This week’s Ketchup includes news of sequels for Paranormal Activity and the Mad Max and Men in Black franchises, as well as casting news for Sir Anthony Hopkins, Matt Damon, Keira Knightley, Tom Cruise, and Adam Sandler.
Paranormal Activity was shot on a budget of $15,000, acquired by Paramount Pictures for $300,000, and the studio spent less than $10 million on marketing the movie. However, the biggest little horror movie since those kids got lost in the woods in The Blair Witch Project has already taken in over $60 million. It looks likely to top $100 million in the U.S. alone and is currently the #1 movie in America, so it’s not really surprising that Paramount is looking at developing a Paranormal Activity sequel. Following up a surprise hit can be a disappointing endeavor, however, as Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno demonstrated. On the other hand, there are cases where it’s worked, such as the Saw franchise (the box office sensation of which was only slowed down when Saw VI opened up against… Paranormal Actiivty). Paramount is currently only looking into whether a Paranormal Activity 2 “makes sense,” but given that it’s pretty cheap to set up a few digital videocameras in someone’s house, with a friend under the bed to tug on the sheets, it seems likely that Paramount will decide to try again. For the amount of money they spent on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, they could make (and market) another ten Paranormal Activity movies.
Sir Anthony Hopkins is in talks with Marvel Studios to costar as the Norse god Odin in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Thor. Although Hopkins is a revered actor with plenty of awards under his belt, his casting is actually quite surprising; Hopkins does not have the sort of muscular physical presence that Odin is usually portrayed as having. British actors that (to this writer) would have seemed more likely choices include Brendan Gleason (Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter movies) or Brian Blessed (Augustus in I, Claudius, or for the fanboys, Prince Vultan from Flash Gordon). In other casting news, the GossipCop site is now reporting that it has debunked last week’s rumor that Jude Law and Robert De Niro are in the running for roles in Thor. Filming of Thor is expected to start in January, 2010, with reports this week that some filming may actually take place in the very-Asgardian-like location of New Mexico, possibly for the scenes in which Thor finds himself exiled to our humble plane of Midgard.
Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are in talks to join the previously cast Jeff Bridges in the Coen Bros’ remake of True Grit, which they are aiming to adapt as a more faithful interpretation of the original Western novel by Charles Portis. Bridges will be playing U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (originally played by John Wayne), with Matt Damon to play the Texas Ranger played by Glen Campbell and Josh Brolin to play the hired hand responsible for killing the father of the story’s female lead (yet to be cast). Talking to Rotten Tomatoes this week, Ethan Coen also revealed that their adaptation will be both more comedic, violent and tougher than the 1969 John Wayne movies. That’s not surprising, considering the change in what’s become permissible and expected in movies over the last forty years. Filming of True Grit will start in March, and Paramount Pictures is expecting to release it next fall, 2010.
Charlize Theron and British actor Tom Hardy (the main villain in Star Trek: Nemesis) are the first actors to sign on to star in Mad Max: Fury Road, the long-delayed fourth movie in the franchise which is expected to start filming in Australia in August, 2010. The franchise’s director, George Miller, restarted work on Mad Max this year after his plans to work on the Justice League movie got scrapped by Warner Bros. Don’t think he’s on the outs with WB though, the studio that will distribute both Mad Max: Fury Road and Miller’s other upcoming movie, Happy Feet 2. Miller gave Australian press a tour of his studio this week, showing off one of the cars that is being designed and built for Fury Road, and remarking that they expect it will take about a year to build all of the cars that will be featured in the movie. As for Theron and Hardy, it is not known what characters they will be playing, and nothing is known about the movie’s plot either. Although Miller won’t come out and say that Mel Gibson isn’t returning, the common assumption is that he won’t be, although whether that means a new actor (Hardy?) will be playing either Mad Max himself or some sort of successor isn’t yet known. As for Charlize Theron, she’s actually got another post-apocalyptic movie with a similar title, The Road, opening in just a few weeks.
Columbia Pictures has hired screenwriter Etan Cohen (cowriter of Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder) to write a script for Men in Black 3, in an attempt to get one of the studio’s highest grossing franchises back in theaters. Columbia doesn’t currently have any deals for Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones, and Variety notes that the studio is unlikely to move forward with the project without their involvement. Director Barry Sonnenfeld is reported to be attached to the project, but no formal deal has been made with him yet, either. Men in Black 3 is just the latest high profile assignment for Etan Cohen, who is currently working on scripts for Universal’s Candy Land board game adaptation and a comedic Sherlock Holmes project which would feature Sacha Baron Cohen as the legendary sleuth, and Will Ferrell as Doctor Watson. Men in Black 3 is a high priority project for Columbia, and filming could star as soon as this spring, if all of the elements can be brought together that quickly.
According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, Keira Knightley has won the role of Eliza Dolittle in the remake of My Fair Lady, beating out Scarlett Johansson for the part. (That’s assuming we can trust the oft-disproven rumors that come across the pond.) I decided to run with this as actual news after the article was corrected about who would be directing (the job hasn’t been assigned yet), which makes me think this reporter actually reports (gasp) confirmed facts. What is known is that the remake is being written by actress Emma Thompson, whose other screenwriting credits include Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee and the upcoming sequel Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (all three of which she also starred in). That would make My Fair Lady the first feature she’s written in which she may not star. My Fair Lady was of course the 1964 musical adaptation (and a previous Broadway play) of Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw which was also adapted as a 1938 movie. The story of My Fair Lady is the story of Henry Higgins, a British man of manners who takes a Cockney flower girl under his wing, teaching her how to be a proper English lady. The Telegraph also reports that a contender for the role of Henry Higgins is Daniel Craig.
In a great example of burying the lead, Variety broke the news this week that Tom Cruise is attached to star in Flying Tigers, John Woo’s long-in-development movie about the American pilots who helped the Chinese fight Japan during World War II, before the U.S.A.’s official declaration of war. This news means that Cruise will be reuniting with director John Woo, with whom he worked on Mission: Impossible II, the star’s second highest grossing blockbuster at $546 million (War of the Worlds made $45 million more worldwide at $591 million). According to ComingSoon.net, the focus of Flying Tigers (and Cruise’s likely role) will be Claire Lee Chenault (yes, he was a guy), the leader of the American Flying Tigers unit who went on to help end China’s involvement in the war against the Japanese. It’s also noteworthy that this will mark a return for Tom Cruise to playing a pilot, since it was Top Gun that got Cruise started as a box office star. Flying Tigers was written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), who also cowrote Valkyrie (another movie in which Cruise played a real life World War II figure), and who is also working on adapting the British sci-fi TV series The Champions, which is supposed to star… Tom Cruise. John Woo is actively working on Flying Tigers as his next directing project, and filming is expected to start in early 2010 at locations in both China and the United States.
With the remake of Red Dawn currently filming in Michigan for a 2010 release, Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures are teaming up for a somewhat similar project about war in the US. Their plan is to develop an adapation of the 2005 strategy video game Shattered Union by 2K Games, about a near future in which a nuclear attack on Washington D.C. results in the United States breaking up into six separate nations, with Europe and Russia also controlling sections. Bruckheimer has hired screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling; creator of the Babylon 5 TV series) to work on the adaptation. Straczynski also has Ninja Assassin opening in theaters next month, and is working on a remake of Forbidden Planet and is adapting World War Z, a zombie apocalypse project with a global alternate reality perspective that is actually similar to that of Shattered Union. At this point, Shattered Union is probably a few years from happening, but if MGM’s Red Dawn remake is a huge hit, Disney will already have a project in development that they can put on the fast track to follow up on it.
Director Ridley Scott has been a nearly weekly presence here at the Ketchup, signing on for nearly more upcoming projects than Alfred Hitchcock directed in his entire career. Ridley apparently decided to take this week off, so his brother Tony signed on for one instead. Scott, the director of Top Gun, True Romance and this year’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 has set his sights on an untitled biopic about the rise and fall of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the founder of Chippendales. That was the popular male strip club and touring company that made it okay for women to do what men had been doing at similar clubs for decades. Banerjee was an Indian immigrant who went from pumping gas to running a Los Angeles strip club that became the first Chippendales. After becoming consumed by the excesses of his 1980s success, Banerjee was arrested for hiring a hitman to kill the choreographer who helped Chippendales get started, eventually hanging himself in jail hours before he was to be sentenced. The script will be adapted from a manuscript by Rodney Sheldon by screenwriter Lisa Schrager, who also adapted a Heidi Fleiss biopic called Pay the Girl, which Nicole Kidman is producing. To close this piece, and to apologize to anyone offended by the headline, here’s a link to the awesome SNL sketch that is probably the first thing many think of when they think of Chippendales today; Patrick and Chris are missed. In yet more Scott brothers news, the Scott Free production Town House got its stars this week in the form of Zach Galifianakis and Amy Adams. The project is a comedy about the son of a rock star who lives off the proceeds of his father’s career with his teenage son, until he finds that the money is starting to dry up (which makes it sound a bit like an American remake of About a Boy). Filming of Town House is expected to start in the summer of 2010.
In Funny People, Adam Sandler participated in self-spoofing the sort of dumb comedies that made up the chunk of his early career. However, Funny People also sort of tanked at the box office, so apparently Adam Sandler is returning to his roots; the latest movie he’s signed on to star in has a premise so ridiculous that some of Tracy Jordan’s movie posters on 30 Rock sound like better movies. Jack and Jill is a Columbia Pictures romantic comedy in which Sandler will play both the title characters of Jack and his twin sister Jill. The Happy Madison production will be coproduced by Todd Garner (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) and will be written by Steve Koren (cowriter of Bruce Almighty, A Night at the Roxbury). Columbia expects to start filming in early 2010 and release Jack and Jill sometime in 2011. The reason that Jack and Jill earns its spot as this week’s (only) Rotten Idea is pretty simple: Adam Sandler in drag just sounds like an awful premise for a movie. With both White Chicks 2 and Big Momma’s House 3 also in development for production sometime in 2010 as well, it looks like we’re going to be getting a lot of this type of movie in the near future.