This week’s Ketchup is another batch dominated by superhero movie casting (Batman! Scarlet Witch! Rocket Raccoon!), but there’s also the Act of Valor sequel, and new projects for directors Clint Eastwood, Timur Bekmambetov, and Guy Ritchie.
This Week’s Top Story
BEN AFFLECK’S COSTUME COLLECTION CONTINUES WITH BATMAN IN THE MAN OF STEEL SEQUEL
Lots of actors at this point have worn two famous superhero uniforms in movies (Chris Evans as Human Torch/Captain America being the most famous example). This week’s big, no, make that, huge news, which rocked the Internet last night (nicely trumping Marvel’s two big announcements this week) is that Ben Affleck will some day have a Batman suit to hang next to his Daredevil and Superman outfits (that second one being from Hollywoodland, where he played George Reeves). Comic books have been a key element to Ben Affleck’s career since the early days, back when he was a regular in Kevin Smith’s films, and played an indie comic book penciller in 1997’s Chasing Amy. Of course, as of late, Affleck has attracted more attention as the director of such movies as Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo, the last two of which were both Warner Bros productions (and Argo won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture). All of that leads us to our lead story, even it’s buried, which is that Ben Affleck has signed with Warner Bros to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel, which will be released on July 17, 2015. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Diane Lane are all also signed to reprise their roles for director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Man of Steel). This news led to an Internet fervor that is still ongoing, but there’s a very different type of aftermath to consider, which we will continue down below. Before we move on to non-Affleck news, here’s one more for you: Casey Affleck will be reuniting with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery for the science fiction thriller To Be Two about problems with teleporting to Mars in the future.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ELIZABETH OLSEN OF MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE WILL BE SCARLET WITCH IN THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
After weeks of rumors that Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Host) was Marvel’s top choice to play Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was reported this week that Saoirse Ronan eventually dropped out (for an unknown reason — start the speculation… now!). That news basically came with the revelation of who actually is taking the role: indie actress (and younger sister of famous twins) Elizabeth Olsen, probably best known right now for her lead role in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Marvel and Disney will be releasing The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015. We still don’t know who will be playing Scarlet Witch’s brother, the speedster Quicksilver (in this movie, anyway), but Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass remains the most rumored and talked about.
#2 THIS WEEK IN BRADLEY COOPER, PART 1: HE’LL VOICE ROCKET RACCOON IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (due out August 1, 2014) has quite the ensemble cast, but one of the characters that many fans were most curious about has also taken the longest to be revealed. The waiting is done, as we now know that Bradley Cooper will provide the voice for Rocket Raccoon, the genetically manipulated procyonid (yep, that’s what they’re called) known for carrying ridiculously large guns, being a tactical genius, and crackin’ with the quips and the jokes. Marvel’s Kevin Feige also addressed this week some of the confusion about who the main villain of Guardians of the Galaxy will be, though one could interpret that as possibly being a spoiler (or maybe just well-placed studio misdirection, ala Iron Man 3).
#3 THIS WEEK IN BRADLEY COOPER, PART 2: CLINT EASTWOOD WANTED TO REPLACE SPIELBERG ON AMERICAN SNIPER
Bradley Cooper may be lending his voice to Marvel, but otherwise, Warner Bros is very much interested in keeping the star of The Hangover active at the studio as much as possible. That goal seemed to hit an obstacle when Steven Spielberg dropped out as the director of the Navy SEAL biopic American Sniper. However, Warner Bros appears to have found a solution in one of the studio’s resident directors, Clint Eastwood, who is now in talks to replace Spielberg on American Sniper. Bradley Cooper is still attached to star as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is known as “the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 225 claimed kills” (mostly in Iraq). The plan is to fast track production and start filming in early 2014, probably aiming for an “awards season” release in late 2014.
#4 GUY RITCHIE TO SCALE THE HISTORIC ROMANTIC TRIANGLE OF EMPIRE RISING
Warner Bros has acquired the film rights to the 2006 novel Empire Rising by Thomas Kelly, which is described as an epic romantic triangle drama set during and around the construction of the Empire State Building in 1930 New York City. Thomas Kelly, who is also a writer and producer on BBC America’s Copper, will adapt his own novel’s screenplay. Warner Bros acquired Empire Rising as a potential directing project for Guy Ritchie, who the studio is very interested in keeping in-house, following successes with both Sherlock Holmes movies. Ritchie is currently directing the spy-TV-series adaptation The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for Warner Bros, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer starring.
#5 A COMEDIC ENSEMBLE ASSEMBLES FOR THE TEEN/VAMPIRE/ZOMBIE MASHUP KITCHEN SINK
This one isn’t getting much press, but it sounds fairly awesome. Sony Pictures is recruiting a large ensemble cast of comic actors for the genre mashup appropriately called Kitchen Sink. The growing cast includes Patton Oswalt, Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Joan Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, and Denis Leary. Kitchen Sink will be a horror-action-teen-comedy set in a town called Dalford, where there’s a three part social pecking order, with vampires on top, zombies on the bottom, and humans stuck in the middle. Producer Matt Tolmach describes Kitchen Sink as having “all the chaos and carnage of a classic genre movie, but at its heart it’s a comedy about three kids just trying to survive the pain and awkwardness of high school, where every day feels apocalyptic.” Kitchen Sink will be the studio debut of indie director Robbie Pickering (2012’s Natural Selection).
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 CYCLOPS AND NICK FROST JOIN VINCE VAUGHN FOR HIS WACKY BUSINESS TRIP COMEDY
James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men movies) and Nick Frost (frequent collaborator of Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright) are both now in talks to costar in the comedy Business Trip. Vince Vaughn will be reuniting with Ken Scott, the director of his upcoming movie Delivery Man, as an American businessman whose European trip falls apart amidst general hilarity and comedic high jinx. Dave Franco, James Franco’s little brother, who played the bad guy in 21 Jump Street, will also be costarring in Business Trip. This is a Rotten Idea this week because Vince Vaughn has been in twelve movies since Wedding Crashers, and the only “Fresh” entry was Into the Wild (which was really not what one would call a “Vince Vaughn movie”).
#3 ACT OF VALOR SEQUEL WILL SWAP OUT NAVY SEALS FOR S.W.A.T. OFFICERS
After Relativity Media grossed $70 million from a production budget of $12 million, it probably wasn’t going to be that surprising that a sequel would eventually be greenlit. The nature of that eventual sequel might be another story. For the sequel, Relativity and production company Bandito Brothers are going in a completely different direction with a story about a team of S.W.A.T. police officers (instead of Navy SEALs, as in the first movie). It’s not yet confirmed if the sequel will use “real” S.W.A.T. officers (but that’s a good bet since the first movie used “real” Navy SEALs). The Act of Valor sequel will be written and directed by Scott Wiper (The Condemned, A Better Way to Die). This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because director Scott Wiper’s entire filmography only adds up to a collective RT Tomatometer score of 20%.
#2 THE BEN-HUR REMAKE + THE DIRECTOR OF WANTED AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER?
The Ben Affleck/Batman news, and its subsequent internet backlash, stands a very good chance of overshadowing everything else that happened in movie development news this week. It’s a shame, too, because this one is quite the doozie. MGM has had a corporate love affair/obsession for several years now with remaking/rebooting various movies from its extensive library (like Fame, The Taking of Pelham 123, Red Dawn, Carrie, and RoboCop). One of MGM’s biggest and most famous classics is the 1959 sword-and-sandal epic Ben-Hur, which starred Charlton Heston, and was based upon the 1880 Lew Wallace novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” Back in January, the news broke that MGM was planning on remaking Ben-Hur, but it was this week that we heard the most shocking news. MGM is now in negotiations with Russian director Timur Bekmambetov to direct their remake of Ben-Hur. Bekmambetov came to Hollywood on the strength of Night Watch and Day Watch, and most audiences today know his name from 2008’s Wanted and last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Simply put, Timur Bekmambetov’s bombastic directorial style is not what one would call “subtle.” Anyway, this remake is also going to be marked by an added emphasis on the other character in the book’s title, so it will be a Ben-Hur with 100% more Jesus. And probably slo-mo flaming chariots. Also this week, we learned that Timur Bekmambetov is producing a horror movie about killer Squirrels.
#1 THE “BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN” AFTERMATH THAT REALLY MATTERS…
The commenters can obviously debate whether the specific news of Ben Affleck playing Batman is “Fresh” or “Rotten” (being the top story saves it from such direct labelling… usually). There is, however, a much less reported aftermath to the news, which anyone who admires Ben Affleck’s work as director can probably more easily agree is pretty “Rotten.” Ben Affleck’s new career as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel and 2017’s Justice League is almost certainly going to mean we get fewer directorial efforts from Affleck. First, there is the Dennis Lehane novel adaptation Live by Night which Affleck had been expected to direct for release in 2014; Affleck may still do that one someday, but the 2014 plans are probably scrapped. Say goodbye as well to Affleck’s plans to direct Warner Bros’ remake of the French thriller Tell No One. Ah, but you say, we’ll always have Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, right? Well, sort of, but not with Ben Affleck, because now it’s Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper who is in talks with Warner Bros about the adaptation. Hopefully, some day, we’ll get more movies from director Ben Affleck, but for now, he’s spending his time instead on working out his actual muscle-muscles (not his creative muscles), preparing to spend at least a couple of years as Batman. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Ben Affleck is playing Batman and giving up all these projects for another directorial gig in the near future… Justice League. But as of right now, we don’t know that.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.