This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as Alien: Covenant, Mary Poppins 2, Pacific Rim 2, and Ready Player One.
Last year, when the news broke that the Guillermo Del Toro-directed sequel to Pacific Rim had been removed from Universal Pictures’ release schedule, many perceived that as a sign the sequel would never happen. That move seemed surprising when one considers that Pacific Rim earned over $411 million in global box office, including $111 million in China alone. This week, we learned that the sequel to Pacific Rim is indeed moving forward (just not with Guillermo Del Toro as director). Instead, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures have hired director Steven S. DeKnight to direct the Pacific Rim sequel, which will be his feature film debut. Previously, Steven S. DeKnight has worked mostly in television, including Spartacus, Smalllville, and Netflix’s Daredevil, on which he is the executive producer and showrunner. Guillermo Del Toro will remain involved with the Pacific Rim as one of the film’s producers. Steven S. DeKnight will be working from a script written by Jon Spaihts, who also cowrote Prometheus, and has such films as the reboots of Van Helsing and The Mummy (both also for Universal Pictures) in development, and Marvel’s Doctor Strange and the Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt sci-fi romance Passengers in production.
Until a few months ago, there had been a race to produce the first prestige film based upon the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. That changed in November, however, when the producers of one (Patriots Day) acquired the rights to the other (Boston Strong), which led to them being combined into a single film. In the process, Mark Wahlberg, who would have played Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, instead transitioned to playing Boston Police Detective Danny Keeler. That focus on street level “real police” was emphasized this week with the news that J.K. Simmons has been cast as Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese. As you can read here, Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese was an off-duty police officer who rushed into personal combat with both Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokar Tsarnaev, in a sequence that literally reads like something from a “Hollywood movie.” Although he has appeared in such films as the first three Spider-Man movies, J.K. Simmons’ roles are usually more dramatic in nature, so Patriots Day will be something of a departure, involving active extended participation in multiple “action scenes.” Patriots Day will be directed by Peter Berg (The Rundown, Lone Survivor) from a script by Bridge of Spies cowriter Matt Charman, and it will start filming in Boston in March, under production by both CBS Films and their corporate cousin, 60 Minutes Productions.
We have heard in recent weeks/months about casting for roles in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that we knew who would actually be the film’s lead. Now, we know that the future pop culture enthusiast Wade Watts will be played by Tye Sheridan. At just 19, Sheridan is quite close to Watts’ age (high school), which is unusual for most Hollywood movies. His previous roles include prominent parts in The Tree of Life, Mud, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and he will also costar as the young Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse. Sheridan joins the previously cast Olivia Cooke (as Art3mis) and Ben Mendelsohn as the corporate villain Nolan Sorrento. Warner Bros has scheduled Ready Player One for March 30, 2018 (which is a new date, recently moved back three months after Star Wars Episode VIII took its previous release date of December 15, 2017).
We may not yet have movie adaptations of the Broadway musical hits In the Heights and last year’s Hamilton, but the creator of both is at least making the transition himself. That’s because Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also stars in Hamilton) is now in talks with Walt Disney Pictures to join their planned sequel to their 1964 musical Mary Poppins. Miranda would join Emily Blunt (as the title character) as a lamplighter in London, in a role that is expected to be a Depression Era (1930s) analog to Bert, the chimneysweep character played in the first film by Dick Van Dyke. It’s not yet known if another actor will be cast as Bert in this sequel (Dick Van Dyke is himself obviously too old, at the age of 90, to reprise the role in the new film, which is set only 20 years later). The first Mary Poppins movie was based on the first book by P.L. Travers, and this sequel will be based upon later books in Travers’ series, as the titular nanny returns to help the now-grown-up Banks children deal with their own children. This Mary Poppins sequel will also be a musical, and will be directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine, Into the Woods). Lin-Manuel Miranda is also working with Disney on the music for this year’s Polynesian fantasy animated adventure Moana.
Just a few days before his latest film, The Martian, vies for Oscar gold as a Best Picture nominee, director Ridley Scott is continuing to attract an impressive cast for his Prometheus sequel, Alien: Covenant. The first actor to make such news this week was Demian Bichir, who is coming off working with Quentin Tarantino as one of The Hateful Eight. Bichir was joined three days later by Billy Crudup, who also recently joined the cast of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis biopic Jackie in an unknown role. Natalie Portman is starring as the former First Lady in that film, which will also feature Peter Sarsgaard (as Robert Kennedy) and Greta Gerwig. 20th Century Fox has scheduled Alien: Covenant for release on October 6, 2017, up against Warner Bros’ Jungle Book: Origins.
As one would expect, there continues to be good news for those involved with this year’s first and biggest surprise box office hit, Deadpool. That includes T.J. Miller, who played Weasel, the bartender whose establishment (in the movie, at least) gave the title character his nom du anti-hero. This week, we learned that Miller and Jennifer Aniston are both attached to star for DreamWorks in their comedy Office Christmas Party. They will also be joined by Jason Bateman (Netflix’s Arrested Development) and Kate McKinnon (SNL, Ghostbusters). The movie will have to be filmed very quickly, as Paramount Pictures has already scheduled Office Christmas Party for release on December 9, 2016, just over nine months from the time of this writing, with filming not yet having started. Office Christmas Party will be directed by the team of Will Speck and Josh Gordon, whose previous feature films were Blades of Glory (69 percent Fresh) and The Switch (51 percent Rotten). Aniston and Bateman were also the leads in The Switch and previously worked together on the two Horrible Bosses movies.
Long before he became the arthouse director of dramas like Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, and Cosmopolis, Canadian director David Cronenberg was the leading proponent of the “body horror” genre. There was some level of body horror in most of Cronenberg’s early films, including Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and his remake of The Fly. Audience reception of gore and blood has advanced to the degree that most of Cronenberg’s films could now be perceived as relatively tame. Considering that climate, it’s probably not surprising that producers are now turning to remaking Cronenberg’s films. This week, the directing team of Jen and Sylvia Soska (who are also twin sisters) came aboard to direct a remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 film Rabid. In the original, porn star Marilyn Chambers played a woman with a stinger in her armpit that she used to feed on victims vampirically (like we said, “body horror”), spreading the condition like a zombie virus. The Soska Sisters have built their careers on blood and gore, with their previous films being Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and 2013’s American Mary. Perhaps not that coincidentally, the Soska Sisters being identical twins might also make them good choices for any future efforts to remake Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, which was itself about a pair of identical twins.
The year 2015 was very “rebooty” for actor Michael B. Jordan, as he starred in both Fantastic Four and the Rocky spinoff Creed (which was essentially an in-story reboot of the franchise, with a new boxing character lead). Instead of using his new critical and box office clout to seek out more original material, Jordan instead this week attached himself to another reboot, this one a direct remake, by reuniting with MGM (the studio behind Creed and the Rocky franchise) for a new remake of the heist movie The Thomas Crown Affair. The original movie was released in 1968 and featured Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, and the heavy use of “split screen narrative” (as a way of showing simultaneous events at the same time). Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo then starred in the first remake of The Thomas Crown Affair in 1999. Both films were romantic heist thrillers, with the first movie being about a bank robber, and the second film being about an art thief. The seed for this third movie reportedly came from Michael B. Jordan himself, who pitched the idea to MGM executives looking for another film to produce with Jordan. As such, there are not currently any screenwriters or directors attached to this third version of The Thomas Crown Affair.
As to be expected, right about now is a good time to be associated with Deadpool (see the T.J. Miller story up above), and the most obvious beneficiary of that film’s success is Ryan Reynolds. This week, we learned that the action movie The Hitman’s Bodyguard (which Reynolds had previously already been attached to) will be his first new role in production following the success of Deadpool. In addition to the also-previously cast Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds will also be joined by Salma Hayek and Elodie Yung. That means that 60 percent of the five stars will have Marvel connections, as Deadpool is joined by Nick Fury (Jackson) and Netflix’s Elektra (Yung, in next month’s season two of Daredevil). Reynolds will star in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as, well, a bodyguard for a hitman played by Samuel L. Jackson, as the pair race to get to The Hague before an Eastern European dictator, played by Gary Oldman. The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, Never Back Down), who is also rumored to possibly be developing the X-Force super team spinoff (from both X-Men and Deadpool) for 20th Century Fox. Of the three feature films on Wadlow’s Tomatometer, none of them have scored above 30 percent (22 percent for Cry Wolf and Never Back Down, 30 percent for Kick-Ass 2). Millennium Films will begin production on The Hitman’s Bodyguard in April, and Lionsgate will distribute the film, probably in 2017.
We’ve known since early 2014 that Walt Disney Pictures is developing a live-action adaptation of their theme park attraction It’s a Small World. But since then, that project hasn’t made the news, so one could have guessed that Disney had set it aside. This week, however, we learned that Disney is indeed still working on getting this one adapted and in theaters. Walt Disney Pictures has hired the screenwriting team of Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio to start working on It’s a Small World. Rasmussen and Di Meglio previously adapted the comic strip Marmaduke (9 percent Rotten) and cowrote the Robin Williams comedy License to Wed (7 percent Rotten). Director Jon Turteltaub remains attached to It’s a Small World. His filmography for the last 20 years is 100 percent Rotten, including Phenomenon (50 percent), Disney’s The Kid (49 percent), National Treasure (44 percent), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (41 percent), and Last Vegas (46 percent). It’s a Small World, the attraction itself, doesn’t have an existing narrative, but is instead just a series of international cultures as represented by their architecture, traditional clothing, and little figures and scenes.