The week in Hollywood movie development news — following last week’s announcement of Disney’s plans for Star Wars Episode VII — seemed almost late-August-like in terms of relative activity. What did make the news this week included stories about The Giver, Tarzan, Transformers 4, the not-going-to-happen-anymore sequel to Top Gun, and yes, indeed, more stories about Star Wars Episode VII.
This Week’s Top Story
MARK WAHLBERG WAS THE LEAD IN TRANSFORMERS 4 BEFORE HE WASN’T THE LEAD (BUT NOW HE IS FOR REAL)
Two weeks ago, there was a story that made the rounds online that Mark Wahlberg was talking to director Michael Bay about starring in Transformers 4, as part of the new post-Shia-LaBeouf cast. And then, Michael Bay posted on his official site that, no way, of course not, he was just talking to Mark Wahlberg about some other completely different movie that totally wasn’t a new Transformers movie. What did happen this week was that Michael Bay returned to his official blog to say that, yes, now, he actually was considering Mark Wahlberg for Transformers 4 (and also that other mysterious movie, presumably). And that led, all of a full day later, to Mark Wahlberg being confirmed as the lead in Transformers 4, which Paramount Pictures has scheduled for June 27, 2014. Now, there appear to be two possibilities here. First of all, maybe Michael Bay really was talking to Mark Wahlberg (his star in the upcoming Pain and Gain) about some other movie that the director isn’t ready to announce yet. And then, the Internet’s reaction so inspired Bay that he actually started talking to Wahlberg about Transformers 4 within the last two weeks. The other possibility is that there never was a mysterious other movie, and Michael Bay was just, oh what’s the word… Anyway, that’s all moot now, because we now know who will be replacing Shia LaBeouf and/or Josh Duhamel, and it’s not the previously rumored/reported Jason Statham.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THE WEEK OF NEWS FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF STAR WARS EPISODE VII
The announcement last week of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and their plans for Star Wars Episode VII led to one of the longest paragraphs ever printed in the Weekly Ketchup, as this writer tried to squeeze in as much news as possible. That movie, however, is far larger and of more interest than just one link-filled story. And so, here’s another. The biggest, most important news to know is that Disney may already have a screenwriter for Episode VII (and possibly Episode VIII and IX too). Screenwriter Michael Arndt, who wrote Little Miss Sunshine, cowrote Toy Story 3, and cowrote next year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, has turned in a 40-50 page treatment for Star Wars Episode VII that includes the roles of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. That doesn’t, however, mean that Arndt necessarily has the job, although he may at least be credited for “story” if elements of his treatment are eventually used. That story also mentioned that Arndt’s treatment would be crossing the desks of directors Brad Bird (The Incredibles), J.J. Abrams (Star Trek), and Steven Spielberg (does anyone need his credits listed?). For certain, many director’s names will be mentioned before someone is actually signed, and indeed, in the same week, we heard that Zack Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, and the aforementioned Steven Spielberg all denied interest in taking over from George Lucas. Another name that got mentioned this week was Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass), but that’s probably mostly just because he recently dropped out of directing X-Men: Days of Future Past (which was probably because he’s directing Mark Millar’s The Secret Service for 20th Century Fox). Finally, going back to Leia and Han, both Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford commented this week about returning to their roles (answer: of course, and maybe, with the Bill Murray Ghostbusters 3 clause).
#2 THE LONG AWAITED MOVIE ADAPTATION OF THE GIVER MIGHT FINALLY HAVE A DIRECTOR
Yes, that’s a corny title, but some times the easy choice is the correct choice. Anyway, the idea of a movie based upon the Newberry Medal winning children’s novel The Giver by Lois Lowry has been around pretty much since the early 2000s, when the success of Harry Potter made the “kids lit” market so appealing to Hollywood. As a quick catch up, The Giver is set in a futuristic utopian society (as opposed to a dystopian society like in The Hunger Games) where one person knows all the secrets of the past, and the book is about a 12 year old boy whose turn is next for becoming… The Giver. I’ll leave discussions about the use of “utopian” and “dystopian” to commenters down below who have either read the novel, or glanced at its Wikipedia page. Actor Jeff Bridges acquired the rights to The Giver back in the 1990s with the idea of his father Lloyd Bridges playing the old man. Along the way, Lloyd Bridges died in 1998, and Jeff Bridges started looking old enough that he himself could just go ahead and play the aged vizier himself. That much has been known for a while now. What’s new this week is that the job of actually directing The Giver may be going to Phillip Noyce, who is in early negotiations for the job. Earlier in his career, Noyce directed the two Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies (Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger), but he’s spent much of his career directing less box office friendly movies like Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Quiet American, until in 2010, he went back to the spy game with Salt. If there’s still a young audience around for The Giver, this might be an opportunity for Noyce’s biggest box office earner yet.
#3 SNL ALUMNI KRISTEN WIIG AND BILL HADER REUNITE AS THE SKELETON TWINS
Former Saturday Night Live costars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader (who’s now in his 8th season on SNL) also played two of the funniest characters in 2009’s Adventureland. Now, the two are signed to reunite in an indie comedy called The Skeleton Twins as two (not identical, obviously) twins who touch base with each other after they both cheat death on the same day. Anna Faris was previously expected to play the Kristen Wiig role, and Luke Wilson will also costar. The Skeleton Twins will be the second film from director Craig Johnson, whose first film True Adolescents is sometimes lumped in with the “Mumblecore” scene. Black Swan cowriter Mark Heyman also cowrote The Skeleton Twins with Craig Johnson.
#4 FOUR TIME HARRY POTTER DIRECTOR DAVID YATES SWINGS ONTO THE SCENE OF TARZAN
The name of David Yates (who directed the last four Harry Potter movies) has appeared in this column quite a bit over the last year or so, as Warner Bros has repeatedly tried to lure Yates into directing one of their next movies. That list includes (but possibly isn’t exclusive to) the Al Capone biopic Cicero, the true story Your Voice in My Head, and the Stephen King post-apocalyptic adaptation The Stand. Well, now we finally have an answer for what David Yates will actually direct next, and it’s Warner Bros’ long-in-development attempt to reboot Edgar Rice Burroughs’ once popular jungle adventurer Tarzan back on the big screen. There had been some questions as to whether Tarzan should move forward after the domestic failure of ERB’s John Carter, but maybe people then remembered that the two characters are nothing alike, and that Warner Bros is not Disney. The next question is who exactly Yates and Warner Bros will find to play Lord Greystoke in what could potentially be a series of films. That short list reportedly includes future Superman Henry Cavill, Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam, Inception/The Dark Knight Rises star Tom Hardy, and True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgard. Of those four, only Skarsgard is not best known for a Warner Bros project (except that HBO is a corporate sister of, that’s right… Warner Bros).
#5 TIM ROBBINS CELEBRATES BOB ROBERTS NOT BECOMING A REALITY BY… DIRECTING ANOTHER MOVIE
Actor Tim Robbins has directed three feature films to date, all of which were released in the 1990s (Bob Roberts, Dead Man Walking, and Cradle Will Rock), and then he focused the 2000s on other things (like the play Embedded). Now, Robbins is returning to feature film directing with a (dysfunctional) family comedy called Man Under, about an upstate New York family whose lives change when they are the subject of a MOMA photography display. Tim Robbins will also star as the pater familias, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Grace Moretz playing his wife and daughter, respectively (obviously).
#6 KRISTEN STEWART AND BEN AFFLECK GET THE FOCUS ROLES PREVIOUSLY INTENDED FOR GOSLING AND STONE
At one time, Crazy Stupid Love costars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were expected to reunite with that film’s writers for a movie that they (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) also directed, called Focus. That didn’t actually happen, however, and so instead, that same movie will feature Ben Affleck and Kristen Stewart in the leading roles, which also adds a possibly creepy older-man-much-younger-woman angle to a movie that previously didn’t have that vibe at all. That might actually be the point, because the way that Focus is described now, it’s about a “veteran” con man who gets involved with a “newcomer.” The idea of Kristen Stewart playing against a much older man might not have mattered as much, except there was a certain much publicized story earlier this year. Something to do with Snow White and the Huntsman.
#7 NICK NOLTE AND JEREMY IRONS JOIN THOMAS JANE’S WESTERN A MAGNIFICENT DEATH
The usually rare mini-genre “indie western” seems to be experiencing a resurgence, with such titles as Jane’s Got a Gun and Bone Tomahawk making the news in the last few months. There’s also the studio remake of The Magnificent Seven starring Tom Cruise that might get made in the next year or so. Another title for the mix is A Magnificent Death, which will be directed by actor Thomas Jane (who previously directed 2009’s Dark Country), who also cowrote the script. Thomas Jane will also star in the movie, along with Nick Nolte and Jeremy Irons. What will probably not be the feel good comedy of the year involves “one man’s journey for redemption in the ruthless West — where an ex-soldier is relentlessly tracked down for the murder and rape of a well-to-do woman. He must face mercenaries, tribal warriors, and women of sin to clear his name and uncover the true story behind the manhunt.”
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 TONY SCOTT’S DEATH SHUTS DOWN THE TOP GUN SEQUEL
When director Tony Scott took his own life on August 19, 2012 by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Los Angeles port districts, the future of many of the projects he had been developing were potentially put into jeopardy of never happening. This week’s news concerns the previously planned Top Gun sequel, which has now been confirmed as pretty much being over. Paramount Pictures will however still proceed with the rerelease of the original movie as Top Gun 3D, which is expected to happen in Feburary, 2013. This is a Rotten Idea not so much because of any optimism about the actual quality of a sequel to Top Gun, but is rather just a reflection of how much it sucks that Tony Scott isn’t around anymore. On the lighter side, here’s a picture of Tom Cruise in an oversized mech suit. Try looking at that face and not smiling.
#1 PEOPLE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT A CASABLANCA SEQUEL AS IF IT’S A GOOD THING
Later this month will be the 70th anniversary of the premiere in 1942 of Casablanca, the World War II drama starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre, about the various comings and goings in a Moroccan nightclub in the days before an impending takeover by Nazi forces. That is at least how the movie would need to be described if Casablanca wasn’t already one of the most cherished and well known films of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Either because of or despite that fact, the notion of a sequel to Casablanca has been a recurring news story since before almost-cast-as-Rick Blaine actor Ronald Reagan became president. Probably because the anniversary is indeed looming, a lengthy piece was run by The New York Post this week about the efforts of the heirs of some of the people behind Casablanca to actually get a greenlight for a sequel. There’s much too much to reprise here, but the gist is that one of the original cowriters of Casablanca went to his grave after a lifetime of trying to get a sequel made. That sequel would have involved the adult son of Rick and Ilsa searching for his long lost father, presumably in the 1980s (when the sequel was originally attempted to be made). This story basically has more questions than answers, such as who would play those iconic characters today, who would expand Howard Koch’s treatment today, who would direct, etc. In other words, basically everything that would have to happen for this project to become something more than… the subject of a lengthy piece by The New York Post.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.