This week saw lots of high profile movies getting news attention, so in this Ketchup, you’ll see lots of stories having to cover multiple movies, so I can cheat my way into only having ten stories; there was just a lot more going on this week than just ten things!
#1 WRITERS FOR BOTH X-MEN: FIRST CLASS AND THE FIRST AVENGER: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Two big movies based on Marvel Comics characters got writers this week. First, I will talk about The First Avenger: Captain America (and yes, another week has gone by and they’re still using that unnecessarily long title). The Captain America job goes to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, writers of The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and cowriters of the Chronicles of Narnia movies. They’ll be working on the World War II set adventure with director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III), aiming for a 2011 release, for Marvel Studios.
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox still has the rights to the X-Men, separate from what Marvel is able to do as producers of their own movies, like Iron Man. So, off in another part of the movie universe, they are developing X-Men: First Class, a strange hybrid, it appears, of young characters from the first three movies, and a comic book that was about the original five X-Men, three of which in those movies, were adults (Jean Grey, Cyclops and Beast). I mean, it’s okay, I guess, if they want to make a movie about young X-Men, but to use that title, you’d think it would be about those 5 characters. Among the characters Fox is apparently looking at bringing back in X-Men: First Class are Iceman, Angel, Colossus, Jubilee and Kitty Pryde. The first two fit the First Class source; the others, not so much. Anyway, the guy who gets to write this movie is Josh Schwartz, creator of the TV shows, Gossip Girl, The O.C. and Chuck, who might also direct. Schwartz was chosen for his perceived ability to reach the “next gen” audience.
#2 THE NUTTY PROFESSOR 3: WHY NOT JUST MAKE THE FATTIES: FART 2 FOR REAL?
Just when you thought that Tropic Thunder had put the nail in the coffin of “fat suit” comedies with its Fatties spoof, Universal is putting out the word that they are looking for a script for The Nutty Professor 3, a continuation of the abrasively unfunny series starring Eddie Murphy. Although Eddie Murphy isn’t technically signed to star in a third Nutty Professor, the expectation is that his Sherman Klump character would return in this sequel, and Universal will work on getting Murphy to return once they have a script. So, if you have a knack for bodily function humor and/or characters that can be played by the same guy in different body suits, this might just be your chance!
#3 THIS WEEK IN BIG BUDGET SCRIPTS: ROBOTECH, XXX 3, THE CHAMPIONS
This week there was much more hot movie news than just 10 headlines, so this entry will handle a few big movies that got writer news this week. Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who also wrote the two Shanghai Noon movies, are replacing Lawrence Kasdan as the writers of Robotech, the adaptation of the 1980s anime TV series that Tobey Maguire is producing. Michael Ferris and John Brancato, cowriters of Catwoman and Terminator: Salvation, will be the ones to figure out ( http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117995956.html ) how to bring Vin Diesel back from the dead in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.
And then there’s Guillermo del Toro, who might just be aiming for a world record as the busiest guy in movies ever, as nearly every week sees him mentioned in a new project. This week, he’s signed on to cowrite the movie version of The Champions, with Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects; cowriter of Valkyrie). The Champions was a British 1960s TV series about three spies endowed with super powers (ESP, precog, etc) by an ancient civilization living in the Himalayas. The curious thing is that The Champions actually shares elements with both Del Toro’s Hellboy and his long-in-development dream project, H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, so you’ve got to figure at some point, he probably wanted to direct this one as well. But, of course, he’s already got enough movies for the next 10 years.
#4 IRONBOW: THE LEGEND OF WILLIAM TELL CLOSER TO HITTING ITS MARK
Spyglass Entertainment came closer this week to bringing their historical action movie, Ironbow: The Legend of William Tell, to life by announcing the director of the project: Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). From a script by Jay Wolpert (2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo), Ironbow “will tell” the story of legendary 14th century Swiss folk hero, William Tell, and his rebellion against Austrian invaders, who is most famous for being forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow. That probably takes up about 10 minutes of screen time, so there’s got to be more to the movie, of course. Namely, Tell goes on to escape and inspire a revolution against the Austrians, leading to Switzerland being its own nation as it is today. Ironbow also has the advantage of the William Tell Overture, one of the most rousing musical pieces ever composed, but that’s also the theme song for The Lone Ranger, which might come out around the same time as Ironbow, so that might be… awkward.
#5 300 PRODUCER BRINGING BACK HOPALONG CASSIDY: THIS… IS… WICHITA!!!
Producer Mark Canton (300, Land of the Dead) is developing a movie revival of Hopalong Cassidy, a classic cowboy character created in 1904 in western novels, who then made his way to starring in 66 (!) movies, starting in 1935, as well as comic books, radio and TV. One has to imagine that the fact that both The Lone Ranger and Jonah Hex are gearing up as major productions had to be a bit of the impetus behind a relatively obscure (now), long abandoned cowboy character like Hopalong Cassidy all of a sudden being developed by a high profile producer. I think I probably saw a Hopalong Cassidy movie or two as a kid, but the character has absolutely zero resonance to me now. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Hopalong Cassidy and Red Ryder, for example. Maybe there’s this massive fanbase of Hopalong Cassidy nerds out there, just drooling for a movie, that I don’t know about, but somehow I think, not really.
#6 THIS WEEK IN KOREAN REMAKES: THE HOST, OLDBOY UPDATES
Universal Pictures and director/producer Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) are teaming up to produce an English-language remake of The Host, a 2006 Korean horror film hit about a giant squid monster, from a script by Mark Poirier (Smart People). This is Verbinski’s second project in development at Universal as a producer, along with the Bioshock videogame adaptation. The Host should not be confused with The Host, the latest novel by Stephenie Meyer, the author behind the Twilight series. This Host news comes just a week after it was announced that Steven Spielberg and Will Smith want to work together on Oldboy, a remake of the Korean hit thriller. Except, Will Smith clarified this week, that what they are doing is actually an adaptation of the original manga comic book, Oldboy, and not an adaptation of the Korean movie based upon it. The movie added a lot of the more unsavory aspects, so by saying that, the Smith/Spielberg movie is free to have a more mainstream feel. Also this week, Mark Protosevich (Poseidon; cowriter of I Am Legend) was hired to work on scripting the Oldboy adaptation.
#7 CANDLES AND TEAPOTS RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN… IN 3-D!
Disney is continuing its commitment to 3-D moviegoing, as they will be re-rendering their 1991 hit, Beauty and the Beast, for a 3-D release in 2010, as part of a massive slate that includes 11 3-D titles for 2009 to 2010. The other 10 3-D titles will be: Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Movie (2/27/09), Pixar’s UP (5/29/09), the anime adaptation G-Force (7/24/09), the also re-rendered Toy Story (10/2/09), A Christmas Carol (starring Jim Carrey) (11/6/09), the re-rendered Toy Story 2 (2/12/10), Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (3/5/10), Toy Story 3 (6/18/10), Rapunzel (December, 2010) and the teen dance of Step Up 3-D (TBA 2010).
#8 AND IN NON-DISNEY CGI NEWS: HAPPY FEET 2, THE HERO OF COLOR CITY
A new CGI production facility in Sydney, Australia is gearing up for three years of work on Happy Feet 2, the sequel to the Oscar-nominated 2006 hit about dancing penguins, which puts it on course for a release in 2011 or 2012. George Miller (Babe, the Mad Max series), who directed the first Happy Feet, will return for this sequel. Other than that, no plot or cast details are known yet. A CGI movie that does have its cast ( http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117996192.html ) (Christina Ricci, Arsenio Hall, Rosie Perez and Craig Ferguson) is The Hero of Color City, about a group of crayons fighting to save their colorful hometown from the forces of evil, from Exodus Film Group, the same company behind the recent Igor and the upcoming Bunyan and Babe. The Hero of Color City is scheduled for 2010, and a deal has been struck with Simon & Schuster to publish movie tie-in kids books. Curiously, a company they’re not working with is Crayola, as the characters are just generic crayons without that brand.
#9 SAW VI: YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW IT ENDS… AGAIN
With a $30 million opening for the 5th movie, you knew it was going to happen. Kevin Greutert, editor of the first five Saw movies (and The Strangers), will make his directorial debut with Saw VI, scheduled by Lionsgate for October 23, 2009. Saying that he has “hundreds and hundreds of pages of every conceivable variation of what we can do,” Greutert will be working from a script by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who costarred in the final season of Project Greenlight, writing the three Feast movies, Saw IV and Saw V. Tobin Bell (Jigsaw), Mark Rolston, Costas Mandylor and Betsy Russell are all expected to return for Saw VI.
#10 BARACK OBAMA INSPIRES WHITE HOUSE BUTLER BIOPIC MOVIE, BENSON MOVIE NEXT?
Two weeks ago, The Washington Post ran a story titled A Butler Well Served by this Election, about an African American butler, Eugene Allen, who served in the White House for 34 years, from Truman to Reagan. This week, Sony picked up the rights to the article and Allen’s life, with Laura Ziskin, producer of the Spider-Man franchise, developing the project. Allen’s wife, Helene died on Monday, November 3rd, and Eugene cast his vote for Barack Obama the next day. I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between this story and something that former GOP candidate Mike Huckabee has been saying on just about every TV appearance he’s done in the last two weeks , with a line about how Barack Obama, “50 years ago would have at best been able to serve coffee there [the White House].” Of course, it’s possible that Huckabee got that idea from reading the Washington Post story, but he’s been repeating it a lot. Anyway, Allen’s career in the White House spanned eight presidents, and so there’s material for a lot of stunt casting: Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan, and their respective First Ladies.
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 messageand Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.