Weekly Ketchup

Ben Affleck Will Not Direct Batman Solo Movie, and More Headlines

Leonardo DiCaprio joins a mob drama, Millie Bobby Brown joins Godzilla, The Secret of NIMH gets remade, and Mel Gibson is working again.

by | February 3, 2017 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as Aquaman, Daddy’s Home 2, Godzilla: King of Monsters, and the remake The Rats of Nimh.



For months and months now, it seemed like every time Ben Affleck was interviewed about his various projects (like, say, Live by Night), the star and director has been grilled about whether he would be directing the inevitable solo movie most sources call The Batman. This week, Affleck confirmed the answer to that question, stating he’s not directing The Batman. Affleck is still signed to play Bruce Wayne and Batman in the solo movie, but he and Warner Bros, “after discussing how to best make the film possible, came to the decision together” for Affleck to hand the reins over to someone else. Or as Affleck put it, “Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require.” Now, what is missing from this news is who exactly Warner Bros might hire to direct The Batman instead. This news inevitably led to many, many stories filled with speculation and conjecture about who might replace Ben Affleck as director. You can find such stories hereherehere, and here. And then of course, there’s this brilliant idea (note: we’re kidding). So, DC Comics fans, who do you think should direct the first solo movie starring Ben Affleck’s version of Batman?

Fresh Developments


Some concepts have been so ingrained in pop culture for so long (certainly longer than most of us have been alive) that it’s sometimes helpful to remember what it would have been like when they were new. One genre staple that emerged in the early 20th century was the “gangster” movie, which by the 1970s became synonymous with the Mafia, mostly thanks to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. (We should also mention at this point that HBO announced development this week on a movie called Francis and the Godfather.) It’s been a while, though, since we got a movie about the early days of the Mafia (such as The Godfather Part II and Once Upon a Time in America). This week, Leonardo DiCaprio took the subject into his own hands, signing on to star in and produce a movie called The Black Hand. Based on a non-fiction book by Stephan Talty, The Black Hand will tell the story of the origins of the Mafia as an Italian American organized crime network from the perspective of a NYPD cop named Joe Petrosino (who will be played by DiCaprio). Here’s how Variety summed up the premise: “The true story about the origins of the mafia in America follows Joe Petrosino — nicknamed the ‘Italian Sherlock Holmes’ — an NYPD cop who goes after the ruthless gang in the early 190os. The thugs (with the calling card black hand) migrated from Italy to America, and kidnapped people to extort money from their families. They were loathed by law-abiding Italian families who were frightened, but nevertheless helped Petrosino behind the scenes.”


Ever since the Netflix series Stranger Things became the #2 pop culture sensation of the summer of 2016 (after only Pokemon Go, arguably), there has been an understandable interest in the future careers of a few of the show’s young discoveries. The first movie that will possibly benefit from the Stranger Things ripple effect is this fall’s remake of Stephen King’s IT, but that’s only because Finn Wolfhard had already been cast before Stranger Things had even been released. It was only late last Friday night that we got the first major casting news involving one of the Stranger Things kids. It was then that we learned that Millie Bobby Brown, the 12 year old British actress who played “Eleven,” had closed a deal with Warner Bros to star in Godzilla: King of Monsters (scheduled for release on March 22, 2019). The details of Millie Bobby Brown’s character are not yet known, but there are a few Godzilla precedents we can use for speculation. For one thing, in Toho’s Godzilla films, there are frequently “kid” characters who root for Godzilla in fights against other monsters, so Brown might just be playing the equivalent Hollywood version of that. However (and this is a bit more speculative), there are also the continuing rumors that Godzilla: King of Monsters will introduce at least one new monster, and the one mentioned the most is Mothra. And if Warner Bros is going to make a big Hollywood movie featuring Mothra, and do it right, then they would have to also include the tiny little “fairies” that are directly connected to Infant Island, where Mothra comes from. Could Millie Bobby Brown, already known for her eerie portrayal as Eleven, also be cast as one of the Mothra fairies?


Sunday night, Viola Davis won the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress for Fences, which might mean she is now the frontrunner to also win the comparable award at the Academy Awards later this month. And within 24 hours, Viola Davis also won a different sort of award, as she (and her agents) “won” a lead role in a new movie called Small Great Things. That film will be based upon a novel by Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper), and will also costar Julia Roberts. Viola Davis will play a hospital maternity ward nurse who is ordered not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple (who is then sued by the couple after the baby dies). It’s not yet known who Julia Roberts will play. Small Great Things will be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, but the film does not yet have an announced director (or screenwriter).


Some words just make great titles, and since trademark laws are actually sort of loose about them, some titles inevitably get reused. For example, The Avengers isn’t just the name of a popular Marvel Comics supergroup, but it’s also the title of a British spy TV series (both of which were adapted as movies, separate from each other). With that in mind, there was a popular-but-short-lived 2005 TV series called Firefly that was adapted for the big screen as Serenity, which was extremely popular with its cult fanbase. Unfortunately, some Firefly fans may have gotten prematurely excited this week about Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway starring in Serenity, only to find… it has nothing to do with Joss Whedon or Nathan Fillion. Instead, the Serenity that the two stars are both in talks to join is described as a “sexy noir” about “a fishing boat captain whose past is about to crash up against his life on a small island in the Caribbean, ensnaring him in a new reality that might not be all it seems.” Serenity will be written and directed by Steven Knight, whose films as director have been Redemption and Locke, and as screenwriter, he’s also worked on such films as Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, and Robert Zemeckis’ recent film, Allied.


This past November marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and April, 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the breakup of The Beatles. In between those two dates is well enough time for an enterprising producer to make a movie about exactly those two events, and the events that followed. This week, we learned that producer will be former New Line Cinema executive Michael De Luca, who Variety points out is also one of the producers of the 50 Shades of Grey movies.  Michael De Luca is collaborating with Yoko Ono herself on an untitled drama based on the true story of how she met Beatles guitarist John Lennon, and everything else that happened soon after in those turbulent fourteen years (1966-1980).  To that end, Michael De Luca has already secured the screenwriting services of Anthony McCarten, who is best known for another romantic true story, The Theory of Everything (about physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife).


As we head into the production and filming of the sixth DCEU movie, Aquaman (10/5/18), we are starting to see a trend for the “solo movies,” of which Aquaman is the third, after Man of Steel and Wonder Woman. With all three films, Warner Bros chose well-known female stars to play the hero’s mother: Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, and this week, Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Aquaman’s mother. The Nicole Kidman news was the most repeated story of the week for Aquaman, but there were also two other stories, and one of them will probably seem like bigger news when we’ve actually seen the film. First up, Temuera Morrison (AKA Jango Fett from Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones) was also cast this week as Aquaman’s human father. And finally, since everyone else effectively buried the lead, we’ll do the same, with the news of who will play one of Aquaman’s most famous villains. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (from Netflix’s The Get Down) was cast this week as Black Manta, who gets bonus points for having one of the clumsiest looking super villain helmets ever.



One of the minor trends bubbling up through development at a few studios is the idea of movies based on theme parks, with Disney being the obvious home to a couple, including Magic Kingdom, and other projects based on Jungle Cruise and The Haunted Mansion. The reasons behind any of these projects is obvious: theme parks are lucrative business for their parent companies, so any opportunity to build synergy between the movie and theme park sides of the ledger is encouraged. Having noted that, we have news from Paramount Pictures this week (which doesn’t boast any major theme parks — at least, not any more), which is developing a “theme park comedy” called Action Park. For Action Park, Paramount has solicited the services of their Jackass star, Johnny Knoxville (whose Tomatometer scores are fairly middling when you focus on just non-Jackass starring roles), who will play a man who designs his own theme park along with the help of his friends. Filming of Action Park is scheduled to start next month in South Africa.


We don’t have an exact metric on this, but there appears to be some sort of mathematics that Hollywood uses to determine when certain movies are fair game to be remade. We’re now living in the post-Ghostbusters remake era, so a strong argument can be made that at this point, perhaps any popular 1980s movie can be remade under the right circumstances. The (fairly) popular 1982 animated adventure The Secret of NIMH (which benefited from being made by Don Bluth before Disney Animation’s comeback) might be one example. We’ve been hearing for a few years now that MGM (a company itself sort of known for remakes) was working on a new adaptation of the original source material, the 1971 children’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by author Robert C. O’Brien. This week, we heard about the firmest movement since The Rats of Nimh entered development, with the news that MGM has hired James Madigan to make his directorial debut with the project. Until now, Madigan has worked as a visual effects supervisor on such films as Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Da Vinci Code, and the two RED movies. This new Rats of Nimh movie is being planned as a hybrid between animation (the rodent/rat characters) and live action (presumably including the farmer of the property where the rats live, and the setting).


When the Academy Award nominations were announced last week, one of the big takeaways was that “Hollywood has officially forgiven Mel Gibson,” who earned a Best Director nomination for Hacksaw Ridge. Put in terms of film development news, that means movies directed by Gibson now have a better chance of being produced by studios again, and that he is once again in the running for mainstream roles. (In the years since his problems in 2006, Gibson has mostly worked “outside the system.”) This week, he made the news twice for potential new projects. Starting off with the “Rotten Idea,” Mel Gibson has officially received an offer from Paramount Pictures to costar in their sequel to the 2015 comedy Daddy’s Home (31 percent Rotten), starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. If Gibson signs on, he will be joining John Lithgow as a new set of fathers to the characters played by Ferrell and Wahlberg (the exact father-son pairings are not yet known). Lithgow was also cast this week in a supporting role in Pitch Perfect 3 (scheduled for 12/22/17). As for that second Mel Gibson, he and Vince Vaughn are both now attached to star in a crime thriller called Dragged Across Concrete. That film, to be directed by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk), will tell a timely story of two “cops who are suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics gets wide attention [who] then descend into the criminal underworld to exact vengeance.”

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