This Week, the biggest movie-related story was obviously the Academy Awards nominations and the controversies that have sprung up in reaction to them (like the nominations that didn’t happen). But since the Weekly Ketchup is dedicated to the hottest stories in “film development” (what new movies were announced, casting news, etc), we’re not going to directly cover the Oscars here, though many nominees (such as Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, and Michael Keaton) did make the news this week.
This Week’s Top Story
THE BIG SHORT LANDS AWARD FRIENDLY QUARTET: PITT, BALE, GOSLING, CARELL
After the Academy Awards nominations were announced Thursday morning, a big social media spotlight was shone on the membership statistics of the Academy. The movies that get covered in the Weekly Ketchup in one year become the movies in theaters in the next, or the year after that. In other words, if there’s a problem with the movies the Academy is awarding, part of the problem starts with the films that Hollywood is producing. Every year as Oscar nominations (and then later, the actual awards) are announced, Oscar favorites often also make the news with fresh projects on the way. The most star-studded new project this week had to be The Big Short, based on the Michael Lewis book about the 2008 financial crisis. The first three stars were not specifically nominated this year, but Brad Pitt executive produced Selma, Ryan Gosling is a past nominee (for Half Nelson), and Christian Bale won his first Oscar for The Fighter, and was nominated for American Hustle. Brad Pitt also won an Oscar for producing 12 Years a Slave, has been nominated three times as an actor, and is also producing The Big Short. That trio was soon joined by one of this year’s nominees, Steve Carell (for Foxcatcher), who is also in talks. The four actors are in negotiations to play leading figures at financial institutions Deutsche Bank, Cornwall Capital, FrontPoint Partners, and Scion Capital. Comedy director Adam McKay (Anchorman; cowriter of Ant-Man) is expected to make a genre shift to serious drama with The Big Short.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 MICHAEL KEATON: FROM BIRDMAN TO MCDONALD’S BIOPIC THE FOUNDER
The week started for Michael Keaton with an emotional speech at the Golden Globes, and continued right on through a nomination for Best Actor for Birdman. The veteran actor is back in the spotlight, and his agents are continuing to land him new deals. Keaton is now in talks to star as Ray Kroc in The Founder, which will tell “the dark story of the rise of the McDonald’s fast food empire.” Keaton will also be costarring with another of this year’s Golden Globes winners, J.K. Simmons (and Avengers costar Tom Hiddleston) in Kong: Skull Island, which Simmons revealed this week will take place at least partly in Detroit in 1971. Universal Pictures has scheduled Kong: Skull Island for March 10, 2017.
#2 BEN AFFLECK’S GONE GIRL TEAM TO REUNITE FOR STRANGERS ON A TRAIN REMAKE
The Weekly Ketchup regularly delegates remakes to the “Rotten Idea” section. It’s sort of a thing. Sometimes, however, it’s not quite that easy. Take, for example, the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, which has been in development for a while (except that the previous news was about a very different take). In a surprising turn, three of the key players in this year’s Gone Girl are now planning to reunite for just such a Hitchcock remake. Gillian Flynn (author and screenwriter of Gone Girl) will adapt Patricia Highsmith’s novel as Strangers, about a famous actor (played by Ben Affleck) in the middle of awards season, who accepts a private plane ride from a wealthy stranger (who presumably proposes a murderous deal). Strangers will be directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl), who a few years ago directed the English language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Warner Bros has put Strangers on a fast track for production within the next year or so, hoping to start filming before Ben Affleck starts filming Justice League in 2016.
#3 EDGE OF TOMORROW REUNION: TOM CRUISE TO STAR IN 1980S DRUG DRAMA MENA
The Gone Girl reunion wasn’t the only such story this week. Edge of Tomorrow may have had a generic title that ended up being relabeled as Live Die Repeat, but the film was a critical darling. And, apparently, Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman enjoyed working togeter, because they are now attached to another film together. Cruise and Liman are now in talks with Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures to reunite for the 1980s drug drama Mena, based on a true story. Tom Cruise will play “Barry Seal, a pilot who, in the 1980s, was a gun runner, and drug trafficker who transported contraband for the CIA and the Medellin cartel. He was eventually shot to death by the latter in Baton Rouge. The title refers to Mena, Arkansas, where a lot of the illegal activity took place, under the noses of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.” Doug Liman has a strong history at Universal Pictures, since he was the director of The Bourne Identity. If the deals work out, Mena will start filming later this year.
#4 EDGAR WRIGHT’S BABY DRIVER DETAILS REVEALED
The movie that is chugging along towards production in the shadow and dust following Edgar Wright’s departure from Marvel’s Ant-Man is his long-in-development Baby Driver, which until this week, we knew relatively little about. Now we can report that Baby Driver is a “rock and roll chase movie” about a “young getaway driver who relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, long, and freedom.” People are drawing comparisons to Drive, but the premise also sounds to this writer a bit like The Transporter. Edgar Wright is reportedly hoping to cast Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) as the lead character, with Emma Stone and Michael Douglas (AKA his almost Ant-Man coworker) both being pursued to take supporting roles.
#5 TOM HARDY DROPS OUT OF SUICIDE SQUAD — WILL JAKE GYLLENHAAL REPLACE HIM?
When Warner Bros announced an ambitious ensemble cast for their super villain movie Suicide Squad, it was perhaps inevitable that scheduling conflicts would come into play. Some of the most successful actors are also the busiest, and fitting in several months for a big tentpole production sometimes just isn’t possible. That’s what happened to Warner Bros’ DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad, which this week lost Tom Hardy (as team leader Rick Flagg) due to production over runs on The Revenant (for Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu). Warner Bros is reportedly hoping to replace Tom Hardy with Jake Gyllenhaal, who worked with director David Ayer on End of Watch. If Gyllenhaal signs on, and everyone else’s deals stay firm, he will join an ensemble cast which includes Jared Leto (The Joker), Will Smith (Deadshot), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Cara Delevigne (Enchantress), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn). This story is truly borderline — we almost called it a “Rotten Idea” — but the promise of Jake Gyllenhaal leading a super villain team movie is sort of awesome.
#6 BRADLEY COOPER TO MAKE DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH HONEYMOON WITH HARRY
When Selma star David Oyelowo wasn’t nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, one of the actors whose nomination was questioned by columnists was Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. While some of the other Oscars-timed announcements this week seem like previews of Awards season 2016 or 2017, Bradley Cooper’s is a “dramedy” (a genre blend the Academy has mostly rejected since the late 1990s). Bradley Cooper will also make his directorial debut with New Line Cinema’s Honeymoon with Harry, about a man whose bride dies just before their wedding, and who is forced to spend their would-be honeymoon with his grieving would-be father-in-law, to be played by Robert De Niro. Honeymoon with Harry has been in development for over ten years, and is most frequently compared to the films of James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets, Terms of Endearment). Are audiences ready for a movie like that to return with two big stars?
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 THE SPIDER-MAN/AVENGERS RUMORS CONTINUE
At first glance, it might be baffling why we’re calling this specific story a “Rotten Idea.” After all, it’s about Spider-Man joining the MCU as a member of the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, and that would be awesome, right? The problem is, yes, that was a huge story this week, and you probably saw it on Twitter or Facebook a dozen times, but… it might be complete hooey, with a Sony representative saying the story has “no validity whatsoever.” So, the Rotten Idea here is not the dream of Spidey fighting alongside Captain America and Iron Man and Thor — we are right there with you. But these semi-regular cloud-chasing rumors don’t really help accomplish our cinematic daydreams. They often just lead to disappointment when a year or two goes by, and you remember it never happened.
#2 YOU CAN’T ESCAPE FROM THE ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK REMAKE
In the last ten or so years when Hollywood was particularly addicted to genre remakes, one of the projects that just wouldn’t go away was the Escape from New York remake. Recently, there was a bidding war between various studios, and 20th Century Fox won the bid, with John Carpenter attached to executive produce. You can probably disregard most of what you’ve heard in the past, because a “start from scratch” approach is being touted. Having said that, some of the previous rumors or discussions might still happen (you never know). Recent rumored stars to be the new Snake Plissken have included Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) and Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor). The Escape from New York remake now needs to find a director, and they don’t even have the help of a beacon. We’re calling this one a “Rotten Idea” just because… if there’s any John Carpenter film that still holds up without a remake, it’s The Thing ( and look at what happened there). If there’s a second one… it’s Escape from New York. Can anyone beat Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken?
#1 JAMES CAMERON PUSHES THE AVATAR SEQUEL TRILOGY BACK TO START IN 2017
What to do with Avatar is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, the film was a huge hit for 20th Century Fox and director James Cameron, so obviously, consideration of a sequel was going to happen. However, we’re now over five years past Avatar, and in that time, Cameron’s work on a trilogy of Avatar sequels has had at least one obvious impact: we haven’t been getting new movies from director James Cameron. And this week, we found out that the trilogy, which was expected to be released a year apart starting 2016, has been pushed back another year so the three films will be released in late 2017, 2018 and 2019. So, now we’re looking at 8 years without new films from James Cameron. If you take out his documentary work, there will now be a 20+ year space (1995 to 2016) in Cameron’s career where he only directed two non-documentary films: Titanic and Avatar. For fans of his 1980s and 1990s action films, that’s a pretty Rotten Idea. At this pace, will we ever get Cameron’s adaptation of Battle Angel Alita?
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.