Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: A Wizard of Oz Remake!?

Plus, Daniel Day-Lewis to star in Spielberg’s Lincoln

by | November 19, 2010 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup includes remakes of The Wizard of Oz and The Swarm, and new roles and potential new roles for George Clooney, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert Downey, Jr.



While Hollywood is in the midst of the current wave of remakes, there remain a few classic movies that are considered perfect, and therefore untouchable for remakes. This week, however, one of those classics was revealed to be getting exactly that: The Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum’s book is already the subject of two planned movies that would reinterpret the story from the perspective of both the Wicked Witch of the West (Universal’s movie version of the musical Wicked) and Oz (Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the Wizard). However, the newly announced project at Warner Bros is a much more direct remake, working off the original 1939 movie’s script. What is unclear is whether this remake will also retain all of the original movie’s songs (although it’s difficult to imagine the script being used without them). There’s also no word as to whether the script would be used exactly, or whether a modern writer would be hired to adapt the script that was written by a massive team of 19 screenwriters (including Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion). One detail that is known already is that Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf, Back to the Future), who was mentioned in the initial report, will not be directing this Wizard of Oz remake. Zemeckis will instead continue to focus on his CGI animated remake of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.



After years of Liam Neeson being attached to star in Steven Spielberg’s long-planned Lincoln biopic, Daniel Day-Lewis has now signed on with DreamWorks to play the 16th President of the United States instead. Day-Lewis has a reputation for being very choosey about what roles he takes on, having only appeared in four movies since 2000 (Gangs of New York, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, There Will Be Blood and Nine). Lincoln was adapted from the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about “the political collision of Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.” Goodwin’s book was adapted by Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, whose previous movie credit was as a cowriter on Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Filming of Lincoln is expected to start in the fall of 2011, aiming for a release in late 2012 through Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Steven Spielberg recently signed on to direct the science fiction film Robopocalypse, but it appears that movie may have to wait until after Lincoln wraps.


He’s been starring in the TV show Rescue Me since 2004, but Denis Leary’s only movie roles since 2002’s The Secret Lives of Dentists have been documentaries and the Ice Age franchise. The comedian-turned-actor is set to return to live action in a big way, however, as Denis Leary is now in negotiations with Columbia Pictures to play Captain George Stacy in the Spider-Man reboot. Captain Stacy was a very important character in the early years of the Amazing Spider-Man comic book series. Unlike J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle, Stacy was cop who actually loved what Spider-Man was doing, and was also a father figure to young Peter Parker. His daughter Gwen Stacy was also one of Peter’s early romantic interests, and will be played in the reboot by Emma Stone. There’s more to the Captain Stacy story, which this writer won’t spoil (though the linked story above totally does). It’s also unknown if that particular plot element will be included in the Spider-Man reboot anyway.


Warner Bros has developing a movie version of the 1960s spy TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. since the 1990s, around the time that Mission: Impossible was first made into a big hit movie in 1996. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. aired on NBC from 1964 to 1968 (and in reruns for much longer) and depicted the espionage exploits of the duo of American agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum). There was also a short lived 1966-1967 spin off series called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Until recently, the adaptation appeared to be going for an “action comedy” feel, with director David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers) attached. Dobkin is now, however, apparently off the project, and instead Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic) is in talks to take over The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (cowriter of The Bourne Ultimatum), who also adapted Soderbergh’s The Informant! and his upcoming movie Contagion is also in talks to adapt The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The news doesn’t stop there, however. Just one day later, it was also revealed that frequent Soderbergh star/coproducer George Clooney is also talking to the director about starring as Napoleon Solo. If Clooney signs on, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would be the seventh Soderbergh movie to star George Clooney (after Ocean’s 111213, Out of Sight, Solaris and The Good German). The other detail that the Clooney story revealed is that Soderbergh’s vision for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would set the movie in the 1960s, just like the TV series.


After bringing characters from Da Ali G Show to the big screen in Borat and Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen is set to make a third, similar movie called The Dictator, but this time, it’s an entirely new character. In The Dictator, Cohen will play two different characters as they explore America, in a style very similar to both Borat and Brüno. One will be the title character of a deposed foreign ruler, and the other will be a goat herder from the same (possibly fictional) country. Cohen will again be working with Larry Charles (Religulous), who also directed those two previous movies. Cohen and Charles will be working with three screenwriters who have all worked with the director on the Larry David TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm: Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer. That trio of writers have also worked together previously on EuroTrip and The Cat in the Hat. The Dictator will be a Paramount Pictures production, and is expected to be Cohen’s next movie after he wraps filming of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret. Sacha Baron Cohen is also attached to star in the planned Freddie Mercury biopic.


With the two Paranormal Activity movies, Paramount Pictures discovered a new “hidden camera” franchise that could be made on the cheap and released to huge box office (worldwide grosses of $193 million and $157 million to date, respectively). So, it’s not at all surprising that the studio has already scheduled Paranormal Activity 3 for a release date on October 21, 2011. There’s no word yet as to who will direct Paranormal Activity 3. The first film’s director Oren Peli only produced the prequel/sequel, with the directing job instead going to Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor).


Last month, a well-produced trailer for a fake movie called Clown appeared on YouTube, claiming to be “from Master of Horror Eli Roth.” There was only one problem with that: Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) had nothing to do with Clown… until now. Rather than sue Jon Watts, the director of the Clown trailer, Eli Roth has instead come aboard as producer, and commercial/video director Watts will make his theatrical debut with Clown, working from a script by Christopher D. Ford (also making his big screen debut). As seen in the fake trailer, Clown is the story of a kind father who puts on a clown suit for his 6-year-old son’s birthday party that he then can’t take off, as it turns him into some sort of evil clown monster. Clown isn’t the only first time movie that Eli Roth is helping out, as he will also produce Aftershock, an earthquake thriller from Chilean director Nicolas Lopez. The idea for Aftershock was inspired by the February 27, 2010 earthquake in Chile that killed over 480 people, and the stories of how that country was turned, as Roth describes it, “into a shaking amusement park ride. There was no electricity or phones, all hell broke loose and everybody was communicating on their iPhones, which became their flashlights. We thought of writing a supernatural element, but his description of the buildings and towns leveled, anarchy and looters being shot from helicopters, was terrifying enough.”



Relativity Media (Skyline, Robin Hood) is in talks with both Gerard Butler and director Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, King Arthur) to come aboard their adaptation of the independent Red 5 comic book Afterburn. The science fiction thriller takes place in the future a year after a solar flare has burned half the planet, and tells the story of a band of treasure hunters searching for items of value left behnd. Afterburn has been in development for a few years now, and at one point, Tobey Maguire had been producing and had been expected to star. The original Afterburn script was adapted by Matt Johnson (Torque, Into the Blue), and Christian Gudegast (cowriter of A Man Apart) is now being brought in to do a rewrite. Afterburn is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas because except for Training Day and the documentary Lightning in a Bottle, Antoine Fuqua’s track record is mostly in the mixed range (below 50%) on the Tomatometer.


After months of being attached to a supporting role in Alfonso Cuaron’s (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) science fiction thriller Gravity, Robert Downey Jr. has dropped out (Sandra Bullock is still in talks to star). Instead, Downey is now in talks with 20th Century Fox to produce and star in the romantic comedy How to Talk to Girls. This project made the news in 2008 because it is based upon a 48 page self help pamphlet that 9-year-old Alex Greven of Castle Rock, Colorado wrote to be sold for $3 at his school’s book fair. Greven’s pamphlet was then picked up for a book deal, and Greven (who is now 12) has since written more How to Talk to… books, including How to Talk to Moms, How to Talk to Dads and How to Talk to Santa. The How to Talk to Girls screenplay was adapted by Ben Karlin (a former staff writer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and Stu Zicherman (cowriter of Elektra), but the the script is expected to be reworked specifically for Robert Downey, Jr. (whose role is unknown, but a good guess is that he probably plays a kid’s dad). In the meantime, Downey is still attached to star in Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, which is scheduled to start filming in the summer of 2011. How to Talk to Girls is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas for a pretty simple reason: it’s based on a 48 page book written by a 9 year old. A 9 year old!


Irwin Allen (1916-1991) first came to fame as the producer of TV shows like Lost in Space, and then went on to produce 1970s disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. As a director, Allen’s last two theatrical movies were both bombs: The Swarm in 1978 and the sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure in 1979. The Swarm was about the United States being invaded by a massive swarm of killer bees from Mexico. The movie also featured an eclectic ensemble cast that was nearly as huge, including Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray (his last movie) and Slim Pickens. Producers Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge) and Steven Schneider (Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 2) are now teaming up to develop a remake of The Swarm. Commercials director Ash Bolland is attached to make his feature film debut, and a writer is expected to be hired by the end of the year. When it comes to remakes, a common notion is that the best candidates for remakes are movies that didn’t work right the first time. That would certainly seem to be a possibility with The Swarm, but this is still one of this week’s Rotten Ideas, just because of the very concept. For example, rather than massive swarms of bees, in today’s world, people are more concerned about the recent disappearances of colonies of bees (which are important to the pollenization of the plants that humans use for food). Of course, on the other hand, people in some of America’s largest cities are indeed concerned about swarms… of bedbugs.


Few movie ideas could be as rotten as a remake of The Wizard of Oz.

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

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