This week’s Ketchup comes to you during the Cannes Film Festival, which means we were deluged with lots of announcements from the film market there. Particularly dominating this news cycle were “true stories,” with at least five such films covered here. The mix also includes new roles for Michael Fassbender, Aaron Paul, and Daniel Radcliffe; and new projects for directors Kathryn Bigelow, Derek Cianfrance, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Ridley Scott.
This Week’s Top Story
GODZILLA DIRECTOR TAKES ON STAR WARS SPINOFF FOR 2016
The signs were there, leading up to last weekend, that the 2014 reboot of Godzilla was going to perform very well at the box office. That the movie actually opened to the biggest single box office day of the year thus far ($38.5 million on Friday the 16th) has had a direct impact on movie development news this week, specifically on two stories. There’s the obvious one (which you will find down below), but the biggest and most surprising announcement concerned Godzilla director Gareth Edwards. Edwards has signed with Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures to direct the first Star Wars spinoff movie, which the studio has scheduled for December 16, 2016. The plan appears to be for the main “Episode” films to be released in Decembers of odd years, and the spinoffs in even years. We don’t know yet which of the spinoffs will be coming first, but the three that we know about (that are rumored, we should say) concern the early adventures of Han Solo, Yoda, and Boba Fett. Whichever movie Gareth Edwards is going to be directing for late 2016, it’s the movie currently being written by screenwriter Gary Whitta, writer of The Book of Eli, cowriter of After Earth, and writer of a few The Walking Dead video games. Meanwhile, while filming Star Wars Episode VII, director J.J. Abrams has announced a charity event for UNICEF called Star Wars: Force for Change. People who donate to the event will be entered for a chance at various prizes, including being cast to appear in a scene in the movie. Star Wars Episode VII is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ALFONSO CUARON, FANTASTIC BEASTS…, AND THE SHINING PREQUEL
After the critical and box office success of Gravity last year, Warner Bros clearly has an interest in staying with Alfonso Cuaron (that his NBC series Believe was cancelled recently, aside). This week, we heard about two different projects at WB for Alfonso Cuaron, and although neither was confirmed, neither was really denied (yet), either. The bigger profile of the two, and the project with the most obvious direct connection to Alfonso Cuaron (who directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), is another J.K. Rowling adaptation. Warner Bros recently announced a release date of November 18, 2016 for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of a planned trilogy of movies focusing on the monster hunting adventures of Newt Scamander, set in the same magical world as Harry Potter, although 70 years earlier, in Rowling’s magical version of New York City. The other possible Cuaron/WB project this week, which is slightly more in the “rumored” category, is another prequel to a popular Warner Bros film. Alfonso Cuaron may have been offered the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of one of his favorite directors, Stanley Kubrick. The project in question is called The Overlook Hotel, and it’s planned to be a prequel to Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining, ostensibly set during the period of one of the events mentioned in the film (there were a couple). The Overlook Hotel is being written by Glen Mazzara, showrunner on The Walking Dead, and the producers include Bradley Fischer (Black Swan), Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island), and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac). If Alfonso Cuaron does actually sign on for both films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them appears to be more likely to start filming first, given the 2016 release date, and the amount of postproduction that a tentpole fantasy film with a myriad array of monsters and creatures would require.
#2 THE COEN BROTHERS TO REUNITE WITH TOM HANKS ON SPIELBERG’S SPY PLANE PROJECT
One of the top stories last week was the revelation that the next directing project for the Coen Brothers (after Inside Llewyn Davis) will be called Hail Caesar, set in the golden age of Hollywood. The prolific Coens, however, usually do work on multiple projects at once, and so, it wasn’t really that surprising that their names came up again this week, in their capacity as screenwriters. Joel and Ethan Coen have signed on as (rewrite) screenwriters for the untitled U2 spy plane drama that will feature Tom Hanks, and will be directed by Steven Spielberg. In addition to being a reunion for Hanks and Spielberg (their fourth feature film together), this news also reunites Tom Hanks with the directors of his remake of The Ladykillers. Tom Hanks will be starring in the true story film as attoney James Donovan, who was recruited to negotiate with the KGB for the release of U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers. The original screenplay was by newcomer Matt Charman, and the Coen Brothers will be doing a draft based on it.
#3 GODZILLA TO GET SEQUELS… OBVIOUSLY
Anytime nowadays that there is an opening of the level of Godzilla, then yes, it’s almost a “well duh” reaction that there will be indeed be a Godzilla 2. In fact, there will be a Godzilla 3 as well. There have been hints that Mothra might appear in the next film, but other possibilities include Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla. Legendary Pictures is no longer based at Warner Bros (they moved to Universal last year), but the two companies will continue to partner on the Godzilla movies. And yes, director Gareth Edwards was confirmed this week as still being on board the Godzilla trilogy… he’ll just be doing the Star Wars spinoff first before Godzilla 2. Busy guy.
#4 LEGO SPINOFF FRANCHISE NINJAGO CREEPS INTO THEATERS IN 2016
The other 2014 box office success for Warner Bros that continues to inspire attempts at future replication is The LEGO Movie. This week, Warner Bros confirmed that the previously announced LEGO spinoff Ninjago indeed has been given a greenlight, and a release date of September 23, 2016. Basically, it’s about LEGO characters who are ninjas. The toy brand includes a Cartoon Network animated series, and the writers of that show are also writing the Ninjago movie. The film will also mark the feature film debut of Charlie Bean, who has previously directed episodes of TRON: Uprising and Robotboy. Sony Pictures also has an (untitled) animated movie scheduled for September 23, 2016.
#5 THE TOY FRANCHISE TREND CONTINUES WITH… MONSTER HIGH
Warner Bros is not the only studio that is moving forward with toy franchise adaptations following the success of The LEGO Movie. Universal Pictures has also scheduled a fall 2016 date (October 7, just two weeks after Ninjago) for their Monster High movie, based upon the popular Mattel line of monstrous dolls. Unlike many of these films, Monster High appears to be a live action film, not animated. The Monster High movie is being written by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who have previously worked together on the TV shows Gossip Girl and The O.C. (Schwartz is also known for his work on TV’s Chuck).
#6 TRUE STORY CASTING: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH JOINS BLACK MASS; TOM WILKINSON AS LBJ
Two different films based on true stories involving famous 20th century figures are now filming on location in the United States, and there’s new cast to announce for both. First up, there is Warner Bros’ Whitey Bulger movie Black Mass, which Johnny Depp is starring in as the infamous Boston mobster. Benedict Cumberbatch has joined the cast as the mobster’s brother Billy Burger, replacing the previously announced Guy Pearce. Parks and Recreation star Adam Scott has joined the cast as an F.B.I. agent, joining an ensemble which now includes Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemens, and Juno Temple. Black Mass is filming in Boston, and down in Alabama and Georgia, there’s the long-in-development movie Selma, about crucial events in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. This week, we learned that Tom Wilkinson will be playing President Lyndon Baines Johnson, joining David Oyelowo as Rev. King, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, and Colman Domingo as Ralph Abernathy. The many producer credits of Selma include Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Films) and Brad Pitt (Plan B).
#7 THIS WEEK IN STEPHEN KING ADAPTATIONS: GERALD’S GAME AND IT (PARTS 1 AND 2)
The novels and short stories of Stephen King have inspired dozens of adaptations, and at any point, there’s at least a dozen others in development, somewhere. One of King’s novels which has not previously attracted much attention was the 1992 bondage/survival thriller Gerald’s Game, but with 50 Shades of Grey coming in 2015, perhaps that book’s time is finally here. Oculus director Mike Flanagan hopes to make Gerald’s Game his next film, and he’s been in Cannes this week, hoping to find producing help with a film that he compares to Misery and Dolores Claiborne (but with handcuffs and sex toys, we guess). Another Stephen King adaptation, the two-part adaptation of IT, also made the news this week at Warner Bros (they were busy over there!). The studio has shifted development of IT from the main studio to subsidiary New Line Cinema, along with the announcement that going forward, horror films will be handled by New Line Cinema, and not so much Warner Bros itself. This shift might also apply to another Stephen King-related film, The Overlook, mentioned up above. IT is planned as two movies: the first about the friends encountering Pennywise the clown monster as kids, and the second film finishing the adventure, as adults. Cue the competition from Goonies 2.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 FORMER TEEN STARS MOLLY RINGWALD AND JULIETTE LEWIS JOIN JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
For people who actively follow movie development, there’s a certain pattern you get used to. Films are announced, and then they spend years and years sort of “developing” before they’re finally produced. This is especially true with “franchise” projects that are adaptations of pre-existing intellectual properties. And then, there’s Jem and the Holograms, based on the 1990s animated TV show, which has done all of that in just a few months, and is already filming. In two somewhat gimmicky casting moves this week, the production has cast two actresses who were each teen movie stars in subsequent decades. From the 1980s, you have Molly Ringwald, star of John Hughes movies Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, and much, much later, there was the TV show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, with Shailene Woodley. Representing the 1990s, we have Juliette Lewis, whose path was distinctively darker, appearing in such films as Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers, and From Dusk Till Dawn. The nature of both roles are currently unknown, but Juliette Lewis has in the past fronted her own rock band, so… that might be a hint. Anyway, let’s call all this borderline “rotten”… just because. Stunt casting!
#1 THIS WEEK IN SUPERFLUOUS SUBTITLES: BATMAN V. KINGSMAN – DAWN OF SECRETS OF SERVING JUSTICE
There’s a long tradition of franchise entries having subtitles. There’s nothing wrong with it, and sometimes tells you more than what you would get from just a single roman numeral or whatever. This week, Warner Bros announced the official title of one of their (no, probably their single biggest) upcoming movies, in 2016, at least. That film is what we’ve previously called a sequel to Man of Steel. Well, now we can call it Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And that title… well, it’s just a mess. You can tell that the studio wanted to include Batman and Superman, and also hint at it leading to a Justice League. What they ended up with though, is just… wow. First of all, there’s the idea of Batman going “versus” Superman. Yes, it’s an established trope in the comics that Batman can defeat anyone given enough planning, but to the “four quadrant” crowd out there, it seems like a lopsided fight. And why is it “v” instead of “Vs.” or “Versus”? And why “Dawn of Justice,” at all? There are plenty of cool uses of the word “justice” in existing DC Comics, which could have been appropriated. Anyway, in other superfluous title additions, 20th Century Fox also got into the game by adding a completely new word (Kingsman) to their adaptation of the comic book The Secret Service, so that it is now Kingsman: The Secret Service. Matthew Vaughn directs, Colin Firth stars, and Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine costar in the movie, which is scheduled for October 24, 2014. Going back to the Superman franchise, the new confusing title was also announced the same week that franchise screenwriter David S. Goyer sort of stuck his foot in his mouth when asked about two green-skinned characters: Marvel’s She-Hulk, and DC’s Martian Manhunter. Some of the She-Hulk stuff, we can’t even reprint here, but wow… just wow. Let’s just say, it’s all kindling for discussions about how the current WB/DC writers and creative types are handling those characters, and how it differs from what Marvel does with their characters. That whole thing even got Stan Lee talking about She-Hulk. And you don’t want to see Stan Lee when he’s angry (someone had to do that joke!). BREAKING NEWS: Speaking of Stan Lee, we’ve just learned of a new development regarding an upcoming Marvel property that certainly fits in the #1 Rotten spot this week: Due to creative differences, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) will no longer be directing Ant-Man. Marvel apparently has a replacement lined up, but they haven’t announced who it is yet. It’s a pretty surprising and disappointing development, considering Wright has been associated with the film since 2006.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.