that same title about the events that led to the spill, and immediately followed it, as the 100 workers aboard the rig struggled to stay alive, to be directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Ric Roman Waugh is a former stuntman with a long list of credits that includes True Romance, The Last of the Mohicans, The Crow, and the original Total Recall. Waugh moved on to a career as a director with 2008’s Felon, and 2013 will see the release of his second film called Snitch, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Pepper.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 WILL KRISTEN STEWART’S FANS STILL FOLLOW HER BACK TO CALI?
Kristen Stewart made some other news this week, but the scope of this column is only concerned with a “gritty action movie” called Cali. Kristen Stewart will costar in Cali with Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike, I Am Number Four) as two lovers in the San Fernando Valley who sell a fake snuff film, but ultimately have to revisit the scene of their deception to save the girl’s younger sister. Cali will be directed by Nick Cassavetes (Alpha Dog, John Q, The Notebook) from a script by Michael Diliberti (30 Minutes or Less). Cali is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based mostly on the RT Tomatometer scores for Nick Cassavetes, who hasn’t had a Fresh score as director since 1997’s She’s So Lovely.
#1 THE WATCH COSTARS BEN STILLER AND JONAH HILL BID EACH OTHER ALOHA AGAIN
Today sees the release of The Watch, the movie formerly known as Neighborhood Watch (until George Zimmerman sort of tainted that title), which also has been receiving a lot of “Rotten” reviews this week. Half that film’s stars, however (Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill) are looking to work together again for 20th Century Fox on a “island themed comedy” called Aloha (which suggests the island is probably Hawaii… obviously?). At this point, really not much else is known about the premise of Aloha, except that it was written by Nicholas Stoller, whose previous credits include Get Him to the Greek, The Muppets, and Fun with Dick and Jane. Aloha will be directed by Shawn Levy, who has previously worked with Ben Stiller on the two Night at the Museum movies.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.