This week’s Ketchup is a true potpourri of movie development news, including videogame adaptations (like Asteroids and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell), animated movies (Turkeys and Hotel Transylvania 2), reboots of classic characters (Popeye and Tarzan), and biopics (Johnny Carson and Pablo Escobar).
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 GEORGE CLOONEY TO TRAVEL BACK TO 1952 FOR PIXAR’S BRAD BIRD
Since Super 8 has now been out for about a year and a half, one might be forgiven for thinking that this story has already been told, and long since, at that. There is, however, another nostalgic period piece that pays homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, has a number in the title, and comes to us from one of the three creative types most associated with TV’s LOST. That movie is called 1952, it’s a Walt Disney Pictures production, and it was written by Damon Lindelof, who was 50% of the main production team behind LOST during its last five seasons. Post-LOST, Lindelof has been as busy as a DHARMA workman, cowriting Cowboys & Aliens, Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, and World War Z. It’s worth noting that of those four movies, only Star Trek Into Darkness hasn’t attracted attention as a troubled production. The connection to LOST is continued via Lindelof’s cowriter Jeff Jensen, AKA “Doc Jensen” of Entertainment Weekly, who spent much of 2004-2010 writing about the many mysteries of that show. The big news for 1952 this week is that George Clooney is in negotiations to take on the science fiction movie’s main role, who, if the analogy to CEOT3K remains valid, might be a character similar to Richard Dreyfuss’s role as Roy Neary (ie, a regular guy whose life is changed by alien contact). Given Clooney’s much publicized statements about avoiding roles that involve “action” following his injury during filming of Syriana, we might also be able to guess that his 1952 role won’t involve much physical action. All of this guess work is pretty much inherent in writing about 1952, because, much like previous Bad Robot productions Cloverfield and Super 8, the project is cloaked in secresy. Lastly, 1952 will be directed by Brad Bird, the Pixar director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille who made his live action debut with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (and who is also developing the similarly-titled 1906, set during the Great San Francisco Earthquake). The answer is probably just because this writer is such a huge LOST dor… fan. Namaste.
#2 THE WEEK IN ANIMATION: TURKEYS FOR 2014 THANKSGIVING SEASON, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 IN 2015
The world may still be waiting for Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving horror movie (as teased in Grindhouse), but the arrival date of the CGI animation equivalent is now known. Relativity Media will release Turkeys on November 14, 2014, featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Dan Fogler (Fanboys). The premise states: “two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history — and get turkey off the menu for good.” Turkeys will mark a return to animation for Horton Hears a Who! director Jimmy Hayward after the unfortunate mistep that was Jonah Hex. The Turkeys script started off with a draft by David I. Stern (Open Season 2 and Open Season 3) and John J. Strauss (cowriter of There’s Something About Mary, The Lizzie McGuire Movie), with a rewrite by Craig Mazin, who’s worked on the various Scary Movie and The Hangover sequels. The other big animated movie news this week was that Sony Pictures Animation reacted to the success of Hotel Transylvania exactly the way one would expect. Hotel Transylvania 2 now has a slot on their release calendar on September 25, 2015. The first film’s director, Genndy Tartakovsky, however, won’t be returning for the sequel, as he will instead by focusing his energies on Sony’s Popeye reboot, which is now scheduled almost exactly a year before that sequel, on September 26, 2014.
#3 WILL TRUE BLOOD STAR ALEXANDER SKARSGARD JOIN THE LONG LINE OF TARZAN ACTORS?
It was just last week that we learned that frequent Harry Potter director (and a favorite among Warner Bros executives) David Yates had settled upon the long-in-development reboot of Tarzan as his next project. The pieces are coming together quickly in preparation for a presentation to the studio that will determine whether Tarzan actually gets a greenlight. As part of that plan, David Yates has reportedly settled upon True Blood costar (and son of Stellan) Alexander Skarsgard, who quickly emerged as the frontrunner from a short list that also included future Superman Henry Cavill and former Batman villain Tom Hardy. Negotiations with Skarsgard won’t formally begin until WB decides to actually move ahead with a greenlight, but his news brings with it some other previously unknown details. This new Tarzan movie will not be an origin story, but will instead be set a few years after Tarzan has been assimilated back into British society. Tarzan is asked by Queen Victoria to save the Congo from “a fierce warlord who controls a massive diamond mine,” and he teams up with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams (who the studio reportedly wants to be played by Samuel L. Jackson). If Warner Bros does indeed give Tarzan a greenlight, filming is expected to start by the summer of 2013, most likely to allow time for a release sometime in 2014.
#4 HEY-OOOOOO, HERE’S… JOHNNY (CARSON’S BIOPIC)!
Much has been already on this subject, so this is hardly an original statement, but the mad rush to power that followed Johnny Carson‘s retirement after 30 years as the host of The Tonight Show nearly had a Shakespearean quality to it. That would not be a secret to anyone who read or saw the various versions of The Late Shift. What’s missing so far, however, is the career that actually preceded all of that. The estate of Johnny Carson is now seeking to address the mystery with an officially licensed biopic, to be written by screenwriter John McLaughlin. Such a deal is well timed, as McLaughlin recently wrote another biographical film about another of the 20th Century’s most well known celebrities, Hitchcock, after first making his mark as one of the cowriters of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. John McLaughlin also has that Splinter Cell video game adaptation in the works.
#5 BENICIO DEL TORO TO PLAY PABLO ESCOBAR IN WHAT ALMOST SOUNDS LIKE A WACKY ROMANTIC COMEDY (BUT PROBABLY ISN’T)
Someone (possibly Woody Allen) once said that comedy is tragedy plus time. What you get when you add time to a savage drug lord’s life might be an unknown, but it might include an independent movie called Paradise Lost. That movie will tell the story of a young surfer dude (“far out! tubular!”) who travels to Colombia, meets and falls in love with a girl named Maria, and then discovers that her uncle is Medellin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. Whether or not comedic high jinx then ensue is currently unknown. What is known is that Escobar will be played by Oscar friendly actor extraordinaire Benicio del Toro. Paradise Lost will mark the directorial debut of actor Andrea di Stefano, who also adapted the screenplay. Right around here is when one might wonder why all of this is a Fresh Development. Regardless of the tone of the movie (which, despite the joking, is probably not a comedy at all), Benicio del Toro is just one of those guys who was sort of born to play a drug lord (not necessarily a bad thing… just saying). And of course, he kind of already has gotten kind of close to such a role, and recently. Finally, it probably goes without saying that this Paradise Lost is not the John Milton adaptation that was shelved earlier this year, but just in case it doesn’t… it isn’t.
#6 HUMBLE MOVIE STAR TYPES JACK NICHOLSON AND ROBERT DOWNEY JR MIGHT BE FATHER/SON IN THE JUDGE
Although he’s certainly capable of subtlety, when Robert Downey Jr is most effectively “on,” he’s sort of a charisma magnet on screen. So, for the Warner Bros father-son dramedy The Judge, the casting challenge is most likely to find an older actor who can hold his own alongside Downey without being overshadowed. Cue Jack Nicholson, who is now being courted by the studio to play a small town judge (and Alzheimer’s victim) accused of murdering his wife (and the mother of Downey’s big city attorney). Once the word “Alzheimer’s” got typed into the logline, it doesn’t take much of an awards expert to guess that Warner Bros might also see The Judge as possibly being Nicholson’s 13th Oscar nomination (he already holds the record as a male nominee). And now we get to the part that puts a huge “yeah, maybe not” on all that speculation: The Judge will be directed by David Dobkin, a broad comedy director whose first three films were the “Fresh” rated films Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights, and Wedding Crashers, followed by the more recent (and “Rotten” rated) comedies I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Fred Claus, and The Change-Up. However un-awards-friendly Dobkins’ filmography might seem, the script for The Judge was penned by Gran Torino writer Nick Schenk (though that film was also perceived as “snubbed” by many awards pundits), with a rewrite by currently unproduced screenwriter Bill Dubuque.
#7 CHRIS TUCKER’S SLOW COMEBACK MAY CONTINUE WITH A REMAKE CALLED THE UNTOUCHABLES (NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS)
Yes, indeed, Chris Tucker may star in a remake called The Untouchables, but it’s almost certain he won’t be paraphrasing Sean Connery (“he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue,” etc). Instead, what’s at issue here is the difference in grammar between French and English, and how the title The Intouchables just doesn’t sound right, grammatically. The Intouchables was a French comedy hit, making a ridiculous amount of money worldwide in the last year ($395 million). And so, the Weinstein Company wants to produce an English language Hollywood remake. The original comedy was based on the true story of the friendship that develops between a wealthy quadriplegic and an French-African tough guy from the streets. Chris Tucker is now in negotiations about playing the tough guy, and there’s been rumors that Colin Firth may be in talks to play the wheelchair bound rich guy. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is currently in talks to make this remake his next project after next year’s The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
#8 CAMERON DIAZ MAY BE THE OTHER WOMAN TO KRISTEN WIIG
Cameron Diaz is attached to star in the 20th Century Fox revenge comedy The Other Woman. Kristen Wiig is “under consideration for a role,” which is presumably the other half of the two central female characters. In a scenario that is being compared to The First Wives Club, Diaz will play a woman who discovers that she is “the other woman” in a love triangle, and then meets up with the wife (possibly Wiig) to conspire on how they can both get revenge on the philandering husband. There’s no director for The Other Woman yet, and the screenplay was by attorney-turned-screenwriter Melissa Stack, whose script I Want to F*** Your Sister landed her name on the 2007 Black List of Unproduced Screenplays.