This week’s Ketchup covers another slow week as many of Hollywood’s movers and shakers were either in Toronto, attending various Emmy related events, or just pretending like they were doing either. The stories that did emerge as the top 10 movie development news items of the week include plans for a new Scarface movie, an Elton John biopic, director news for Thor 2 and new roles for Casey Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron.
This Week’s Top Story
SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE SCARFACE REBOOT
Universal Pictures has started development on a new Scarface project that will borrow elements from both the original 1932 Paul Muni gangster movie and the 1983 film starring Al Pacino. The new Scarface will not be a sequel or a direct remake, but will instead use the same basic premise of both films: “An outsider, an immigrant, barges his way into the criminal establishment in pursuit of a twisted version of the American dream, becoming a kingpin through a campaign of ruthlessness and violent ambition.” What is being kept secret for now is where exactly the “immigrant” will be from in this third film, after the first two films featured gangsters named Tony who were Italian (1932) and Cuban (1983). Universal and producer Martin Bregman (who produced the 1983 version) are currently meeting with potential screenwriters, and there’s also no word yet about who might direct this new Scarface. The original Scarface was produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo) from a script by Ben Hecht (Notorious, Spellbound) (that’s a lot of H names for one movie). The Al Pacino version was directed by Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables) from a script by Oliver Stone (Platoon, cowriter of most of his films as director). The impressive credits of the men behind the first two Scarface films are listed here to demonstrate exactly how big the shoes are that the new Scarface collaborators will be attempting to fill.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THOR 2: FROM KENNETH BRANAGH TO… THE DIRECTOR WHO UGLIFIED CHARLIZE THERON?
Marvel Studios shocked some fans when Kenneth Branagh, who is most associated with Shakespearean movies like Henry V and Hamlet, was chosen to direct Thor. Marvel may be setting a pattern with Thor 2, as this week, it was revealed that Marvel’s top choice is director Patty Jenkins, whose one feature film was 2003’s Monster (starring Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuornos) and the pilot episode of AMC’s series The Killing. If Marvel does indeed sign Patty Jenkins to direct Thor 2, this choice seems to suggest a story more female-centric than people generally think of when they think “Asgardian mythology.” Marvel’s Kevin Feige added a little bit of fuel to the premise speculation this week by saying that the sequel will “primarily be the journey of that character, of he and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and how the new dynamic with his father is working out, as well as what are the broader stakes for The Nine Worlds.” In addition to Jane Foster and Sif, there are also a few female characters in the Thor comics that seem ripe for propelling the sequel’s story, starting with Amora the Enchantress, Hela the Goddess of Death and Brunnhilde, AKA Valkyrie. Marvel has already set a July 16, 2013 release date for Thor 2.
#2 WAS ELTON JOHN HIGH AS A KITE WHEN HE GREENLIT ROCKETMAN?
Sir Elton John and his Rocket Pictures partners had a medium-sized hit this year (especially overseas) with Gnomeo & Juliet, but their next project is even more ambitious than combining talking CGI garden gnomes and Shakespeare. Elton John is teaming up with screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot; cowriter of the upcoming War Horse) on a biographical musical fantasy called Rocketman. Rocketman will blend together elements of Elton John‘s true story with his music, the lyrics of which were actually mostly written by his partner Bernie Taupin. The story is expected to include Elton John’s childhood start as a piano prodigy, his time as “a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing,” and of course, the pop star years of flamboyant costumes and crazy eyeglasses. Elton John’s many hit songs will be used to propel the film’s narrative through choreographed sequences. As for who will actually play Elton John, the pop singer has in the past mentioned Robert Downey, Jr, but no actor was officially mentioned with the announcement of Rocketman. Part of the reason for that may be that Rocketman is likely to borrow a strategy from the Bob Dylan quasi-biopic I’m Not There, and use multiple actors to portray Elton John at different stages in his life.
#3 JEREMY RENNER WILL BE THE KING OF HEISTS
It has only been 18 months since The Hurt Locker won its Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director), and propelled Jeremy Renner’s career into the stratosphere with roles in three very big action movie franchises (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy). With those films still on the way, there have actually only been two movies since The Hurt Locker that Renner was actually in (The Town and the bathroom-break-long cameo in Thor). For his part, Renner is definitely not letting this period of interest go wasted, as he continues to sign on roles. This week, he attached himself to star in King of Heists, an adaptation of the J. North Conway nonfiction book about late 19th century bank robber George Leslie; Renner is also producing the film. During the years of 1874 to 1884, it was estimated that George Leslie’s gang of thieves were responsible for 80% of America’s bank robberies, but Leslie’s involvement remained unknown until after his death. George Leslie used his background as an architect to analyze every planned heist location, spending up to three years to plan each heist. Jeremy Renner and his producing partners have hired screenwriter Will Staples to adapt King of Thieves. Staples does not yet have a produced film to his credit, but he has sold the scripts Apaches, World’s Most Wanted and Kings of the Trail to Jerry Bruckheimer, Universal, and Walden Media, respectively.
#4 DANNY MCBRIDE AND CRAIG ROBINSON JOIN SETH ROGEN AT THE APOCALYPSE
Last week, Seth Rogen revealed that his planned movie with Jay Baruchel originally callled Jay and Seth Versus The Apocalypse had been expanded to also include Jonah Hill and James Franco. This week, Seth Rogen talked about the comedy (now titled just The Apocalypse), which is expected to start filming in February, and added the names of frequent costars Danny McBride and Craig Robinson as well. That group of six comic actors (and real life friends) will all be playing themselves (or versions of themselves) in a story that sees them having to live together in a house while some sort of Apocalypse is going on outside, and the six friends find that living together might be worse than whatever doomn awaits them outside. One actor that appears not to be participating in this comedic experiment is Daniel Radcliffe, who Seth Rogen had in the past mentioned as a possibility.
#5 CHARLIZE THERON TO INVESTIGATE CITIES OF REFUGE
In the three years since Hancock, Charlize Theron’s film presence has been minimal, with just a supporting role in The Road and a voice role in Astro Boy, both in 2009. This fall, however, Charlize Theron is starring in Young Adult (from the Juno team of Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman), and in 2012, Theron also has starring roles in Snow White and the Huntsman (as the Evil Queen) and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. This week, Theron began negotiations with Benderspink (The Ruins, The Butterfly Effect) to produce and star in a crime thriller called Cities of Refuge. Not much is really known about Cities of Refuge except that Theron would play an “investigator” who is brought in on a case involving a murder and kidnapping that “aren’t what they seem” (when are they ever, in movies and TV shows?). Cities of Refuge was written by newcomer screenwriter Brandon Willer.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 THIS WEEK IN ENGLISH ADAPTATIONS OF FOREIGN MOVIES: THE RAID, SLEEPLESS NIGHT, SILK
Hollywood may have mostly taken the week off from remaking favorites from the 1980s and 1990s (except Scarface, of course). However, the Toronto International Film Festival also ended last weekend. So, there was a fair amount of news coming out from Toronto, including two stories about English language remakes of foreign films, plus a third one that has nothing to do with Toronto at all. First up is the 2006 Taiwanese supernatural thriller Silk, which Gold Circle Films (The Haunting in Connecticut, The Haunting in Georgia) has hired the screenwriting team of Marko King, Mary King and Jonathan Watters to adapt. Watters and the Kings were 50% of the six writers who worked on the 2010 Halle Berry drama Frankie & Alice. The original Taiwanese film Silk was about a group of “scientists who capture the ghost of a child in an apartment and the detective charged with discovering clues to the ghost’s identity and demise.” That’s right, it’s an Asian horror movie featuring a spooky little ghost kid. Next up is The Raid, the Indonesian action movie that just won Toronto’s Midnight Madness audience award. Screen Gems is in negotiations for the English language remake rights for the movie about a SWAT team that becomes trapped in a tenement run by a mob boss, as they battle martial arts assassins and an army of machete-wielding thugs. Finally, there is the French action film Sleepless Night, which breaks the trend by not being set in an apartment building, or originating from Asia. Warner Bros has picked up the rights to pick up the English language remake rights to this story about an undercover cop trying to get his kidnapped son back from a drug dealing nightclub owner. And now, we get to the part where the Rotten Idea justification is explained, which really applies more to The Raid and Sleepless Night than Silk. At issue here is the long-standing debate over how foreign films seem to receive a certain level of attention, while remakes of those very same films are greenlit before the original foreign film even gets a chance to gain attention in the United States. Both of those films just debuted at Toronto, and before they even get a chance at their own releases in the USA, English language remakes are already being discussed. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether any of these three film adaptations might turn out to be pretty good (as was the case, for example, with Let Me In, somewhat surprisingly), and that’s why these stories are just borderline Rotten Ideas.
#3 20TH CENTURY FOX RETURNS TO ASIMOV’S ROBOTS WITH THE CAVES OF STEEL
In 2004, 20th Century Fox released the Will Smith futuristic science fiction film I, Robot, which borrowed a title and some elements from the stories of Isaac Asimov. That film, however, actually started off originally as a script called Hardwired that had no connection whatsover to I, Robot or the works of Isaac Asimov (though it was eventually rewritten to do so). I, Robot went on to bring in $347 million in worldwide gross (thanks in no small part to the fact that it starred Will Smith). Now, 20th Century Fox is set to return to the general premise of a world based upon Asimov’s Robot Series with the news that the studio is developing an adaptation of The Caves of Steel, the first novel in the series. Like the movie that was released as I, Robot, Asimov’s The Caves of Steel is a murder mystery involving robots, but integral differences include a setting much farther in the future and that the human detective has a robot partner. 20th Century Fox has hired first time director Henry Hobson to work on The Caves of Steel. Hobson’s previous experience has been in designing visually striking opening and closing credits sequences for films such as Rango, Sherlock Holmes and The Hangover Part II. Hobson’s screenwriting partner will be another newcomer, John Scott 3, who is also working with Hobson on a script called Maggie, about a 16 year old girl who slowly turns into a zombie while continuing to live with her family. John Scott 3 is also a real life NASA engineer who works on the agency’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The Caves of Steel is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based mostly on the studio’s past results with I, Robot, and also because of the massive question marks surrounding first time directors and screenwriters like Hobson and Scott.
#2 CASEY AFFLECK’S CLEAR ENUNCIATION WILL SERVE HIM WELL AS GABRIEL IN PARADISE LOST
Due to its source material, Legendary Pictures’ and Warner Bros’ adaptation of John Milton’s 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost is expected to have a fairly large ensemble cast. Director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, The Crow, Knowing) has already cast Bradley Cooper, Benjamin Walker and Djimon Hounsou as the archangels Lucifer and Michael, and the seraph Abdiel, respectively. This week brought news of who is likely to play the poem’s two most central characters, Adam and Eve, as well as Gabriel, who is traditionally described as God’s messenger angel. Camilla Belle, who is probably best known for starring in 10,000 BC, has been offered the role of Eve, and Mexican singer/actor Diego Boneta (who will be starring in the 2012 musical Rock of Ages) has been offered the role of Adam. Although John Milton’s poem was primarily about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, the film’s focus will be more on the war between the angels (complete with extensive scenes of aerial Angelic warfare). The latest actor to join the Heavenly Choir is Casey Affleck, who will be playing Gabriel, the chief angel who overlooks Paradise, and serves as God’s messenger to Adam and Eve. This casting decision is particularly interesting when one considers that Casey Affleck’s thick Boston accent is, well… a thick Boston accent. And that’s also why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#1 MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ RETURNS TO LIFE (AGAIN) IN RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION 3D
If the nine years since the 2002 release of the first Resident Evil movie hasn’t been quite long enough for you to see the film, and you’re still concerned about being spoiled, stop reading this paragraph right now. Okay, for all of those folks who are still with me, here’s the news this week for Resident Evil: Retribution 3D, the fifth film in the franchise. Michelle Rodriguez has signed on to reprise her role as Rain Ocampo. Actually, that’s not the spoiler part. No, the spoilery part is when I remind people who saw the first movie that Michelle Rodriguez’s character 1) became a zombie and was then 2) killed while still a zombie. So, that Michelle Rodriguez is returning to the franchise four movies later will surely be the basis for speculation among fans. Will Rodriguez be just seen in a flashback? Is she somehow brought back to life through wacky genetic DNA cloning? Or will she just still be a zombie? Anyway, Michelle Rodriguez is joining a cast of returning actors that also includes Milla Jovovich as Alice (obviously), Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine, Shawn Roberts (in a cameo role) as Albert Wesker, and new cast member Colin Salmon (who had a small role in three of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies). Resident Evil: Retribution 3D is being directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (AKA Mr. Milla Jovovich and the director of the first film and Resident Evil: Afterlife) from his own script. Filming will be done in Toronto from October to December, and Screen Gems has set a release date for Resident Evil: Retribution 3D on September 14, 2012. Resident Evil: Retribution 3D is the week’s Most Rotten Idea mostly because the RT Tomatometer scores for the three sequels are all in the 20%-24% “Rotten” range. What are the chances the fifth film will be rated more than twice as positively?
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.