This Week’s Ketchup is chock full of casting news (over 15 actors and actresses), as well as the expected comic book adaptations, biopics and a remake.
Two time Academy Award winner Sean Penn, Golden Globe nominee Jim Carrey and Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro are MGM’s choices to star as Larry, Curly and Moe in their Farrelly Brothers-directed relaunch of The Three Stooges. Yes, really. Sean Penn, who might have seemed the least likely of the three, is the first to be signed, and Carrey and Del Toro are in negotiations. Jim Carrey is also planning on gaining 40 pounds to acquire the physical look of Curly. These casting choices are remarkably inspired, with Penn in particular actually bearing a remarkable facial resemblance to Larry Fine. Benicio Del Toro’s gruff demeanor can also easily be seen as translating quite easily to the role of Moe Howard, the Stooges’ eye-poking and face-slapping leader. The Farrelly Brothers have been trying to get their dream project, The Three Stooges (which is not a biopic, but a modern relaunching of the characters in comedic misadventures) for a decade now, with the project formerly being at both WB and Columbia before landing at MGM. Production is expected to start this fall, 2009 in time for a release in 2010.
The Coen Bros’ (No Country for Old Men) next project after the recently-wrapped A Serious Man will be a remake of the classic John Wayne western True Grit, for which The Duke won his Oscar. The twist that the Coen Bros. are striving to make a more faithful adaptation of the original novel by Charles Portis, focusing more on the girl who narrated the novel. Paramount Pictures, which distributed the 1969 movie, is also handling this remake. True Grit is the story of a 14-year-old girl in 1873 who teams up with two lawmen to find the man who murdered her father, a trail that takes them into dangerous Indian territory. Although No Country for Old Men could be described as a modern Western, True Grit will be the Coens’ first period piece Western.
Mattel is matching its competitor Hasbro’s very exhaustive adaptation of toy properties with Universal Pictures, with the announcement that Tom Hanks will star as Major Matt Mason, a live action adaptation of a relatively obscure toy line from the 1960s about a Moon explorer. Graham Yost (Speed; cowriter of Mission to Mars) is working on the script. Major Matt Mason stands out from the rest of the Mattel properties being developed (He-Man, Hot Wheels, etc.) as it is not a property that most people today remember. However, that is no doubt why Tom Hanks was cast as Mason, since the project can be propelled on his star power, nearly as if it is an entirely original property. Mattel likely has plans to relaunch Major Matt Mason as a new toy line in connection to the movie, which might be aided by NASA’s current plans to return to the Moon in the future.
New Regency and 20th Century Fox have acquired the rights to the futuristic comic book series Freedom Formula: Ghost of the Wasteland as a directorial project for Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns). Freedom Formula is set in a future where fighter jets have been replaced by battle suits pilotted by genetically modified soldiers. So, basically, it sounds a bit like Iron Man as a futuristic war movie by way of titles like Robotech. The script is being worked on by Michael Finch, who recently made a large deal for his cowritten script Medieval, an action movie set in the Middle Ages.
Although there is no writer or director for the project yet, The Weinstein Company has cast Anne Hathaway as singer-actress Judy Garland in a biopic called Get Happy, based on a 2001 biography by Gerald Clarke. Get Happy is also be a Broadway musical, although it is unclear which project will be produced first. Clarke’s biography was chosen as the source material because it draws heavily upon Garland’s own writings, giving the project a voice unique to previous adaptations of Garland’s life, such as like the 2001 TV movie Life with Judy Garland, starring Judy Davis. Anne Hathaway’s performance at this year’s Oscars with Hugh Jackman was given as an example of proof of her singing chops. One aspect of Hathaway’s casting that I can’t help but notice is that at 5′ 8″, she stands considerably taller than Judy Garland, who was a mere 4′ 11″. Perhaps they’ll be using really tall actors around her, or those fancy camera tricks used on the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings?
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are teaming up to pick up the rights to the upcoming Image Comics graphic novel The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, a fictionalized adventure inspired by the life of pulp-era horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, best known for his bizarre Cthulhu mythos and stories, in which humans are confronted by evils beyond their comprehension and which often lead to them going insane. The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft depicts the author as finding a book that curses him, letting loose the monsters he creates upon the real world. John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, an homage to H.P. Lovecraft, actually told a similar story, except with the fictional author character being the film’s villain. Imagine is producing the project with an eye toward it possibly being a directorial project for Imagine partner Ron Howard, whose early films include Willow and Cocoon, and the more recent religious-themed thrillers The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft would be Howard’s first direct foray into straight-out horror, however. Universal is said to be excited about H.P. Lovecraft because of parallels to their classic monsters (The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc), but Lovecraftian horror is actually quite different, in my opinion.
Sir Anthony Hopkins will star as author Ernest Hemingway in Hemingway & Fuentes, a biopic about his last ten years, focusing on his friendship with fishing boat captain Gregorio Fuentes, to be played by Andy Garcia, who is also writing, directing and producing the independent drama. Annette Bening is also in talks to costar as Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary Welsh. This is not the first time Hopkins has been announced to play Hemingway, as there was also Papa, a project announced in 2004 that would have costarred Meg Ryan, but which was never actually filmed.
Comics writer/creator Mark Millar (Wanted) is reuniting with Matthew Vaughn, the director working on the adaptation of Millar’s Kick-Ass, for a movie version of American Jesus, his comic trilogy about the return of Jesus as an American teenager. American Jesus got its start as a 2004 mini-series called Chosen, but with two more mini-series following that (the second, Resurrection, is due to start in the fall of 2009), the total package is now called American Jesus. Although the comic books are only one third published, production of American Jesus could begin as early as this summer, 2009, with the production being made outside the studio system to reduce interference, similar to what was done with Kick-Ass.
Percy Jackson, Fox 2000’s adaptation of The Lightning Thief, a children’s novel by Rick Riordan, is an adventure about a young boy who finds out he is the half-son of Poseidon, and gets involved in preventing a coming war of the Olympian Gods. Several of those gods or mythological figures were cast this week: Sean Bean (Zeus), Kevin McKidd (Poseidon), Melina Kanakarides (Athena), Uma Thurman (Medusa) and Pierce Brosnan (Chiron the Centaur). Casting of Hades, Aries and Persephone are still underway. Percy Jackson is being directed by Chris Columbus (the first two Home Alone and Harry Potter movies), aiming for a February, 2010 release date. It’s also worth noting that Percy Jackson will soon be joined in Greek god casting by the Clash of the Titans remake, which is also set for a 2010 release date.
Academy Award winning screenwriter and playwright Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies) died earlier this month, but production of his final script, Main Street, is proceeding right along. This week, Orlando Bloom, Amber Tamblyn, Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson and Andrew McCarthy were all announced as being in various stages of negotiations to star or costar. Main Street is the story of the residents of a small, economically struggling North Carolina town whose lives are changed when a stranger comes to town. British Broadway director Tony Doyle is directing, and filming is scheduled to start in April in Durham, North Carolina. The source material will probably be strong, but will anyone believe Orlando Bloom is a small town cop with a Carolina accent?
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.