Following a very slow 4th of July holiday week, Hollywood got back into action this week, mostly with the sorts of development stories that won’t fit in as well later in the month when San Diego Comic-Con will dominate. Included in the mix here are an unusual number of movies with animation connections (Dumbo, Superbago, The Incredible Mr. Limpet), as well as new roles for Alec Baldwin, Elle Fanning, Scarlett Johansson, and Dwayne Johnson.
This Week’s Top Story
WILL YOU BELIEVE DUMBO CAN FLY… IN LIVE ACTION?
One of the sublime advantages that animation, especially traditional animation, can have over live action is that the distance from “reality” allows for flights of fancy and fantasy that might be incredulous otherwise. Take, for example, Walt Disney’s Dumbo, about a young circus elephant with huge ears that he uses to fly around and have adventures. Such a story could never be told in live action… right? Walt Disney Pictures has hired screenwriter Ehren Kruger to start work on a live-action adaptation of their fourth animated film, 1941’s Dumbo. In addition to being the sole credited screenwriter of the two most recent Transformers movies, Ehren Kruger also wrote The Ring and its sequel. The new Dumbo will have a “a strong family component,” which is unsurprising considering that the original was almost entirely about a baby elephant who was sad that his mom got locked up. Dumbo joins next year’s The Jungle Book as a growing fraction of Disney’s slate (including 101 Dalmatians) which are live action adaptations (using lots and lots of CGI) of their classic cartoons with largely anthropomorphic animal casts. There’s no word yet about when Disney will announce live action adaptations of Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Robin Hood, and The Lion King.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 SCARLETT JOHANSSON AND JONAH HILL JOIN THE COEN BROS’ HAIL CAESAR!
Scarlett Johansson, who is currently pregnant with her first child, is now in talks to star as a Hollywood actress who becomes pregnant just as her next film is about to go into production. This scenario is obviously very similar to what recently occurred with Avengers: Age of Ultron. This movie-within-a-movie will be depicted in Hail Caesar!, the next film from the Coen Bros, which is set in Hollywood in the 1950s, focusing on a “fixer” whose job it is to deal with controversies and scandals. Jonah Hill is also in talks to join the project, along with Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and Ralph Fiennes, with George Clooney and Josh Brolin already confirmed to be signed.
#2 ELLE FANNING TO SHOW HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
Let’s play the “Family Guy writers” game like we’re manatees, and see if we can connect random elements. Reaching into the manatee food bag, I’m getting Super 8, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and British comic book writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman). Let’s mix those altogether and see if we get a misshapen monstrosity or a serendipitous coincidence of creative vision. Sixteen year old Elle Fanning (Super 8) is attached to star in How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on a short story by Neil Gaiman, to be directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). The 2006 story is being expanded from just being about two teen boys at a 1970s London party to include “a female alien tourist (Fanning) who wants to escape her tour group and explore the most dangerous place in the galaxy, the London suburb of Croydon.” John Cameron Mitchell followed up Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Shortbus, and most recently, Rabbit Hole. Other Neil Gaiman adaptations in the works include The Graveyard Book at Disney, American Gods as a Starz series, and The Sandman at Warner Bros with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring.
#3 ZACH GALIFIANAKIS TOPS ALL-STAR CAST REMAKE OF THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET
As long as there’s been websites that track movie development news, Warner Bros has been developing a remake of the Don Knotts 1964 animated comedy The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Past would-be stars in this story about a man who turns into a fish have included Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. Zach Galifianakis was first mentioned as taking the lead back in 2010, and earlier this year, Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Before Midnight), who previously directed a remake of Bad News Bears, signed on. This week, we learned that Warner Bros and Richard Linklater are supporting Zach Galifianakis’ fishy adventure with a large comedic cast. Alphabetically, the new additions are: Josh Gad, Jon Hamm, Kevin Hart, the comedy team of Key & Peele, Danny McBride, and Sarah Silverman. Richard Linklater will again be working with the rotoscope animators that helped him previously deliver both Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Voice acting may begin soon, but the live action scenes won’t be filmed until early 2015.
#4 ALEC BALDWIN MAY JOIN MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5
Tom Cruise and director Chris McQuarrie will start filming Mission: Impossible 5 next month for Paramount Pictures, so this week, there were two major casting stories for the film. First up, there’s Alec Baldwin, who is now in talks to join the franchise as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Baldwin is also talking to Sony Pictures about joining Will Smith in their untitled “NFL concussion” drama, which is being produced by Scott Free Productions. The female lead role in Mission: Impossible 5 has also been cast, with the role going to Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who is currently best known for starring in the BBC series The White Queen. Finally, circling back to Scott Free Productions for what in a less busy week would have been its own story, the Ridley Scott-led company is now developing a King David Biblical epic to join their upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings.
#5 GUILLERMO DEL TORO TO DIRECT BLACK AND WHITE CREATURE FEATURE
This may change as Generation X ages, and the next generation of directors take their place, but right now, it’s not at all unusual that even directors best known for “eye candy” films have a special place in their own interest in black and white films. It doesn’t happen super frequently, but every once in a while, we get movies like Ed Wood, Much Ado About Nothing, and Nebraska. The latest director to announce plans to do exactly that is Guillermo del Toro, who appears to be looking for something to fill the space in between Crimson Peak (10/16/15) and Pacific Rim 2 (4/7/17). We don’t have a title or a premise yet, but GDT recently told Collider, “It’s a very small cast. I would love to have John Hurt, and there’s an actress that I have in mind that is not well-known but I’ve seen her in a short film. That’s all she’s really done, one feature and one short, but she has an incredibly interesting taste and I’m gonna try her out for the main role.” That, and “there’s one great creature in it.” The irony of course here is that this presumably new project is being announced by one of the directors working in Hollywood today who has more “development hell” projects to his name than nearly anyone else (except say, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott).
#6 JOHN GOODMAN JOINS “MICROBUDGET” THRILLER VALENCIA
It’s not like Hollywood producers have ever been shy about trying to get movies made as cheaply as possible. Lots of factors drive up cost (audience expectations, actors and creatives wanting their piece of the pie, fuzzy accounting math, unforecast delays, etc). One studio who has been focusing in recent years on “microbudget” feature films is Paramount Pictures, home of the Paranormal Activity franchise, and the Paramount Insurge division devoted to just those types of movies (like The Devil Inside). John Goodman (Argo, The Big Lebowski) is now in talks with Paramount Insurge and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot to star in a microbudget thriller called Valencia. Set almost entirely in an underground cellar, the title character will be a teenage girl who wakes up after a car accident to find herself with an “eerie companion” (played by Goodman) who tells her there’s been a nuclear war. Valencia will mark the feature film debut of Dan Trachtenberg, the director of the videogame fan short Portal: No Escape.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 DOOMSDAY RUMORED TO BE BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE VILLAIN
The last several months have seen a flurry of cast announcements for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. At last count, Scott McNairy was the 14th major cast member of the DC Comics superhero throwdown. This week’s big news, which is currently a rumor, came from “Bleeding Cool sources” which reported that they have seen character designs for the Superman villain Doomsday. Doomsday was first introduced in 1992, and is most infamous for being the ancient Kryptonian monster who came to Earth and “killed” Superman (who eventually got better). If this rumor is true, Doomsday will be part of the movie which introduces key members of the Justice League, like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and probably Flash and Green Lantern. In the comics, Doomsday was first confronted by the Justice League, who the monster easily defeated, before Superman eventually took him on. It’s not yet known how Superman will kill his latest Kryptonian opponent.
#2 DWAYNE JOHNSON MAY STAR IN THE EQUALIZER-ISH THE JANSON DIRECTIVE
With the Denzel Washington-starring movie version of The Equalizer opening in just two months to potentially good box office typical of a Denzel Washington-starring movie, it was probably inevitable that another movie studio might want to replicate the formula. The formula specifically at play here is that The Equalizer is a movie about a retired “black ops” type who offers his services to folks who need help. Basically, it’s the solo version of The A-Team. The similar project in the news this week is The Janson Directive, which would be an adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel that was published posthumously in 2002. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now in talks with Universal Pictures to star in The Janson Directive as a “a former consular ops agent who, after leaving covert operations due to the high number of sanctioned serial killings, goes into business as private security consultant. Teamed with a sharpshooter, Janson only takes assignments that he believes will lead to helping those in need.” Universal Pictures is also, of course, the studio behind the Ludlum-inspired Bourne franchise.
#1 YET ANOTHER MOVIE ABOUT ANIMATED CHARACTERS IN THE REAL WORLD: SUPERBAGO
Sony Pictures Animation has announced development on a new stop motion animation/live action hybrid film called Superbago. Before someone in Hollywood hails their latest project as being “like nothing you’ve seen before,” they really should check to see if the premise is so common, it has its own TVTropes page. Specifically, Superbago will be about “two irreverent stop motion characters dropped in a live action world,” and the title also alludes to those adventures occurring in an old Winnebago RV. Of course, taken literally, every new movie is “nothing you’ve ever seen.” Anyway, this one comes from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess (whose more recent films are Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos), Ricky Blitt (The Ringer), and two writers with no feature credits. The directors will be John Harvatine and Eric Towner, who have both worked on Robot Chicken.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.