Most of the movie news this week was dominated by both the Academy Awards nominations and various goings on at Sundance, but there was still a good deal of movie development news as well. In particular, there was a lot of casting going on, including new roles (or possible new roles) for Javier Bardem, James Franco, James Gandolfini, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Jackman and Viggo Mortensen.
This Week’s Top Story
TOP STORY: JAVIER BARDEM OFFERED THE ROLE OF THE GUNSLINGER IN THE DARK TOWER
Director Ron Howard and Universal Pictures have offered the role of “Gunslinger” Roland Deschain in the ambitious adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series to Spanish actor Javier Bardem. This follows a period in which both Viggo Mortensen and Christian Bale were mentioned as being considered for the role. The Dark Tower is a series of seven novels by Stephen King, following the adventures of the last gunslinger, a member of a centuries-old order with ties to Arthurian legend. In addition to three movies, if Javier Bardem signs, he will also star in a NBC TV series which is now being described as being either “a limited run series or a miniseries.” Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) will direct the first movie, as well as the TV series which bridges the first and second movie. The second movie will be followed by another TV series that tells the story of Deschain as a young man (with a different actor), and then the third movie brings back the original cast for the big finale. This news caps off a very busy week for Javier Bardem, in which he wrapped filming of an untitled project for director Terrence Malick, received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Biutiful, and celebrated with Penelope Cruz the birth of their first son.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BELLA WHITE AND ARAGORN THE HUNTSMAN?
Of the many fairy tale projects that are in various stages of development after the success of Alice in Wonderland, Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman is one of the closest to actually filming. The studio was in active casting mode this week, starting with the news that Viggo Mortensen was in negotiations to star as the Huntsman, who in this version of the fairy tale has a much more prominent role (basically replacing the seven dwarves). Viggo is apparently newly available for this role after being in the running in The Dark Tower, and he likewise is replacing Michael Fassbender, who this week took a role as an android in Prometheus. This is a reunion project of sorts for Mortensen, as Charlize Theron has been attached since December to costar as the evil Queen, and they costarred together in The Road. As for Snow White herself, Universal has been doing a series of screen tests with several young actresses, but the name at the top of their wish list is Kristen Stewart. Stewart is currently filming the two Breaking Dawn movies, but Universal hopes to be able to get her to sneak Snow White and the Huntsman in during a break. Director Rupert Sanders will be making his feature film debut with Snow White and the Huntsman, which Universal Pictures has scheduled for December 21, 2012.
#2 DEADWOOD CREATOR HIRED TO ADAPT HEAVY RAIN
In the nearly five years since New Line Cinema acquired the film rights to the PS3 video game Heavy Rain, there’s been little movement for the project. That deal was made so early in the game’s development, and Heavy Rain itself wasn’t released until February, 2010. The long development times of movies is why so many video game adaptations seem to come out long after the game is at its height of popularity (Doom, Tekken and the upcoming Missile Command are good examples). Warner Bros and New Line Cinema now have put Heavy Rain on the fast track, starting with the hiring of TV writer and producer David Milch, creator of N.Y.P.D. Blue and Deadwood. Milch has a reputation for gritty dramas with colorful language, to put it mildly. Heavy Rain is a thriller video game in which four different characters in a small town try to stop the “Origami Killer,” who murders his victims by drowning them during heavy rainfall. David Milch is currently working on this fall’s new HBO series Luck, starring Dustin Hoffman, but he is expected to start working on adapting Heavy Rain for the big screen soon after.
#3 A BIG SCREEN REUNION FOR THE SOPRANOS
We may never get the once-rumored big screen movie based upon HBO’s The Sopranos, but Tony Soprano and the show’s creator will work together soon nonetheless. James Gandolfini is set to costar in David Chase’s theatrical directorial debut, the 1960s rock drama Twylight Zones. Gandolfini will play the father of a socially awkward teen who becomes the lead singer of a New Jersey rock band called The Twylight Zones, to the disgust of his father, in the midst of the 1960s rock and roll explosion. John Magaro (My Soul to Take) will be playing Gandolfini’s son, Third Watch star Molly Price will play the kid’s mom, and Everyone Loves Raymond costar Brad Garrett also has a supporting role. James Gandolfini is also in negotiations to join the cast of the post-9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, as well as Cogan’s Trade, starring Brad Pitt.
#4 SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS EXPANDS HIS IMPRESSIVE BIOPIC COLLECTION WITH ALFRED HITCHCOCK
Few modern actors have made quite as many big screen biopics in the last 20 years as Sir Anthony Hopkins, especially if you include other non-biopic movies in which Hopkins also played historical figures. Hopkins’ list of portrayals includes John Quincy Adams, C.S. Lewis, Richard Nixon, Pablo Picasso and the creator of Kellogg’s cereal (yes, really). In 2009, Hopkins was also announced as being cast as author Ernest Hemingway in Hemingway & Fuentes, but that movie has not yet been made. The latest 20th century figure that Sir Anthony is in talks to portray is another Sir whose title comes from a career in the movies: Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho is an adaptation of the non-fiction book by Stephen Rebello. The film will mark the dramatic debut of documentary director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil), who also cowrote the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal. The book tells the story of how Hitchcock decided to switch gears at the height of his success and make a horror movie (Psycho) that the studios wouldn’t touch, and which of course went on to nearly singlehandedly create a whole new type of horror movie. The story also revolves greatly around Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife Alma Reville. This is actually Hopkins’ second go around with the project, as he had previously been attached many years ago, when Helen Mirren was also in talks to star as Alma Reville. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho is currently an independent production, but Paramount Pictures (the original distributor of Psycho) is expected to be likely to pick it up.
#5 WILL JOHN TRAVOLTA BE THE TEFLON DON?
John Travolta is reportedly in “serious talks” to star as John Gotti, Jr. (mistakenly called Sr. in the article) in the planned three generation biopic Gotti. John Gotti, Jr. was the boss of the infamous New York City Gambino crime family, and in 1992 was convicted of a long list of crimes, including 13 murders, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, extortion and loansharking. Gotti was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and died in prison in 2002 of throat cancer. As for who will play John Gotti III (again, mistakenly called Jr. in the article), the producers are also in early talks with James Franco. It should be noted that neither Travolta nor Franco have signed yet. The search for a director is closer to a deal, as a deal is being finalized with Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, John Q), who also costarred with John Travolta in Face/Off. In addition to being one of the lead characters in Gotti, John Gotti III also collaborated on the script with screenwriter Leo Rossi, who is also an actor known for playing mob-type characters in movies like Analyze This.
#6 THE BATTLE OF THE DUELLING LINDA LOVELACE BIOPICS HEATS UP
Speaking of James Franco, the Oscar nominated star of 127 Hours continues to be in high demand, and as with Gotti, Franco is popular with producers of biopics. Negotiations have begun for the Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace, based upon the Eric Danville book The Complete Linda Lovelace about the 1970s porn actress and star of Deep Throat. Lovelace should not be confused with Inferno, the highly publicized Lovelace biopic that was at one time supposed to be Lindsay Lohan’s big comeback project (she’s since been replaced by Watchmen star Malin Akerman). Kate Hudson is in talks to star in Lovelace, and James Franco is in talks to play Chuck Traynor, Lovelace’s pornographer husband who Lovelace claimed was extremely abusive. One factor that may make Franco’s casting likely is that Lovelace will be directed by the team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who previously worked with Franco on the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl.
#7 CAPTAIN KIRK AND WOLVERINE HEADLINE RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
In late 2009, Leonardo DiCaprio was announced by DreamWorks Animation as making his voice work debut in a movie then known as The Guardians. Scheduled for November 12, 2012, the film is now titled Rise of the Guardians and is based upon an upcoming series of children’s books (The Guardians of Childhood) by William Joyce, the creator of Meet the Robinsons and Rolie Polie Olie. Rise of the Guardians is about a group of holiday-themed superheroes who group together to stop the evil Pitch from taking over the world. Since then, a series of other actors (including Christopher Lee, Hank Azaria and Seth Green) were mentioned online as also being cast in the movie. Now, however, DreamWorks has announced the new official voice cast list, and it’s completely different. Chris Pine (Star Trek) will voice Jack Frost, Alec Baldwin will voice North (Santa Claus), Hugh Jackman will voice Bunnymund (Easter Bunny), Isla Fisher will voice Tooth (the Tooth Fairy) and Jude Law will voice the villain Pitch (the Boogeyman). Rise of the Guardians will be the feature debut of director Peter Ramsey, who previously directed the DreamWorks TV movie Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS GETS DIRECTORS FROM BOTH PLANETS
Last year, Summit Entertainment announced plans for a romantic comedy based upon the popular franchise of relationship self help books by John Gray that started in 1992 with Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Just about a year later, the project is getting closer to actually happening with the hiring of a writing/directing team that actually matches the book’s theme, in as much as one is a man and one is a woman. Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan met in college, and have since had a long and successful career as collaborators as both screenwriters and directors. As screenwriters, Elfont and Kaplan have worked on Made of Honor, Leap Year, Surviving Christmas and the Flintstones and Brady Bunch sequels. Their two previous movies as directors were 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait and the 2001 live-action adaptation of Josie and the Pussycats (both of which they also cowrote). That last movie apparently caused Elfont and Kaplan’s directing career to be put on a ten-year hold which will now be revived with Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
#1 FIRELIGHT IS DESCRIBED AS “TWILIGHT WITH DRAGONS” – NEED WE REALLY SAY MORE?
Well, apparently, we do. Screenwriter Nick Pustay (Camille; cowriter of Ramona and Beezus) has been hired to adapt the young adult fantasy novel Firelight by Sophie Jordan. Nick Pustay is also adapting a book called Shiver about a boy who turns into a werewolf every winter, and his relationship with a human girlfriend. Here’s how The Hollywood Reporter describes Firelight, “The ‘Twilight with dragons’ story centers on Jacinda, a young girl who is a ‘draki,’ a descendant of dragons who can morph into human form, and who is ordained to marry another of her kind. When the girl’s mother moves the family to live among humans for safety reasons, Jacinda puts her family at risk when she falls for a member of a secret dragon-hunting society.” But really, “Twilight with dragons” was all they had to say to get this movie a slot as this week’s most Rotten Idea. The publishing world is falling over themselves publishing variations on the Twilight formula, and Hollywood is right in step to pick up the rights to nearly every would-be franchise that they publish.
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.