Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: MLK Biopic in the Works

Plus, new roles for Peter Dinglage, Emma Watson, Athony Hopkins, and Chloe Grace Moretz.

by | October 11, 2013 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup comes to you from one of the early weeks of Awards Season, 2013, and as such, there’s an unusual number of new movies being announced, as well as released, that have more impressive credentials than you might see in, say, the summer. Included in the mix are biopics (Roger Ebert and Martin Luther King, Jr.), ensemble thrillers, and new movies starring Peter Dinklage, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Emma Watson.

This Week’s Top Story


One of the longest running outstanding movie developments in Hollywood involves the many attempts at getting a Hollywood biopic made about civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. A column longer than the Weekly Ketchup could be devoted just to detailing the various projects that have been started, stalled, and stopped. That last word is key, because the King family has been active in this process, or rather, inactive, in that they do not collaborate with certain film projects (such as director Paul Greengrass’ Memphis project a few years ago which was described as being too “warts and all”). Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks have been one of the parties in the running for a few years now, with the eye always being towards working with the King family. This started in 2009 when DreamWorks acquired the rights to both MLK’s story and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. And this week, it all seemed to get a lot closer to actually happening with the news that Oliver Stone is now in talks with DreamWorks and Warner Bros to direct this as yet untitled Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic. Oliver Stone has, of course, made something of a career out of movies that are either direct biopics or at least loosely related to the lives of prominent figures from the 1960s (like The Doors, JFK, Nixon, Looking for Fidel). This story isn’t just about the director, however, as DreamWorks is also in talks with Jamie Foxx to play Martin Luther King, Jr. Foxx and Stone previously worked together on the football drama Any Given Sunday, which was a big step in developing Foxx’s career as a movie star, after starring on TV in In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show. The screenplay for this Stone/Foxx collaboration was written by Kario Salem, who is best known for writing the 1990s HBO biopic telefilms The Rat Pack and Don King: Only in America. There’s no production date set yet, but it might be sooner than later, so that DreamWorks can reach theaters before another MLK movie called Selma, which is expected to feature David Oyelowo as MLK, Jr.

Fresh Developments This Week


There are “obvious” casting decisions that actually happen (Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury), and then there are those that will always remain the stuff of fanboy dreamcasting (Angela Bassett as Storm, Clint Eastwood as Batman). When Peter Dinklage was announced as being cast in next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans freaked out with certainty that he was going to be playing Puck, even though there was zero indication that the character or his team Alpha Flight was going to be in the movie. The fans were certain because they saw a little person and presumed he had to be playing a famous little person (Dinklage is instead playing Bolivar Trask, of the giant Sentinel robot creating Trasks). Dinklage is one of the best actors working today, so he’s also in a position to give a nudge to the movies he wants to see get made. And so, Paramount Pictures has announced that Peter Dinklage will be starring in an (very) R-rated comedy described as being “in the vein of Bad Santa” about a little person who tells people that he’s a real leprechaun. The script will be written by Andrew Dodge, writer of the recent festival favorite Bad Words, and a director is now being sought. There’s a good chance that filming will take place in early 2014, in between filming of seasons 4 and 5 of Game of Thrones.


Emma Watson has signed with 20th Century Fox to star in While We’re Young, an adaptation of the Adena Halpern novel 29. The magical comedy will tell the story of a woman in her 70s who gets her wish to be 29 again for one day, and uses it to go on an adventure with her granddaughter, who’s also 29. It’s unclear as to whether Watson will play the de-aged grandmother or the granddaughter. While We’re Young will reunite Emma Watson with director Stephen Chbosky, who also directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Watson’s next role will be as the the title character’s adopted daughter in Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic Noah (3/28/14).


There are frequently competing movie projects about similar subjects, but this story involves a new movie project that actually has two different projects it’s dueling with. The reason is that Russ & Roger Go Beyond is the story of how film critic Roger Ebert and sexploitation director Russ Meyer teamed up for 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The script was written by Christopher Cluess, who has worked as a writer on both Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. The other two movies addressing the same subject are the movie version of Roger Ebert’s memoir Life Itself (expected to be a documentary) and a Russ Meyer biopic in development at Fox Searchlight, which David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings) has in the past been mentioned as possibly directing.


Chloe Grace Moretz is still only 16, but her career as an actress is already quite impressive, and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Moretz’s latest new project is called November Criminals, and it is an adaptation of a 2011 novel by Sam Munson about a rebellious Washington D.C. teenager who leads the investigation into the murder of one of his classmates. Moretz has been cast as one of the top suspects in the murder. The November Criminals script was adapted by screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things), whose other upcoming projects include the chess true story Pawn Sacrifice and the Oprah Winfrey-produced The Hundred-Foot Journey. November Criminals will be directed by Sacha Gervasi (Hitchcock, Anvil! The Story of Anvil).


Some of the thunder for the three Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy was arguably stolen in 2012, when instead of those movies being seen by American audiences, a big deal was made of the David Fincher remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Time and, well, Netflix, are on the Swede’s sides, and this year, there’s been new movie deals for many of those involved with the original trilogy. This week, it’s director Daniel Alfredson, who directed The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, who’s getting a new movie deal. Daniel Alfredson will direct Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, a true crime story about a 1983 kidnapping of the title character, to be played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Other roles have also gone to Sam Worthington (Avatar), Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), and Ryan Kwanten (HBO’s True Blood). Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is a European production, and filming will be done this fall in Belgium, Amsterdam and New Orleans.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


It’s worth noting that this story is “Rotten” not so much because of the RT Tomatometer scores for director Lee Daniels (critics loved both Precious and Lee Daniels’ The Butler). No, what we’re calling out here is just something that Daniels did (or rather, said) this week that seems like it’s sort of an odd choice, in the “wow, you really don’t understand how the Internet works, huh?” vein. Lee Daniels recently told Out.com that he is looking forward to working with Alex Pettyfer (who costarred in Lee Daniels’ The Butler) on a new action movie with a “twist.” So far, so good, except that Daniels then proceeded to tell the journalist (and therefore the entire world) what the twist of the movie will be. Let’s please note here that the movie (which doesn’t even have a title yet) has not yet started filming. Continue reading from this point only if you don’t mind having the twist SPOILED for you. Still here? Okay, so Alex Pettyfer will play one half of an interracial action hero duo (think Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Running Scared, etc.). Except that at the end of the movie, it’s then revealed that in addition to being cop partners, they’re also romantically involved. That will surely be a huge surprise to everyone who doesn’t use Google or Wikipedia before they watch movies in today’s world (ie, your grandparents… maybe?).


When 20th Century Fox recently pushed the release of the YA adaptation The Maze Runner back from February to September 19, 2014, traditional thinking may have led one to guess that this meant Fox was worried about how the movie might be received. Now, let’s keep in mind that studios are often wrong, but this latest movie news suggests at least someone at Fox feels good about The Maze Runner. 20th Century Fox has already started development ( http://www.deadline.com/2013/10/bullish-on-the-maze-runner-fox-moves-ahead-with-the-scorch-trials/ ) on an adaptation of The Scorch Trials, the second book in the YA novel series by James Dashner. In The Scorch Trials, the group of teenagers who find themselves stuck in a tropical maze escape only to find themselves in a more dangerous environment “on the open roads of a devastated planet.” The Scorch Trials will be adapted by screenwriter T.S. Nowlin, who is one of the several writers whose work on Fox’s reboot of The Fantastic Four is now being rewritten by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand). This is one of the Rotten Ideas of the week because it’s yet another example of a studio starting work on a sequel that the world may end up showing it has no interest in ever seeing getting made (like say, The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes or His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife).


There was a time when any Weekly Ketchup story about director James McTeigue was automatically fresh, because V for Vendetta, his first film as director loomed large on his filmography. Now, however, was before McTeigue followed V for Vendetta up with his second and third movies, Ninja Assassin and The Raven. Now, to paraphrase his third movie’s inspiration, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Filming starts on January 20, 2014 in London on McTeigue’s fourth film, a political thriller with the tediously generic title of Survivor. Milla Jovovich will play a U.S. State Department employee working at the embassy in London who is targeted for death by terrorists and framed for crimes (“that she did not commit,” but… isn’t that sort of the nature of being framed?), leading up to a large attack against Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The rest of the cast is also impressive, as it includes Angela Bassett, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, and Emma Thomson.


Few directors have a strong legacy of green splotches on their RT Tomatometer pages quite like Michael Bay. So, even for what seems like a serious historical drama, it’s difficult to take the story entirely seriously. We do, after all, remember what happened the last time Michael Bay took on World War II, right?. Okay, so now that this writer has his anti-Bay sentiments out of his system, let’s get to the facts. Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures are collaborating on an adaptation of an upcoming non-fiction book by Neal Bascomb with the rather long title of Sabotage: A Genius Scientist, His Band of Young Commandos, and the Mission to Kill Hitler’s Super Bomb. And right now is when we realize that title alone says pretty much everything you need to know about this film.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.

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