This week’s Ketchup includes casting rumors and news for The Dark Knight Rises and Superman: Man of Steel, news about the fourth entry in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Amazing Spider-Man already getting a sequel and new movies for Nicolas Cage, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, Kenan Thompson and John Travolta.
This Week’s Top Story
NARNIA CHRONICLES TO CONTINUE WITH THE MAGICAN’S NEPHEW
Here in the USA, the Chronicles of Narnia fantasy franchise based upon the books by C.S. Lewis are perceived as being borderline flops. However, the movies actually continue to be international hits, including last year’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is now over the $300 million mark. So, Walden Media is in talks with 20th Century Fox about continuing The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. However, instead of moving on to the fourth book, The Silver Chair, Walden instead is aiming to adapt the sixth book, The Magician’s Nephew. Besides reportedly being the second most popular book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew also has the distinction of being a prequel about Professor Digory when he was a young boy and how the magical world of Narnia was created. If negotiations with 20th Century Fox proceed, the next step will be to find a screenwriter to adapt The Magician’s Nephew.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 WHO IS THE MYSTERY GIRL IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES?
Ask most Batman fans who his sidekick is, and you will get a resounding majority who say Robin. That question for comic book fans is not quite as simple, however, as Batman has had many young sidekicks, particularly recently. This week, the young actress Juno Temple (Atonement) was confirmed as playing a “street smart Gotham girl” in The Dark Knight Rises, which led to speculation about what role exactly she might be playing. Although there are other characters Temple could be playing, one possibility is Stephanie Brown. In the comics, Stephanie Brown was first introduced in 1992 as Spoiler, a crimefighting sidekick of sorts for Robin. Stephanie went on to herself become a new Robin until eventually taking on a third identity as the new Batgirl. It should be noted, of course, that this is all just speculation at this point. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was also officially confirmed as costarring in The Dark Knight Rises this week (although this had been basically known for a while). The initial story reported that JGL would be playing Alberto Falcone, who was a central character in Batman: The Long Halloween, but Entertainment Weekly has since debunked that story. So, the identities of both characters remain a mystery.
#2 WHO WILL BE THE VILLAIN IN SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL?
A while back, there was a report that Viggo Mortensen was in talks to costar in Superman: Man of Steel as General Zod, the Kryptonian villain in Superman 2 played by Terence Stamp. This week, director Zack Snyder, doing press for Sucker Punch, confirmed that Viggo Mortensen will not be in Superman: Man of Steel at all. Meanwhile, two actors’ names emerged this week as being possibilities to playing a villain in the film, although in both cases, exactly who that villain might be is not yet known. Those two actors are Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, The Runaways) and Edgar Ramirez, star of the Carlos mini-series, and also cast as Ares in the sequel Wrath of the Titans. Shannon and Ramirez don’t seem to be either obvious choices to play General Zod, or to even possibly be considered for the same role. As with characters in The Dark Knight Rises, who exactly they might be considered to play for now will have to be the subject of fan speculation. To get things started, this writer likes the idea that Michael Shannon sort of looks like he could play (a much less muscular version of) Bizarro, who would be a good villain to separate this reboot from all of the previous movies.
#3 OLIVER STONE CASTS HIS SAVAGES
For his next film, director Oliver Stone is taking a break from politics (and Wall Street) with an adaptation of the Don Winslow novel Savages. The novel tells the story of two California pot growers who find themselves blackmailed into working for a Mexican drug cartel when one of their girlfriends is kidnapped. The casting news for Savages went into overdrive this week through a series of stories, as Oliver Stone prepares to start filming in June. The first name mentioned was Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass), who will play one of the pot growers. The second story gave us news of Taylor Kitsch (Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as the other pot grower, who will also star in the upcoming John Carter of Mars and the board game adaptation Battleship. Salma Hayek is also in talks to play the matriarch of the drug cartel and Olivia Wilde, (TRON Legacy) is in talks to play the kidnapped girlfriend (after Jennifer Lawrence had to drop out so that she can star in The Hunger Games). Finally, Benicio Del Toro is also in talks to costar in Savages, as the drug cartel enforcer that notifies the drug dealers that their friend has been kidnapped.
#4 ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER HALF DOZEN SCIENCE FICTION PROJECTS
Last week, the Weekly Ketchup covered six different science fiction projects, and this week sees the deluge continue with another six projects announced. Not all of these items are necessarily fresh, but they have to be listed somewhere. Jodie Foster’s next project as director will be a science fiction thriller with a family element. Not much else is known about that one right now. DreamWorks has acquired an original “high concept sci-fi” spec script called Genneris by newcomer Nic Kelman. Again, no details are known about Genneris. Divergent is an upcoming young adult novel by Veronica Roth (intended to be the start of yet another YA franchise) which has been picked up by Summit Entertainment (the studio behind the Twilight series). Divergent is set in a futuristic dystopia where Chicago is broken up into six districts based upon human traits like honesty, bravery and intelligence. A young girl named Beatrice must decide which area she wants to devote the rest of her life to. And there’s also a romantic angle. Of course. 20th Century Fox has picked up the rights to the upcoming Tahereh Mafi novel Shatter Me, which is set in a dystopian future and tells the story of a 17 year old girl who possesses a deadly touch. The 2012 release date of The Hunger Games can probably be credited (or blamed) with all of these movies about teenage girls in dystopian future settings. Stories involving the moon but set in the here and now are also newly popular (and admittedly, these two are only borderline science fiction, and one of them’s not even fiction). With the Warner Bros project All You Need is Kill getting close to being shelved, director Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) is lining up another project. Formerly called Luna, the currently untitled project is about a group of former space science employees who travel around the world stealing technology to build a rocket to go to the moon to acquire an energy source there. Doug Liman is meeting with several actors and actresses for the project. Finally, there is Sex on the Moon, which is actually based upon the true story (and was first announced in January). Writer/director Will Gluck (Easy A, the upcoming Friends With Benefits) is in talks with Sony Pictures and the producers of The Social Network to take on the adaptation of the Ben Bezrich non-fiction book Sex on the Moon. That book tells the true story of 25-year-old NASA intern Thad Roberts who, in an attempt to impress a girl, came up with a scheme to steal moon rocks from the Johnson Space Center. It’s a romantic comedy. Obviously.
#5 SNL’S KENAN THOMPSON AND ANDY SAMBERG CONTINUE A PROUD TRADITION
Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels has been getting movies made for his cast members for nearly 20 years now, starting with Wayne’s World in 1992. Kenan Thompson is the latest SNL cast member to get such a movie, although Thompson actually has a TV and movie career (Heavyweights, Good Burger) that predates his joining the SNL cast. Kenan Thompson will star in the Paramount Pictures comedy Party Starters about “that sort of entertainer guy who gets the old people to dance at weddings and keeps the party rolling.” Party Starters will be written by Saturday Night Live staff writer Bryan Tucker, who has also worked on MADtv and The Chris Rock Show. Thompson’s SNL costar Andy Samberg also continued his growing movie career this week by landing a starring role with Rashida Jones (The Social Network) in the romantic comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever. The comedy tells the story of a couple who are about to get divorced but decide to remain friends after their separation. Celeste and Jesse Forever will be directed by Lee Toland Krieger (2009’s The Vicious Kind) from a script by newcomer Will McCormack.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 PARAMOUNT CANCELS THE AMBITIOUS REMAKE OF DUNE
Amid the dozen or so science fiction projects that have been announced in the last two weeks, there is at least one that now appears unlikely to happen anytime soon. After four years of development, Paramount Pictures has put the planned remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune into turnaround over budget issues. Dune is considered a science fiction classic, and was the inspiration for the 1984 movie directed by David Lynch, as well as a 2000 Sci Fi Channel mini series, and many sequel novels. Dune tells the intergalactic story of the battle for control of the planet of Arrakis, the source for the spice melange, which is the most valuable substance in the universe because of its use in space travel. Producer Richard P. Rubinstein plans to continue to find a studio home for the Dune remake, although the budget of over $100 million will likely be a steep obstacle. Dune wasn’t, however, the only big ambitious Paramount genre project to have news this week of jeopardy because of budget concerns. The adaptation of the Max Brooks novel World War Z, about a zombie apocalypse, which Brad Pitt is producing, is also in danger of being shelved if Paramount cannot find a partner to share the risk of the $125 million budget. Regardless of what one thinks of either a Dune remake or World War Z, both of these stories are considered Rotten Ideas because they are signs that Hollywood is moving away from ambitious genre movies that many fans may have enjoyed (see also: the shelving of Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness a while back).
#3 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN REBOOT ALREADY GETTING A SEQUEL
Audiences won’t know until next summer whether Sony’s decision to reboot a recent franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man was a good idea or not. Indeed, the movie hasn’t even finished filming yet. However, Columbia Pictures is already moving forward with plans for a sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, which depending on how you count the movies, will be either #2 or #5 in the series. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Losers and the upcoming Total Recall remake) has been hired to start working on the sequel script. Vanderbilt was first hired by Columbia to work on what would have been Spider-Man 4 (under Sam Raimi), and when that project was shelved, he was hired to write The Amazing Spider-Man instead. No premise details are yet known about the planned sequel. Although it is likely a sure thing that Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) will be cast again in the sequel, it is not yet known if Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) will also direct the sequel after also directing The Amazing Spider-Man. This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas mostly because it is an example of a studio rushing to a sequel before knowing for sure whether the first film will even be successful enough to warrant one. The track record for the Spider-Man movies at the box office is certainly robust, and The Amazing Spider-Man may turn out to be a good movie. However, the opposite could also be true of The Amazing Spider-Man. There’s really no way of knowing what fans will get on July 3, 2012 when the 3D reboot is released.
#2 NICOLAS CAGE AND JOHN TRAVOLTA LIKELY TO STAGE A FACE/OFF REUNION
Fifteen years after starring both against and as each other in Face/Off, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta are now considering costarring together in not one, but two different independent movies. The movie closest to happening is an action thriller called Shrapnel about “a former Bosnian soldier who seeks vengeance against the American who badly wounded him by disguising a deadly war game as a friendly backwoods hunting trip.” The question that is not answered in this news is which of them would be playing the Bosnian, but given his interest in vocal acrobatics, it’s probably Nicolas Cage. Cage and Travolta will probably both sport ridiculous hair styles in the roles. John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Thirteenth Warrior), who hasn’t directed a movie since 2003’s Basic (also starring John Travolta), was attached to Shrapnel last year. However, a month later, McTiernan was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to a year in prison, so it’s possible he is no longer involved with Shrapnel. Shrapnel was written by Evan Dougherty, who also wrote the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman, in which Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron will star. The other potential Cage/Travolta reunion movie is a thriller called Sea Trial by writer/director Raymond De Felitta (City Island, Two Family House), based upon a novel by his father Frank De Felitta. Sea Trial is about a couple on a romantic Caribbean cruise who soon learn that the ship’s Captain McCracken is evil, as they are assigned chores, their meals are limited, and their cruise on the Penny Dreadful becomes, well, dreadful. Again, it’s anyone’s guess which actor would play Captain McCracken, but in this case, I’m guessing it’s probably John Travolta. Sea Trial is considered farther from happening because Raymond De Felitta is still working on financing the movie.
#1 AKIRA CASTING CALL INSPIRES ONLINE PROTESTS
Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are ramping up for an August 2011 filming start date for the live action adaptation of the Katsuhiro Otomo manga series Akira. For the lead roles of Tetsuo and Kaneda, eight actors have been given the Akira script, and the eventual leads are expected to come from these two groups. For Tetsuo, the motorcycle gang member who gains amazing mutant abilities after government experiments, the three actors being considered are Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man), James McAvoy (Wanted, X-Men: First Class) and Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga). For the role of Kaneda, the leader of the motorcycle gang and Tetsuo’s best friend, the five actors being considered are Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Garrett Hedlund (TRON Legacy), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line), Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network). Whoever came up with this list at Legendary seems to be a fan of The Social Network and X-Men: First Class. Akira was previously adapted as a 1988 Japanese anime film, but for this live action version, the setting is being changed to a futuristic “New Manhattan.” That all of the actors are caucasian has not escaped the notice of online fans, with the RaceBending.com site now organizing a petition protesting the decision not to consider Asian American actors for the roles. That site got its start in 2009 with a petition protesting the casting of The Last Airbender. This story is the week’s Most Rotten Idea for two reasons. Besides the argument that Hollywood is “whitewashing” an adaptation of a Japanese classic, there is also the notion of Akira getting a live-action remake at all.
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.