This week’s Ketchup covers big developments in the world of comic book movies (Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Savage Dragon), as well as new roles for Daniel Craig, Leonardo DiCaprio, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hanks and Mark Wahlberg.
This was a big week for the casting of Warner Bros and DC Comics’ Green Lantern, the next great hope for the comic book publisher to take on their main competitor, Marvel. First, Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) was cast as Carol Ferris. Ferris is the aerospace industry executive that is Hal Jordan’s (Ryan Reynolds) boss when he first is given the power ring that makes him the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814 (which includes Earth). In the comics, Ferris also eventually becomes Star Sapphire, the latest woman to wield a purple gem that gives her powers similar to those of a Green Lantern (although that title was also held by other characters, and is not Carol Ferris’ only distinction). Next up was Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don’t Cry, Jarhead), who has been cast as Hector Hammond, who gains psychic powers when he encounters a strange meteor. Hammond’s background is also being changed from the comics (where he was just a petty criminal) to being a pathologist and the son of a senator who sees him as a disappointment. The trades referred to Hammond as “the villain” of Green Lantern, but that doesn’t mean that Hal’s most famous villain won’t be in the movie; Hitfix is reporting that Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, the upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street remake) is still Warner Bros’ “only choice” to play Sinestro. What may be the distinction is that Sinestro may not begin as a villain (just like how Carol Ferris has a background other than eventually becoming Star Sapphire), but as a fellow Green Lantern, as he was in the comics, before eventually switching to a yellow power ring that has extra power against green lantern rings. Green Lantern starts filming in Louisiana in March, aiming for a release on June 17, 2010.
The week got to a start with the news that Robert Downey, Jr. had dropped out of Cowboys & Aliens, which would have reunited him with Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau. The project didn’t have to wait long for a replacement, however, as Daniel Craig is now in negotiations with DreamWorks for the role. If he signs, Craig would be playing Zeke Johnson, an Arizona cowboy who must put aside his differences with the local Apache Indians when an alien spaceship crashes in the middle of the Wild West. Some sources call Cowboys & Aliens a comic book adaptation, but although it is true that the comic book was published in 2006, the movie has actually been in development in Hollywood for over 10 years, and the comic adaptation just happened to get published first (and was probably seen as a way to help get the movie made). The current script for Cowboys & Aliens was written by Damon Lindelof (LOST), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (cowriters of Transformers), and together, the three writers cowrote Star Trek.
Recently, comic book writer and creator Erik Larsen made an announcement that went mostly unnoticed by the movie business, and so this is something of a scoop here. Larsen goes rather in depth about the development of the script for a Savage Dragon movie (in what should be of interest to any fan of movies based upon comic books), although the business details (studio, director, etc) are what Larsen doesn’t yet reveal. Here’s what we do know, however: The Savage Dragon was one of the original titles that launched the owner-created Image Comics publisher in 1993, and with Spawn, is the only such original Image comic that is still being published. The Dragon is a superheroic police officer with green skin, a massive finned mohawk on his head, super strength and healing and amnesia that (until recently) kept his origin a mystery. The Savage Dragon was also adapted as an animated TV series that aired on the USA Network from 1995 to 1996, at the height of success of the Image Comics characters. Larsen says that the movie script is based upon the original comic book, up until the events of #21, but as Larsen describes, many details of those 20+ issues have to be left out, as the typical movie script could only adapt about 5 comic book issues (much less 20+).
Paramount Pictures is developing a sequel to the 2005 thriller Four Brothers, which is going by the unexpected title (given the premise of the first movie) of Five Brothers. In Four Brothers, Mark Wahlberg, Andre Benjamin, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund starred as four adopted brothers of different ethnic backgrounds who reunite following the death of their mother during a robbery. Mark Wahlberg came up with the idea for the sequel, and will return to star, along with at least some of the other costars of the original (presumably), and apparently, at least one new costar to be the new fifth brother. David Elliot and Paul Lovett, who wrote Four Brothers (and they also cowrote G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), are also cowriting Five Brothers. There’s no word yet as to whether director John Singleton (2 Fast 2 Furious, Shaft) will also return for this sequel.
Tom Hanks is directing again for the first time since the nostalgic fun of 1996’s That Thing You Do!. He’ll be doing it with Larry Crowne, a comedy script that he also wrote, and he’ll also star along with his Charlie’s Wilson War costar Julia Roberts. Hanks will star as Larry Crowne, “a man forced to reinvent himself and find a new career as he navigates the second act of his life.” This will be Hanks’ first movie role as an actor since last year’s Angels and Demons, and it will be Julia Roberts’ follow up to this summer’s Eat, Pray, Love. A studio hasn’t been found yet for the movie, but filming of Larry Crowne will begin in Los Angeles in April.
Robert Zemeckis has found the four British actors who are in talks to star as the Beatles in the 3D CGI animated remake of Yellow Submarine, using performance-capture technology to make the actors look like the Beatles they are portraying, as most of them don’t bear direct resemblances to the Beatles in question. The new Beatles lineup is Dean Lennox Kelly (William Shakespeare in that episode of Doctor Who) as John Lennon, Peter Serafinowicz (Pete the Zombie, from Shaun of the Dead)as Paul McCartney, Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) as George Harrison and Adam Campbell (Harper’s Island, Epic Movie) as Ringo Starr. However, these four actors won’t be performing all of the scenes featuring the band; Zemeckis has recruited the Beatles tribute band The Fab Four for the musical performance sequences. At least the music will be genuine, because Zemeckis and Disney have licensed the actual Beatles songs (16 in total) for the movie. If Disney’s remake is staying faithful to the original animated movie, however, the involvement of the Fab Four will probably be minimal, as most of the songs were not shown as being performed, but rather as the background music as the Beatles had their adventures in Pepperland, encountering the Blue Meanies and all that.
Paramount Pictures has hired director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) for their adaptation of the Robert Ludlum (The Bourne Identity) novel The Chancellor Manuscript, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star, presumably as the title character. Peter O’Brien, whose screenplay Unlocked made the 2008 Blacklist (an annual industry list of top reviewed unproduced screenplays), and also wrote the story for the upcoming HALO: Reach videogame, has been hired to adapt Ludlum’s novel. The Chancellor Manuscript is the story of political novelist Peter Chancellor (DiCaprio) whose latest book is close enough to the possible truth surrounding the formation of U.S. policies (in Ludlum’s book, it involved the death of J. Edgar Hoover) that a secret group decides that Chancellor may know too much to be allowed to survive. Ludlum is a hot author himself (and a cold one, having died in 2001) right now, with adaptations of The Matarese Circle, The Parsifal Mosaic and The Sigma Protocol also in development, and Paramount paid $4 million in 2005 for the rights to The Chancellor Manuscript. In other DiCaprio news this week, the actor has also signed on with Warner Bros to narrate Hubble 3D, the IMAX space documentary that debuts on March 19, 2010.
Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) recently wrapped up Dinner for Schmucks, a Paramount comedy in which they costar with Steve Carell and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), and now they have signed with the studio to star in another comedy, Will. This marks just the latest in a string of new projects for Galifianakis, whose agent is really taking advantage of the success of The Hangover, with Galifianakis currently filming Due Date with Robert Downey, Jr. Will “follows an ordinary guy (Rudd) who lives in a world where people’s lives and destinies are being written by scribes in Heaven. The man wakes up one day to find that his heavenly writer (Galifianakis) has decided to no longer draft his life, and he must go about his day unscripted.” Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, will be making their studio debuts with Will, working from a script by Demetri Martin (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart).
Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the bestselling 1984 pregnancy self-help book What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, which went on to inspire a massive book franchise of over a dozen other books, such as What to Expect When Your Mommy’s Having a Baby, What to Expect at Preschool and What to Expect Before You’re Expecting. With 2009 marking the original book’s 25th anniversary, there are now mothers reading it whose own mother read it when they were pregnant with them. Heather Hach, the cowriter of the 2003 Freaky Friday remake (and she’s also writing the upcoming sequel, Freaky Monday), has been hired to adapt the non-fiction book into a “wildly original romantic comedy [that] follows the relationships of seven couples as they experience the thrills, terrors, surprises, aches and pains of preparing to embark on life’s biggest journey: parenthood.” This concept is getting pegged as a Rotten Idea because movies based upon non-fiction “self help books” are not that different from movies based on board games; in both case, there is no inherent story that is being adapted. Although this might be a good movie, it might not be, and so this writer’s cynical side pegs it as a Rotten Idea until proven otherwise.
Just two years after Spider-Man 3 brought in $890 million worldwide, Sony has pulled the plug on Spider-Man 4, and will instead focus on a rebooting of the superhero franchise in the summer of 2011. This story got its start when Sam Raimi left the project over pressure from the studio to get Spider-Man 4 done in time for a summer, 2011 release, which Raimi felt he could not accomplish and “keep the film’s creative integrity” (quoting Deadline.com, not Raimi). Raimi’s departure followed a few months of constantly changing rumors about what Spider-Man 4 might have been about, which eventually included John Malkovich as the Vulture (good) and Anne Hathaway as a new character called the Vulturess (bad). Now, everything is potentially out the window as Sony restarts from scratch, including Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and (most likely) all of the great supporting actors that Raimi brought into the Spider-Man franchise (J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, Dylan Baker, etc). The new Spider-Man will be written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of the upcoming The Losers), and will focus yet again “on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises,” turning the clock back on Peter Parker and putting him back in high school, rather than being a college student nearing his mid-20s. With Raimi’s departure, the rumor mill got a quick start this week on who might replace him, with Marc Webb, whose (500) Days of Summer was an indie hit this past summer, having already met with Sony about the job. Others directors that are reportedly on Sony’s wish list for rebooting Spider-Man include James Cameron (who once upon a time was actually working on Spider-Man, way before Raimi), David Fincher (who worked with Vanderbilt on Zodiac) and Wes Anderson (Rushmore). Although this is without a doubt the biggest story of the week, Sony’s rebooting of Spider-Man is at the bottom as a Rotten Idea because the back story seems to be one of studio pressure on Sam Raimi to make a movie he didn’t want to make, with roots going all the way back to Spider-Man 3, and the decision to include Venom, rather than Raimi’s choice of the Vulture. And now Sony wants to de-age Peter Parker, rather than allowing the character to age with experience, which has to be seen as an attempt to attract teen audiences (especially girls) with what will probably be a hot young actor rather than the (intentionally) nerdy Tobey Maguire. If there is good news about all of this, it’s that Sam Raimi may now be a lot closer to moving onto his next big movie, the potentially awesome eye candy of Warcraft, which is set in such an immersive world full of rich mythology and lore that it might just be the next step up after what James Cameron delivered with Avatar.