This week’s Ketchup has is very biopic heavy (six out of eleven stories), four of which are coincidentally themed around important events in the history of African Americans. There’s also new movies for George Clooney and Ralph Fiennes, and the big Thor news we’ve been waiting weeks for.
One of the most memorable scenes, and performances, in the new Star Trek is the opening sequence, in which George Kirk (father of James T.) is forced to take the helm of his ship after his captain’s death, and make a very difficult command decision. Playing George Kirk was a young unknown actor named Chris Hemsworth, but in his brief role, he came across, in my opinion, as someone that it felt like I had seen in movies before, and frankly, wanted to see do more stuff in the future. Well, if you agreed with me, we’re getting our wish, because Hemsworth has landed not one, but two big roles this week, and the first one is a whopper. After months of speculation about who will be starring as the Norse God of Thunder in Thor, Chris Hemsworth has landed the role (the other job he landed this week is the lead in the remake of Red Dawn). Hemsworth does not have the exact, stereotypical blonde, muscled look of some of his competitors (like Alexander Skarsgard of True Blood), but he’s got a good strong jaw and good looks, and reportedly really impressed during his auditions. Besides, someone has to keep Hollywood’s wig makers in business. Thor got another big casting announcement this week as well, with British actor Tom Hiddleston landing the villainous role of Loki, Thor’s half-brother and the God of Mischief. A key element in Hiddleston’s casting is that he costarred with the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh, in two projects; the Wallander TV mini-series and the HBO movie Conspiracy. Anyway, although both actors are relatively new to American audiences, I think that it was smart of Marvel to go with new faces for Thor and Loki, as it is the epic nature of their conflict and characters that make them unique. Hopefully Hiddleston will be able to make Loki his own, perhaps reminding us of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker, and as for Chris Hemsworth… he better get cracking on learning how to say words like “verily” and “forsooth” credibly.
Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks have acquired the full rights to the life story of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. for a movie that will strive to be “the definitive portrait of his life.” Although there’s no word yet as to whether Spielberg will also direct the project, the possibility has to be considered at least very likely, and if it is not Spielberg, the choice of director would probably be someone of his creative caliber. Here’s a little of what Spielberg had to say: “We are all honored that the King estate is giving us the opportunity to tell the story of these defining, historic events… It is our hope that the creative power of film and the impact of Dr. King’s life can combine to present a story of undeniable power that we can all be proud of.” DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider continued, “In trying to tackle such an ambitious project, the question we had to ask ourselves is, ‘Why now?’ The answer lies in MLK’s own words: ‘All progress is precarious.’ With every step forward, new obstacles emerge and we must never forget that his life and his teachings continue to challenge us every day to stand up to hatred and inequality.” Steven Spielberg is continuing to try to film his long-planned biopic of Abraham Lincoln, which has to be viewed as a sort of prequel to this Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic, along with the other movies Spielberg has made about the African-American plight (Amistad and The Color Purple).
This August 9th marks the 40th anniversary of the gruesome murders of Sharon Tate and four others by the hands of the Manson Family cult, and a Variety blog is reporting that director Oliver Stone is in talks with Vincent Bugliosi, the case’s prosecuting attorney and author of Helter Skelter, about possibly making a movie about Charles Manson and his followers. Helter Skelter has been adapted twice before, both as TV movies, in 1976 and 2004, but if Oliver Stone does indeed make his movie, it would be the first version to hit the big screen. Oliver Stone’s career is full of movies set in the 1960s (JFK, Platoon, The Doors, Born on the Fourth of July), with the decade becoming a sort of thematic motiff for Stone, so Helter Skelter would fit right in, as it brought the Sixties to a horrific end, even as six days later, the Woodstock festival started. Since at this point, it’s just a negotiation, no other details are known about this possible Helter Skelter project.
There was a time when nearly every year saw the release of at least one movie based upon a Saturday Night Live skit. The Ladies Man. It’s Pat. Superstar. A Night at the Roxbury. Stuart Saves His Family. Remember them? Well, most of them didn’t do particularly well at the box office, and a few of them were downright crappy, and so eventually, they stopped getting made. Now, however, show runner Lorne Michaels said at the Peabody Awards this week that he is looking at possibly making a movie out of the show’s MacGyver spoof, MacGruber, which always ends with MacGruber’s attempts at saving the day with disastrous results. While this can be humorous in a short skit, can the joke carry a 90+ minute movie? The concept is still being discussed, and would have to be filmed during the show’s summer hiatus (2010, perhaps?). MacGruber would have been this week’s “Rotten Idea”, but a real doozie is taking its place (see below).
Tony-winning actor and comedian Dan Fogler talked to MovieHole this week about his upcoming projects, which include a fictional biopic about legendary rock DJ Wolfman Jack, and the possibility of a Fanboys 2. Wolfman Jack seems to be following in the footsteps of Bubba Ho-Tep, starting off as a biopic, but then veering off into comedic misadventures which include Wolfman Jack and James Brown fighting off Mexicans, “It’s one of the craziest scripts I’ve ever read in my life – and I can’t wait to do it, running around with a crazy accent shooting Mexicans will be awesome!” Anyone who remembers Wolfman Jack’s heyday and his awesome screen and television persona should be quite excited at the prospect of him getting a crazy movie all his own. As for Fanboys 2, if it happens, it would see the guys regrouping to crash the Australian sets of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The other movies that Fogler talks about are Number Thirteen, Mars Needs Moms, Hysterical Psycho and Spanky Johnson: Monster Hunter.
George Clooney has signed with Focus Features to star in A Very Private Gentleman, the story of an assassin hiding out in an Italian town who takes on his last mission, while also making friends in the town, contrary to his normally reclusive nature. Clooney quite famously spends quite a bit of his time in a villa on Lake Como in Italy, so this movie almost sounds halfway autobiographical. A Very Private Gentleman will be directed by Anton Corbijn (Control, as well as music videos for U2, Metallica and Depeche Mode) from a script by Rowan Joffe (cowriter of 28 Weeks Later), adapting a novel by Martin Booth. Filming is scheduled to start in the fall of 2009 in Italy.
While talking to ComingSoon.net this week from the set of Jonah Hex in New Orleans, Josh Brolin revealed that he is working on producing and probably starring in a movie about 19th century American abolitionist John Brown, who led the raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia, attempting to free slaves in a 1859 event which many historians cite as a precursor to the Civil War. Despite John Brown’s historical importance, he has been remarkably rarely depicted in film (though he was in the little-seen Seven Angry Men, 1955), and Josh Brolin notes in the linked interview that he thinks the time is finally right for a movie about this revolutionary abolitionist to get his own movie. Josh Brolin also mentioned talks he’s had with Mel Gibson about a movie called Under and Alone, about the true story of an ATF agent who went undercover in a motorcycle gang.
Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures have acquired the movie rights to the life story of John Keller, an ex-Marine who oversaw the rescue of 244 of his New Orleans neighbors when the American Can Company building was flooded by 11 feet of water, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There’s no confirmation yet that Will Smith would be starring as John Keller, but that seems likely. The movie, which some sources are listing as either Can Man or American Can, will be directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo) from a script he is writing, revising a spec script by Adetoro Makinde.
After directing both Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington’s third film as director may be Brothers in Arms, the true story of the only tank unit in the European theater of World War II that was manned by all African Americans, based upon a non-fiction book co-authored by basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabarr. The project has been in development for many years, and is now being rewritten by Matthew Sand, who also cowrote this November’s Ninja Assassin. In spearheading the Battle of the Bulge, the tank battalion helped liberate over 30 towns and villages, while also fighting prejudice and earning the respect of other soldiers. There’s no word yet as to when Brothers in Arms would be filmed, but the similarly-themed Red Tails (about the Tuskegee Airmen) is currently filming in Europe.
British actor Ralph Fiennes will make his directorial debut with, and star in, a movie adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, one of the Bard’s more obscure, and least adapted plays. Coriolanus is the story of a legendary (ie, possibly fictional) 5th century B.C. Roman general who was first hailed by Rome, and then banished, leading to Coriolanus eventually leading an army to invade Rome. Ralph Fiennes will star as Coriolanus, with Vanessa Redgrave playing his mother (who encouraged Coriolanus’ political career), and William Hurt also costarring. Fiennes has already started scouting locations in Eastern Europe, and is seeking financing for the project which is expected to start filming in 2010. Considering how well ancient war epics translate to the big screen, it’s surprising that no one has attempted to adapt Coriolanus on this sort of scale before, and it’s also always good to hear about some of Shakespeare’s less famous works being given the attention they deserve.
Wow, Michael Eisner has fallen from great heights. The former Disney head honcho now has his sights on one of the most ridiculous concepts for a movie that I have ever heard of in my twelve years of covering upcoming movies. First, it should be noted that in 2007, Eisner paid $380 million for the Topps trading card company, which also produces Bazooka chewing gum. And so, in an attempt to revitalize the brand, Eisner has hired a new screenwriter, Mark Hammer, to work on a script about Bazooka Joe, the eyepatch wearing kid that appears in the little comic strips that are included in packages of Bazooka gum. Usually only about four panels long, the strips have basically no story, and are just visual representations of jokes not much more advanced than “Knock Knock” jokes. Mr. Clean and the Michelin Man have more of a backstory than Bazooka Joe does. Anyway, if Eisner’s plans go through, someday we will have a movie about this character that most people have forgotten even existed by the time they hit their teen years. I hope he does an introduction at the beginning of the movie, ala his days as the host of The Magical World of Disney.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.