Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Peter Jackson's Secret Sci-Fi Project

Plus Brian Singer talks X-Men: First Class

by | December 25, 2009 | Comments

This Week’s Ketchup includes new projects for some famous directors (Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg), new details about X-Men: First Class, James Bond 23 and Machete, news of a Marvin the Martian movie, and a 1980s teen remake that Taylor Lautner might star in.



Although no official announcement has been made yet, Peter Jackson’s hometown newspaper, Wellington’s Dominion Post, has broken the news that the Lord of the Rings director is currently developing a new “hush-hush” project that sees him venturing into full science fiction for the first time. Mortal Engines is the first of a four novel series by Philip Reeve, and is “set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities have become giant vehicles and must consume each other to survive.” Jackson’s Weta Workshops is “believed” to be working on designs for the series, including the giant mobile cities (which they will probably eventually construct as “bigatures”, as shown in the LOTR special features). Mortal Engines is not, however, Jackson’s only upcoming project, as he also has the second Tintin movie in the works (following the one directed by Steven Spielberg) in preproduction, and the World War II action movie Dambusters and his adaptation of the fantasy-historic novels also in development.


Since the previous entry in this column was written last Friday, more details have emerged from Bryan Singer about the scope of X-Men: First Class. In particular, it appears that Singer’s new vision for the movie (it’s being rewritten with a new writer) will be precluding the development of X-Men Origins: Magneto, with Singer saying that First Class “would probably utilize some of the Magneto story because it deals with a young Magneto, so it might supersede that because this would explore that relationship between a young energetic professor and a disenfranchised victim of the Holocaust.” Singer also revealed that “there is a romantic element… there will be a lot of new mutants and a great villain.” Now, Singer isn’t saying exactly which characters he will be using in First Class, and the previous films sort of make it difficult for him to use two of the original X-Men (Angel and Iceman) actually featured in the X-Men: First Class comic book unless Singer decides that First Class will be a completely fresh reboot. Regardless of the approach (a true prequel or a reboot that sticks to the comic roots), one character that seems difficult to pigeonhole into X-Men: First Class is Wolverine, who in both cases joins the X-Men at a much later point. As for the “great villain” that X-Men: First Class will feature, that is still a mystery. The X-Men: First Class comics featured a who’s who of characters from outside the normal “mutant universe” of X-Men stories like the Norse gods, the Skrulls, Man-Thing and the Lizard, none of which seem likely to be used for this movie. As for the original 1960s comics, the main villain was very often Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but Magneto seems unlikely to be the villain that Singer is talking about. Finally, as for the romantic element that Singer alludes to, perhaps this movie will bring back Moira MacTaggert, the Scottish genetic scientist seen in X-Men: The Last Stand, who Charles Xavier has a romantic history with?


Details are still light on the plot of the 23rd James Bond movie, but screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland) this week revealed that “it is a shocking story,” although exactly what that means is completely vague and open to interpretation. Although Morgan wrote the script earlier this year, the project is currently on hold due to MGM’s financial problems, and the possible sale of the studio. Filming of James Bond 23 is not expected to happen until late 2010 or early 2011, suggesting a possible release date in late 2011. Meanwhile, Morgan is continuing work on another spy project, the movie version of the British miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was based upon a novel by John Le Carre.


Columbia Pictures is in negotiations with the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) to make their live-action debut with the movie version of the hit FOX TV show 21 Jump Street, which launched the career of Johnny Depp. Chris Miller also codirected Shrek the Third and is currently working on the franchise spin-off Puss in Boots. 21 Jump Street is the story of a special squad of police officers who go undercover posing as high school students, and Jonah Hill is already signed to executive produce and star. Stephen J. Cannell, the show’s producer, is also coproducing with Neil Moritz (xXx, The Fast and the Furious).


This week, Collider.com is running a series of articles taken from a lengthy interview with Warner Bros producer Dan Lin, and over the course of them, the executive discusses several of the studio’s projects currently in development. First up, there was discussion of The LEGO Movie and the revelation of a previously unknown project called Gangster Squad. That’s being written by a former LAPD cop and is about the true story of gangster Mickey Cohen’s attempt to take over the Los Angeles mob, and the LAPD cops that were pulled together to try to stop him. That article was followed by one about the Terminator franchise (which Warner Bros may lose as the rights are being sold). The third piece was about the Tom and Jerry movie, which will be a live-action and CGI hybrid like so many of the movies being made based on classic animated characters these days. Also discussed at length in that article are WB’s plans for a full CGI movie based upon the Bone comic book series, which Lin describes (fairly accurately) as a cross between Shrek and Lord of the Rings, but with little white guys with big noses as the central characters. Finally, the most recent article (and there are more to come) discusses the possible Justice League movie, Suicide Squad (also based upon a DC Comics title, about a group of supervillains brought together to work for the government) and the movie version of Stephen King’s IT. Lin mentions that in January Warner Bros will be announcing their full plans for the future of their DC Comics adaptations (similar to what Marvel did a while back), and that brings us to a project that was rumored this week at the Pajiba site: the idea of a solo movie for Hawkman. The story is unsourced and therefore may not be reliable, but if it’s true, Hawkman may be the next Justice League member after Batman, Superman and Green Lantern to get his own recent movie, leading up to all of the characters coming together someday, similar to how Marvel is handling The Avengers.


Warner Bros has found the director for the next movie inspired by their classic Looney Tunes characters, Marvin the Martian, which now has a release date of October 7, 2011. The man for the job is Alex Zamm (Chairman of the Board, Inspector Gadget 2), who the studio also has signed to direct the long-in-developement Hong Kong Phooey movie, although this news means that that movie probably won’t be happening until at least 2012. Marvin the Martian is currently being written by Paul Kaplan and Mark Torgrove, who are TV writers whose credits include episodes of Spin City and Just Shoot Me, and are also working on the movie version of C.H.I.P.S. Marvin the Martian will be a combination of live action and CGI animation, and the story will revolve around Marvin’s mission to come to Earth to destroy Christmas, which gets foiled when Marvin gets trapped inside a gift-wrapped box. There’s one more piece of news about Marvin the Martian, and that’s who is being considered to provide his voice, and it’s Mike Myers, who as the voice of Shrek has obviously had a lot of experience at this point with voicing CGI animated characters.


Talking to IGN about the recently filmed movie adaptation of one of the fake Grindhouse trailers, Machete, the movie’s star Danny Trejo revealed that he and director Robert Rodriguez have hopes to continue the character’s story as part of a trilogy with Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. The first Machete movie tells the story of a former Mexican Federale who is hired in Texas to assassinate a corrupt senator, only to discover that he has been set up, putting him on the run from an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer. The all star cast includes Robert De Niro as the senator, Jessica Alba as the ICE agent, Steven Seagal as a drug lord, Lindsay Lohan, Rose McGowan, Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids) and Tom Savini (Sex Machine in From Dusk Till Dawn). There’s also something of a LOST reunion going on, with three of that show’s stars (Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez and Cheech Marin) costarring, and Cheech’s Nash Bridges costar Don Johnson also has a role. Here’s a link to the awesome R rated fake trailer that started it all. “He knows the score, he gets the women, and he kills the bad guys!”


Director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) has several projects in development, but it appears that casting is underway for a project announced in 2007, suggesting that it will be his next. Via their Facebook page, an Australian distributor has revealed that The Talking Cure will star Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Christoph Waltz, the latter two of which both costarred in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as British film buff Archie Hicox and SS Officer Hans Landa, respectively. The Talking Cure is an adaptation of a 2002 play by Christopher Hampton about a Russian-Jewish patient (Knightley) who reportedly inspired some of the psychiatric discoveries made by both Carl Jung (Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Waltz), while Jung was working at a Zurich mental hospital in 1904. Christoph Waltz gave a fantastic performance as Hans Landa, so the prospect of him portraying Sigmund Freud in a David Cronenberg movie is really exciting.


Having already cast Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin to star in their upcoming remake of True Grit, the Coen Bros have now started up an open casting call for an actress aged 12 to 16, with no experience necessary. “We are looking for a girl who’s tough, strong and tells it like it is. Must be able to portray Caucasian.” Aspiring young actresses can either attend upcoming casting sessions in Jackson, Michigan or Oklahoma (city to be announced), or tape themselves and send it to the casting call site. Filming starts in the spring of 2010. It’s worth noting that not only does the young actress not need to have any previous experience, but the Coens are also not requiring that at least one of her parents be actors, producers, directors, rock stars, cinematographers, casting agents or any other job in the film business. If the Coens are letting outsiders in on their promising new movie, who’s going to give much needed work to next year’s Miss Golden Globe?



Taylor Lautner, star of the apparently wildly popular The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, might have yet another project that he’s considering, and this time it’s a remake: Vision Quest. First off, it’s important to note that for those who don’t remember Vision Quest, it’s not at all what it sounds like, but was instead a 1985 teen romance about the romance between a high school wrestler (Matthew Modine) and an older woman (Linda Fiorentino). The remake is in development at Warner Bros, and the project’s producers include Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, who are also coproducers of a certain teen vampire franchise that Taylor Lautner joined this year. The Vision Quest screenplay was written by newcomer Richard Munic, and Taylor Lautner apparently liked it because “it’s very much in line with his athleticism.” If Lautner signs on for Vision Quest, it will join his growing list of upcoming roles that includes the lead roles in the action figure movie Max Steel, the I-went-to-Mexico-and-all-I-got-was-a-kidnapped-girlfriend action movie Cancun and a little something called The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn that I’m sure no one’s ever heard of. Last week when Taylor Lautner appeared very briefly during the trailer for Valentine’s Day that showed before Avatar, some young female fans of Sharkboy squealed in delight in the row behind me, so it appears that the young star does have fans, but will they turn out to see him as something other than an aquatic teen superhero?

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.