This week’s Ketchup covered a short week following Labor Day, but even so, there was still news, mostly because Hollywood types are up in Toronto making deals as the film festival started there. Movie projects that made the news this week included C.H.i.P.s, Ghost in the Shell, and Shazam, and new roles for Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Zac Efron, Julia Roberts, and Zoe Saldana, and news about actors-turned-directors Ben Affleck, and George Clooney.
This Week’s Top Story
LIVE ACTION GHOST IN THE SHELL LANDS LEAD
The live action Akira adaptation is still in “development hell,” but this week, another manga/anime adaptation reached a milestone on its way to actually happening. Margot Robbie is an Australian actress currently best known for costarring last year in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (she’ll also play Jane in Tarzan in 2016). Robbie is also now in talks with DreamWorks to star as the cyborg cop leading character in Ghost in the Shell. In addition to being a popular Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell has also been adapted as two anime movies, and various video games and anime television productions. The live action Ghost in the Shell will be directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) from a script by screenwriter Bill Wheeler (this will be his first produced credit). On its surface, Ghost in the Shell can sound a bit like a female-centric RoboCop, but the difference is in the “cyber crimes”, the cyberpunk setting (ala The Matrix or Blade Runner), and the lack of “armor.” The Snow White and the Huntsman prequel — aptly titled The Huntsman — will be directed by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption), with Chris Hemsworth returning as the title character.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ZOE SALDANA, ELLE FANNING, AND SIENNA MILLER JOIN BEN AFFLECK’S LIVE BY NIGHT
Once upon a time, Ben Affleck’s next film as director was supposed to be released by Warner Bros for late 2015. And then, the actor signed on to play Batman in a series of films, and Live by Night, and other Affleck-directed projects were pushed back. A year later, Live by Night is starting to gear up for production, with a release date a year later, on October 17, 2016. Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, and Sienna Miller have all signed on to join Ben Affleck (who will star, as well as direct). Sienna Miller has appeared in movies like Layer Cake and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Elle Fanning has starred in Super 8 and Maleficent, and Zoe Saldana has starred in Avatar, Star Trek, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Live by Night will be an adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) about a Boston mobster (Affleck) who climbs up the organized crime ladder. Miller will play a mob leader’s girlfriend, Fanning will play an aspiring actress, and Saldana will appear in the film’s Tampa scenes.
#2 DIRECTOR GEORGE CLOONEY ORDERS A BIG HACK ATTACK
Thus far, George Clooney’s career as a director has yielded three Fresh films (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Luck and Good Night, and The Ides of March), and two Rotten films (Leathernecks and The Monuments Men). For movie #6, Clooney has settled upon an adaptation of the Nick Davies non-fiction book Hack Attack. The book details the events of the phone hacking scandal in the U.K. involving various elements of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper empire. George Clooney and partner Grant Heslov will produce Hack Attack for Sony Pictures. Talking about the project, Clooney said, “This has all the elements — lying, corruption, blackmail — at the highest levels of government by the biggest newspaper in London. And the fact that it’s true is the best part. Nick is a brave and stubborn reporter and we consider it an honor to put his book to film.”
#3 MAMA DIRECTOR TO ADAPT VIDEO GAME SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
The world is still waiting for video game adaptations to experience a golden era comparable to what comic book superheroes enjoy right now, but we continue to hear about steps in the right direction. This week, Sony Pictures announced who the director of their long-planned adaptation of the 2005 PS2 game Shadow of the Colossus will be. That job is going to Argentinean director Andres Muschietti, who made his feature film debut last year with the supernatural horror film Mama. Muschietti will be working with screenwriter Seth Lochhead, who cowrote Hanna. Shadow of the Colossus is a fantasy romance adventure about a man named Wander who must search for a series of massive giant monsters as part of a quest to revive the girl he loves. Other video game adaptations currently planned for the next few years include Assassin’s Creed, Hitman: Agent 47, Pixels (featuring various arcade game characters) and Ratchet & Clank in 2015; and Angry Birds, Sly Cooper, Uncharted, and Warcraft in 2016.
#4 JULIA ROBERTS, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, AND GWYNETH PALTROW SEE THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
Speaking of Argentina, that nation’s film industry in 2009 produced the film that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, called El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes). Rather than giving such a respected movie something like a wide release so that people can see it for themselves, Hollywood’s reaction of course is to develop an English language remake. This week at the Toronto International Film Festival, the news broke that the cast for the spy thriller is coming together. Julia Roberts is in talks to join the already cast Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Gwyneth Paltrow. The remake, which will also be called Secret in their Eyes, was written and will be directed by Billy Ray, whose directing credits include Breach and Shattered Glass, and whose writing credits include Captain Phillips and The Hunger Games. The casting of Julia Roberts represents at least one major change from the original film, as the character’s gender was male. Chiwetel Ejiofor will star as a former MI5 agent who helps the FBI investigate the murder of a friend’s (Roberts) daughter. Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow previously costarred together (very briefly) in the 1991 movie Hook, which we really only mention so we can link to this, which also made the (TV) news this week.
#5 JESSICA CHASTAIN AND KRISTEN WIIG MAY JOIN MATT DAMON IN THE MARTIAN
When we first heard about a movie called The Martian about an astronaut stranded on the 4th planet, there was a lot of skepticism that it was a hastily planned reaction to the success of Gravity (even with Ridley Scott attached to direct). Even if that is what The Martian started as (in addition to being based upon an e-book by Andy Weir), the casting is starting to swing the vibe back into more optimistic territory. First, there was Matt Damon as the title character, and this week, we learned about two female costars. Jessica Chastain is now in talks for what is being described as the “female lead,” and Kristen Wiig is also in talks for a supporting role. Those two additions, plus a script adapted by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield; cowriter of Cabin in the Woods, World War Z) help to tip The Martian back into Fresh territory. Ridley Scott is expected to make The Martian his next film after the Moses movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, before moving on to the sequels to Prometheus and Blade Runner. 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Martian for November 25, 2015.
#6 VINCE VAUGHN GOES ON THE RUN AS THE POLITICIAN
Vince Vaughn has signed with Columbia Pictures to star in a comedy called The Politician, about a governor who has to go on the run after a prostitution scandal. The governor is joined by an underling as the two are chased by the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and drug dealers. The Politician will be directed by Michael Dowse, whose recent critical successes have included What If, Goon, and Fubar: Balls to the Wall. The script by newcomers Matthew Bass and Theodore Bressman was also on the 2013 Black List of Unproduced Scripts, which led to Columbia winning a bidding war.
Rotten Idea of the Week
#3 A JOKE FROM NEIGHBORS COMES TO LIFE: THE ZAC EFRON/ROBERT DE NIRO ROAD MOVIE
Even people who never actually saw Neighbors earlier this year know that it’s that one movie where Zac Efron dresses up as Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver (along with other De Niros). One has got to wonder if that homage of sorts wasn’t at least part of how this week’s news first got started rolling. Zac Efron and Robert De Niro are now attached to star in a road trip comedy called Driving Dick Kelly (formerly titled Dirty Grandpa). Dan Mazer (I Give It a Year) will direct the comedy from a script by John Phillips, a currently unproduced screenwriter who worked on the still-planned Bad Santa 2. Robert De Niro will play a “lascivious, recently widowed Army veteran who tricks his uptight grandson (Efron) into escorting him to Florida” for Spring Break. Previous actors who were considered for the title role included Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas. The RT Tomatometer scores suggest a Rotten score, but we’re going to nudge this closer to “Borderline” just because of the implied connection to Neighbors.
#2 JUSTICE LEAGUE MEMBER SHAZAM NOT TO BE IN JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIES
After months of hints and teases, it was officially confirmed this week that Dwayne Johnson will be starring in the DC Comics movie Shazam as the hero’s arch enemy Black Adam, but that news was overshadowed a bit in social media by reactions to some other revelations. In a nutshell, it turns out that Shazam will be handled by Warner Bros subsidiary New Line Cinema, and will not be included in the larger DC Comics cinematic universe. On the one hand, that means that the Shazam movie will “have a tone unto itself” with “a sense of fun and a sense of humor” (that makes total sense for Shazam, but the implication there is that the other DC movies are *not* about fun and humor). New Line Cinema president Toby Emmerich specified, “It’s a DC comic, but it’s not a Justice League character, and it’s not a Marvel comic. The tone and the feeling of the movie will be different from the other range of comic book movies.” And right in there is something especially confusing. It is true that Shazam (AKA Captain Marvel) didn’t join DC Comics until the 1970s (and how that happened is a long story), but since then, the character has indeed been a Justice League character. Captain Marvel was on this famous cover, was a major player in the Kingdom Come Elseworlds, and most recently, Aquaman’s place in the team was taken by Shazam in the Justice League: War animated movie. We’re calling this a “Rotten Idea” because this seems like a huge missed opportunity. Warner Bros and DC Comics have a chance to have the completely inclusive cinematic universe that Marvel can’t have (with three of their biggest properties at other studios), and yet, they’re still voluntarily breaking up their DC Comics characters into separate cinematic worlds. In related news, it was also noticed this week that Warner Bros has registered four domains which hint that the movies after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be: Aquaman, Justice League, Shazam, and Wonder Woman (not necessarily in that order). The Shazam screenplay is being adapted by Darren Lemke, whose credits include Turbo, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Shrek Forever After.
#1 DAX SHEPARD TO WEAR THE KHAKI UNIFORM OF C.H.i.P.s
The idea of a C.H.i.P.s movie has been in development in Hollywood for several years now, including a period, back around when That 70s Show was still on the air, when Wilmer Valderrama was attached to be the “new Ponch.” One has to wonder if the success of the two 21 Jump Street movies didn’t at least help this week’s news happen. Warner Bros is now back in development on an adaptation of the 1977-1983 hit TV show C.H.i.P.s, about two members of the California Highway Patrol. This revitalized project will be written and directed by Dax Shepard, who will also star in C.H.i.P.s as Officer Jon Baker. Michael Pena is also attached to costar as Jon’s partner, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, the original stars of the show, may have cameo roles in the new movie, because… well, that just happens a lot with these movies. We’re calling C.H.i.P.s the Rotten Idea of the Week because of Dax Shepard’s Tomatometer, which is mostly Rotten with only three Fresh scores (Zathura, Idiocracy, and Baby Mama), none of which he directed or wrote, not to mention his two directorial efforts (Brother’s Keeper and Hit & Run), which received Tomatometer scores of 0% and 49%, respectively.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.