This week’s Ketchup includes movie development news stories about new entries in franchises like Captain America, Riddick, Thor, and xXx, and new (possible) roles for Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum, and Bruce Willis.
This Week’s Top Story
JESSE EISENBERG AND JEREMY IRONS CAST AS LEX LUTHOR AND ALFRED
There’s been a few names bandied around in recent weeks and months about who might play Lex Luthor in the Man of Steel sequel, the most mentioned one being Joaquin Phoenix. Today, Warner Bros surprised pretty much everyone with the announcement that Jesse Eisenberg, star of The Social Network, has been cast as Lex Luthor. The news also came with the (less surprising) announcement that Jeremy Irons will play the new Alfred Pennyworth, following the most recent star, Michael Caine. The choice of Jesse Eisenberg almost asks more questions than it answers, but the biggest one is: exactly who is THIS Lex Luthor? If he’s a billionaire genius, what kind of billionaire? What kind of genius? Is this new Lex Luthor a “villain” at all? Or just a misunderstood man who uses his finances to address the alien in a blue suit who is the only one left standing after a battle that destroyed most of Metropolis? Warner Bros will release the still-untitled Batman/Superman movie on May 6, 2016.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 FROM “AS SEEN ON TV” TO “AS SEEN IN MOVIE THEATERS”: THE MIRACLE MOP MOVIE
Director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) clearly likes working with the same actors repeatedly, with a recurring roster that includes Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams. There were two stars (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) that appeared in both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle and, as we learned this week, might do a third movie in a row with the director. David O. Russell is in talks with Fox 2000 to rewrite and direct an untitled drama about “Miracle Mop” inventor Joy Mangano, who Russell hopes will be played by Jennifer Lawrence. The Miracle Mop became an instant sensation on QVC in the early 1990s once Mangano started pitching the product herself (selling 18,000 mops in her first 20 minutes on air). The current script was written by Annie Mumolo, who cowrote Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig. While David O. Russell works on the “Miracle Mop” biopic script, Jennifer Lawrence will be keeping busy with the two parts of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and the remake of East of Eden.
#2 LIAM NEESON BRINGS HIS VERY PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS TO MARTIN SCORSESE’S PRIEST EPIC SILENCE
Martin Scorsese is preparing to soon start filming Silence, the adaptation of the Shusaku Endo novel about 17th century Jesuit priests in Japan. We continue to get casting announcements, with this story including our fourth and fifth actors, and they still aren’t Leonardo DiCaprio. The headline here is that Liam Neeson has signed on for one of the lead roles, which knocks off another of Scorsese’s bucket list of famous actors he probably wanted to work with (one more time) before he retires (or is retired by his own 71 year old mortality) — almost certainly coincidentally, Liam Neeson played a character called “Priest” in Gangs of New York.” Silence will start filming in Taiwan later this year, after Liam Neeson finishes filming the sequel Taken 3. Neeson joins the previously cast Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Issei Ogata (Yi Yi: A One and a Two), and Adam Driver (HBO’s Girls), who was actually cast two weeks ago (though that story wasn’t covered at the time by this column).
#3 CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THOR BOTH CONFIRMED TO GET THIRD MOVIES
Surprising probably no one, this week we heard confirmation that Marvel Studios is developing third movies for two Avengers members, after, respectively, last November’s Thor: The Dark World and this April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Brother team Anthony and Joe Russo, who also are known for directing many episodes of NBC’s Community, have signed to return for the third Captain America movie after also directing Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As for the third Thor movie, it will be cowritten by screenwriter Christopher Yost (who also cowrote Thor: The Dark World) and Craig Kyle, who serves as Senior Vice President of Production and Development at Marvel. Disney and Marvel have pegged a few “Untitled” slots on the release schedules for 2016 and 2017, and these two movies could end up on any of those dates (along with Doctor Strange).
#4 CHANNING TATUM AS FOX’S NEW GAMBIT, MON AMI?
This summer will mark five years now since Taylor Kitsch costarred as Gambit in the cinematic trainwreck that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The inclusion of Gambit in that movie was part of what is continuing to be a “thing” for 20th Century Fox with their X-Men movies, which they cram with mutants, again and again. We were reminded of this this week as Empire magazine unveiled their TWENTY FIVE character covers for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Admittedly, 20th Century Fox does have a lot of characters under their deal with Marvel, and continuing to include these characters in the movies is one way of making sure the rights don’t lapse back to Marvel. On the other hand, another way to do that would be to just make more movies with fewer X-Men. This week, we learned that producer Lauren Shuler Donner has hopes that they might do just that for the cajun gambler Gambit. And Donner already has Channing Tatum on board the project (verbally, at least), saying, “It’s a thief in New Orleans, it’s a whole different story. He’s on board, and I have to get the studio on board. How can anyone resist Channing? He’s such a sweetheart.”
#5 SETH ROGEN REVEALS THE VOICE CAST OF HIS HUGE SAUSAGE PARTY
Speaking of someone who was in This is the End (at this point, I’m not sure that can still be considered a spoiler, right, folks?), this week, Seth Rogen revealed the voice cast of his R-rated animated comedy, Sausage Party, and it includes many of the same people. Sausage Party will be an animated adventure about a sausage trying to make his way across a supermarket during a 4th of July sale. We now know that the voice cast will include Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, and Edward Norton. Sony Pictures will release Sausage Party sometime in 2015.
#6 THE SIXTH AARDMAN STUDIOS MOVIE WILL BE SHAUN THE SHEEP
Twenty years after his first appearance in the Wallace & Gromit short film A Close Shave, the clay character Shaun the Sheep will make his feature film debut in his own movie when it’s released in the UK on March 20, 2015. This news comes via the announcement this week that filming has started at the studio in Bristol. The movie will be an expansion of the stop-motion-animated children’s television series which has aired over 100 episodes since first debuting in 2007. There is not yet any word on whether Shaun the Sheep will be released in the USA, but Aardman’s first five feature films all were, with the most recent being The Pirates! (March 28, 2012).
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 VIN DIESEL TEASES THE INTERNET WITH NEW XXX AND RIDDICK SEQUELS
Vin Diesel loves his Twitter and Facebook accounts. This week, he used his “guns” to pound out some updates about new movies in two of the other, less fast and furious franchises he’s known for. Got that image in your mind? Good. Here’s the actual news, or teases of news, as it were: Vin Diesel has posted that the script for a new xXx movie is expected to be delivered to him next week. The post also mentioned Katy Perry as a possible costar. The star also posted (again, on Facebook) this week that he expects that Universal Pictures will want to “develop” another movie in the Riddick franchise, after the most recent film did fairly well at the international box office ($98 million from a production budget of $38 million).
#2 TOPHER GRACE TO STAR IN BLUMHOUSE HORROR FILM HOME
Sometimes when stars are announced for a movie, commenters will ask why the story is “Rotten” because, hey, that given actor isn’t “Rotten.” So, let’s be specific here. Home is the title of an upcoming haunted house movie to be directed by Dennis Iliadis, whose sole major film to date was the remake of The Last House on the Left (41% on the RT Tomatometer), and that’s why this story is Rotten. Anyway, Topher Grace (from TV’s That 70s Show) and Patricia Clarkson are now signed to star in the aforementioned movie called Home for the Blumhouse production company (and Universal Pictures). Topher Grace will play a man recently released from a mental institute who inherits a mansion after his parents die. And then… ghosts!
#1 M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S LABOR OF LOVE IS LITERALLY CALLED LABOR OF LOVE
Hollywood’s slow-moving development cycle must be tortuous for many filmmakers, we get it. Screenwriters, producers, and directors spend years fine-tuning movies, and most often, the movies never actually get made, and those that do get produced might change greatly over those many years. Back in 1993, way before The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and way, way, way before The Happening and The Last Airbender, a young screenwriter who goes by the handle M. Night Shyamalan sold a script called Labor of Love to 20th Century Fox. And there… the script sat for all of these past twenty years. This week, we learned that Shyamalan has finally procured the script to produce outside Fox, and it will be a reunion project with the star of his biggest hit. Bruce Willis will play a man from Philadelphia who sets out to walk across America to prove his love to the woman he loves… who is recently dead. TWIST!
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.