This Week’s Ketchup covers ten headlines from the last seven days from the realm of film development news. Included in the mix this time around are several Disney movies (including Jungle Cruise), Dante’s Inferno, The Odyssey, Scooby-Doo, and new biopic roles for Christian Bale (as Enzo Ferrari) and Jennifer Hudson (as Aretha Franklin).
After years of clogged lines and meeting halls at San Diego Comic Con, some studios are increasingly focusing their attention on making their big announcements at other events. For Walt Disney Pictures, the obvious choice is their own events, the latest of which was this past weekend’s D23. In addition to events for Marvel Studios and Star Wars, Disney also held a series of presentations for their upcoming animated films, both from Pixar and Walt Disney Animation proper. The movies that were previously more shrouded in secrecy included Moana (11/23/16), Pixar’s Coco (11/22/17), and Gigantic (TBA 2018). You can see images here from Moana, the Pacific Ocean-set fantasy about Polynesian mythology which will feature the voice of Dwayne Johnson as the god Maui. The movie now called Coco has been known to be in development for a while now, but previously, it was just known as the “Dia de Los Muertos Project”. Finally, in the tradition of how Rapunzel became Tangled and The Snow Queen became Frozen, in 2018 Jack and the Beanstalk will be adapted as the musical Gigantic, as a giant girl falls in love with a tiny little Spanish person called Jack. Other upcoming Walt Disney Animation movies include Zootopia (3/4/16) and sequels for both Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph. Pixar’s other movies include The Good Dinosaur (11/25/15), Finding Dory (6/17/16), Toy Story 4 (6/16/17), The Incredibles 2, and Cars 3.
After nearly 15 years of development, director Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral, The Last of the Mohicans) is preparing to finally start filming his biopic about Enzo Ferrari. As one might guess based on his surname, Enzo Ferrari was the Italian car racer who eventually founded his own sports car company. Michael Mann had previously been working on a film called Go Like Hell, which would have focused on the relationship between Ferrari and Henry Ford II (and which may have been delayed by the similarly themed 2013 film Rush). This week, Mann’s Ferrari film got the boost it might have needed in the form of Academy Award winner Christian Bale . Mann’s film will focus on the year 1957, when a racing accident involving one of Ferrari’s cars led to the death of 5 children, and a resulting manslaughter criminal investigation.
The surprising box office last weekend ($60 million) for the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has already inspired new development for at least two film projects, and probably will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come. One such biopic that made the news this week is the long-in-development biopic about R&B singer Aretha Franklin. Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) is now in early talks to play the singer known for such hits as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Respect,” and “Think.” The untitled Aretha Franklin biopic, if produced, will follow her rise to fame in the 1960s and 1970s, and also cover her “her relationship with her abusive ex-husband Ted White.” In even more directly related news, radio DJ Greg Mack, who was one of the first people to play N.W.A. records, has also sold the film rights to his upcoming autobiography.
In addition to writing Contact, and producing/starring in the original Cosmos mini-series, Carl Sagan (1932-1996) was an award-winning astronomer and astrophysicist who worked with NASA, the Smithsonian Institute, and the SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Now, following the success last year of both The Imitation Game (about Alan Turing) and The Theory of Everything (about Stephen Hawking), it might now be Carl Sagan’s turn to get a biopic. Producer Lynda Obst, who worked on both Contact and Interstellar is now developing an untitled drama about the relationship between Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan. This Carl Sagan biopic will be adapted by screenwriter Zach Dean, who made his debut with the 2012 film Deadfall.
The horror mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, about a group of improbably vampires, has thus far been one of 2015’s most popular indie success stories ($6.2 million box office from a budget of just $1.6 million). And so, it’s not surprising that this week, Jemaine Clement announced that there may be a sequel that focuses more on werewolves (including the character Anton played by Rhys Darby). As has previously been reported, Jemaine Clement is also working on a possible movie for HBO’s musical comedy series Flight of the Conchords.
Due to the amount of time required for these movies, and Lucasfilm’s ambitious schedule, it’s necessary for the future Star Wars directors to be signed and confirmed as soon as possible. That’s the reason we learned this week who will be directing Star Wars Episode IX, four months before Star Wars: The Force Awakens (AKA Episode 7) is even released. As had been previously rumored, the job will be going to Colin Trevorrow, who had this year’s biggest box office hit with Jurassic World. Colin Trevorrow will also be working on the screenplay for the film, which will conclude the third Star Wars trilogy (both chronologically and narratively). J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is scheduled for December 18, 2015, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII is scheduled for May 26, 2017, and Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars Episode IX is scheduled for sometime in 2019.
Although Pirates of the Caribbean has proven to be one of Disney’s biggest live-action franchises, attempts to adapt other theme park attractions have proven less successful (such as The Country Bears, The Haunted Mansion, and Tomorrowland). Walt Disney Pictures continues to develop theme park attraction adaptations, however, such as a possible Magic Kingdom movie, and a reboot of The Haunted Mansion which Guillermo Del Toro has worked on in the past. This week, Jungle Cruise leapt forward as possibly the next such movie, with the news that Dwayne Johnson is now attached to star. There is no director yet for Jungle Cruise, but the script will be adapted with Dwayne Johnson in mind by directors John Requa and Glenn Ficara (Focus, Crazy Stupid Love). Dwayne Johnson recently wrapped the spy comedy Central Intelligence, and is also attached to star in the TV adaptation Baywatch, the video game adaptation Rampage, and the Big Trouble in Little China remake.
In what is probably more of a coincidence than some sort of new trend, two different classic poetic epics received film development news this week. The project probably closest to getting a greenlight is Lionsgate’s adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey (which was a sequel to The Iliad, the inspiration for 2004’s Troy). Hugh Jackman is now in talks to star as Odysseus, the Trojan War hero who spends years attempting to get back home after the war. Although Hugh Jackman isn’t signed yet, The Odyssey does have a director, Francis Lawrence, who directed the last three Hunger Games movies (as well as Constantine and I Am Legend). The other epic poem in the news this week was Dante’s Inferno, which Warner Bros picked up after a pitch meeting, with an eye towards it possibly launching a new franchise for the studio. Dante’s poem depicts the author being escorted through the nine circles of Hell, and as part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is followed by two other poems about both Purgatory and Heaven.
After previous development on a new Scooby-Doo reboot that would have been an animation/live action hybrid (like the previous movies in 2002 and 2004), this week, Warner Bros announced a new plan. In what could be the first of a series of movies reviving the studio’s many Hanna-Barbera properties, Warner Bros has scheduled an untitled animated Scooby-Doo movie for September 21, 2018. This new animated Scooby-Doo will be directed by Tony Cervone, who has currently directed direct-to-video Scooby-Doo and Tom and Jerry movies, as well as the 2003-2005 Duck Dodgers TV series.
French action director Luc Besson’s colorful sci-fi film The Fifth Element was released in 1997. In the 18 years since, the prolific director has mostly focused his attention on less expensive films like Lucy, and producing such action/thriller franchises as Taken and Transporter. Luc Besson is, however, preparing to return to the realm of ambitious science ficiton with a $180 million adaptation of the French comic book series Valerian and Laureline. The full working title of this movie is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but many sources list it as just Valerian. This space opera is compared to such movies as Blade Runner, Star Wars, and Luc Besson’s own The Fifth Element. There are reportedly only 5 major human characters, and “dozens of crazy-looking creatures.” This week, Clive Owen (Croupier, Sin City) joined the previously cast Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Cara Delavingne (Paper Towns). In what is a pretty strongly positive week, we’re calling the Valerian news “Rotten” based mostly on the RT Tomatometers for both Luc Besson and Clive Owen.