This week’s Ketchup includes movie development news for the video game adaptation Spy Hunter, a sort-of-kind-of prequel for The Passion of the Christ, a new version of The Mummy, and new roles for actresses Gina Carano, Dame Judi Dench, Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Hilary Swank.
This Week’s Top Story
NEW GIGS FOR THE DIRECTORS OF ZOMBIELAND, MEN IN BLACK, AND UNDERWORLD
In picking the top movie development story for the week, it became something of a three way tie. So we’re just going to cover all three stories in this cover story, under the theme of genre directors taking on big (potential) franchises. First up is the long-in-development New Line Cinema adaptation of the 1983 arcade video game Spy Hunter, which has in the past been tackled (unsuccessfully) by directors like John Woo and Paul W. S. Anderson. Spy Hunter is now a project for Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, whose next film will be the recently delayed Gangster Squad. Next up is the Warner Bros comic book adaptation Lore, which Dwayne Johnson was cast in a few months ago, at which time it was compared to being like Men in Black, but for mythological creatures. Well, the comparison was solidified this week as Warner Bros is now in talks with Barry Sonnenfeld, the director of all three Men in Black movies. Finally, there is the job of directing Universal Pictures’ newest reboot of The Mummy, one of their Universal Classic Monsters, which has gone to Len Wiseman, the man behind some of the Underworld movies, and most recently, the remake of Total Recall. It should be noted that just because these three movies were collectively the top stories of the week, it doesn’t mean that in any other week they might not be Rotten Ideas. Because they probably would be.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ANNE HATHAWAY MIGHT STAR IN STEVEN SPIELBERG’S ROBOPOCALYPSE
With the ambitious biopic Lincoln still a month away from release, director Steven Spielberg is already casting up his adaptation of the Daniel H. Wilson sci-fi novel Robopocalypse, which looks to take Spielberg back to the eye candy that helped establish his career. It’s been known for a while that Spielberg had cast Chris Hemsworth (AKA Thor) as the film’s lead, but this week, word of two other actors were added to the mix. Although she is not yet officially signed, Anne Hathaway appears to be Spielberg’s choice for the female lead. Another likely chosen actor is Ben Whishaw as a hacker named Lurker, in a role that will be seen after Whishaw’s appearances in Cloud Atlas and in Skyfall as the new Q. Finally, there’s a third addition to the film this week, but it’s a newsworthy producer, not a cast member. Tom Rothman, who just last week announced his stepping down as the head of 20th Century Fox, will be joining Steven Spielberg as one of the producers of Robopocalypse. Filming is expected to begin in early 2013, aiming for an April 25, 2014 release date via Disney’s Touchstone Pictures.
#2 DAME JUDI DENCH AND THE QUEEN DIRECTOR UNITE FOR ADOPTION DRAMA PHILOMENA
Stephen Frears may hold the title for directing some of the best known and critically acclaimed movies without actually being known by name (in the USA, anyway) himself. Frears’ filmography includes Dangeous Liaisons, The Grifters, High Fidelity, My Beautiful Laundrette, and The Queen. Stephen Frears’ next film will be an adaptation of the non-fiction book by Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, whose title will be shortened to Philomena. The movie will tell the true story of an Irish teenager who gave birth to a son at a convent in 1952, with the baby eventually being “sold” for adoption to an anonymous family somewhere in the United States. Dame Judi Dench will play Philomena searching for her son 50 years later, who is now a successful Washington, D.C. lawyer with AIDS, also searching for his mother before he dies. Steve Coogan will costar as author Martin Sixsmith himself. Filming will start in November, as a production of Pathe, BBC Films, and Coogan’s production company Baby Cow.
#3 STREEP AND SWANK JOIN TOMMY LEE JONES IN THE HOMESMAN
The Homesman is the title of a historical drama to be adapted and directed by Tommy Lee Jones, from a novel by Glendon Swarthout. This week, it was revealed that Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank are also attached to costar along with Tommy Lee Jones. The 19th century drama tells the story of a pioneer couple (Jones and Swank) escorting three insane women across the American prairie (Streep is expected to play one of those women). Tommy Lee Jones has directed a few different movies now, with his feature film debut being 2005’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The addition of Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank makes this one his highest profile film as director yet. That wasn’t the only Hilary Swank news this week, however. The actress is also set to star in a film called You’re Not You, based on a novel by Michelle Wildgen. Swank will play a fatally ill woman who befriends her younger female caretaker (not yet cast). It’s expected that Jeremy Renner will also costar as the older professor lover of the young caretaker. You’re Not You will be the second feature film for director George C. Wolfe after 2008’s Nights in Rodanthe.
#4 TOM HARDY JOINS THE MOUNTAIN CLIMBING BIOPIC EVEREST
This is another story of a successful director casting up his next movie before his previous film is released (and in this case, while that film is still filming). Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) is currently filming the Tom Cruise sci-fi action movie All You Need is Kill, and his next film will be the mountain climbing biopic Everest, based on the Jeffrey Archer book Paths of Glory. That book tells the true story of different men’s attempts in the 1920s to be the first to climb to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Tom Hardy (AKA Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) has signed on to play George Mallory, the British climber that Archer’s book claims was successful before Sir Edmund Hillary (the answer that will actually score you a point on a school exam, especially in New Zealand).
#5 HAYWIRE STAR GINA CARANO IS THE FIRST FEMALE EXPENDABLE (OR WHATEVER THEY’LL EVENTUALLY BE CALLED)
Earlier this summer, one of the headlines involved the plans for a female version of The Expendables (which, to be clear, won’t be called that, because it’s not the same company). This gave pretty much every movie news writer an opportunity to start listing all the classic female action stars they’d like to see in such a film (which usually started with Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton). This week we learned that Haywire breakout star Gina Carano is the first actress to actually officially sign on for the movie, in what is probably closer to the Jason Statham-type role.
#6 MARK MILLAR MAKES HIS MARK MANNING MARVEL (…AT FOX)
One of the most talked about trends in the last 10 years in comic books is the way that specific writers at both DC and Marvel have made huge creative impacts over each company’s characters. Specifically, we’re thinking here of Grant Morrison and/or Geoff Johns at DC, and Brian Michael Bendis at Marvel (writer of almost every major Marvel arc from 2004 to 2009). This idea of handing one man the keys to the kingdom has also started to expand to the movies, with Christopher Nolan acting as a “godfather” to WB’s Man of Steel, and Joss Whedon recently signing on to oversee Marvel Studio’s Phase II movies following the success of The Avengers. This week, we learned that another major portion of the movie properties based on Marvel Comics, those whose rights belong to 20th Century Fox, are also now going to be similiarly shepherded. In this case, the job will be going to Mark Millar, the Scottish writer best known for creating the comics that became the feature films Wanted and Kick-Ass. The movie franchises at issue here are Fantastic Four and X-Men (with Daredevil and Elektra likely to revert back to Marvel soon). Soon after the announcement, Mark Millar went online to talk (vaguely) about his own plans for these two seminal and popular comic book movie franchises.
#7 IS JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE GOOD TO THE LAST DROP
Singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake has landed yet another role, this time in a romantic dramedy called The Last Drop. Timberlake will play “a charming alcoholic working as a restaurant critic for New York Magazine who falls for a young woman and realizes he must overcome his addiction in order to have a relationship with her.” The Last Drop was formerly listed on the Black List of Unproduced Screenplays, and was written by newcomers Brandon and Phil Murphy. The Last Drop will be an independent production directed by Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Raising Victor Vargas).
#8 SIR BEN KINGSLEY MAY PLAY KING HEROD IN THE SORT-OF PREQUEL TO THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Although Mel Gibson is entirely uninvolved, Gibson’s cowriter on The Passion of the Christ has cowritten a film that is basically a prequel called Mary Mother of Christ, focusing on the time following Christ’s birth. Benedict Fitzgerald also cowrote the 1979 John Huston film Wise Blood, and was joined as cowriter of Mary Mother of Christ by Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun. Casting is currently underway, with Sir Ben Kingsley circling the central role of King Herod the Great, the man behind the Massacre of the Innocents that led up to Christ’s birth. Mary herself will be played by Israeli actress Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green). Peter O’Toole has been cast as Symeon, and Julia Ormond will play Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. The producers are reportedly seeking Dame Judi Dench and Hugh Bonneville to play Anna the Prophetess and Satan, respectively. Mary Mother of Christ will be the second film for director Alister Grierson, who made his feature debut in 2011 with Sanctum, executive produced by James Cameron. Mary Mother of Christ will be executive produced by Pastor Joel Osteen, and distributed by Lionsgate, most likely in 2014.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#1 NICOLAS CAGE TO STAR IN SOUTHLAND TALES DIRECTOR’S AMICUS
There was a time when writer/director Richard Kelly was considered to be one of the independent scene’s most promising new creatives. Namely, that period was after Donnie Darko, and before… pretty much everything else (namely Southland Tales and The Box). People, however, still get warm fuzzies when they hear the words Donnie Darko, and so Richard Kelly continues to be able to get financing for his new films. The latest such project is called Amicus, and it will star Nicolas Cage as an attorney who helps a family filing a lawsuit against a Motown Records executive who hired a Detroit hitman to murder family members for the inheritance. So, yeah, this movie has at least two elements that help make it the Rotten Idea in an otherwise inoffensive week. I pointed out one, I’ll let you, the reader, figure out the other.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.