This week’s Ketchup includes casting news and possibilities for both the Spider-Man reboot and X-Men: First Class, as well as talk about Black Dynamite 2, the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, a Bob Marley biopic and a new animated movie starring Seth Rogen.
Columbia Pictures and director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) are meeting with several actresses this weekend in the search to cast Peter Parker’s romantic interest. The identity of the character is not yet known, but who it isn’t is Mary Jane Parker, played by Kristen Dunst in the first three movies. The likeliest candidate is Gwen Stacy (played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3), but it could also be Betty Brandt (previously played by Elizabeth Banks), Felicia Hardy (The Black Cat), or perhaps an entirely different character. The full list of actresses hasn’t been revealed, but the partial list includes three young British actresses: Lily Collins (The Blind Side, the upcoming Priest), Ophelia Lovibond (the upcoming Nowhere Boy and London Boulevard) and Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, the upcoming Fright Night remake). The emphasis on British actresses is especially interesting considering that the new Peter Parker will be played by Andrew Garfield, who is himself British-American. Australian Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the upcoming I Am Number Four) and American (and Julia’s niece) Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day, the upcoming Scream 4) are also in the running for the role. Someone who is already out of the running is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, hopefully not because of the disappointing opening numbers for Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. If none of these actresses work out, Columbia will continue with another round of casting interviews, similar to the long process the studio went through to find Andrew Garfield to play Peter Parker.
Promoting Black Dynamite in the UK (where it’s just now being released), Michael Jai White revealed that he is already working on ideas for Black Dynamite 2. Released in 2009, Black Dynamite was an action comedy spoof of the blaxploitation and kung fu films of the 1970s. Black Dynamite was a former CIA agent who hit the streets looking for vengeance when his brother was killed as part of a scheme to spread heroin use among the city’s orphanages. Unlike many of the films it spoofed, Black Dynamite was a critical success, earning an 85% on the Tomatometer. Michael Jai White also cowrote Black Dynamite, and is likely to be writing Black Dynamite 2 also. White said of the sequel, “You know how Black Dynamite just grows in ridiculousness? Well, this will be a fitting sequel.”
There are certain musicians that have been the focus of attempted biopic projects for a very long time, very often because of music rights: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra, for example. Reggae singer Bob Marley is also definitely in that group. In 2008, his widow Rita Marley signed a deal with The Weinstein Company to adapt her book No Woman, No Cry, but after two different directors bailed, that project is now on hold. Martin Scorsese also announced plans for a Bob Marley documentary to be released on Bob’s 65th birthday (2/6/10), but obviously that film didn’t happen either. Now, British TV director Jenny Ash (America: The Story of Us) is developing a Bob Marley biopic that will focus on the year that Marley spent living in London in 1977. Marley had fled to London after an attempt on his life in Jamaica, hung out with the Sex Pistols, started an affair with Jamaican beauty queen Cindy Breakspeare and was first diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually kill him in 1981 at the age of 36. However, one big obstacle for this biopic is the issue of rights to Bob Marley’s music, which may be especially difficult to procure given Rita Marley’s attitude towards Cindy Breakspeare. Biopics without the musical rights are rare, but they have happened: Backbeat (The Beatles), and Dreamgirls was basically the Supremes story by another name. One can also of course not forget Jenna Maroney’s Sing Them Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jormp-Jomp Story.
David Fincher’s Facebook drama The Social Network isn’t even out yet, but its anticipated critical and/or box office success appears to already be having an impact. Groundswell Productions (Milk, Appaloosa) and producer John Morris (the Showtime biopic Spinning Boris) have acquired the film rights to Ken Auletta’s book Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. Googled tells the story of Stanford Ph.D. students Sergey Brin and Larry Page and their attempt to build a better search engine using such business principles as “you can make money without doing evil” and “you can be serious without a suit.” There is not yet a writer or director attached to the project. Here’s what Groundswell’s Michael London said about Googled, “The heart of the movie is their wonderful edict, don’t be evil. At a certain point in the evolution of a company so big and powerful, there are a million challenges to that mandate. Can you stay true to principles like that as you become as rich and powerful as that company has become? The intention is to be sympathetic to Sergey and Larry, and hopefully the film will be as interesting as the company they created.” Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Yahoo! and AintitCoolNews movies can’t be far behind. (Representatives of Upcomingmovies.com and Rotten Tomatoes declined comment.)
In the last few years, Hollywood has started developing a plethora of movie projects based on board games like Battleship, Monopoly, Candyland and Ouija. Now, J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company have set their sights on a game that has no pesky big companies to acquire the rights from. 7 Minutes in Heaven is a kissing game in which kids take turns going in a closet to make out (see also: Spin the Bottle). Seven Minutes in Heaven was also a 1985 movie starring a very young Jennifer Connelly (but there’s no connection to this Bad Robot project). The idea for the 7 Minutes in Heaven movie came from LOST director Jack Bender. The premise of 7 Minutes in Heaven is that two teenagers come back out of the closet to find that all of their friends are now dead. 7 Minutes in Heaven is likely to be a Paramount Pictures project, the studio where Bad Robot has its deal. Bad Robot is currently looking for a writer to take Bender’s idea and expand it into a full script. While 7 Minutes in Heaven is being developed, Jack Bender is currently in talks with Paramount to direct Moscow, the next movie in the Jack Ryan franchise, starring Chris Pine.
With Piranha 3D hitting theaters today, director Alexandre Aja (Mirrors, High Tension) announced plans for a new adaptation that will take him out of the horror and remake field: Cobra: The Space Pirate. Cobra: The Space Pirate started as a 1978-1984 space opera manga that was then adapted as an anime series and film that Aja says was very popular in Europe (but not so much in the USA, though footage was used in Matthew Sweet’s memorable “Girlfriend” video. Cobra is a futuristic space pirate who refuses to align with the United Galaxies Federation or the Pirates Guild, resulting in a bounty being placed on his head. Cobra teams up with a beautiful bounty hunter named Jane as they try to locate her sisters in a quest to find a lost treasure on Mars. Aja has hopes to turn Cobra: The Space Pirate into a tentpole-sized science fiction epic. Alexandre Aja is cowriting Cobra: The Space Pirate with his frequent writing partner Gregory Lavasseur, and is also producing. A few weeks ago, Aja also revealed that he hopes to someday remake the 1980 slasher movie Maniac.
In addition to his live action performances, Seth Rogen also has a growing resume of voice work, including roles in Horton Hears a Who!, Kung Fu Panda (and the upcoming sequel), Monsters vs Aliens and the title role in (the mostly live action) Paul. Now, Seth Rogen has also signed on with DreamWorks Animation to voice the lead character in Boo U, which may be released in 2013. Boo U. is a 3D (of course) CGI animated comedy about a ghost who is forced to return to ghost school to learn how to better perform his ghostly duties (because he’s a ghost!). Boo U. is being directed by Tony Leondis (Igor) from a script by the writing team of John Mann and Jon Gunn. Mann and Gunn’s only released film credit right now is the 2000 Eric Roberts movie Mercy Streets, but they are also working on the Magic 8 Ball movie for Paramount. This is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas not so much because of Seth Rogen, but because of the other people involved with Boo U., specifically the Magic 8 Ball guys. That’s a project so rotten its rottenness spreads and makes other movies rotten.
The X-Men: First Class comic book was mostly about the original 5 members of the team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman), but the X-Men: First Class movie appears to have a much larger student body. Among those to join the cast this week were January Jones (Betty Draper from Mad Men), replacing Alice Eve as Emma Frost. Similarly, although there had been earlier reports of Rosamund Pike playing Dr. Moira MacTaggert, that role is now to be played by Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek). There had been rumors that not all of the roles that are being announced are necessarily what the roles really are, so that might be part of the confusion here. The role of Angel has also been cast, but instead of Warren Worthington, this Angel is actually Angel Salvadore, whose mutant abilities replicate those of a house fly (insectoid wings, the ability to spit acid). Jason Flemyng (Calibos from Clash of the Titans) joined the cast as Azazel, who in the comics belongs to an ancient race of mutants who looked like demons (complete with red skin and a tail) and is the father of Nightcrawler. Oliver Platt (Lake Placid) has also joined the cast as a non-mutant character called “The Man in Black” who doesn’t appear to have a known parallel in the comic books (unless he’s really someone we actually do know). In other mutant movie news, 20th Century Fox is reportedly now considering two different directors for X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2 (or whatever it ends up being called). The two candidates are David Slade (30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife and the upcoming Red). Because Schwentke is already considering several movies as his next project (including R.I.P.D. as reported last week, Slade is perceived as being the likely director Fox will end up hiring. I am collectively putting all of this news in the “Rotten Idea” column this week because X-Men: First Class is sounding increasingly more like X-Men: The Last Stand, a movie with such a huge ensemble cast that there is no time for any individual characters to properly develop. The news about Wolverine 2 may not itself be rotten, but it gets lumped in here because Wolvie’s an part of the team, whether he likes it or not.
In May, Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company announced plans to develop a new live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie for Paramount Pictures. Now, the studio has moved forward by reportedly paying close to $1 million to the writing team of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (cowriters of Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone). Marcum and Holloway also wrote the reboot of Highlander which is expected to start filming in 2011. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got its start as a black-and-white indie comic book in 1984 that spoofed “grim and gritty” comics by artists like Frank Miller. Most people however know the Turtles for their much more kid-friendly depictions in a popular long-running animated TV series and the four feature films (the last of which was CGI and more true to the source material). Paramount is said to be seeing TMNT as “its next huge franchise, like Transformers,” and the studio is looking for that to happen sooner rather than later. Paramount is expecting the first draft of the script by October, with hopes to find a director and get the movie in theaters by 2012. This is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas because this writer has seen the two Transformers movies and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Those films might give us an idea of what to expect from Paramount’s (and Michael Bay’s) rushed plans for a “huge franchise.”
It doesn’t happen a lot, but occasionally, movies have nicely-themed release dates, such as when 20th Century Fox released their remake of The Omen on June 6, 2006. This week’s most Rotten Idea, however, is for a movie that got its start by producer Wayne Rice (Valentine’s Day, Dude, Where’s My Car?) looking at a calendar and realizing that November 11th, 2011 is a Friday. Yes, seriously. Of course, that’s probably also how the idea for Valentine’s Day came together. Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV, Repo! The Genetic Opera) is in the process of writing 11:11:11, obviously hoping to get the movie together quickly enough to meet that release date. 11:11:11 will be a “horror-tinged thriller” based on “the idea of the 11 gates of Heaven and how on 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month, the 11th gate will open up and something from another world will enter the earthly realm for 49 minutes.” I should note that I was unable to find many references to eleven gates of Heaven online that weren’t related to, well, this movie. One has to guess that Rice and Bousman have already checked the calendar and also saw that December 12th, 2012 is a Wednesday, which is also a day movies are sometimes released on. Good luck with explaining 13:13:13 though, guys. 11:11:11 is this week’s most rotten idea for a variety of reasons: not just the “making a movie to fit a release date” mentality, but also because Bousman’s Tomatometer history is less than impressive.