This week’s Ketchup brings us yet more casting news for the Spider-Man reboot, new roles for Ice Cube, Miley Cyrus, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson and Brad Pitt, and more Rotten Ideas than we usually like to see in any given week.
Columbia Pictures is planning to start filming the Spider-Man reboot next month, and so the casting process continues, with two major figures in Peter Parker’s life making the news this week. The actors in varying degrees of negotiations to play Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May are (respectively) Martin Sheen and Sally Field. Sheen and Field have a lot in common; they are award-winning veterans of film and television who were movie stars in the 1970s (Apocalypse Now, Norma Rae), and in recent years have also had success on network TV (The West Wing, Brothers and Sisters). Sheen and Field have also both done a fair amount of commercial work (Sheen’s various credit card ads, and Sally Field helps sell the osteoporosis treatment Boniva). At 70, Martin Sheen does indeed bear a bit of a resemblance to Cliff Robertson (now 87), the original trilogy’s Uncle Ben. The choice of Sally Field however is potentially a bit more surprising, as the 63-year-old looks a lot younger than the Aunt May of the comics, or Rosemary Harris (now aged 83). However, since Aunt May is the character more likely to be sticking around for future movies, perhaps Sally Field is being picked for her potential to age into the role (and her many awards and nominations probably don’t hurt either).
Sometimes casting is so expected that when the actual official announcement is made, it doesn’t really feel like news, or at the least, old news. Such is the case this week with the confirmation that Johnny Depp will be starring as the vampire Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows has been a known Tim Burton project since 2008, and since the start, it was expected that Depp would be playing Barnabas. The real news here, therefore, is not so much about Depp starring in Dark Shadows, but what it means he won’t be doing. Tim Burton and Warner Bros have scheduled Dark Shadows for a filming start in April, 2011. This is likely to conflict with the filming of Triple Frontier, the Latin American crime ensemble that is the next movie for Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow after The Hurt Locker. Johnny Depp had expressed interest in costarring for the first time with Tom Hanks, but Dark Shadows appears likely to cause Depp to be replaced by someone else (possibly Mark Wahlberg). Johnny Depp was also mentioned this week as a possible star for Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, which starts filming in January, but there’s a good chance that the Dark Shadows announcement will also preclude Johnny from starring in that movie.
Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) is currently casting his next movie after Australia through a series of script readings. That movie will be an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the author’s classic tale of life during the “Roaring 20s.” The Great Gatsby has been adapted to film and TV a few times previously, most notably in 1949 (starring Alan Ladd and Shelley Winters) and in 1974 (starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston). For the roles of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway, Luhrmann is doing the readings with real-life, long time pals Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, who Luhrmann hopes to cast in the roles of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan. The script readings are really for the casting of Daisy Buchanan, for which a large group of young actresses are being considered. The first actress to read for the part was Rebecca Hall (The Town), but she will also be followed by several others. The list of potential Daisys includes (in alphabetical order): Abbie Cornish, Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Amanda Seyfried and Michelle Williams. Baz Luhrmann cowrote the adaptation of The Great Gatsby with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet), who is also the brother of actor Guy Pearce. This wasn’t the only news this week for Leonardo DiCaprio, however, as the actor’s Appian Way production company has also come aboard to produce the long-in-development adaptation of the Erik Larson non-fiction book The Devil in the White City. In addition to producing, DiCaprio will star as H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a “charming doctor who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the [1893 Chicago World’s Fair].” Holmes designed the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with a crematorium and a gas chamber, which he used to lure victims into murderous traps. During the novel’s long road to the big screen, past people who considered adapting The Devil in the White City included director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Tom Cruise, who also would have produced and starred.
Brad Pitt is set to reunite with Andrew Dominik, the director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on a movie with a thankfully much shorter title. Cogan’s Trade is a comedic crime story based upon the 1974 novel by George V. Higgins about a mob enforcer (Pitt) who “investigates a heist that takes place during a high-stakes poker game under protection of the mob.” Dominik hopes that Pitt will not be the only Jesse James costar to appear in Cogan’s Trade, as he also hopes to cast Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell, with Javier Bardem and Mark Ruffalo also being mentioned (although whether they are for the same roles, or different roles is unknown). Also this week, and possibly connected to Pitt’s signing on to Cogan’s Trade, the news broke that Pitt will no longer be starring in Paramount’s long=planned adaptation of the non-fiction book The Lost City of Z by David Grann. The Lost City of Z is the true story of a 1925 expedition into the Amazon searching for the legendary city of El Dorado, which Brad Pitt had also previously been aboard as a producer.
In addition to reading for The Great Gatsby and starring in The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson is also attached to star in a science fiction drama called Under the Skin. Johansson will be playing “an alien on earth, disguised as the perfect aesthetic form of a mesmerizing woman. She scours remote highways and desolate scenery looking to use her greatest weapon to snare human prey — her voracious sexuality… She is deadly efficient, but over time becomes drawn to and changed by the complexity of life on Earth. With this new found humanity and weakening alien resolve, she finds herself on a collision course with her own kind.” Under the Skin will be directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth), who also cowrote the script with newcomer Walter Campbell. Under the Skin is aiming to start filming in the spring of 2011. As for Scarlett Johansson’s busy schedule, one project that appears to have been ditched is her attachment to starring in the adapation of the mashup novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
After departing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, director David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees and the upcoming The Fighter) has spent the last few weeks attaching himself to other movies, including Old St. Louis starring Vince Vaughn and the adaptation of the videogame Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Russell added yet another project to his slate this week with an untitled New Line Cinema project that is seen as a franchise starter for Ice Cube. The rapper-turned-actor would play “a plainclothes detective who’s quick on the trigger in an R-rated raw drama that’s thematically a throwback to those 70s revenge films like the Harry Callahan movies.” Of course, part of the flaw about comparing the Dirty Harry series to other “70s revenge films” is that it’s arguable that none of the Dirty Harry movies were really “revenge films.” The idea for the movie came from David O. Russell and New Line exec Toby Emmerich, and then they took the idea to Ice Cube, who Russell worked with previously on Three Kings.
The producers of Resident Evil: Afterlife have announced plans for another video game movie sequel: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. The popular Konami survival horror video game franchise was first adapted as the 2006 movie Silent Hill, which incorporated elements of the first three games. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D seems to most closely be based upon Silent Hill 3, as the lead character will be that game’s Heather Mason, who is searching for her father, who has disappeared mysteriously. This Silent Hill sequel will be directed by Michael J. Bassett (Deathwatch, Wilderness), whose latest film was an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s puritan character Solomon Kane, which has not yet been released in the USA. Although this writer personally enjoyed the first Silent Hill movie, most critics did not, giving the film 29% on the Tomatometer (which is also the score of Bassett’s Deathwatch). Those low scores are the reason Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas.
Hannah Montana is currently in its final season on the Disney Channel, and is of course, the TV show that made Miley Cyrus a star, playing a student who leads a secret life as a pop singer. Miley Cyrus also starred as the character in 2009 in Hannah Montana: The Movie. This week, Miley Cyrus was confirmed to be starring in another movie with a very similar concept. In So Undercover, Miley Cyrus will play a private investigator who is hired by the FBI to go undercover as a student as well, but this time, not in a high school, but at a college sorority. So Undercover is currently an indepent production, and will be directed by Tom Vaughan (Starter for 10, What Happens in Vegas) from a script by Allan Loeb (The Switch; cowriter of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) and debut screenwriter Steven Pearl (who also produced The Switch). So Undercover is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas due mostly to the incredulous concept (Miley Cyrus as a private investigator), and the similarity to many other comedies, which include The House Bunny and next spring’s Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son.
Warner Bros is currently in the middle of a corporate leadership shakeup, as Alan Horn will soon be replaced by Jeff Robinov. Although that sentence alone sounds incredibly “inside baseball,” the change in leadership will most likely have a big impact for fans of certain properties that Warner Bros had previously been developing. Robinov’s new strategy will be on fewer movies, but more tentpoles, with some properties that fall somewhere in the middle apparently being shelved entirely. In a piece at TheWrap that starts by listing the properties that WB is moving forward with (such as the various DC Comics properties), the second page goes into the franchises that Warner Bros will be abandoning. Not all of this news is necessarily “Rotten,” but a few of them could be perceived that way by fans of these movies or titles. The list projects getting the axe includes sequels to The Departed and Nancy Drew, the Sex and the City and Terminator franchises, plans to reboot Tomb Raider, the movie adaptation of Gilligan’s Island and the plans to bring the DC Comics character Captain Marvel (aka Shazam!) to the big screen. Of those, the cancellations that are probably on the “fresher” side are Sex and the City and Gilligan’s Island, but bad news for the continuation of The Departed, Tomb Raider and the Terminator franchises will probably be more regretted (presuming the new movies might have been any good). This writer is also in particular disappointed to see Shazam! abandoned, as the character has always been a sweet counterpart to Superman, telling the story of a little boy with the magical ability to turn into a powerful superhero with the little boy’s inherent sense of right and wrong. On the other hand, there’s also the strong possibility that all of these projects might have ended up being “Rotten,” but to see the studio swinging the axe against so many properties in one full swoop will also leave us with a perpetual sense of “what might have been…”
Among fans of horror (and other similar genres), John Carpenter is one of the big guns, responsible for a string of awesome movies in the 1970s and 1980s that included Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, Christine and Big Trouble in Little China. However, Carpenter’s films arguably declined in quality through the 1990s, and it’s now been nine years since the release of Ghosts of Mars. Carpenter has since directed another movie called The Ward, which debuted in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, but the reviews thus far have been mostly negative. ohn Carpenter’s best days as a director may be behind him, and as sad as it is to say this, perhaps not every movie with his name attached should be automatically perceived as a “fresh development.” In that category would certainly be Darkchylde, an adaptation of a “bad girl” mid-1990s Maximum Press comic book about a teenage girl with the ability to turn into the monsters of her nightmares. John Carpenter has indeed been announced as directing Darkchylde, with the special effects being handled by Weta Workshop. Besides Carpenter’s possible decline from his days as a “Master of Horror,” the real reason that Darkchylde is this week’s most Rotten Idea is that the source material is a really, really awful comic book. Darkchylde belongs to the T&A-centric “bad girl” genre that produced titles like Lady Death and Witchblade, but unlike those titles, Darkchylde couldn’t even claim to have fairly decent artwork (in this writer’s opinion). There may be comic book fans out there who cherish Darkchylde, but generally, the title is not considered one of the comic book industry’s finest moments, and so the concept of a Darkchylde movie is likewise one that will probably be as welcomed by comic book fans as Uwe Boll’s movies are by video game fans. Hopefully, John Carpenter will realize this before actually starting filming.