This week’s Ketchup includes development news stories about movies about earthquakes (San Andreas), dinosaurs (Jurassic World), Jesus (Son of God), toy cars (Hot Wheels), the Mexican “Day of the Dead” holiday, and a very tiny superhero (Ant-Man). There’s also new roles for Russell Crowe, Will Ferrell, and Dwayne Johnson.
We’re accustomed to hearing about big paydays for people like Will Smith, Charlie Sheen, and Tom Cruise, but not every TV or movie actor rakes in the dough. That said, one would think that starring in a highly anticipated adaptation of a best selling novel which requires the lead actors to perform sex scenes might fetch a tidy sum. Which leads us to this week’s big story that Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, TV’s Sons of Anarchy) has dropped out of starring as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey. There are a lot of details in that linked article indicating why Hunnam might have left the project, but one has to wonder how much of it had to do with the revelation that he was only going to be paid $125,000 for the role. That number’s amazing for most jobs, but it’s not exactly “movie star money.” $125,000 is more like what you might pay for a house in a small rural Wisconsin town, or about half, for example, of what Matthew Fox got paid to costar as Jack in one episode of LOST (and there were 121 of those). (Plus Matthew Fox didn’t even have to show his ****, his *****, or even his ****.) Dakota Johnson (TV’s Ben and Kate) is still attached to costar as Anastasia Steele, but the hunt is on for Hunnam’s replacement, with filming scheduled to start on November 1st. The list of possibilities reportedly includes True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard and British actors Jamie Dorman (TV’s Once Upon a Time) and Christian Cooke (TV’s Magic City). Fifty Shades of Grey is scheduled to open up against Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014. We will probably hear very soon who will replace Charlie Hunnam.
One of the big movie development news stories this week was the revelation that Paul Rudd and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both now talking to Marvel Studios about starring as Ant-Man (scheduled for July 31, 2015). The interesting thing about those two actors being in the running is that they ostensibly have very little in common (their ages, their personas, their physicality, etc). Curiously, most sources reporting this story haven’t picked up on a little hint that director Edgar Wright gave us years ago: You see, Wright said back at Comic-Con *seven years ago* that the movie will incorporate both Dr. Henry Pym (the first Ant-Man) and reformed thief Scott Lang (the second Ant-Man). So, that right there, might be the explanation. Paul Rudd might be up to play Hank Pym, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt might be up to play Scott Lang. The neat thing about this is that if both characters are indeed cast by A list stars, then in the future, we could have an Avengers movie with both Ant-Man and one of Henry Pym’s other alter egos (Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, etc). We should hear more soon.
The casting of another certain actor overshadowed the previous reports so much that it’s maybe easy to forget now that there was a time when it seemed like Josh Brolin might be starring as Batman. This week, we learned that Brolin is now in talks with Universal Pictures to star in their hotly anticipated 2015 dinosaur sequel Jurassic World. The Brolin news came as the capper on a week that saw three previous announcements (joining Bryce Dallas Howard, who has been cast for a while now). It all started with the news that 12-year-old Ty Simpkins (memorable from Iron Man 3) had been cast in a role, which clued us in that Jurassic World will return the franchise to being about dinosaurs scaring the pants off young children, as it rightly should be. The same story also mentioned that Jake Johnson (from TV’s The New Girl) might also be up for a role, which, if true, would reunite him with director Colin Trevorrow, who directed Johnson in Safety Not Guaranteed. That news was soon followed by another young actor, 18-year-old Nick Robinson (from the indie film The Kings of Summer), who will apparently play the older brother of Simpkins’ character. Filming is scheduled to begin in early 2014, and Universal Pictures has scheduled Jurassic World for June 12, 2015.
A year from yesterday, on October 17, 2014, the CGI animated movie Book of Life will be released by 20th Century Fox, marking the first time that a major studio has released a “holiday movie” about the Mexican celebration “Dia de los Muertos” (AKA the day after Halloween with all those spooky skeletons). That release will mark the end of a long road for one of Guillermo del Toro’s dream projects, which he is producing. This week, we learned who will be providing the voices, and it’s quite a list. The four leads will be voiced by Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, and Christina Applegate. The supporting characters will be voiced by Ana de la Reguera (Eastbound and Down), Placido Domingo, Hector Elizondo, Gabriel Iglesias, Cheech Marin, Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez, and Machete himself, Danny Trejo. Book of Life, which is also described as a Romeo and Juliet-type love story, will mark the feature film directorial debut of Jorge Gutierrez, also known as the creator of the animated TV series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera.
Now that Law & Order is off the air, there’s a huge vacuum in the area of fictionalized dramas loosely (or not so loosely) “inspired” by real famous crime stories. Sure, there’s still TV shows that do that (like the not-yet-canceled Law & Order: SVU), but it’s not the same. Anyway, returning to the subject of movies, we present to you this next movie, The Face of an Angel, which will be an adaptation of a book by Italian journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau. The fictionalization part gets a little confusing when you consider that the title of Nadeau’s book is “Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox,” which just sort of puts out there how different Nadeau perceived the case than, say, the way it was depicted by American news networks. The Face of an Angel will be the latest film from prolific British director Michael Winterbottom, who in the past has directed movies like A Mighty Heart (about Daniel Pearl’s widow) and 24 Hour Party People (about the Manchester music scene in the 1980s). Kate Beckinsale will play a journalist investigating a case “like” Amanda Knox’s, and Daniel Bruhl (The Fifth Estate, Rush) will play a documentary filmmaker. The Amanda Knox-ish character will be played by relative newcomer Cara Delevingne (her film debut was as the Princess Sorokina in Anna Karenina). The Face of an Angel is a BBC Films production, and filming begins soon in Tuscany, Italy.
Their characters didn’t really have much to do with each other, but Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried were both in last year’s latest version of Les Miserables, making this a reunion project. Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried will play two of the title characters in the family drama Fathers and Daughters. The film’s story will be split between two period settings. In 1980s New York, famous novelist Jake Davis (Crowe) struggles with mental illness (à la A Beautiful Mind?) while trying to raise his five year old daughter. In modern New York, that daughter is now 30 (Seyfried herself is currently 27), and she “battles the demons that stem from her troubled childhood.” What’s somewhat confusing about the title is that it’s plural, but there might be another father and another daughter (hers?) that we don’t know about yet. Fathers and Daughters will be directed by Gabriele Muccino (Seven Pounds, The Pursuit of Happyness) from a script by newcomer screenwriter Brad Desch.
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly first costarred together in 2006 in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, leading up to Reilly being more prominently teamed with Ferrell in 2008’s Step Brothers. This week, we learned that the two comedy stars will make a third film together called Devil’s Night, named after the pre-Halloween night of destruction (AKA Hell Night) that plagues some cities each year. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly will play former childhood friends who were first brought together by Devil’s Night, and then driven apart by the annual tradition. Many years later, they have to reunite to deal with the latest generation of hellions bringing their neighborhood to the brink of destruction. Devil’s Night got its start as a script by the screenwriting team of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, who also cowrote the 2008 Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man. There are a few reasons this could be listed as a Rotten Idea — namely the RT Tomatometer scores for Yes Man (45%) and Step Brothers (55%) — but we’re going to list this one as a borderline Fresh Development. Just because.
The idea of a Hot Wheels movie has been in development since the early ’00s, when racing movies got hot again following the success of The Fast and the Furious. For a long while during its development at Warner Bros, Hot Wheels was expected to be an “eye candy” movie in which cars streak across the screen along tracks that soar into the sky, replicating the loops for which the toys are known. And then, the Wachowskis directed Speed Racer for the studio in 2008, and that movie’s flat box office seemed to change the Hot Wheels approach. At least, that’s what the speculation was, and this week’s news seemed to confirm it. Hot Wheels was one of the movies that Legendary Pictures took with it in the move to Universal Pictures, the home of the Fast and Furious franchise, and Universal seems eager to add to its roster of fast car franchises, as Hot Wheels has a director attached to it for the first time since McG was in talks back before Speed Racer. That director is one Simon Crane, whose work in the past has been as a second unit director on dozens of big movies (including Troy, Hancock, Salt, Men in Black 3, and World War Z), and also as stunt coordinator on many of those same films, plus Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. As noted above, the Hot Wheels script has gone through many versions over the years, and the latest draft is by Paul Attanasio, whose credits include Donnie Brasco, Sphere, The Sum of All Fears, and the upcoming remake of East of Eden. Attanasio’s take on Hot Wheels focuses on “a washed-up Illinois State Trooper who, after a dangerous military device falls into the hands of a criminal, fights the man his father once put behind bars.” Or, maybe the speculation is wrong, and that military device turns highways upside down. Hot Wheels is definitely a movie that could go either way, but we’re calling it a “Rotten Idea” that the movie sounds more like every other fast car movie, and less like a movie inspired by the retro fun of the actual Hot Wheels toys.
Dwayne Johnson has signed a deal with New Line Cinema to star in their upcoming earthquake disaster movie called San Andreas. San Andreas will be a reunion film for Dwayne Johnson, as it will be directed by Brad Peyton, with whom Johnson worked on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Peyton also previously directed another sequel Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Johnson will be playing a “rugged” rescue helicopter pilot who travels across California following a devastating earthquake to save his estranged daughter (rather than, you know, actually doing his job for other people, apparently). Filming of San Andreas is scheduled to start in April of 2014 and the movie will be released sometime in 2015.
One of the biggest events in television in 2013 was the History Channel mini-series The Bible, based upon the book of the same title. This week, we learned that one of the show’s most popular characters, Jesus Christ, will get His own big screen movie in 2014 called Son of God. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado will reprise his role from the mini-series in the movie which 20th Century Fox will release in theaters nationwide on February 28, 2014. The Jesus episodes of the mini-series depicted his story from “his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection,” but this movie will focus more on “his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.” This is largely to do with the fact that the movie that will be released as Son of God is in fact an edited 135 minute re-release of the Jesus episodes from The Bible (with some new scenes added in). Both The Bible and Son of God were produced by husband-wife team Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel). And yes, Mehdi Ouazzani will be in this version too. If you’re wondering why Son of God is the week’s most Rotten Idea, that question might be a good excuse to go check out RT’s still fairly new TV section, where The Bible received a Rotten score of just 14%.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.