This Week’s Ketchup includes news for several big movies, including the Spider-Man reboot, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Hobbit movies, as well as news for the long-planned next Pee Wee Herman movie, the LEGO movie, and new roles for Oscar favorites (in Oscar-friendly-sounding biopics) Meryl Streep and Sean Penn.
The extensive search by Sony Pictures for the young star of their Spider-Man reboot finally came to an end today. The new Peter Parker will be played by American-British actor Andrew Garfield, whose other movies include The Other Boleyn Girl, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and David Fincher’s upcoming The Social Network (which is also a Sony release). Scheduled for a July 3, 2012 release in 3D, the as-yet-untitled Spider-Man reboot will be directed by Mark Webb ((500) Days of Summer). Here’s what Webb had to say about the casting, “Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor’s work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.” Something else that stands out in Sony’s press release is the sole screenwriting credit given to James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Losers) despite news in recent months that there were other screenwriters involved. Something that is curious about Garfield’s casting is that at 26 years old, he doesn’t seem quite as young we might have expected considering that this reboot is supposed to be bringing Peter Parker back to his high school roots. By the time this reboot hits Blu Ray and DVD in late 2012, Garfield will be pushing 30! Or does this perhaps mean that the reboot will not be as completely high school focused as previously reported and suspected?
Paul Reubens has been trying to get a new movie made starring his Pee Wee Herman character for over ten years, and now, it appears to be getting closer to actually happening. In the past, there’s been talk from Reubens of a possible movie either involving Pee Wee dealing with celebrity after an embarassing incident (huh, wonder where he got that idea from?) or a story that more closely resembles his (awesome) Pee Wee’s Playhouse Saturday morning show. There’s no word yet about what the premise currently is, except that it’s being described as an “adventure” (which is also a play on the title on his original Tim Burton-directed movie). The man bringing Pee Wee back is Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), who is producing the project for Universal Pictures. Paul Reubens is cowriting the script with Paul Rust, whose TV work includes Moral Orel and Human Giant. One hint about what the movie might be is that the IMDb lists it as Pee Wee’s Playhouse: The Movie, but since it can be edited by users, information from the IMDb sometimes needs to be taken with more than just a little grain of sodium chloride.
X-Men: First Class is going to have a pretty large cast, but how large some of the actual roles will be is still what one could call an “x-factor.” After rumors that Rosamund Pike would be playing the blonde British telepath Emma Frost (AKA White Queen), Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League) is now in talks for the role (Pike is rumored possibly to be playing Moira MacTaggert instead). Another supporting young mutant that might be cast is Sean Cassidy, AKA Banshee, who is rumored to be played by 20-year-old Caleb Landry (“Boy on Bike” in No Country for Old Men). And now, let’s switch over to a movie that’s actually being made by Marvel Studios: Captain America: The First Avenger. Quite a while back, there were rumors that Tommy Lee Jones might have a role, and this week, Marvel officially announced that Jones will be playing General Chester Phillips, who is likely to be something like Steve Rogers’ liaison or commanding officer. Finally, there is Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!, An Education), who will be playing the younger Howard Stark (Iron Man‘s dad), played by John Slattery (Mad Men) in Iron Man 2. All four of these roles (with the possible exception of Emma Frost) are likely to be more like interesting supporting roles, but in all four cases, it’s cool that they are being included. 20th Century Fox will release X-Men: First Class on June 3, 2011 and Paramount Pictures will release Captain America: The First Avenger on July 22, 2011 (time’s a tickin’ on both of these movies!).
Last August, Warner Bros announced plans for a movie based on LEGO toys, and now the studio has found a pair of directors to build the project piece by piece. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are a directing team that made their feature film debut with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. There’s still no word yet about the premise of the LEGO movie, except that it will be “an adventure in the LEGO world mixing live action and animation.” Lord and Miller won the job through a presentation that first impressed the Warner Bros execs, and then the LEGO bosses at the Bricks by the Bay fan convention. The LEGO movie won’t be their next assignment, however, as it will have to wait until after Lord and Miller wrap their second movie together, the 21 Jump Street movie starring Jonah Hill.
After starring as Julia Child last year in Julie & Julia, Meryl Streep is in talks to add another 20th century icon to her list of characters: Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. The Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady, is a British coproduction between Film 4 and Pathe, and is expected to start filming in England by the end of 2010. In addition to being one of the first non-royal female leaders of a major nation, Margaret Thatcher was also a controversial figure as the leader of the Conservative Party, her economic policies during a severe recession and for her involvement in the 1982 Falklands War (though those were also all reasons why other people also loved her). The Iron Lady will also reunite Meryl Streep with director Phyllida Lloyd, who made her debut with the hit ABBA musical Mamma Mia! in 2008. Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Hot Fuzz) is also in talks to play Margaret’s husband, Denis Thatcher. The Iron Lady screenplay was adapted by Abi Morgan, who has mostly worked on British TV, and also cowrote 2007’s Brick Lane.
Sean Penn is currently taking a break from acting, but it appears that he may be lining up one of his future projects, which he is also producing. Penn is in talks to produce, and possibly star in, a biopic about surfing legend Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz. Born in 1921 (and still out surfing), Paskowitz spent 25 years in search of the perfect waves, along with his wife and their nine kids, as seen in the 2007 documentary Surfwise. Hollywood producers have reportedly been trying to secure the rights to Paskowitz’s story for over 20 years now, but it was only when Sean Penn expressed interest that Paskowitz sold the rights. Penn is joined on the project by producers Alan and Gabe Polsky (The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans). The screenplay adaptation of Paskowitz’s story is being written by Sean Penn’s friend Paul Feldsher, whose producing credits include The Four Feathers and Playing by Heart. Something else that is worth mentioning is that this project could be seen as something of a companion to Into the Wild, the true story of free-thinking wanderer Christopher McCandless, which Sean Penn also produced and directed.
Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch) is in talks with Universal Pictures about an English-language remake of the recent Russian action hit Black Lightning, which he also produced. From what this writer can tell from the trailer, considering I don’t speak Russian, the movie is about a young man with a flying super car which he uses to fight crime. Bekmambetov says that there are also plans for a Russian-Chinese sequel to the film. There’s no word yet about whether Bekmambetov plans to also direct the remake, or who might adapt the screenplay. Bekmambetov is also currently working with Tim Burton on the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as well as the slowly perculating sequel to Wanted. Finally, it’s worth noting that Warner Bros has never announced any plans for a movie based upon the African-American superhero Black Lightning (who has electric superpowers), although obviously if this remake moves forward soon, that title would sort of already be taken.
Andy Serkis is best known for playing Gollum (including the motion-capture) in the Lord of the Rings movies, but he also did the same thing for Peter Jackson in King Kong as the title character. Now, Andy Serkis has signed on to the lead role in another ape-centric movie in which he will also be doing the motion-capture performance of the character. That movie is Rise of the Apes, the prequel/remake/reboot of the Planet of the Apes in which Serkis will play Caesar, a chimpanzee who begins to evolve during testing of a cure to Alzheimer’s Disease. James Franco, Freida Pinto and John Lithgow are already cast as human characters, and the 20th Century Fox production starts filming next week. Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) is directing from a script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (cowriters of The Relic, Eye for an Eye). Rise of the Apes is sort of a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which was also a prequel about how Caesar’s early history, but the set up is quite different. Rise of the Apes is a borderline “Rotten Idea” movie, but the involvement of Andy Serkis lands this story as a Fresh Development this week, in addition to the news that Weta is handling the ape motion capture effects.
As this week started, it seemed pretty clear what the top story of the Weekly Ketchup would be. The Hollywood Reporter ran a story that said Peter Jackson was in talks to take over from Guillermo del Toro on the two planned The Hobbit movies, giving Jackson a clean 5 movie sweep of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most famous works. That story came out on Friday afternoon (after last week’s Ketchup was written), but by Sunday, there was already a big question mark on the entire story, and it came from what is arguably an ironic source. If Peter Jackson does eventually sign on to direct the Hobbit movies, that will obviously be big news, but this week, the story really is more about how movie news is reported. And that brings us to one Harry Jay Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, who over the last 10+ years has seen his relationship with “mainstream” news reporting do a curious flip flop. It used to be (and mostly still is) that stories from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were seen as nearly official, and sites like AICN were, well, less official. Knowles writes about exactly this shift in a story in which he quotes a source called “Derek,” who is pretty clearly Peter Jackson himself, with whom Harry has had close contact for many, many years. Here’s what “Derek” has to say: “No, nothing has really changed – I’ve always said that me directing was one option, and so that’s not really news. The studios are working out what that deal would look like, because how else do they know if it’s a viable option? But it’s honestly one of several different options – many irons are in the fire right now.” So, this week’s big story turns out to be that… there’s really no big story yet. Yes, it’s possible that Peter Jackson might indeed direct the Hobbit movies, but it’s also possible that he totally may not. And the way we interpret movie news just got a little shakier once again. This is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas not because of the Peter Jackson news (which would be totally awesome, obviously), but because of what the story possibly says about the current state of reporting movie news.
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight young adult novels have inspired in recent years a deluge of similar book franchises, and many of them have in turn been optioned to become movies in hopes of duplicating the box office phenomenon that is once again upon us this weekend. One of the most successful of these Twilight-esque book series is Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books, and now it too has been optioned to become a potential series of movies. Vampire Academy focuses on a teenage girl named Rose Hathaway who is a half-human/half-vampire called a “dhampir” and a student at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a remote school in Montana where dhampirs and Moroi (a peaceful race of vampires) learn how to do all their wacky blood sucking type stuff. And of course, there are bad guy vampires too, and probably a lot of emo angst and teen romance. There’s no word yet about any creative writer/director types being attached to Vampire Academy yet, but the production company is Preger Entertainment, whose only credit so far is the 2006 TV series Driven. Vampire Academy is this week’s Rotten Idea just because there are already so many Twilight-ish projects in development, and until we hear more about who might be involved creatively, there’s really no way of telling whether this one might be, you know, actually of interest to anyone other than the young fans of the books.