Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: A Rome movie and Honest Abe fighting vampires

Plus, casting news for Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, as well as lots of remakes.

by | March 5, 2010 | Comments

This Week’s Ketchup includes news of two TV show adaptations (Rome and Gilligan’s Island), yet another videogame adaptation (Space Invaders), a few more remakes (including Police Academy and one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films), new roles for Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, and movies about Abraham Lincoln and J. Edgar Hoover.



When HBO pulled the plug on its expensive coproduction Rome, there was talk of the possibility of the series continuing on in movie form. Fans of the show who were also familiar with similar promises of Deadwood movies knew, however, to perhaps take such talk with a grain of salt. We may still never get a Swearengen movie, but a movie starring legionaries Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) and Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) may yet be in the stars, as the Romans would say. Series cocreator Bruno Heller has turned in the script for a Rome movie, which will continue the adventures of Pullo and Vorenus four years later in Germany, where Rome’s battles for conquest were still quite ongoing in the film’s setting of 27 BC (also the year Octavian became Caesar Augustus). A focus on Germany is a departure from the original series plans. Heller revealed a few years back that the second season (which focused on Octavian, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and Egypt) was actually a condensed version of what had originally been planned for seasons 2, 3 and 4. The hypothetical 5th season of Rome would have focused on the rise of the messiah in Palestine. The next step for Rome, which is now an independent production with no involvement from HBO, is to find a studio and a director.


Last week, Angelina Jolie departed the sequel to Wanted (which Universal is now saying they are indeed still moving ahead with). The story last week was that Jolie was considering starring in a Moon-esque space thriller called Gravity, in which she would nearly be the only character for the entire movie. Well, the idea of Angelina Jolie being in that movie is SO “February, 2010.” Get with the times, folks, because Ms. Jolie has already passed on working with Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) in Gravity as well. The latest lucky director who might have a chance at filming dozens of hours of Jolie footage is fanboy favorite Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream). Aronofsky and Jolie are in talks to develop an adaptation of 2008’s Serena: A Novel by Ron Rash. Serena is set in 1929 North Carolina and is about a newly married couple whose pursuit of establishing a timber empire leads to “ruthless” acts. Christopher Kyle (K-19: The Widowmaker), who also co-wrote Alexander (in which Angelina Jolie co-starred), is currently working on adapting the novel. Additional work is reportedly needed on the script, so Serena is not likely to be Jolie’s next movie after she wraps filming of The Tourist, co-starring Johnny Depp. One strong candidate in the meantime is an adaptation of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta crime scene investigation novels. As for Darren Aronofsky, he recently wrapped up filming of his latest film, The Black Swan, a ballerina thriller starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder.


Johnny Depp and singer/actress Vanessa Paradis, the mother of his two children, are finally getting around to making a movie together. My American Lover will tell the true story of the romance between French existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex) and American novelist Nelson Algren (The Man with the Golden Arm), who traveled together in South America in 1949. De Beauvoir is however most famously known for her long (but “open”) relationship with fellow existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, so we can probably figure that Sartre will be a character in the film as well. Although Vanessa Paradis is best known as a singer, she has appeared in several movies, the best known of which is the 1999 French film The Girl on the Bridge. My American Lover will be directed by Lasse Hallström, who previously worked with Johnny Depp on both What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Chocolat. Hallström will first however take over directing duties of the sex change drama The Danish Girl (starring Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow), following the departure of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) from the project. Considering how busy both Depp and Hallström are, My American Lover probably won’t start filming until sometime in 2011 at the earliest.


Steven Spielberg has been wanting to make his big Abraham Lincoln biopic epic for many years now, but other filmmakers aren’t daunted by his Abe-related delays. Robert Redford wrapped up filming recently of The Conspirator, about the trial of John Wilkes Booth’s female collaborator. And now, directors Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland) and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch) are reuniting as producers on their own Lincoln project, after also co-producing last year’s 9 together. And boy, it’s a doozie. Burton and Bekmambetov will co-produce an adaptation of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, the second “mash up” novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. An adaptation of that novel is also in development, with Natalie Portman producing and attached to star as Elizabeth Bennet, and with David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) in talks to direct. The premise of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is pretty much exactly what you would expect. After his mother dies at the fangs of a vampire, the young future 16th president dedicates himself to eradicating vampires from the United States, trusty axe in hand, as well as all that other important stuff that he really did do. And we don’t even have to wait until filming starts to get an idea of what the trailer might look like, because the book itself already has a trailer.


Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment are developing a biopic about the life of FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from its founding in 1935 until his death in 1972, and his career included the G-Man era of the 1930s, continued efforts against the Mafia, and the establishment of national law enforcement as we know it today. Something else that J. Edgar Hoover is known for is his (quite arguably hypocritical) rumored secret life as a closeted homosexual and transvestite. And that right there is most likely where screenwriter Dustin Lance Black enters the picture, as his two best known feature credits are Milk and Pedro, both of which were biopics about famous gay men (San Francisco politician Harvey Milk and Real World: San Francisco star Pedro Zamora). Black won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Milk. J. Edgar Hoover has been portrayed in film and television many times over the years, but the most recent and high profile example was in last year’s Public Enemies, in which he was played by Billy Crudup.



The 1984 comedy Police Academy was arguably one of the funniest movies ever made, but that fact is easily forgotten now because the five sequels after Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment greatly tarnished the original film’s legacy. Heck, Police Academy even had a great orchestral score. And now, Hollywood’s seamy love affair with remakes and reboots has even enrolled at that esteemed institution, with the news that New Line Cinema is developing a new Police Academy which very much sounds like a reboot. The premise of the original Police Academy got its start with a new law in an unnamed city that opened the door to anyone who wanted to become a recruit, regardless of qualifications. This remake will feature a new class of recruits, but the original class included Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, David Graf (as the gun crazy Tackleberry), Marion Ramsey (as the meek Hooks) and of course, Michael Winslow as that “sound effects” guy. The remake doesn’t yet have a screenwriter or director, but original producer Paul Maslansky is involved. And as for that theme music, New Line Cinema expects to keep that as well. The reason this is one of this week’s “Rotten Ideas” should be pretty obvious to anyone who enjoyed the first two movies, and then was ever exposed to any of the sequels. The chances seem fairly bleak that a new movie (whether they call it a reboot, a remake or a sequel) can live up to the original, and five lousy sequels proved that the premise was one that was very easily done badly.


Paramount Pictures is moving forward with plans to remake Pet Sematary, the 1989 horror film which was based upon a novel by Stephen King. To adapt the novel, Paramount has hired screenwriter Matthew Greenberg, whose co-writing credits include Reign of Fire, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and the Stephen King short story adaptation 1408. The idea of a Pet Sematary remake has been around for several years now, including a time when George Clooney was considering starring. Pet Sematary is the story of a family that moves to rural Maine, only to discover that they live near a pet cemetery near a Native American burial ground that has the unique property of resurrecting anything buried there. Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you can probably imagine where the story goes from there. The original movie is especially memorable for the performance of Fred Gwynne as the neighbor who tells the father character about the burial grounds. Constantly explaining why remakes are generally “rotten ideas” gets a bit old, so for this one, let’s just say this: Stephen King has written dozens of books and hundreds of short stories, many of which have surprisingly not yet been adapted as movies. Admittedly, movies like The Mist also remind us that sometimes that’s not a great idea either. However, wouldn’t it be more interesting to see filmmakers try their hand at something we haven’t seen yet, versus yet another visit to this old pile of rocks?


Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock are two of Hollywood’s most beloved classic film directors, and this week what they also have in common is the possibility of one of each of their movies yet again being remade. First up, there is Frank Capra’s State of the Union, a mostly forgotten 1948 romantic drama (also based upon a play) about a politician who must reunite with his wife (who he’s cheated on) to further his presidential campaign. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn starred in the original film, and Jessica Biel is reportedly in talks to star with Richard Gere (who is 33 years older than her) in the remake. The State of the Union remake is being produced independently, and the director is Garry Marshall, whose latest film was Valentine’s Day, and two of his biggest romantic comedy successes also starred Richard Gere (Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride). And with that, let’s get to the Hitch news, and the irony is that it is being produced and would feature the star of Hitch. Will Smith is reportedly interested in remaking 1941’s Suspicion, which has the distinction of being Hitchcock’s only film to win an acting Oscar (for Joan Fontaine in the Best Actress category). Suspicion was also Oscar nominated for Best Picture and Best Score. Fontaine and Cary Grant starred as a pair of newlyweds who begin to experience problems as the new wife starts to suspect that her husband is actually a cold blooded killer. Suspicion was based upon a novel called Before the Fact, and the many changes that the studio imposed upon Hitchcock to change the plot are part of Hitch’s long history of struggling with Hollywood over his movies. So, right there is a good question to ask: does Will Smith want to directly remake Suspicion, or does he plan on adapting the book upon which it was based more faithfully? Of course, both State of the Union and Suspicion are “Rotten Ideas” this week, so you can guess that this writer thinks the more relevant question should be whether guys like Garry Marshall and Will Smith should even be considering adapting movies directed by two of the business’ greats. State of the Union might fall into that category where the original film is so forgotten that the remake might actually be a good idea, but then you remember what sort of movies Garry Marshall generally makes. As for Suspicion, it is one of the greatest movies from one of the original masters of the art. That’s about all I need to say on that.


If Earth ever gets invaded from space, hopefully they will be courteous enough to approach our fair cities in neat rows and columns that are easily fired upon by artillery cannons. That is the closest thing to a “plot” that I’ve been able to cobble together after hours spent in the 1970s playing Space Invaders. The suits at Warner Bros, however, apparently think that the classic 1978 arcade video game has such a rich story that it merits a feature length movie. That’s right, Warner Bros is currently in negotiations with Taito about acquring the film rights to Space Invaders. If Warner Bros is able to reach a deal with Taito, the studio will bring in three producers whose credits include Tooth Fairy, My Best Friend’s Girl, 10,000 BC and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. You know, last week, I jinxed us all, I think. I triumphantly crowed in the opening of last week’s Ketchup that the column did not include any remakes, toy or game adaptations. So this week, Hollywood dumped a payload on us all. Sorry?


There’s no plans for a LOST movie (thankfully), but that other TV show about castaways on an uncharted island is not so lucky. Warner Bros has announced progress for the long-in-development feature adaptation of the 1964-1967 CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island, which could start filming as soon as 2011. The movie will be executive produced by series creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd, and produced by Charles Roven. Roven is best known for producing Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but his filmography also includes the TV comedy adaptations Get Smart and the two Scooby Doo movies. The screenwriter is Brad Copeland, whose credits include Wild Hogs, the upcoming Yogi Bear movie and several episodes of Arrested Development. Over the years, Sherwood Schwartz has done a lot of public dream casting, and last year, he updated his list to include Michael Cera as S.S. Minnow first mate Gilligan and Beyonce as movie star Ginger Grant. For those unfamiliar with the show, the other characters are the Skipper, the Professor, Mary Ann, millionaire Thurston Howell III and his wife Lovey. Depending upon how one wants to interpret Roven and Copeland’s credits, this movie either has potential, or it doesn’t. The reason that this is this week’s most Rotten Idea (in a week with plenty of candidates) is that the field of movies based upon old TV shows is just generally more littered with mistakes than movies that actually live up to their promise. Of course, with Gilligan’s Island, you have a show that is both considered by some to be a classic, and one that others remember as being sort of awful. Modern audiences have looked back at Gilligan’s Island and interpreted it as having everything from drug references to implied gay subtext (mostly between Skipper and his “little buddy.”) If Warner Bros’ plans hold up, come 2012, we might just find out. Will it be a straight comedy adaptation, or more of an ironic affair?

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.