The film development news leading up to the 4th of July was relatively slow, but this week’s Ketchup is overflowing hot news items, including several superhero movies, two TV show adaptations, the requisite relaunch of a 1980s movie, a SNL skit-turned-movie and new projects for Will Smith, George Clooney, Mel Gibson and Jason Statham.
Although Hollywood is still mostly infatuated with remakes, the industry hasn’t forgotten old TV shows, with the latest wave coming mostly from the 1980s (The A-Team, MacGyver, Magnum P.I.), following the previous batch of TV show adaptations that was mostly from the 1970s (Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard). The latest 1980s TV show to get put into development as a movie is the 1982-1986 ABC (and then CBS) cop drama, T.J. Hooker, which gave William Shatner the opportunity to be known for playing someone other than Captain Kirk (not that it really turned out that way). Shatner played T.J. Hooker, a 15 year veteran uniform cop, as brave and cocksure, becoming famous for frequently jumping on speeding cars or tackling and beating up bad guys. The show also memorably costarred Heather Locklear in a tight cop uniform, and less memorably gave Adrian Zmed his one decent shot at fame. The T.J. Hooker movie plot introduces a new element, focusing on T.J.’s relationship with his father. This gets me to wondering whether the father character might in fact be a role for William Shatner to play, and taking that idea a bit further, could it be that the movie T.J. is actually… T.J. Junior? Anyway, Chuck Russell (Eraser, The Scorpion King) is in talks to direct the currently independent project from a script by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, the writing team responsible for Short Circuit and Tremors (and they also cowrote Wild Wild West). So, who do you think should play the new T.J. Hooker? Think Chris Pine is interested?
With Comic Con just two weeks away, the media buzz for hot superhero movies really revved up this week, with four stories that all could have stood alone in this week’s Ketchup. First up, there is Green Lantern, which is expected to start filming soon, in order to make a late 2010 release date. Warner Bros has reportedly narrowed their choices to play Hal Jordan down to three actors, who were brought in to put on the Green Lantern costume and do some screen shots. And your three possible Hal Jordans are Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Ryan Reynolds (who also has Deadpool in development) and, perhaps in the category of the most unexpected choice, pop singer Justin Timberlake, who has quietly been doing movie work in movies like Black Snake Moan and Alpha Dog. The reasoning for each seems pretty obvious. Warner Bros is trying to keep most of the guys involved with The Hangover working within the studio. Ryan Reynolds was also once the top choice to star in another Warner Bros superhero project, The Flash, which the studio is still actively developing. And as for Justin Timberlake, well, he’s shown that he can indeed actually act, and he does have an engaging and charismatic personality that could actually work as Hal Jordan (I have to admit!). Previous actors that Warner Bros had been considering were Michael Fassbender, Henry Cavill and Jared Leto. Staying within the realm of Green heroes, another bit of news that escaped this week is that Cameron Diaz is in talks to possibly play the female lead in The Green Hornet, the comedic superhero movie that will star Seth Rogen next summer.
Moving on to two of the biggest movie superheroes, next up is news about the next Superman movie. First, this week, Brandon Routh revealed that his holding contract with Warner Bros has expired (which the studio could have renewed), which seems to suggest that the studio will be going with a new actor the next time around. Soon after, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in Warner Bros’ favor in a case filed by the heirs of Superman creator Jerry Siegel. However, the ruling stated “if Warner Bros. does not start production on another Superman film by 2011, the Siegels will be able to sue to recover their damages,” with WB’s Alan Horn saying “that no script had been written and that the earliest another Superman pic could be released would be in 2012.” It should be noted that as long as WB starts production in 2011, aiming for a 2012 release, they would apparently be in the clear. So, with 2011 less than two years away, we can apparently expect to start hearing more about the next Superman soon. Finally, there was also news again this week about Spider-Man 4 getting a new writer, Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit; cowriter of Big), following drafts by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Rundown) and David Linsday-Abaire (Inkheart; cowriter of Robots). What is quite interesting about Sony picking Gary Ross is that the star of the two movies that Gary Ross has directed just happens to be Tobey Maguire. Although we still don’t yet know who the villains might be next time around, Sony currently has Spider-Man 4 scheduled for a May 6, 2011 release date.
The long-running (11 seasons) beach lifeguard drama Baywatch is moving ahead at Paramount with a new spin being put on the concept: they’re turning it into a comedy. Although one could argue that it was often tricky to take Baywatch seriously, the show was in fact basically a fairly standard TV drama that borrowed elements from both cop and doctor shows, except it was set on a beach and the cast didn’t wear much. For this comedic revamp, Paramount has hired screenwriter Jeremy Garelick (cowriter of 2006’s The Break-Up) to rewrite an older script (that was more of an action movie) by the cowriters of I Spy, and also come aboard to make his directorial debut. Garelick, who had never actually seen Baywatch when he started work on his comedic rewrite, describes his version thusly, “It felt like the template to do a movie that was similar to Stripes and Police Academy, the comedies I loved growing up,”, with the premise now revolving around “two unlikely lifeguard candidates trying to catch on alongside the buff bodies that will be as abundant in the film as they were in the TV series.” So, what do you think, movie and TV fans, are you okay with Baywatch getting turned into a comedy, or being made into a movie at all?
Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels is eager to get back in the business of making movies based on his show’s sketches, with the MacGyver spoof MacGruber quickly lining up its cast, in the hopes of beating New Line Cinema’s actual MacGyver movie to theaters. To be distributed by Universal, MacGruber will of course star Will Forte as the inventive adventurer, with SNL‘s Kristen Wiig playing his assistant, Val Kilmer in talks to play the villain Cunth, and Ryan Phillippe in talks to play an Army officer forced to team up with MacGruber. Here’s the premise: “The legendary, much decorated MacGruber is pulled out of retirement as a monk in Ecuador by a colonel, who needs him once more to fight on behalf of his country. This time the mission involves going up against the evil Cunth, who has a nuclear warhead; the mission is personal because Cunth killed MacGruber’s bride.” MacGruber will be directed by Jorma Taccone (Extreme Movie), who created the original SNL skits, from a script by the trio responsible for writing the skits: Will Forte, Taccone and John Solomon, a SNL writer who also cowrote Extreme Movie. The production start date hasn’t been announced yet, but with a cast lined up and the movie on the fast track, it appears likely that it will happen this summer, before Saturday Night Live starts its new season this fall.
One of the most popular pulp novel series of the 1970s and 1980s was Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s The Destroyer, who has been featured in over 140 books. The world at large, however, probably knows the character by the name Remo Williams, thanks to the 1985 movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, starring Fred Ward. Now, producers Charles Roven (Twelve Monkeys, The Dark Knight) and Steve Chasman (the Transporter franchise and The Bank Job) are teaming up to bring The Destroyer back, setting the project up at Columbia Pictures. Charles and Vlas Parlapanides, who are also working on a Theseus-starring action movie called War of Gods and the Manga adaptation Death Note, have been hired to adapt The Destroyer. The concept of The Destroyer is centered around Remo Williams, a New Jersey cop wrongly convicted of murder, and whose execution is staged, so that he can start a new life as a secret agent and assassin, trained by the humorous Asian martial arts trainer, Chiun. I read at least a dozen Destroyer novels as a teenager, and I can attest that they were economical (and quickly written) but frequently awesome adventure stories that saw Remo travelling the world and getting involved in all sorts of spectacular action sequences and challenges, with dialogue that was often quite humorous and wry. The Destroyer is a great concept for a new action movie franchise, as fans of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins might remember, even if they never actually read the books.
Will Smith may reunite with Francis Lawrence, the director of Constantine and Smith’s 2007 hit, I Am Legend on a modern day fantasy film called City That Sailed. This is the second project that may reunite Francis Lawrence and Will Smith, as Lawrence is also developing a prequel to I Am Legend, which would presumably once again feature Smith’s Robert Neville character. City That Sailed, written by Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Gattaca) is the tale of a young girl in London who misses her father, a New York City street magician (Smith), and upon discovering a room of magic candles in a lighthouse, makes a wish that sends the entire island of Manhattan ripped from North America and sailing across the Atlantic towards England. It’s a rather spectacular concept for a family fantasy with the potential for a lot of visual spectacle, and Will Smith’s name above the title would probably guarantee it a good bit of box office. Lawrence is also producing City That Sailed, which is one of three projects that he is developing for 20th Century Fox.
Following the success of The Hangover, everyone involved with it is seeing their careers take off. In addition to The Hangover 2, which Warner Bros smartly put into development before the movie was even released, director Todd Phillips and Hangover star Zach Galifianakis are now signed to reunite on a comedy called Due Date. The comedy is about a soon-to-be father who has to race across the country with an “unlikely companion” (Galifanakis) in hopes of getting home in time to see the birth of his first child, which brings to mind elements of the classic comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Due Date was written by King of the Hill writers Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland, with a rewrite by Adam Sztykiel (cowriter of Made of Honor). The plan is for Phillips to first make Due Date, and then move on to The Hangover 2. Additionally, Zach Galifianakis is also in talks to star in Man Witch, a fantasy comedy that Jack Black was formerly attached to (and that Phillips was also formerly going to direct), about a man who discovers he has magic abilities, which lands him a job at a school for young female witches. Another possible comedy for Galifianakis is Say Uncle, about a sportscaster who must spend the weekend taking care of three nieces and nephews. All four of these movies (Due Date, The Hangover 2, Man Witch and Say Uncle) are Warner Bros projects, which shows that the studio is wisely attempting to keep their potential new star, Zach Galifianakis, in their good graces for as long as possible.
Military/espionage novel author Tom Clancy’s secret intelligence expert, Jack Ryan, has been played on the big screen now by three different actors (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck), and now there is word that one star that may be interested in becoming the fourth is George Clooney, who following the ending of the Ocean’s Eleven series, currently doesn’t have the sort of film franchise that Jack Ryan could potentially be. Paramount is currently waiting on a new Jack Ryan script by Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Killshot) which is an original concept not based on any particular Clancy novel. There had been rumors that Paramount was looking to go with a younger Jack Ryan, but if this newest script does indeed feature a more seasoned Jack Ryan, and Clooney likes the script, maybe the long wait for the next Jack Ryan adventure will eventually be over. In other spy movie news, the British production company Working Title has hired Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) for their new movie version of the classic John Le Carre spy novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The story is being adapted by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), who is also cowriting the next James Bond movie. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was also adapted as a popular 1970s British TV show starring Alec Guinness, is the story of a retired British intelligence officer who is brought back to track down a double agent who is hiding somewhere within the highest ranks of the nations’s intelligence community. Filming is expected to begin in 2010, probably in the United Kingdom.
One of the hottest screenplays around is newcomer Kyle Killen’s The Beaver, ranking at #1 on 2008’s “Black List” of unproduced scripts. The project has now found a director and star; Jodie Foster will be behind the camera directing her Maverick costar… Mel Gibson. Previously, both Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey had been in talks for the lead role, which will now see Mel Gibson playing a depressed man who finds solace in talking to his best friend, a beaver hand puppet, ala Mr. Garrison from South Park. Mel Gibson is a rather inspired choice for the role, considering his notorious reputation for bizarre behavior following his 2006 DUI. Jodie Foster will costar as Gibson’s wife, in addition to directing, which will make The Beaver her third produced film as director, after Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays. Filming of the $18-19 million independent production will start in New York in September.
Jason Statham and Paddy Considine (In America) have signed on to star in Blitz, based on a crime novel by Ken Bruen. Bruen’s London Boulevard is also currently in production, starring Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell. In Blitz, Statham will play Brant, a “rather crude, un-pc, borderline sociopath of a cop,” with Considine playing his openly gay cop who works with Statham’s homophobe. Brant is on the trail of a serial killer called “The Blitz” who is killing cops all over London. Elliott Lester (Love Is the Drug) is directing from a script by Nathan Parker, who made his debut with this summer’s indie sci fi sensation, Moon. Filming starts on August 10th in London.
Toys and board games are becoming more frequent subjects for movie projects, but they often have nearly no inherent plot or characters attached with the property, which both makes them completely open to interpretation, but also just generally odd subjects for “adaptation.” This week, DreamWorks announced big plans for one of the stranger such projects, taking on the View-Master, a classic toy that has allowed kids to see images in 3-D for nearly 70 years. DreamWorks has hired Brad Caleb Kane, writer of three episodes of FOX’s Fringe, with Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, the writers of Star Trek and Transformers (and cowriters of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) serving as producers. No specific plot details have been announced yet, but it’s likely that View-Master will be a 3D project, taking advantage of the current new wave of popularity for the format, and Kane revealed via Twitter that he envisions View-Master as being in the same vein as The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps Kane will come up with a great script, but View-Master gets this week’s Rotten Idea tag because it represents the trend of making movies based on concepts that don’t really lend themselves to adaptation. If Hollywood wants to “adapt” non-narrative inanimate objects as movies, why even bother with licensed concepts? Just walk around your house, pick a random item, and voila, I bet you could come up with a movie based on it. Hey, look, there’s a spork on my desk from my lunch. I can see it now… SPORK is caught between two rival factions, the forks and the spoons in a war over control of my silverware drawer, belonging to both sides, but not really truly belonging with either, in an exciting 3D animated adventure. And you don’t even need to pay anyone for the license rights to a “spork”, though Hollywood can send my check for that awesome pitch to me via Rotten Tomatoes.