As the film industry prepares for the start of the Cannes Film Festival on May 11, enough announcements were made this week to fill two editions of the Weekly Ketchup. Among the stories that made the cut are new projects for directors Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino, the casting of supporting roles in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic, remakes of Tomb Raider and Seven Samurai, and a Glee movie.
This Week’s Top Story
KATHRYN BIGELOW WASTES NO TIME ON HER OSAMA BIN LADEN MOVIE
Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) found herself in the headlines this week as details emerged about a planned project called Kill Bin Laden, which is obviously now in search of a new title. The untitled independent drama about the hunt for Osama bin Laden had actually already been in the casting process, and so now is surprisingly close to incorporating the news of the last week to start filming. The original basis for Bigelow’s film was to be an earlier unsuccessful attempt to kill Osama bin Laden on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. Screenwriter Mark Boal, who also wrote The Hurt Locker, is also now working on adapting to this week’s news. If any proof was needed to confirm how far along this project really was, even before May 2nd, this week also saw the announcement of the film’s first cast member. Australian actor Joel Edgerton, who is probably still best known for playing the young Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels, has been cast as a special operative who will be part of an ensemble cast of “commandos.” The plan is for casting to continue, and for filming to begin as early as this summer.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 DETAILS OF QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DJANGO UNCHAINED REVEALED
The next logical question the day after the release of the latest film by a fan favorite director like Quentin Tarantino is what he will be doing next. Tarantino belongs to that school of writer-directors who talk about many different ideas, and sometimes take many years to see each of them actually filmed. For over a decade, Tarantino has been talking about doing a western — or as he called it more recently, “a Southern” — that would deal with the issue of slavery. The Internet was much abuzz this week with the revelation that QT has finished his latest script, with the cover page image of Django Unleashed appearing online. This led to some confusion, initially, as many people interpreted the title as meaning it was a new movie starring Franco Nero featuring the character that first appeared in the 1966 Italian spaghetti western of the same title. Complicating matters a bit is the fact that Franco Nero has indeed talked about possibly appearing in Tarantino’s next film. However, we now know that this movie’s “Django” will actually be a freed slave who is taught by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds) the tricks of the trade, and then sets out to liberate his wife from an evil plantation owner. Other names that have been rumored include Keith Carradine, Treat Williams and Nicky Katt, but at this point, no official casting has been done yet. There’s also not yet a firm date as to when Django Unchained will start filming, but at least we now have a better idea of what Quentin Tarantino has in mind. That will have to do for now. — And here is some breaking news (late Friday afternoon). Will Smith is the frontrunner to star as Django the slave. Samuel L. Jackson is also in talks to play the house slave to the “bad guy.” Quentin Tarantino hopes to start filming in the fall of 2011 in the South, possibly Louisiana.
#2 FROM CORALINE TO THE ZOMBIE ADVENTURES OF PARANORMAN
Coraline was a 2009 stop motion animated adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel about a young girl who discovers a strange alternate reality, and was both a critical and a (modest) box office hit. This week, the two companies behind Coraline (animation studio Laika and distributor Focus Feature) announced the details of their next stop motion animation project. ParaNorman, which will be released in 3D on August 17, 2012, will tell the story of a small town in the middle of a zombie invasion, and the young boy named Norman who can speak to the dead, and may be the key to resolving the centuries-old curse behind it all. Norman will be voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) and the rest of the voice cast includes Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, Bernard Hill, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Elaine Stritch. Although ParaNorman is not being produced by Tim Burton (unlike Coraline), the first image shows that the movie is still going for a similar visual style. ParaNorman is being directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away, The Tale of Despereaux) and Chris Butler, who also wrote the script. Chris Butler is making his debut as codirector and screenwriter, but has previously worked as a storyboard artist on Coraline and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
#3 THE SCREENWRITERS OF THE TOMB RAIDER REBOOT ARE… NOT ROTTEN?
The Tomb Raider film franchise has been making the news for about a year due to efforts to reboot the video game adaptation series with a younger actress (than Angelina Jolie). The Tomb Raider reboot started off at Warner Bros, but the studio then put the project into turnaround, where it was picked up by GK Films, the independent production company behind The Town, Rango and the upcoming films Hugo Cabret, The Rum Diary and Dark Shadows. Now, GK Films has hired the screenwriting team of Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby to work on this rebooting of the tomb raiding adventures of archaeologist Lara Croft. Fergus and Ostby were among the screenwriters of Iron Man, Children of Men, and the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens, but one caveat about their credits is that in all three cases, they shared credits with at least two other screenwriters. GK Films acquired the rights two months ago to Tomb Raider from the Square Enix game publisher, with a stated goal of getting the reboot in theaters in 2013. In addition to casting a younger actress, GK Films has stated that it plans to present an “origin story for Lara Croft that solidifies her place alongside Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor in the pantheon of great female action heroes.”
#4 STEVEN SPIELBERG’S LINCOLN BIOPIC TO HAVE AN EPIC ENSEMBLE CAST
Steven Spielberg’s long-planned Lincoln biopic about our 16th presidency doesn’t start filming until this fall. However, this week, several actors were announced as being in talks to join Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. The exact roles for most of the actors is not yet known, but two of them are. Tommy Lee Jones will play Thaddeus Stevens, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and a supporter of the abolition of slavery. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s oldest son and the only one to survive into his 20s. The list of actors whose (in talks) roles are currently unknown include John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Gloria Reuben and James Spader. Filming of Lincoln is scheduled to start in the fall of 2011 in Virginia, most likely at many of the actual settings of Lincoln’s presidency and important Civil War events.
#5 ROBERT ZEMECKIS GOING BACK TO TIME TRAVEL?
Following the box office failure of the Robert Zemeckis-produced Mars Needs Moms and the shelving of Zemeckis’ motion-capture remake of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the director of such movies as Cast Away and the Back to the Future trilogy is continuing to search for his next movie as director. Two weeks ago, there was news that Zemeckis was in talks to direct Flight, in which Denzel Washington would play an alcoholic pilot hailed as a hero after preventing an airplane crash. Now, Zemeckis is also in talks with Warner Bros to take on an adaptation of the 1987 novel Replay by Ken Grimwood. Replay tells the story of a radio journalist in his 40s who suffers a heart attack, and finds himself back in his 18 year old body, as he gets the chance to live the next 25 years over. Basically, the premise is a bit like Groundhog Day but for almost the man’s entire life, as he tries to either prevent his early death again, or the death of his daughter. There’s also possible connections to Back to the Future, since the premise takes the character back a few decades, and appears to be all about trying to fix a life and a family, ala Marty McFly. The latest version of the Replay script was adapted by Jason Smilovic (Lucky Number Slevin), who is also a TV producer who worked on Kidnapped, Bionic Woman and My Own Worst Enemy. It appears at this point that Zemeckis is still more likely to direct Flight first, while continuing to develop Replay.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 GLEE: THE MOVIE (SORT OF)
20th Century Fox has announced a release date of August 12, 2011 for Glee Live! 3D!, based upon the popular FOX TV show about a group of very good looking teenagers who enjoy singing covers of popular songs (and some original songs). Glee Live! 3D! is not, however, a direct movie adaptation of the TV show, but will instead basically be a concert movie. Fourteen of the show’s cast members will be going on tour this summer, performing memorable songs from the TV show, and this movie will bring that experience to movie theaters. Glee Live! 3D! will be directed by Kevin Tancharoen, who also helmed the similarly-themed remake of Fame in 2009, Britney Spears’ 2004 Live from Miami special and the 2007 reality show The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll. Among the songs that will be performed in Glee Live! 3D! are covers of Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Glee Live! 3D! is a borderline Rotten Idea, but the factor that lands it in this category is the 25% RT Tomatometer score for Tancharoen’s previous movie about musically talented teenagers, Fame.
#3 PLEASE ALLOW BRADLEY COOPER TO INTRODUCE HIMSELF
Last year, director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Knowing, Dark City) signed on with Legendary Pictures to take on their adaptation of John Milton’s epic 17th century poem Paradise Lost. Milton’s poem depicts the events of Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden, and the war between the archangels Michael and Lucifer. This week, Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team) started negotitations to portray Lucifer, who you may also know as Satan, Beelzebub, or the Prince of Darkness. This follows the recent news that Bradley Cooper is also in talks to star in the remake of The Crow, the original film adaptation of which was also directed by Alex Proyas. The emphasis of this film version of Paradise Lost appears to be more on the angelic war, and less on Adam and Eve, as it is described as being “crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D.” The adaptation script for Paradise Lost has already been worked on four other screenwriters, but the latest script is by newcomer Ryan Condal. Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, Paradise Lost is likely to be distributed by Warner Bros, the studio that handles most Legendary Pictures productions (300, Watchmen, The Dark Knight). In other Bradley Cooper news, the actor is also in talks to costar with Ryan Gosling in the independent drama The Place Beyond the Pines about a motorcycle riding bank robber (Gosling) and the cop (Cooper) who is trying to stop him.
#2 THE LAVA FLOWING THROUGH THE HOUSES OF POMPEII WILL BE A RESIDENT EVIL
Director Paul W.S. Anderson is best known for the Resident Evil series (and being married to Milla Jovovich), but his latest film is a 3D remake of The Three Musketeers. At the Cannes Film Festival this week, Anderson announced his plans to adapt another story set in the distant past: the volcanic disaster of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii. The premise of Anderson’s Pompeii is very much of the Titanic model, combining romance and a terrible catastrophe. Set in the late summer of 79 A.D., the central character will be the slave of a shipping tycoon who dreams of winning his freedom and marrying his master’s daughter. And then Mount Vesuvius happens. Pompeii was adapted by the husband-wife screenwriting team of Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, who are best known as the writers who teamed up with Akiva Goldsman on Batman Forever. Anderson hopes to start filming in the spring of 2012. Summit Entertainment has already picked up the U.S. rights to the international production. There’s no word yet as to who Milla Jovovich will be playing.
#1 AKIRA KUROSAWA’S SEVEN SAMURAI GETS ANOTHER REMAKE
While Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was still alive, a few of his films were remade in America. Most notably, Yojimbo became A Fistfull of Dollars (and later, Last Man Standing) and Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven. Now, the Weinstein Company are getting closer to realizing their long-talked about plans for another remake of Seven Samurai. First made in 1954, Seven Samurai was the story of a small village in the 16th century that hires seven masterless samurai as protection against a gang of bandits. The Weinstein Company remake will change the setting from 16th century Japan to modern Thailand, with the samurai now being paramilitary contractors. Director Scott Mann (2009’s The Tournament) will direct the remake from a script adapted by John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns, The Forbidden Kingdom) on a budget of $60 million.
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.