This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news. Included in the mix this time around are stories about such movies as 10 Cloverfield Lane, Aquaman, Avengers: Infinity War Part I, Robin Hood: Origins, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Wonder Woman.
Director and producer J.J. Abrams has somewhat built his career upon a series of TV shows and movies in which mysteries and surprise elements were key to building awareness and interest. The most obvious example is LOST, but Abrams has also used his “mystery box” technique on Super 8, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the giant monster movie Cloverfield. We’ve known for a while that Abrams had produced an untitled film starring John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World), which has also gone by the titles The Cellar and Valencia. This week, that film (scheduled in less than two months, on 3/11/16) finally received its first trailer, attached to Paramount’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. But when it went online this morning, it wasn’t called Valencia anymore. Nope, the title is instead 10 Cloverfield Lane, as the film was confirmed by J.J. Abrams yesterday as a “blood relative of Cloverfield.” What that means exactly is open to interpretation, but it appears the film may be set in the same world as Cloverfield, even if it’s not a direct sequel to that film. The premise as presented in the trailer also brings to mind the opening minutes of the second season of LOST, as both involve an underground bunker filled with 1970s kitsch. 10 Cloverfield Lane will be the feature film debut of director Dan Trachtenberg, who has developed a career as an Internet personality and is the director of the Portal: No Escape short film. Paramount Pictures will release 10 Cloverfield Lane in less than two months, on March 11, 2016.
If you’re reading this column, there’s a very high likelihood that you were also aware the Academy Awards nominations happened this week. But we couldn’t very well run an article about the biggest film news this week and not include them, right? The Weekly Ketchup is primarily about the latest news in film development, but the results of each year’s Academy Awards nominations and winners also very much impact the sorts of films that film producers and executives will develop and greenlight. As usual, there were surprises, not-really-surprises, and notable omissions. Many sources have pointed out that all 20 acting nominees this year are caucasian, inspiring the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg are also both missing in the Best Director category, though their films (The Martian and Bridge of Spies) were nominated for Best Picture — a category, by the way, that left out such films as Carol, The Danish Girl, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens despite there only being 8 nominees this year (the maximum possible number is ten). In the acting categories, Mad Max: Fury Road is completely absent, including Charlize Theron as Furiosa and Tom Hardy, who was instead nominated for The Revenant. The most nominated films this year were The Revenant (12), Mad Max: Fury Road (10), The Martian (7), Bridge of Spies, Carol, and Spotlight (6 each), The Big Short, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (5 each). Chris Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards on February 28, 2016.
Sunday night, Jennifer Lawrence won a Golden Globe award for her role as Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano in Joy. Paramount Pictures took quick advantage of the news by announcing that the studio has come aboard what was previously described as an “indie” movie. Back in October, we first heard that Jennifer Lawrence and director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Noah, Black Swan) were working on a film together. Javier Bardem is now also in talks for one of the lead roles in the drama which is described as being about “a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.” It’s unclear if Bardem will play Jennifer Lawrence’s husband or one of the “uninvited guests.” Paramount is expected to release this untitled drama sometime in 2017.
When Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara dropped out of the drama Collateral Beauty last summer, it may have seemed like the film might never get made. New Line Cinema and director David Frankel (Marley & Me, The Devil Wears Prada) turned things around quickly, however, recruiting Will Smith to replace Hugh Jackman in the lead role. Fast forward a few months to this week, and Collateral Beauty is now ramping up with a promising quartet of actors in talks to costar. Rachel McAdams, who earned an Academy Award nomination this week for Spotlight, is one of the four, along with Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Spectre), Edward Norton (Fight Club), and Michael Peña (Ant-Man). Will Smith will star in Collateral Beauty as an advertising executive who experiences a tragedy which his coworkers try to help him recover from, but with unexpected results. It’s not yet known if it is Naomie Harris or Rachel McAdams who might be taking the role formerly expected to be played by Rooney Mara.
Following the success last October of the Goosebumps movie, it was not surprising that other producers would try to adapt similar “horror books for kids” stories or franchises. One such potential new film has actually been in development for a few years (since 2013). We’re talking about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which was a trilogy of short story anthologies by Alvin Schwartz, first published from 1981 to 1991. This week, Guillermo Del Toro confirmed that he has boarded the film as director, following recent delays to his plans to next direct a sequel to Pacific Rim. If GDT signs on, he will direct from a script by frequent Tim Burton collaborator John August (Corpse Bride, Big Fish, Frankenweenie). Del Toro has also already confirmed that he plans on featuring the original artwork by Stephen Gammell that appeared on and in the books within the film itself.
In many of the interpretations of the Robin Hood legends, Little John is frequently portrayed as a giant as tall as 7 feet (hence “Little” is an ironic nickname). We’ve known for a while about Lionsgate’s film Robin Hood: Origins, which hopes to start a new Robin Hood Cinematic Universe starring Taron Egerton. What we didn’t know is who might be cast as Little John, but easy speculation might have gone with an actor known for being very tall. Instead, Lionsgate is going with Jamie Foxx, whose height of 5′ 9″ is fairly average. It’s not yet known if camera tricks and/or CGI will be used to make Jamie Foxx seem taller. Otto Bathurst (TV’s Peaky Blinders) will start directing Robin Hood: Origins later this year. Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies, This Must Be the Place) has also recently been cast as Maid Marian.
A few months ago when there were rumors about Nicole Kidman being cast in Wonder Woman, most speculation was that she might be cast as Queen Hippolyta, the mother of Princess Diana, AKA Wonder Woman. That mystery role has since gone to Robin Wright instead, and we still don’t know who it is, but we now know who it isn’t. That’s because this week Danish actress Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) joined the cast of Wonder Woman as the aforementioned Queen Hippolyta. Nielsen and Wright join the title character played by Gal Gadot, along with Chris Pine (as Steve Trevor), Ewen Bremner, Danny Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui, and David Thewlis. Patty Jenkins (Monster) is currently filming Wonder Woman, scheduled for release on June 23, 2017.
During a recent appearance at Wizard World New Orleans, Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo revealed that they have big plans for their two part epic Avengers: Infinity War (5/4/18 and 5/3/19). The quote of interest goes like this: “We have so many characters we’re dealing with. We’re breaking ground on Avengers: Infinity War. We have a board with 67 characters on it.” They soon after clarified that the number 67 was “figurative” and should not be interpreted as meaning 67 “lead characters.” Most people probably figured that many of the 67 characters might just be supporting roles, and only in specific scenes, but there you go. Even if “67” is not an exact number, one might wonder if there are enough MCU characters to possibly fill two films with that many characters. The answer is an easy yes, and one can reach that number without even resorting to obscurities like “SHIELD Agent #3.” And that’s without including characters that could be introduced in those films and then get their own films in the slate, which at this point would be classified as “mystery” films in 2020.
Warner Bros and director Zack Snyder are expected to start filming Justice League Part One in April, so any new characters that make their debuts in that film will need to be cast relatively soon. One such character made the news this week, as Amber Heard is now in talks to play Mera, the (possibly future) Queen of Atlantis. Heard doesn’t even turn 30 until later this year, but she has already amassed over 40 roles in her career. Heard’s filmography includes prominent roles in Friday Night Lights, Pineapple Express, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and current Academy Award contender, The Danish Girl. Amber Heard will first appear as Mera in Justice League Part One (11/17/17) before Aquaman receives his solo film (7/27/18), directed by James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring, Furious 7).
In the original calendar version of this week, the entertainment news cycle on Monday and Thursday mornings would have been dominated first by the Golden Globes winners, and then by the Academy Awards nominations. In a sad twist, however, both mornings saw the announcements of the deaths of two beloved celebrities, both 69, both British, both from cancer. Musician/actor David Bowie had been suffering with liver cancer for 18 months, and had just released his 25th album, Blackstar, two days before his death on his 69th birthday. Bowie is survived by his son Duncan Jones, whose next film as director is the video game adaptation Warcraft (6/10/16). Fans were shocked again four days later by the passing of Alan Rickman, whose career included memorable turns in Die Hard (as Hans Gruber), Dogma (as The Metatron), Galaxy Quest (as Dr. Lazarus), and probably most famously, the eight Harry Potter movies as Professor Severus Snape. This past week seemed to have an unusual number of noteworthy deaths, however, as Bowie and Rickman were also joined by Angus Scrimm (“The Tall Man” of the Phantasm franchise), Brian Bedford (the voice of Disney’s Robin Hood), Franco Citti (the Sicilian bodyguard in The Godfather), David Margulies (the Mayor in Ghostbusters), prolific character actor Richard Libertini, and Dan Haggerty (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams).