This week’s Ketchup includes new movies for actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Reese Witherspoon, comedians Steve Carell, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Will Ferrell, and new projects for directors Joss Whedon and Alexander Payne. And, oh yeah… an ALF movie.
This Week’s Top Story
JOSS WHEDON WILL RETURN FOR THE AVENGERS 2
Some of the best movie news stories surprise us. Others, however, are completely predictable, but still deserve attention because they mark important points in a future blockbuster’s route to the big screen. Such is the case this week with the news that Joss Whedon, writer and director of The Avengers, will indeed work on The Avengers 2 as well. The deal with Disney also includes their TV cousins at ABC, and “a Marvel-themed TV show,” which is expected to be set in the same Cinematic Marvel Universe as The Avengers. Soon after, we also learned that Joss Whedon’s deal extends to at least 2015, and that Whedon will also be involved “creatively” in other Marvel movie projects. In particular, Joss Whedon would seem a good match for writing or producing the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which is both directly tied to The Avengers 2 (as far as we know), and as a lesser known property, might also most benefit from Whedon’s guiding touch. Marvel’s bringing in Joss Whedon as sort of a creative guiding force for Phase 2 of their films can also be seen as similar to the deal that WB made with Christopher Nolan for future DC Comics properties, like next year’s Man of Steel.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BRUCE DERN AND WILL FORTE GO ON A ROAD TRIP WITH DIRECTOR ALEXANDER PAYNE TO NEBRASKA
One of director Alexander Payne’s pet projects for several years (including before last year’s The Descendants) has been a father-son road trip drama called Nebraska. In the process, Alexander Payne talked to several older actors for the lead role, including Jack Nicholson, Robert Duvall, and Gene Hackman, for whom Payne hoped Nebraska would be a return to acting after years in retirement. This week, this extended casting call finally came to an end with the announcement that the stars of Nebraska will be Bruce Dern and Will Forte as his son. Nebraska is the story of a father-son road trip from Montana to Nebraska to collect what the alcoholic father believes to be “a million dollar Publisher’s Clearing House prize.” Along the way, of course, they have a series of encounters, and probably learn more about each other, and such. The premise seems pretty treacly and predictable, but Payne is one of those rare directors who’s proven with films like About Schmidt that he can transcend the limitations of such plot points. Filming of Nebraska is scheduled to start in October, and the release is already being planned for the awards season of late 2013.
#2 SACHA BARON COHEN’S NEXT COMEDIC TARGET IS JAMES BOND (BASICALLY)
James Bond is one of the most frequently, and successfully, spoofed characters in cinematic history. The long list of Bond spoofs or parodies includes Our Man Flint, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the OSS 117 series, and Johnny English. This week, Paramount Pictures acquired a comedy pitch from Sacha Baron Cohen and screenwriter Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) for yet another movie that spoofs Agent 007. This currently untitled project involves a British spy who is “forced to go on the run with his long-lost brother, a moronic soccer hooligan.” Sacha Baron Cohen is not yet signed to costar in the film, but it’s expected that if he does sign on, it would be as the idiot brother, not the spy himself. This spy spoof is part of a first look deal that Sacha Baron Cohen has with Paramount, which was also the studio behind The Dictator.
#3 WILL FERRELL AND STEVE CARELL SWEAR TO GOD TO KEEP THE ANCHORMAN REUNION GOING
Will Ferrell and Steve Carell have been known for a while now to be returning for the sequel Anchorman: The Legend Continues, which is scheduled to start filming in early 2013. This week, it was revealed that Steve Carell has also joined the cast of the Warner Bros comedy Swear to God, which Will Ferrell has been attached to star in since last year. Will Ferrell will play “a narcissistic hedge fund manager who thinks he has seen God.” Steve Carell costarred in the similar-sounding Bruce Almighty, and starred in the sequel Evan Almighty, but there’s no word yet as to what his role in Swear to God will be. Swear to God was originally expected to be directed by frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay, but since he will be busy with the Anchorman sequel, Warner Bros has found a replacement instead. Justin Theroux is an actor-turned-writer (cowriter of Tropic Thunder and Rock of Ages), who made his directorial debut with the 2007 Mandy Moore romantic comedy Dedication. In addition to directing, Theroux will also rewrite the script by Due Date writers Alan Cohen and Alan Fredland.
#4 IRISH ACTRESS SAOIRSE RONAN TO PLAY MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
18-year-old Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Lovely Bones) has been cast in the historical drama Mary Queen of Scots. The real life Mary, Queen of Scots started life as an infant royal as the only surviving heir of King James V of Scotland, and her subsequent life was integral to the life of the eventual Queen Elizabeth I of England. As such, she is frequently a supporting character in movies like Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, but less frequently the star of her own cinematic story. Speaking of that film, Elizabeth was also written by Michael Hirst, the writer of this Mary Queen of Scots project, as well as several episodes of the TV series Camelot and The Tudors. Mary Queen of Scots is being produced by Working Title Films, which is currently looking for a director.
#5 REESE WITHERSPOON TO STAR IN THE WACKY GAY COMEDY THE BEARD
Reese Witherspoon will be partnering with Chernin Entertainment (the production company behind FOX shows New Girl and Terra Nova) to produce and star in a romantic comedy called The Beard from newcomer screenwriter Becca Greene. The slang term “beard” has been popularized in recent celebrity stories of the last 10 years, and refers to someone (usually a woman) who dates or even marries someone of the opposite sex to make them appear to be heterosexual. Reese Witherspoon will play the title character, but what the premise is specifically, other than that, isn’t yet known. There’s also no director yet, or any word about who Witherspoon’s male costar might be.
#6 JENNIFER LAWRENCE TO GO TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
Although it would seem like Jennifer Lawrence is unlikely to have time for anything else in the next few years other than X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the various Hunger Games sequels, Lawrence is continuing to find time for a career in indie films. Lawrence’s latest signing is for the romantic early 20th Century period piece The Ends of the Earth, about the true story May-November marriage between socialite Lydie Marland and her “adopted father,” oil tycoon (and future Governor of Oklahoma) Ernest Marland, who was 26 years older than her. The Ends of the Earth doesn’t yet have a director, but it appears likely that the Weinstein Company will be picking up the rights, which should help that process along. There’s also no word yet as to who will costar as Jennifer Lawrence’s much older husband. The Ends of the Earth was written by Chris Terrio, cowriter of 2005’s Heights, and the screenwriter of this fall’s Argo, the Ben Affleck-directed drama about Hollywood’s involvement with the Iran hostage crisis.
#7 BILL & TED‘S EXCELLENT GALAXY QUEST
Ever since Keanu Reeves seemingly transcended his teen star roots with projects like The Matrix, the lingering notion of Reeves ever returning to officially turn the Bill & Ted movies into a trilogy has been an entertaining preoccupation for movie fans. In the promise started by Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure remaining a timeless, fun movie, the idea of a third Bill & Ted movie also seems like an opportunity for Keanu Reeves to embrace his past, and let us all know that he’s in on the joke. And if he’s not, well, this story definitely should be a little lower in this column, but for now, let’s go with it. Anyway, this week, with both Keanu Reeves and (less surprisingly) Alex Winter attached to star, it was learned that Bill & Ted 3 now has a director. Director Dean Parisot has had a few “Rotten” films on his filmography (Home Fries and Fun with Dick and Jane), but he also directed Galaxy Quest (89% on the Tomatoemter), a film closer in spirit to Bill & Ted. The third film is also being produced and was written by the characters’ original creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, who promise that the movie will show us what “Mssrs. Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq.” are up to today. An ’80s nostalgic vibe similar to Hot Tub Time Machine is what is basically being promised.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 THIS WEEK IN COMICS MOVIES: STORIES THAT WERE QUICKLY DEBUNKED
Marvel (Disney) and DC (Warner Bros) are obviously locked in a big corporate tug of war that shadows the long standing rivalry between the comic book companies and their fans. This week, there were two different big stories for both sides, and in both cases, they were quickly debunked. However, they were still big stories for the hours that they were still believed to be real things, and so we’ll address them here. On the DC side, there was the story that WB had started talks to Ben Affleck about directing the Justice League movie, with the hope that he would also take an unspecified role in the film. Within 10 hours, however, that story was struck down almost entirely, with the gist being that, sure, maybe the studio had wanted Ben Affleck, but there was no way he was actually going to do it. That one’s pretty simple, but the more complicated story this week involved Marvel, and the complication is partly because it’s not all wrong. Here’s where we start: 20th Century Fox has until October 10th to start filming of their Daredevil reboot, and the director they have in mind is Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team). All of that appears to still be true. The rest of the story, however, was that in order to get more time, Fox was talking to Marvel about trading the rights back to some of the cosmic Fantastic Four supporting characters to Marvel (namely, Galactus, The Watcher, and the Silver Surfer). Well, that story got knocked down, too. In this case, the sources are saying that Fantastic Four is a higher priority to 20th Century Fox than Daredevil, and there’s no way they would give up a classic villain that the studio might want to use again in the future (as a big alien cloud, hopefully not). Anyway, both of these debunking stories should be considered “Rotten Ideas” this week, because in both cases, the story that got shot down seemed pretty “Fresh” to this writer (Affleck directing Justice League, and Marvel getting back cool characters).
#1 THE REGURGITATION OF 1980S POP CULTURE IS NEARLY COMPLETE: ALF TO GET THE SMURFS TREATMENT
There is no denying that Hollywood is deeply and profoundly in love with reviving children’s characters from far beyond the actual memory of today’s children, and making them into movies, preferably as CGI characters. Sony Pictures had a big success with such exactly a movie in The Smurfs, and now that same studio and that studio exec, have made a deal with Tom Patchett and puppeteer, the creators of ALF. Standing for “alien life form,” ALF was an NBC family sitcom about a vaguely Muppet-like pig-snout and 1980s hairdo wearing brown alien who enjoyed cracking jokes and dreamt about eating cats the way 1980s cats dreamt about eating lasagna. There are no writers or directors attached to ALF yet, but the movie is expected to be a CGI/live action hybrid, with Paul Fusco returning as the voice of ALF, who will now be a CGI creature instead of the far more credible felt puppet thing he used to be. As for why this is the week’s most Rotten Idea… it’s an ALF movie. Unless Sony hires someone like Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian to work on it, an ALF movie is sort of doomed to reside down here.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.