This shortened week (following the 4th of July weekend) would normally be a bit light on movie news anyway, but movers and shakers are also holding back their big announcements until San Diego Comic-Con later this month, so this week was even lighter on news. However, a few tidbits still managed to stand out, including plans for movies based upon The Little Mermaid and TV’s The Fall Guy, and new movies for Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Bacon and Billy Crystal. And hey, if Hollywood’s decisions this week (or lack thereof) get you down, you can always check out the trailer for Indonesia’s hottest new movie, Little Obama, which is exactly what you might think it would be.
As movie fans continue to recover from the possibility that MGM’s financial woes may prevent us from ever seeing two awesome The Hobbit movies, there was a lot of news this week about MGM’s other hugely popular franchise: James Bond. It was just a few months ago that we were hoping to soon see the third Daniel Craig-starring Bond movie directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) from a script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon). And now, not only is that project on hold (as reported a few months ago), “James Bond 23” might be totally scrapped altogether. Now, EON will probably eventually find some way to revive James Bond, but the real immediate issue is that the longer this particular version of James Bond is delayed, the less likely it will be that we ever see it happen. And that includes the very idea of Daniel Craig as our current leaner, meaner Bond for the 21st century. By the time Bond gets revived, we might be hearing stories about younglings like Robert Pattinson being considered for the role (I mostly kid, but a big part of me knows that’s not entirely impossible). If there was good news on the James Bond front this week, it came from Inception/The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan who said on the red carpet this week that he’d “love to do a Bond film.” That doesn’t mean that he will direct one, but it’s nice to know that one of the directors most in a position to get dream projects made has an interest. Meanwhile, in other MGM franchise news, the company is reportedly considering the possibility of selling off its rights to The Hobbit to New Line Cinema and Warner Bros for the extra cash to help the studio recover as a whole. Of course, in Monopoly terms, that would sort of be like auctioning off Boardwalk so that you can build houses on Baltic.
The relatively so-so box office results for TV remakes like MacGruber and The A-Team don’t appear to have intimidated Hollywood producers away from mining 1980s TV show nostalgia for movie ideas. DreamWorks and producer Walter Parkes (Minority Report, Men in Black, Gladiator) are currently working on a movie version of the 1981-1986 ABC action drama The Fall Guy, which starred Lee Majors as a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter. There’s no word yet on any creative types involved with The Fall Guy, including a writer, much less a director or a star. Although I would generally consider the whole TV-show-remake trend a bit on the “Rotten Idea” side, I was also a big fan of The Fall Guy back in the day, and I think that it could potentially be adapted as a pretty cool movie (maybe). One thing that is vastly different in the 2010s than thirty years ago is what exactly being a “stuntman” entails in this age of CGI and motion-capture technology. Today’s stuntmen often have more in common with Andy Serkis and Doug Jones than the rugged archetype that Lee Majors’ Colt Seavers character represented, but there are still some guys out there in the mud swinging around swords and guns, only to then be CGI’ed from a handful of guys into thousands.
Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is such a classic and well-known fairy tale that it is a little surprising to discover that there has actually never been a live-action, English-language movie version. Obviously, the 1989 Disney animated version is a beloved modern classic (and a big part of Disney’s rejuvenation after the fallow 1970s and 1980s), but 20+ years later, now might be a good time to revisit the legend. And at least, it’s a better idea than say, someone remaking Splash. The director behind this new Little Mermaid is Joe Wright, whose first three films have been 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, the Oscar-winning Atonement and last year’s The Soloist. Wright also has the teenage assassin thriller Hanna, starring Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and young Saorise Ronan, wrapped up and readying for an April release next year. Working Title Films is producing The Little Mermaid, which was written by Abi Morgan, who has mostly written British TV and the movie Brick Lane, as well as being announced last week as writing the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep. Wright’s vision for a live action The Little Mermaid is also reportedly inspired by a children’s puppet theatre production staged by London’s Little Angel Theatre Company.
Australian director George Miller has been trying to get the long-awaited Mad Max reboot going so long that he has apparently decided that when filming finally starts, he will make the most of it and produce two movies. In addition to Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller will reportedly also be making a sequel right away called Mad Max: Furiosa. There’s no word yet about what Furiosa might be about though. Tom Hardy (Shinzon from Star Trek: Nemesis) will be starring as the new Max, and Charlize Theron will also be costarring. For those who don’t know, the Mad Max movies previously starred (a much younger) Mel Gibson as a “Main Force Patrol” police officer in a post-apocalyptic Australia who had to regularly deal with the sort of villainous scum that remained behind after civilization crumbled. George Miller will be filming the two Mad Max movies back-to-back in Australia using 3D cameras (ie, not post-conversion), and hopes to then have them released fairly close to each other in 2012. The start date for this big Mad Max dual production has also been pushed back from this November until February, 2011. Weta Digital has been confirmed as handling the designs, make up FX and costuming.
An interesting theory has surfaced this week in regards to the casting process for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class, which Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) will start filming in August. Basically, people are now talking about the strong possibility that many of the roles that are being reported as being cast are actually cover roles for the real characters. In other words, if a young actor is supposedly up for an obscure character like Bird Boy (and yes, there really is a Bird Boy in the Marvel Mutant comic books), he might actually be in talks to play Angel. With that as my lead, please consider pretty much everything you’ve heard, or will hear, about X-Men: First Class casting with some caution, because we might be totally “punked.” One rumor this week was that Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson might be playing Cyclops. That story was quickly debunked, and replaced by the news that Lucas Till (Hannah Montana: The Movie) is in the running to play Cyclops’ brother Havok. Except, if the “fake casting” concept is true, perhaps the role Till is *really* in talks for is Cyclops himself. Who knows?! The same story confirms last week’s story about the casting of Banshee and also breaks the news that Hank “Beast” McCoy (who was recently rumored to be going to another young actor) will instead be played by Nicholas Coult (Clash of the Titans, A Single Man). Finally, the latest breaking news as I write this today is that someone who was actually alive back before the All-New, All-Different X-Men were even thought of might actually be in X-Men: First Class. That star is Kevin Bacon, who at 52, is over 20 years older than the actor who has been as Charles Xavier (31-year-old James McAvoy). Kevin Bacon is reportedly up for the role of the big, bad villain of X-Men: First Class, but we don’t know who that villain might actually be. One wild guess that I will throw out there is the early X-Men villain The Vanisher (whose power was teleportation), mostly because many other early X-Men villains just don’t seem like characters you would cast Kevin Bacon as, but since the Vanisher is an older guy with a penchant for heists and such, Kevin Bacon could be a pretty good choice. The Vanisher is legitimately old-school X-Men, making his debut way back in Uncanny X-Men #2 in November, 1963, making him the team’s second villain ever after Magneto. Or I might be totally off base with this guess. Who might you predict Kevin Bacon could play?
Denzel Washington is in talks with Universal Pictures to star in the action thriller Safe House. The original script by David Guggenheim (who as yet has no produced scripts to his credit) was the subject of a bidding war between studios in February. Safe House is the story of a young CIA agent who must escort a dangerous prisoner (Washington) to a new safe house after the first one has been destroyed, resulting in all of the other agents being killed. Safe House will mark the Hollywood debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (Babylonsiukan and the upcoming Snabba Cash). Denzel Washington’s next movie will be this November’s Unstoppable, directed by Tony Scott, but the actor otherwise doesn’t have much else work lined up, so it seems likely Safe House will happen sooner rather than later.
That headline was written before this writer realized that Michael Fassbender is actually German-Irish, but it still basically gets the point across, even if it’s only 75% correct. Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman and Michael Fassbender have signed on to star in the upcoming adaptation of John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The Working Title/Studio Canal coproduction will mark the English-language debut of director Tomas Alfredson, whose vampire drama Let the Right One In still stands as one of the best foreign-language imports of recent years. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the story of George Smiley, a prematurely-retired intelligence expert who is brought back to service to help find a spy who is working within the upper tiers of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service. Le Carre’s novel, which was previously adapted as a 1979 British TV series starring Sir Alec Guinness, was adapted by screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), who has also recently worked on the next James Bond project (see above). Filming of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will start in London in October.
In addition to being a Hollywood A list star and actor, Leonardo DiCaprio also has his hand deeply in the producing game via his Appian Way company. One of the projects that he had been hoping to work on with his now frequent directing partner Martin Scorsese was an adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s stockbroker memoir The Wolf of Wall Street. The duo nearly made the movie two years ago but the deal fell apart in a “tug of war” between Warner Bros and Paramount (leading to them making Shutter Island together instead). Now, DiCaprio is talking to Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down) instead, who would also produce as well as direct, although at issue is whether he could squeeze it in before starting work on the Alien prequel for 20th Century Fox. Ridley Scott reportedly is especially attracted to the script by Terence Winter, who has written and produced several episodes of HBO’s The Sopranos and the upcoming Boardwalk Empire (also a Scorsese project), as well as the movies Brooklyn Rules and Get Rich or Die Tryin’. What’s particularly interesting about Scott possibly directing The Wolf of Wall Street is what it might say about his involvement in the languishing board game adaptation Monopoly. Might whatever economic commentary Scott has to say with Monopoly potentially be addressed instead in a more serious, adult drama like The Wolf of Wall Street?
Columbia Pictures has attached director Barry Levinson (Bugsy, Rain Man, Wag the Dog) to their planned biopic of human rights activist Jack Healey entitled Brother Jack. Barry Levinson is riding quite a bit of publicity good will following the 15 nominations that his Jack Kevorkian HBO biopic You Don’t Know Jack received this week. Harley Peyton (Less Than Zero, 2001’s Bandits), who also cowrote more than half the episodes of Twin Peaks, wrote the first Brother Jack draft, and it is now being rewritten by Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). Brother Jack benefits from this being a slow news week (both because of Monday being a holiday and because Comic-Con is coming up), so it gets a Weekly Ketchup slot that probably would normally have gone to some superhero, unneeded remake or a movie involving teen vampires, werewolves or both.
It feels like a long time ago, but there was once a time when Billy Crystal was a major Hollywood movie star, appearing in movies like When Harry Met Sally… and the two City Slickers movies. Whatever goodwill those movies might have garnered Billy Crystal, he also made movies like Mr. Saturday Night and much of what he did during his run on Saturday Night Live was (in this writer’s opinion) unforgettably corny and hamfisted. Lately, however, most of what Billy Crystal’s been doing is animated voice work in movies like Cars, Monsters, Inc and Howl’s Moving Castle. 20th Century Fox and Walden Media, however, want to see Billy Crystal return to a leading role in a family comedy called Us & Them. Billy Crystal will star in and produce Us & Them, which is a generational comedy (based on an original idea by Crystal) about a grandfather forced to take care of his three grandchildren following the “21st century rules of his daughter, their mother, who has gone on a weeklong work vacation.” Yep, that’s right, Billy Crystal is now stepping into the cranky-but-loveable grampa role previously inhabitated by guys like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. In addition to likely jokes involving cell phones and video games, Crystal’s character will have to deal with “Little League games where everyone gets a hit, tailored meals and ‘feelings,'” before ultimately using “an old-school-justice style of discipline.” Crystal’s story idea was adapted by married couple Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario (cowriters of 2007’s Surf’s Up). Us & Them will be directed by Andy Fickman, who has worked with kids before on Race to Witch Mountain and The Game Plan, but this time, he will (probably) have to do so without the help of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Us & Them is this week’s most Rotten Idea mostly because this is sort of a slow news week. In a typical Ketchup, Us & Them might only come in as second or third most rotten.