This week saw Hollywood announcing projects in overtime, with many movies not making the top 10 cut of the Ketchup that would have easily done so in other weeks. So, I snuck some of those in with other stories, so you’re really getting a top 15. Included in the mix are news stories for the Spider-Man and Superman reboot projects, movie musicals based on both the Beach Boys and Jersey Boys, and possible new roles for Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks and Mike Myers.
After weeks of speculation and reports about various directors for the Superman reboot, Warner Bros has chosen to go with someone who had already worked on two other comic book adaptations for the studio: Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). Snyder just recently released his animated movie Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and is currently working on post-production of his first film based upon an original script, Sucker Punch. The hiring of the Superman reboot director was overseen by Christopher Nolan, and the script by David S. Goyer (Blade; cowriter of Batman Begins) was based upon an idea conceived by both Goyer and Nolan. The next step for this reboot will be finding a new actor to play Superman, following Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. Something about the story that possibly might be known already however is who the villain will be. Multiple sources are reporting that they have heard that the villain will be none other than General Zod, which makes this second “reboot” Superman a sort of parallel to the premise of Superman 2. Meanwhile, with the Superman job now settled, that leaves another director’s future open: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream and the upcoming Black Swan). Aronofsky has long wanted to direct a superhero movie (as far back as his plans for Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, before Nolan came aboard for Batman Begins). To that end, Aronofsky has reportedly been talking with 20th Century Fox about X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, which is also basically an adaptation of a Frank Miller story, since it is a loose adaptation of Miller’s original Wolverine mini-series that followed Wolvie’s adventures against ninjas in Japan. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Darren Aronofsky will direct the movie, however, as he is also being approached by other producers, including Warner Bros for their period crime story Tales from the Gangster Squad.
It is extremely common for actresses to dye their hair when they go to Hollywood, and in doing so, they create an image in the public’s eye. Emma Stone, the recent star of Easy A (as well as Superbad and Zombieland), for example appears to be a redhead. So, this week, when she was announced as having landed a role in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, writers (including those at major media outlets) were quick to proclaim that she would be playing Mary Jane Watson. That might also have to do with the fact that in the first three movies, Mary Jane Watson was Peter Parker’s main romantic interest, even though in the original comics, Mary Jane was a relatively late entry. Before Mary Jane, Peter Parker’s love interests were Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy (portrayed by Elizabeth Banks and Bryce Dallas Howard in the first three movies as relatively minor supporting roles). The thing is… Emma Stone is actually a natural blonde, and so it is actually the role of Gwen Stacy that Stone had landed. Since this movie is a reboot, the role of Gwen Stacy is likely to be more prominent in Peter Parker’s early life, matching the storyline from the original 1960s comics. In fact, Mary Jane Watson will reportedly not be in this first reboot movie at all (previous reports that they were casting for the role might have been Sony throwing out a “red hair”-ring). Emma Stone joins the already cast Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) as Peter Parker. Another casting rumor that emerged this week for the Spider-Man reboot is the notion that Venom might return, and that Phillip Seymour Hoffman might be up for the role (apparently going back to the way Eddie Brock was originally portrayed, as an older reporter). However, that rumor also comes from a news story that claims Emma Stone will be playing Mary Jane Watson, so perhaps they were totally wrong about Venom and Hoffman too.
Director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days) made Oscar history earlier this year when she won the Best Director award for The Hurt Locker. Now Bigelow is preparing to direct Triple Frontier (AKA Sleeping Dogs), an ensemble drama for Paramount Pictures set in the dangerous crime-ridden border area between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. And for this movie, Bigelow is attracting two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The first actor to be revealed this week was Tom Hanks. Triple Frontier doesn’t start filming until February, 2011, after which Tom Hanks will be finished filming the 9/11-themed drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, costarring Sandra Bullock. The second star to be mentioned (for a different role) was Johnny Depp, whose interest was reportedly heightened by the chance to costar with Tom Hanks, with whom Johnny Depp has never worked before. Depp’s involvement however will depend upon whether possible scheduling conflicts with Tim Burton’s adaptation of the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows can be worked out. If Hanks and Depp do sign on, that still leaves three other major roles in Triple Frontier. A few months ago, a leaked Paramount document listed potential stars as Christian Bale, Javier Bardem, Sean Penn and Will Smith, but it’s possible (likely) that at least one of those stars was being eyed for a role that will now instead go to either Tom Hanks or Johnny Depp.
This week, Tom Cruise’s name appeared in at least three different movie news items, depending upon how you count them. First up is the Warner Bros action comedy El Presidente, about a bumbling ex-president on the road and the Secret Service agent assigned to protect him. There are conflicting reports that Tom Cruise has either attached himself to costar as the agent, or is merely in talks for the role. Warner Bros is also in talks with Jack Nicholson to play the president, in what would essentially be a reunion movie for the stars of A Few Good Men. There’s no word yet as to who will direct El Presidente, but the script was written by Dan Goor, who has worked as a writer on both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Late Night with Conan O’Brien (828 episodes according to the IMDb!). Another project that Tom Cruise has long been trying to get made is called Flying Tigers, about the American volunteer pilots who helped the Chinese fight Japan in the period before the USA officially joined World War II. If the movie gets made, Tom Cruise is likely to star as one of the pilots, in addition to producing. Cruise’s Flying Tigers is with 20th Century Fox, and screenwriter Kirk Ellis (writer of all 7 episodes of the HBO miniseries John Adams) has been hired to do a rewrite of the script by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects; cowriter of Valkyrie) and Mason Alley (TV’s The Agency). A major obstacle to this Flying Tigers movie, however, is the fact that director John Woo (Broken Arrow, Face/Off), who directed Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II is himself preparing to film a movie called Flying Tigers about… the very same subject. The two productions are racing against each other, and Woo’s version has already announced plans to start filming in the spring of 2011 in China. Finally, there is the continuing casting process for the 4th Mission: Impossible movie. Three of the film’s “international” villains were announced this week, and they are Lea Seydoux (Robin Hood, Inglourious Basterds), Michael Nyqvist (the reporter in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels) and Anil Kapoor (the Indian gameshow host in Slumdog Millionaire).
This week, two completely separate movie musical projects were announced that coincidentally have the word “boys” in common. First, there are The Beach Boys, that classic American band of brothers (and their friends) that landed dozens of songs on the pop charts in the 1960s. The Beach Boys are still performing today, but their collective story also includes the plight of their leader and songwriter Brian Wilson, who has had a long struggle with mental illness. Following the success of movies like Mamma Mia! (ABBA) and Across the Universe (The Beatles), 20th Century Fox is now developing a movie musical set to the songs of The Beach Boys. Screenwriter Susannah Grant (28 Days, Erin Brockovich) is working on the screenplay, but no details have been revealed yet about what exactly the premise might be. Another group that scored many pop hits in the 1960s was Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons (though they actually started several years before The Beach Boys, in the 1950s). Their story was adapted for Broadway as Jersey Boys, going on to win 4 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Now, producer Graham King (The Departed, Blood Diamond) and his GK Films has won the rights to bring Jersey Boys to the big screen. Graham King is a frequent collaborator with Martin Scorsese, and his upcoming movies include Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret as well as The Tourist, The Rum Diary and Rango, all three of which star Johnny Depp. Martin Scorsese is not involved with Jersey Boys (for now), but there is speculation that King’s connection with the director may have been a factor in his landing the rights against many other producers and studios that were vying for them.
The next movie for director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) will be Gravity, about a female astronaut trying to make her way back to Earth after a disaster on an orbital space station. The casting of that astronaut is very crucial because like Castaway and Moon, Gravity will be a movie that spends the majority of its time focusing on a single character. The first actress mentioned for the role had been Angelina Jolie, and then when she dropped out, Warner Bros considered several actresses until settling on Natalie Portman. This week, however, Natalie Portman also decided to turn down the offer. So, the studio is now pursuing Sandra Bullock to take on the role instead. Gravity is a $80 million movie that will be filmed in 3D and is one of Warner Bros’ highest profile original projects currently in the works. Robert Downey Jr. is already attached in a supporting role as the other astronaut who survives the initial space station disaster. Alfonso Cuaron also cowrote Gravity with his son Jonas Cuaron and Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her).
Ron Howard recently made big news with his ambitious plans to direct both a movie and an NBC TV series based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. However, Ron Howard is also lining up another project as director, which is possibly a sign that The Dark Tower might not be starting up as soon as fans might have hoped. Howard’s Imagine Entertainment is teaming up with Sony Pictures Entertainment on an adaptation of My Stroke of Insight, the true story memoirs of “brain scientist” Jill Bolte Taylor. “Brain scientist” sounds like a term that Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock would use, but the actual title that Dr. Taylor uses for herself (or at least her Wikipedia page does) is a “neuroanatomist who specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain.” My Stroke of Insight is the story of how the 37-year-old Taylor suffered a massive stroke, leaving her unable to walk, read, write or even remember her past, and details how she spent the next eight years using her knowledge of the brain to recover. This project is being seen as a sister project of sorts to Howard’s Oscar winning A Beautiful Mind, which also dealt with a brilliant academic and “the complexities of the human mind.” Ron Howard is hoping to recruit Jodie Foster to star as Dr. Taylor, but the actress is not yet officially signed on. Semi Challas, who wrote several episodes of the 2004 TV series Eleventh Hour is adapting the screenplay from Taylor’s memoirs. This news about My Stroke of Insight also comes out in the same week as the trailer for Ron Howard’s next movie, the comedy The Dilemma starring Vince Vaughn. That, combined with the The Dark Tower news, serves nicely to illustrate exactly how all over the board and unpredictable Ron Howard is as a director: he directs all types of movies (remember How the Grinch Stole Christmas too?).
The Weekly Ketchup frequently focuses on movies based on fan favorites like comic books and video games, or starring the latest hot young actors and actresses. However, there are still people over the age of 60 who are lining up work, and this story involves not just one or two of them, but several, and it has an Oscar-friendly director to boot. Fox Searchlight Pictures has announced that filming starts this Sunday in India on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a comedy about a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement years to a less expensive and more exotic location in India. Once they get there, of course, they discover that what they expected to be a palace of luxury does not quite live up to the advertisements they saw in England. The all-star cast of aging British stars includes Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy, with Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) also costarring. John Madden (Proof, Shakespeare in Love) is directing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from a script by Ol Parker (Imagine Me & You) and Deborah Moggach (2005’s Pride & Prejudice), adapting Moggach’s 2004 novel entitled These Foolish Things.
This news story is pretty convoluted and twisty-turny, so here’s just a warning up front that it might be a bit hard to follow. Once upon a time, Lionsgate planned to adapt Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with Natalie Portman starring and David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) directing. Following the news that Portman had dropped out of the project as its star due to scheduling conflicts, Russell has also dropped out. Instead, David O. Russell’s next movie (after this fall’s The Fighter) will now be a drama called Old St. Louis about a travelling toy salesman (Vince Vaughn) trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. Until recently, the daughter was going to be played by 25-year-old Scarlett Johansson, but like Natalie Portman, she also dropped out for “scheduling conflicts.” So, the role appears likely to instead go to the much more age-appropriate 13-year-old Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In), who herself had previously been attached to star in Old St. Louis, but had to drop out for… scheduling conflicts (but the new Spring, 2011 filming start appears to work better for Moretz now). As for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for now, it appears that Jane Austen/zombies mash-up might be a dead project. However, another adaptation of a novel by the same author got good news this week. 20th Century Fox won a bidding war for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter after putting on an impressive presentation that included the studio lot getting mocked up with bloody axes and footprints and other little touches. That civil war/vampire mash-up movie will be the first movie for Timur Bekmambetov as director since 2008’s Wanted, with filming expected to start in March, 2011.
If you remove the four Shrek movies from Mike Myers’ filmography of the last 8 years, and only focus on movies he starred in, you’re left with only two movies, and they were both stinkers: The Cat in the Hat and The Love Guru. Now, if you take that theme and actually combine those two movies (an intense odor, a talking cat-like creature and someone who thinks of themselves as a love expert), you might just end up with… Pepe Le Pew. One has to wonder if that isn’t exactly what someone at Warner Bros is thinking, because the studio has attached Mike Myers to star in a live-action/CGI adaptation of the Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew. This news makes Pepe Le Pew the fourth Looney Tunes character that Warner Bros is actively developing as a live-action/CGI movie, following Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzalez and Bugs Bunny. For the unfamiliar, Pepe Le Pew was the star of 17 Warner Bros animated shorts from 1945 to 1962, and they all basically followed the same premise. Pepe Le Pew is an overly romantic French skunk who chases around a black female cat (with some variations) who gets a white stripe on her back, making Pepe think that she is also a skunk. Part of the joke obviously is that as a skunk, Pepe is rather unattractive because of his odor, but he totally doesn’t get that at all. Pepe Le Pew is also a bit of a politically incorrect relic of his time, because if you really think about it, Pepe was basically stalking females who were uninterested in him, and was engaging in behavior that is borderline date rape. Of course, Warner Bros is also the studio that produced that poster for Yogi Bear that implied hot bear-on-bear action. There’s no word yet as to who is adapting the Pepe Le Pew script, or who will be directing. Also unknown is exactly what the premise will be, except that Penelope Pussycat, Pepe’s intended “love interest” will be in it, and will be the other CGI character, with the rest of the movie being live action. At this point, I probably don’t really have to say why Pepe Le Pew is this week’s Rotten Idea, but I will just provide some closing bullet points: #1 Mike Myers, #2 it’s a CGI kids movie about an anthropomorphic stalker, and #3 the Tomatometer track record for previous CGI/live-action movies based on characters most popular before most of today’s kids were even born.