In this week leading up to the Labor Day weekend (and the de facto end of the 2012 summer season), the Hollywood movie development news cycle went into one of its slower periods. Where normally there might be 20 to 35 major news stories that are considered for inclusion in the Weekly Ketchup, this week, there were basically just ten, and they all are included below. Making the grade this week are news stories for such stars as Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas, Ryan Gosling, and Prometheus stars Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron.
This Week’s Top Story
WATCH OUT: METAL GEAR SOLID IS TRYING TO STEALTHILY SNEAK ITS WAY INTO MOVIE THEATERS
Box office and critical success continues to elude video game adaptations, as a film form, in a way that hasn’t been a problem for comic book adaptations now, by and large, for well over ten years. The man who was central to Marvel’s success in those early years, in the time of films such as Spider-Man and X-Men, was Avi Arad. And now, those two jigsaw pieces have come together in the form of Konami’s announcement that Avi Arad has come aboard to produce the long-in-development Metal Gear Solid movie. Metal Gear Solid was of course one of the most popular games for the original Sony PlayStation upon its release in 1998, leading to a franchise of Metal Gear games that has collectively sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Central to almost all Metal Gear games is the concept of stealth, as the main character is usually master spy and saboteur Solid Snake (voiced in English by X-Men writer David Hayter, by the way). It’s also worth noting that this reinvigorated development of a potential Metal Gear Solid movie comes not that long after the news earlier this summer of Michael Fassbender producing and starring in another stealth-based videogame adaptation, Assassin’s Creed.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 MICHAEL FASSBENDER’S WHOLE WORLD HAS COME UNDONE, NOW THAT JANE GOT A GUN
Michael Fassbender is in talks to costar with Natalie Portman (who is also producing) in an independent cowboy western called Jane Got a Gun. Natalie Portman will be playing “a woman married to an outlaw who returns home bullet-riddled and half dead, betrayed by criminal confederates hot on his heels.” Michael Fassbender would play “the ex-lover [Portman’s character] seeks out to help her defend her farm from the imminent onslaught of black hats” (presumably with bad guys underneath them). The $20 million independent production has already attracted a director well familiar with indie budgeting in the form of Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar, We Need to Talk About Kevin), working from a script by newcomer Brian Duffield which was included in last year’s Black List of Unproduced Screenplays.
#2 CHARLIZE THERON MIGHT WEAR THE EYEPATCH OF A WAR JOURNALIST
There’s a very elite little club whose members include Ziggy Stardust, Molotov Cocktease (The Venture Bros), and Nadine Hurley (Twin Peaks). Figure out the connection yet? All of them were redheads with eye patches. Until recently, journalist Marie Colvin also fit those descriptions (almost; her hair was more auburn), except unlike them, Colvin was actually a real person. Perhaps dwelling on her personal appearance is a way of tiptoeing around the sadder reality, which is that in February, 2012, Colvin was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) while covering the civil war in Homs, Syria. Colvin died the way she lived, which included covering dangerous war zones in such places as Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. And now, we finally get to the movie development part of this story. Charlize Theron and producer Basil Iwanyk (The Town, We Are Marshall) have optioned the film rights to the Vanity Fair article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War.” That piece by Marie Brenner specifically told the story of how Colvin smuggled herself and (also now deceased) photojournalist Remi Ochlik into Syria to cover the civil war. Charlize Theron’s interest as producer may also (and presumably will) include her playing Marie Colvin herself, but Theron isn’t technically attached as the possible film’s star, yet. One possible obstacle is that Charlize Theron (37) is nearly 20 years younger than Marie Colvin was when she went to Syria (56). Of course, if she does star in this film, it also wouldn’t be the first time Theron has changed her appearance for a film (Monster, North Country, etc).
#3 RYAN GOSLING KNOWS HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER (BUT DOES HE KNOW HOW TO DIRECT?)
The first thing this writer thought of when he heard the taglines for this story (noir fantasy with a female protagonist) was the 2011 Zack Snyder-directed flop Sucker Punch. That may be why this story’s logline is quick to also include “modern day.” The bigger part of the headline also involves the director, which is former MMC member Ryan Gosling, making his directorial and screenwriting debuts. The independent film in question is entitled How to Catch a Monster, and it will feature Christina Hendricks (who also costarred with Gosling in Drive) as a single mother who finds “a road leading to an underwater town.” Filming is expected to start sometime in the spring of 2013.
#4 MICHAEL DOUGLAS FOLLOWS LIBERACE WITH RONALD REAGAN IN REYKJAVIK
For most of his career, Michael Douglas was never one of those actors who particularly specialized in playing real life characters, or historical figures (unless I’m forgetting a film, which I’m sure commenters will point out). However, now that Douglas is approaching his 70s, he appears to be changing that profile, either deliberately or coincidentally. Douglas is currently filming the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra for HBO and director Steven Soderbergh. That will be followed by the Hangover-with-old-guys comedy Last Vegas, and then likely after that, Michael Douglas will be returning with another very famous celebrity portrayal. Douglas has signed on to star as President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, a drama about the 1986 peace summit in Iceland between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (who hasn’t been cast yet). Ridley Scott had previously been attached to direct Reykjavik, but he has since dropped out (probably due to Scott’s always full slate of film projects). Instead, Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) will be directing Reykjavic from a script by Kevin Hood (Becoming Jane). Filming is scheduled to start in March, 2013 on location in Germany, which will be standing in for Reykjavic and elsewhere in Iceland. To close, I guess this piece shows that one really can write about Mikhail Gorbachev without mentioning that thing on his head. Oh, wait…
#5 PAUL RUDD AND ZACH GALIFIANAKIS TO STAR IN THE ANGELIC COMEDY WILL
It’s pretty much an annual ritual that the director of the previous Best Picture Oscar winner will be hotly pursued by Hollywood in the following months. This year, the winner of that distinction is Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), but in his case, he’s not necessarily traditional, mostly because he’s A) a comedy director and B) you know… French. Paramount Pictures, however, does have a long-brewing comedy project that Hazanavicius is interested in, complete with two comedy stars attached. If and when it actually gets made, Paul Rudd will star in the comedy Will, set in an imaginary world “devoid of free will where every action is written by angelic scribes,” with Zach Galifianakis set to play Rudd’s angelic writer. The scenario basically sounds a bit like the Ricky Gervais comedy The Invention of Lying because the rest of the logline is that Galifianakis’ character “quits” his job, allowing Rudd’s character to do whatever he wants (which could also be seen as sort of like Bruce Almighty). As noted before, Will has been around for a while, with both Will Ferrell and the Little Miss Sunshine directors Valerie Ferris and Jonathan Dayton previously attached. As for who actually wrote this hotly sought after comedy script, Will was written by Demetri Martin, formerly of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Important Things with Demetri Martin, and most recently, for an unexpected dramatic supporting role in Contagion. The world will have to wait a little bit longer for Will, however, as Michel Hazanavicius is expected to next direct a remake of the 1958 film The Search.
#6 DICAPRIO, MAGUIRE AND HARDY UNITE TO TAKE ON THE MODERN POACHING TRADE
Animal rights activist Leonardo DiCaprio is teaming up with his longtime friend Tobey Maguire and his Inception costar Tom Hardy to jointly produce an untitled drama about poaching and animal products trafficking in the political ensemble style of Traffic. The project is being set up at Warner Bros, where DiCaprio has a history as both a star and producer, and a writer is currently being sought. Although all three actors are producing, there’s no word yet as to whether all (or any) of them will actually costar in the eventual project. This film idea started with Tom Hardy, who was “inspired by friends who are former Special Forces operatives and went on to become anti-poaching fighters in South Africa and other nations.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire will also be seen acting together in next summer’s The Great Gatsby, also being distributed by Warner Bros.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 CAN MICHAEL KEATON JOINING THE CAST OF THE ROBOCOP REMAKE TURN AROUND PUBLIC PERCEPTION?
MGM’s 2013 remake of the 1980s science fiction/satire classic RoboCop has gone through something of a rollercoaster ride of online fan reactions. There had been much good will rewarded to the remake with the casting of such actors as Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Hugh Laurie. Then, however, a scathing script review made its way online, and over night, you could tangibly feel millions of RoboCop fans recoil. This was followed by the news that Hugh Laurie (House MD) had dropped out of negotiations to play the remake’s villain. The search for Laurie’s replacement didn’t last long, however, as we now know that the role has been landed by Michael Keaton, who is himself not unfamiliar to fans of 1980s genre films, in particular. Keaton has seemed to be somewhat missing in action in recent years; although he’s technically still been getting work, it has, with the exception of a supporting role in The Other Guys, mostly been voice work (such as Ken in various Toy Story projects). This particular news story is definitely borderline. The film itself may indeed be a “Rotten Idea” and a train wreck, but if director Jose Padilha can make it work, this might also mean a comeback of sorts for Michael Keaton. That is, of course, if MGM allows Padilha to “make it work.”
#2 TRANSFORMERS SCREENWRITERS TAKE ON COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GIANT BEASTS WITH DRAGONOLOGY
The late 2000s was a period during which it seemed like nearly every week saw another children’s book series being picked up for film rights by a Hollywood studio. In 2008, such was the case for Universal Pictures and the Dragonology series, which is written by various authors under the joint pen name of Ernest Drake, writing from the perspective of a Victorian Era world in which dragons actually exist. Now, four years later, Universal Pictures is hoping to revive their Dragonology adaptation by bringing aboard as producers the writing team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Kurtzman and Orci have frequently worked together as producers in the past (such as TV’s Fringe), but they are best known as a screenwriting team responsible for such films as Cowboys & Aliens, the first two Transformers movies, and more positively, the reboot of Star Trek. It is because Star Trek and Mission: Impossible III are the only spots of red in a filmography of green splotches on their RT Tomatometer page that Dragonology is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#1 BEACHED IS THE STORY OF A BOY RAISED BY WHALES. SERIOUSLY.
Hollywood has of late become so fascinated with the hot art of the remake that they have become the dominant story type each week in this “Rotten Ideas” space. As a result, it’s been a while since there was a movie news story that earned its place here just because it was truly a ridiculous story idea, period. Which brings us to a Fox property called Beached, which director Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure) is now attached to helm. Here’s pretty much all that you need to know, in a tidy logline from The Hollywood Reporter: “Beached centers on a chubby 4-year-old child who falls overboard during a family outing, is raised by whales and goes on to become an Olympic swimmer.” It’s rare enough nowadays that a premise dares to be so completely nonsensical that this one is almost refreshing in its “Who needs logic?” mental gymnastics. I was going to fill this article with questions about how-exactly-does-that-work, but I think I’ll leave them to the commenters down below to point out. Beached got its start as a script by screenwriter Ted Griffin (cowriter of Tower Heist, Matchstick Men), and the most recent draft was by Jordan Roberts (March of the Penguins).
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.