This week’s Ketchup features movie development news from both Hollywood and Toronto (where their annual film festival just started). Included in the mix are movies involving Sir Ian McKellen playing Sherlock Holmes, new roles for Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Murray, and Robert Pattinson, and the resolution of all the fan casting for Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s also big movie franchises like Terminator and Independence Day in the mix, and new movies based on The Fall Guy and The Island of Dr. Moreau.
This Week’s Top Story
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY CASTS NEAR-UNKNOWNS, FANS GET WHIPPED INTO A FRENZY
Hollywood is very prone to casting guessing games during which both fans and journalists start and propagate all sorts of crazy rumors, often based on nothing more than what is called “fan casting.” This week, one of the latest such casting rumor games came to an end (the other outstanding such mystery is the casting of various roles in Star Wars Episode VII). We’re talking, of course, about the fetishist novel adaptation Fifty Shades of Grey, which itself started off as a Twilight fan fiction by E.L. James called Master of the Universe. On Monday, it all ended when E.L. James sent out some tweets that were quickly confirmed by official press releases from Universal Pictures about the casting of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Charlie Hunnam as 27 year old billionaire Christian Grey. Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Don Johnson (Miami Vice) and Melanie Griffith (Crazy in Alabama) and she herself has starred in the short-lived FOX TV series Ben and Kate. Charlie Hunnam is the English star of the critically acclaimed FX TV series Sons of Anarchy, and he was also the lead in Pacific Rim. After Fifty Shades of Grey fans started posting complaints on sites like Twitter and Facebook, producer Dana Brunetti had this response: “There is a lot that goes into casting that isn’t just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actor, etc… So if your favorite wasn’t cast, then it is most likely due to something on that list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective.” Melanie Griffith had this to say, also on Twitter, “My beautiful child Dakota has been chosen to play Anna Steele in 50 Shades!!! Look out world! Here she comes!!!” Alrighty then. Anyway, Fifty Shades of Grey starts filming in Vancouver on November 5th, 2013. Focus Features has set a release date of August 1, 2014, which puts this movie right up against the Marvel adaptation Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s going to be a really awkward line at the ticket counter.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 SIR IAN MCKELLEN TO PLAY SHERLOCK HOLMES IN A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND
Let’s connect the dots on this one. For many people, Benedict Cumberbatch first came to fame for playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch’s next film to be released is the Julian Assange movie The Fifth Estate, which was directed by Bill Condon. In addition to movies like Dreamgirls, Kinsey, and the two parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Bill Condon also directed the 1998 movie Gods and Monsters. Sir Ian McKellen starred in Gods and Monsters as Frankenstein director James Whale. And now, to tie it all together, Sir Ian McKellen has signed to play the retired Sherlock Holmes in A Slight Trick of the Mind, which will be directed by Bill Condon. The movie will be set in a small town English village in 1947 and will involve Sherlock’s son, who is also an (amateur) detective. The script was written by Jeffrey Hatcher (Stage Beauty, The Duchess). Filming is scheduled to start in England in April, and the movie is being eyed as a late 2014 release.
#2 BILL MURRAY TO ENGAGE IN COMBAT ROCK IN BARRY LEVINSON’S ROCK THE KASBAH
The annual fall festival season is well underway, and with it, we always get some “prestige” movie announcements (just like at Cannes in May, for example); it’s safe to file this story in that category. Bill Murray has signed to star in the independent comedy Rock the Kasbah, which will be directed by Barry Levinson, whose impressive filmography includes The Natural, Rain Man, Bugsy, and Sleepers. Mitch Glazer (cowriter of The Recruit and 1998’s Great Expectations) wrote the screenplay about “a burned-out music manager who goes to Afghanistan on the USO tour with his last remaining client… when he finds himself abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice who stows away him back to Kabul to compete on the popular television show The Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s equivalent of American Idol.” That premise might be a bit lengthy, but this writer’s hunch is that all of that information will be conveyed in the movie’s eventual trailer. As long as one can forgive the title’s possible social studies flub (do they really have kasbahs in Afghanistan?), the combination of talent and premise here sounds like this could be a future prestige release ala Slumdog Millionaire or Life of Pi.
#3 THE BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH ROLE JUGGLING GAME: THE LOST CITY OF Z AND CRIMSON PEAK
Recently, Benedict Cumberbatch dropped out of costarring in director Guillermo del Toro’s haunted house movie Crimson Peak, leading to much speculation that maybe it was so that he could costar in Star Wars Episode VII. We now know that Cumberbatch has landed the lead role in The Lost City of Z, the adaptation of the book by David Grann about explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in Brazil in 1925 while searching for a mythical place he called “The Lost City of Z.” The movie will be produced by Brad Pitt, who at one time was expected to himself star as Percy Fawcett. Meanwhile, back over at Crimson Peak, Benedict Cumberbatch’s replacement was also announced this week, and it’s Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston.
#4 THE NEXT TERMINATOR DIRECTOR HAS BEEN TO BOTH WESTEROS AND ASGARD AND BACK
Before 2011, the fame profile of director Alan Taylor was sort of low, but then along came HBO’s Game of Thrones, which led to a couple of years of Taylor’s name being attached to Hollywood projects, like this November’s Thor: The Dark World, which Taylor actually is directing. Taylor’s Hollywood status is definitely on the upswing, as this week, he landed the job of directing the fifth movie in the Terminator franchise. This new movie is being described as both a reboot, and the start of a new trilogy. Hold onto that notion, because it’s going to show up again later in the column. Paramount Pictures has scheduled this currently untitled Terminator movie for June 26, 2015.
#5 DANE DEHAAN AND ROBERT PATTINSON TO STAR IN THE JAMES DEAN MOVIE LIFE
One of this fall’s festival contenders is the Beat Generation movie Kill Your Darlings, in which Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) plays a killer who is the center of a story that also features Allen Ginsberg, as played by Daniel Radcliffe. This week, DeHaan signed on for another movie about someone who became famous in the 1950s, and his costar is another star of a popular movie franchise based upon a book series. Dane DeHaan will play actor James Dean, and Robert Pattinson will play photographer Dennis Stock in Life, about a road trip that the two took in 1955 as part of a magazine photography commission. Life will be directed by Anton Corbijn (Control, The American), who is himself also a fairly acclaimed photographer.
Rotten Idea of the Week
#4 LEONARDO DICAPRIO WANTS TO TAKE MOVIE AUDIENCES BACK TO THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
Whether this story is a “Rotten Idea” to you might depend upon whether you think the reason the movie versions of a certain novel are just inherently doomed, or whether we’re all just waiting for the perfect adaptation to come along. The book in question is H.G. Welles’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was arguably way, way, ahead of its time in predicting (and inspiring) both real life innovations in genetic manipulation, and inspiring fictional stories about the same. Most of the movies that have been based on it in the last 70 years or so (like the 1977 and 1996 films with Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando playing the title character) have been fairly widely considered to be awful. Warner Bros and producer Leonardo DiCaprio, however, appear to think they might be able to do better. DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company has hired the screenwriter team of Lee Shipman and Brian McGreey (creators of the Netflix series Hemlock Grove) to adapt The Island of Dr. Moreau as a contemporary science fiction movie.
#3 ROLAND EMMERICH REVEALS INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 AND STARGATE REBOOT DETAILS
This week, director Roland Emmerich was doing a lot of talking to UK press (because White House Down is coming out there next week), and in the process, he revealed new details about two of the higher profile projects he’s long had in development. First off, there’s the sequel to Independence Day, which for years now, the online press has been carefully instructed to always describe as being developed without the involvement of the original movie’s star, Will Smith. Well, that appears no longer to be the rule, because Roland Emmerich is now saying that there is a meeting planned with Will Smith to begin talks about his (possible) involvement. As big as you might think that news would be, the Emmerich project that actually seemed to get more online attention this week involved the 1994 movie StarGate. The story about a team that teleports to an alien world (with connections to Earth’s ancient past) eventually inspired a trio of popular TV shows (subtitled SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe), but Emmerich’s plans seem to act like none of those hundreds of hours of TV ever happened. Instead, he is planning on a StarGate movie reboot which will be the start of a new trilogy, returning to the original plans they had back in the 1990s for a trilogy. This way, fans of the original movie can find out the answers to questions like: what happened to Dr. Daniel Jackson after the first movie; were there other worlds and cultures accessible via stargate portals?; and did Jaffa warriors ever free themselves of Goa’uld control? Oh, if there was only a way to know now the answers to such mysteries…
#2 DWAYNE JOHNSON TO MAKE LEE MAJORS LOOK LIKE SUCH A STAR IN THE FALL GUY
Most of the movies that are announced around the Toronto International Film Festival each September are, as you would expect, the sort of movies that you expect to someday make their world premieres at film festivals like Toronto. And then, every once in a while, you have a story like this one, which is quite the opposite. Dwayne Johnson is now in talks with WME Studios to star in the movie version of the 1980s TV series The Fall Guy. McG (Terminator: Salvation, This Means War), who hasn’t directed a Fresh movie since Charlie’s Angels, is also in talks to direct from a script by writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller (cowriters of Thor and X-Men: First Class). For those unfamiliar with the show, Lee Majors starred in The Fall Guy from 1981 to 1986 on ABC as a Hollywood stunt man who suppplemented his income by doing bounty hunter work on the side with characters played by costars Douglass Barr and Heather Thomas. The show also had a pretty awesome theme song (remember when TV shows had theme songs?). Now basically an independent production, the idea of a movie based on The Fall Guy has been bouncing around Hollywood for several years, including previous incarnations at Warner Bros and DreamWorks (with Nicolas Cage at one time interested in starring).
#1 ANIME MASTER DIRECTOR HAYAO MIYAZAKI CONFIRMS HIS RETIRMENENT
First of all, it’s worth noting that there have been rumors about this in the past, but what’s different now is that the director in question has finally confirmed it for real. Hayao Miyazaki, the director of such anime classics as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, has announced that his latest film, The Wind Rises, will also be his last. Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli will continue to produce anime feature films, such as those directed by his son Goro Miyazaki (From Up on Poppy Hill).
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.