This week’s Ketchup includes new roles for Robert De Niro, Nathan Fillion, Kim Kardashian, Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, Jason Segel, Paul Walker, Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Wiig, as well as new sequels to Dumb and Dumber and Sherlock Holmes.
This Week’s Top Story
BEN AFFLECK AND MATT DAMON’S HUNT FOR GOOD WILL CONTINUES
Admittedly, that headline makes it sound like a Good Will Hunting sequel is in the works beyond that sequence in Jay and Silent Strike Back. But, no, the reality is that Affleck and Damon are reuniting on a new project, while one of them was mentioned this week as being the top contender for an adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most popular novels. That latter story actually happened first (last Friday, just after that week’s Ketchup was published), so let’s address it first. Warner Bros has picked Ben Affleck as the studio’s top choice to direct the first entry in a planned multiple-film adaptation of Stephen King’s massive end-of-the-world epic The Stand. Affleck has not signed on yet, but he has established a strong relationship with the studio, including his second and third films as director: The Town and the upcoming Argo. The mentioning of Ben Affleck’s name comes just two months after David Yates, the director of several of the later Harry Potter films for Warner Bros had been mentioned as the top choice back in August. There are also online rumors that the deal with Ben Affleck may also include him taking on one of the roles in the ensemble, most likely the drifter Stu Redman (played by Gary Sinise in the ABC mini-series back in the 1990s). The second time that Ben Affleck’s name made the news this week was indeed with his pal Matt Damon, as the two are now producing a film based upon the life of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who was this year finally apprehended in Santa Monica after years as a fugitive. Terence Winter, who has written several episodes of HBO’s The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, as well as the 50 Cent drama Get Rich or Die Tryin’, has been recruited by Affleck and Damon to start work on the script. Ben Affleck is expected to direct this project, with Matt Damon playing Whitey Bulger and Ben’s brother Casey Affleck also taking an unknown supporting role. The untitled project will cover “Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades.” As pointed out in this story, Affleck and Damon are actually joining three other teams of producers, all who have their own Whitey Bulger biopics in development. In the court of public opinion, Matt Damon may have the edge, as he has already costarred in The Departed, which was itself loosely based upon the life of Whitey Bulger (namely, the character played by Jack Nicholson). That is, unless one considers that producer Graham King, whose credits also include The Departed, is also producing a biopic related to Whitey Bulger’s gang.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ROBERT DE NIRO, FROM THE KING OF COMEDY TO THE COMEDIAN
It has now been 29 years since the 1983 release of the Martin Scorsese dark comedy The King of Comedy, starring Robert De Niro as an unhinged wannabe comedian who kidnaps a late night talk show host played by Jerry Lewis. Now, Robert De Niro is set to star in a new independent drama called The Comedian, in which De Niro will play an aging, raging comedian past his heyday playing a popular TV show character. Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) will costar as a redhead woman he meets while serving community service (for hitting an audience member in the head with his microphone) who turns the older comedian’s life in a new direction. The Comedian will be the fifth dramatic feature film from actor-turned-director Sean Penn, following The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard, The Pledge and 2007’s Into the Wild. One of the script’s cowriters is producer Art Linson, whose previous film was What Just Happened, an adaptation of Linson’s own life story, which also starred Robert De Niro. The other cowriter is stand up comedian Jeffrey Ross, who is probably best known for his frequent appearances in Comedy Central’s various celebrity roast specials. Sean Penn, Robert De Niro and Kristen Wiig are expected to start filming The Comedian sometime in the spring of 2012.
#2 WILL 2012 BE THE YEAR OF THE A-LIST SLAVE MASTER? BRAD PITT JOINS 12 YEARS A SLAVE
One of the upcoming movies with the most anticipated series of casting announcements recently has been Quentin Tarantino’s Spaghetti “Southern” Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx as a slave seeking vengeance against an evil slave owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Twelve Years a Slave is the title of an independent drama that has been bubbling along with a much lower profile so far, but that all changed this week. Brad Pitt, whose Plan B is producing Twelve Years a Slave, has also now signed on to costar, along with Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, Children of Men), who will star as a free black man from New York who is tricked into spending years in enslavement, based upon an 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northrup. It should be noted that it is not yet known what role Pitt will be playing in Twelve Years a Slave, so it’s entirely possible that he won’t be playing an evil slave owner like Leonardo DiCaprio is in Django Unchained. Perhaps Pitt will be playing a perfectly nice Northerner that Ejiofor’s character knows before becoming a slave. However, if the opposite proves to be true, then that sets up Twelve Years a Slave and Django Unchained as dueling projects, something that was already partially true even before Pitt joined the cast. Twelve Years a Slave will be the third film from British film director Steve McQueen (who, unlike the late actor Terrence “Steve” McQueen, was actually born with that name, though perhaps not coincidentally). Michael Fassbender also costarred in McQueen’s other two films, Hunger and Shame. Steve McQueen co-adapted the Twelve Years a Slave script with John Ridley, whose credits also include Undercover Brother and the Oliver Stone thriller U-Turn. Meanwhile, the Django Unchained casting bonanza continued this week with the confirmation that Kerry Washington (Ray, Fantastic Four) has signed on to play Broomhilda, Django’s wife and the reason for his vendetta against DiCaprio’s character, Calvin Candie.
#3 WARNER BROS ALREADY ON THE CASE OF THE THIRD SHERLOCK HOLMES MOVIE
The sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a month and a half way from release on December 16, 2011, but Warner Bros is already working on a third Sherlock Holmes movie, hiring screenwriter Drew Pearce to start work on Sherlock Holmes 3 (which probably won’t be the final title). Drew Pearce does not yet have any produced feature films to his credit, but he is one of the writers working on another Robert Downey Jr sequel, Iron Man 3, and Pearce has also reportedly worked with Guillermo del Toro on the Pacific Rim script (also a Warner Bros project). Jared Harris joins the cast of the Sherlock Holmes franchise in A Game of Shadows as Professor Moriarty, but there’s no word yet as to whether he or the other new costar Noomi Rapace will be returning for Sherlock Holmes 3. Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr and director Guy Ritchie however are probably sure things to return. There is not yet a confirmed filming start date for Sherlock Holmes 3, or any word on what the third film in the Victorian Era detective series will be about.
#4 JOSS WHEDON, THE BARD ADAPTER
When Kenneth Branagh signed on with Marvel Studios to direct Thor, much was made about Branagh’s filmography heavily featuring adaptations of the works of William Shakespeare. The character of Thor will next appear in The Avengers, and now that film’s director has surprisingly snuck in his own Shakespeare adaptation, right in the middle of principal production of The Avengers, no less. This news came from the newly launched site MuchAdoTheMovie.com, which the world found out about via a Twitter from frequent Whedon collaborator Nathan Fillion. This independent adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing was filmed in just 12 days “on location in exotic Santa Monica,” in “glorious black and white,” and features both known actors, newcomers and veterans of Shakespearean theater. Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, and concerns two couples who find their romantic relationships put into jeopardy by an “evil” manipulator. The more recognizable (or soon to be recognizable) faces among the cast include Nathan Fillion (from Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity) as Dogberry the Constable, Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson from The Avengers) as Leonato, Fran Kranz (from Whedon’s upcoming horror film Cabin in the Woods) as Claudio, Reed Diamond (Moneyball) as Don Pedro, Amy Acker (also from Cabin in the Woods) as Beatric and Alexis Denisof (How I Met Your Mother) as Benedick. Postproduction is expected to be completed in early 2012, and it will then be “headed for the festival circuit, because it is fancy.”
#5 REESE WITHERSPOON AND JASON SEGEL MIGHT GET CAUGHT MAKING A SEX TAPE
Sony Pictures has begun negotiations with Jason Segel and Reese Witherspoon to star in the romantic comedy Sex Tape. If they sign on, Segel and Witherspoon would play a married couple who film themselves having sex for a sense of bedroom intrigue, only to wake up the next day to discover that the tape has gone missing. Nicholas Stoller, who worked with Jason Segel on Forgetting Sarah Marshall (and also directed that film’s spin off Get Him to the Greek) is also in talks with Sony to direct Sex Tape. Sex Tape has been a top priority for Sony since acquring the script earlier this year from screenwriter Kate Angelo, whose career started with episodes of TV shows like Becker, The Bernie Mac Show and What About Brian before moving to feature films with last year’s The Back-Up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez. That credit (and its Rotten 19% RT Tomatometer score) might normally be enough to land Sex Tape in the Rotten Idea category. However, the possible involvement of Nicholas Stoller, and the 84% and 73% Fresh ratings for his first two films is just enough to tip this one into the borderline Fresh Development category for now.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 IS JIM CARREY DUMB (OR SMART) ENOUGH FOR A THIRD DUMB AND DUMBER MOVIE?
The comedy writer/director team The Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) recently wrapped up filming of their long-in-development dream project The Three Stooges. Now, the Farrellys are reportedly working to follow up The Three Stooges with their first sequel in their 14 film career by going back to the film that got the Farrellys their start: 1994’s Dumb and Dumber. That road trip comedy starred Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as idiotic best friends, and was one of the three 1994 comedies (along with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask) that launched Jim Carrey to a new level of comedic super stardom and box office success. The film’s success led to a short lived 1995 ABC Saturday morning cartoon spinoff and a 2003 prequel called Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, which neither Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels nor the Farrelly Brothers were involved with. To get this Dumb and Dumber sequel project going, the Farrellys have hired the screenwriting team of Sean Anders and John Morris. Anders and Morris wrote the comedies She’s Out of My League and Sex Drive (which they also directed), and they also cowrote Hot Tub Time Machine and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (which Jim Carrey also starred in). Although the original Dumb and Dumber was rated 63% Fresh on the Tomatometer, this sequel is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas mostly because of the (nearly) consistently mid-to-Rotten scores for the films written by Sean Anders and John Morris.
#3 KIM KARDASHIAN AND TYLER PERRY TEAM UP FOR THE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR
In addition to being a reality TV star and fashion model, Kim Kardashian has also dabbled here and there with acting, including a role in the TV series Beyond the Break, an episode of CSI: NY and a supporting role in Disaster Movie. Now, Kim Kardashian has signed on for what will likely be her most significant feature film role to date. Kim Kardashian will costar in Tyler Perry’s next romantic comedy, The Marriage Counselor, which started filming in Atlanta this week. Jurnee Smollett, costar of the TV shows Friday Night Lights and The Defenders, will star as an Ivy League-educated marriage counselor who breaks her own rules and starts cheating on her husband. Kim Kardashian will play one of her coworkers “who gives Judith a big city makeover and new confidence as she struggles with her personal issues.” Lionsgate will distribute the movie, which one would have to guess might end up being marketed as Tyler Perry’s The Marriage Counselor. Although Tyler Perry’s films continue to mostly be box office successes (especially when compared to their budgets), his films are also consistently “Rotten” on the RT Tomatometer scale, and so that’s why this one is a Rotten Idea too.
#2 SAM WORTHINGTON’S MOTION CAPTURE CGI CAREER CONTINUES WITH THUNDER RUN
Although he’s unlikely to star in another Terminator movie after Terminator: Salvation, Sam Worthington is currently the star of two ongoing CGI-heavy action franchises: Clash of the Titans (and its upcoming sequel Wrath of the Titans) and, of course, James Cameron’s Avatar (soon to become a trilogy). Sam Worthington’s love affair with being rendered in CGI continued this week as he has signed on with Gerard Butler and Matthew McConaughey to star in the Iraqi war movie Thunder Run. What makes Thunder Run significantly different from basically any other war movie we’ve ever seen is that Thunder Run will be filmed entirely using motion capture CGI technology. As many people writing about this story online this week have noted, this premise basically makes Thunder Run sound like a 90+ minute movie version of the popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare videogame series. Well, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare if it featured those two guys from Avatar and 300 and that stoner guy from Dazed and Confused. The focus of the Thunder Run story will be the 2003 invasion of Baghdad, which you can pretty much figure out from the title of the book that it’s based upon, the David Zucchino novel Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad. The Thunder Run script has been adapted by Robert Port (writer of several episodes of the TV series Numbers) and Black Hawk Down adapter Ken Nolan. Before one gets too enthused that one of the screenwriters wrote Black Hawk Down, here’s who will be directing Thunder Run: Simon West. Simon West has been making movies since 1997, but only has five films to his credit thus far: Con Air, The General’s Daughter, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, When a Stranger Calls and this year’s The Mechanic. His sixth film will be The Expendables 2, which he is currently filming in Bulgaria. This week, that production made the news cycle in the worst possible way, as one of the stuntmen died while filming a scene involving an explosion near a reservoir.
#1 PAUL WALKER MOVES INTO THE DISTRICT B13 REMAKE BRICK MANSIONS
District B13 was a 2004 French action film directed by Pierre Morel (who went on to direct Taken and From Paris with Love) set in a futuristic Paris of 2010 where gangs of Parkour experts, you know, jumped over walls and fences a lot. That’s what Parkour experts do. Anyway, Luc Besson, who cowrote the original film, has teamed up once again with frequent collaborator Robert Mark Kamen (together, they cowrote such films as The Fifth Element and The Transporter) for an Americanized remake of District B13. Robert Mark Kamen also singlehandedly wrote the script for the original Ralph Macchio version of The Karate Kid. This new version will be called Brick Mansions, and will feature David Belle, who starred in District B13 and its sequel, and who is also credited with creating Parkour to begin with. Paul Walker of the Fast and the Furious franchise is also in talks with producer Luc Besson to costar with David Belle, although it is not yet known if he will also have to learn how to practice Parkour extensively (probably yes, though?). If he signs on, Walker will play “an undercover detective chasing a weapon of mass destruction that was stolen by a drug dealer in the ghetto known as Brick Mansions.” The plan is for Walker to star in Brick Mansions before moving on to star in The Fast and the Furious 6 for Universal Pictures. Brick Mansions is the week’s Most Rotten Idea mostly because it’s an English language remake of a movie that is not that old, and so District B13 is still out there for people to enjoy, so… why the need for a remake?
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.