Today’s Ketchup brings you another 10 headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Dune and Space Jam 2, and new roles for Chris Hemsworth, Michael B. Jordan, and Charlize Theron.
Professional wrestling may not be as popular as it once was, but that’s also relative to exactly how popular it once was, like in the 1980s and the 1990s. The World Wrestling Federation’s top star, at the height of their popularity, was indisputably Terry Bollea, AKA Hulk Hogan. Unlike the WWF/WWE’s other “most popular star,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Hulk Hogan was never able to convert his wrestling fame to “movie star” fame, but he was still very, very popular, including starring in a Saturday morning cartoon, many video games, and four seasons of the Hogan Knows Best reality show. Throw in this far-reaching legal ruling, and it makes total sense that Netflix is following up on GLOW with a Hulk Hogan biopic from director Todd Phillips (The Hangover, October’s Joker). What’s perhaps more surprising is that the famously Floridian wrestler will be played by Australia’s Chris Hemsworth (that’s right, Thor’s going to play Hulk). Having said that, Hemsworth has already shown that he can drop his Aussie accent in movies like Cabin in the Woods and Bad Times at the El Royale. Netflix’s film will reportedly focus mostly on Terry Bollea’s creation of the Hulk Hogan persona, and the height of his popularity during the “Hulkamania” era. (If you’ve ever been curious about how Bollea was able to even call himself Hulk Hogan, you can actually read his 1985 contract with Marvel Comics right here.)
One of the hottest times of the year to release a movie is the middle of November, right before Thanksgiving. Notably, that’s the period when four of the Harry Potter movies were released, and until this week, it was also when Warner Bros. had scheduled the third Fantastic Beasts prequel (which is now on hold following the second film’s disappointing box office). Instead, WB has scheduled their remake of Dune for November 20, 2020, which instantly made it the last big movie scheduled before James Cameron’s Avatar 2 (12/18/2020). The writing has been “on the sand” for a few weeks now that Dune might be a huge movie, as it features an all-star cast that includes Timothée Chalamet (as Paul Atreides), Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, and Zendaya. This week, David Dastmalchian, who had a supporting role in Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, also joined the cast as Piter De Vries (played by Brad Dourif in the 1984 Dune). This Dune remake is being directed by Denis Villeneuve, who has never scored below 71% on the Tomatometer and whose last three films were all Certified Fresh at 86% or higher.
Every once in a while, a new project comes along that takes elements from a few different recent box office (or critical) hits and puts them all in a blender to produce an intriguing new film. For this story, the movies in question are Black Panther, Mudbound, Get Out, and Sorry to Bother You. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is in talks to star as Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton in a biopic called Jesus Was My Homeboy for Warner Bros. Lakeith Stanfield, who starred in Sorry to Bother You and had a small supporting role in Get Out, is also in talks for the film, which will be produced for the studio by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and Charles D. King (Mudbound, Sorry to Bother You). Coogler is also working with Warner Bros. on 2021’s Space Jam 2 (more on that below).
Both James Bond 25 and Fast & Furious 9 were already scheduled for release next year, but this week saw both films shifting their specific release dates. Let’s start with James Bond 25 (the title will definitely change before release), which had been scheduled for Valentine’s Day, but has now been shifted back two months to April 8, 2020. That move is good news for the animated fantasy adventure Nimona, which is still scheduled for February 14, 2020. James Bond 25 is taking the date formerly occupied by Fast & Furious 9, which has been pushed back a month to May 22, 2020, up against The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge (and a week before Disney’s Maleficent II). Neither Fast & Furious 9 nor James Bond 25 have actually started filming yet. James Bond 25 is scheduled to start production in April, and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, Side Effects) has been hired to rewrite the screenplay with just four weeks to work on it. Daniel Craig will be working on James Bond 25, and then in the spring of 2020 he will move on to The Creed of Violence, set during the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
2018 was a big year for Michael B. Jordan, as he starred in Black Panther, HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 remake, and the Rocky franchise sequel Creed II. Hollywood hasn’t been shy about giving him more opportunities either, including the bestselling book adaptation Just Mercy (1/17/2020) and Tom Clancy’s Without Remose (9/18/2020). Two other Michael B. Jordan projects moved forward this week, starting with Lionsgate’s action thriller The Silver Bear, which will be directed by Gerard McMurray (2018’s The First Purge), who was also one of the producers on Jordan’s breakout drama Fruitvale Station. The Silver Bear is based on a series of bestselling novels by Derek Haas (showrunner of NBC’s various Chicago shows), so it’s seen as a potential franchise starter. Jordan is also (rather appropriately) in talks to star in A Journal for Jordan, a drama expected to be Denzel Washington’s next film as director (his Fences was Certified Fresh at 92%).
Netflix’s recent hit thriller Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, was far from the streamer’s first star-driven project (Brad Pitt’s War Machine comes to mind, too), but it definitely showed that Hollywood A-listers are open to working with them. The latest one to sign on at Netflix is Charlize Theron, who will star in the action movie The Old Guard. The film will be based on the Image Comics title of the same name created by writer Greg Rucka (Wonder Woman) and artist Leandro Fernandez (Deadpool, Punisher: MAX). Theron and KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) will play members of a group of immortal mercenaries “who must fight to keep their team together when they discover the existence of a new immortal and their extraordinary abilities are exposed.” The Old Guard will be directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who at one point had been expected to direct the Black Cat/Silver Sable movie for Sony Pictures.
The influence and success of Marvel Studios is so pervasive that it’s a rare week with no development news from their corner. This was a relatively slow week, but there were still at least three items of note. The story that seemed to receive the most notice came from Gwyneth Paltrow, who basically “announced” that after Avengers: Endgame (4/26/2019) she is done playing her Iron Man character Pepper Potts. With no confirmed future Marvel movies for Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (yet), it’s sort of unsurprising, but in the same way, it could be interpreted as a hint that Downey may be the next big Marvel star to drop out (after Chris Evans, who’s done as Captain America). One female character Marvel Studios is definitely not done with is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who is expected to get her own film sometime in the 2020 to 2022 range. To that end, the studio has hired screenwriter Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) to rewrite the Black Widow screenplay begun by Jac Schaeffer (TiMER, The Hustle). This move is raising some eyebrows because Black Widow, which will be directed by Cate Shortland, had been seen as a heavily female-led production. Finally, in related news, the Loki series that will stream on the upcoming Disney+ app will be written by Michael Wadron of the popular animated series Rick and Morty.
There has seemingly been talk about a Space Jam sequel pretty much since the weekend that the Looney Tunes basketball movie (Rotten at 38%) first came out in 1996. Although it’s true that LeBron James has been talking about Space Jam 2 for a while, a skeptical fan still could have wondered if this thing would really happen. Well, Warner Bros. is making it official this week, as the studio has announced a Space Jam 2 release date of July 16, 2021. This puts the CGI/basketball hybrid comedy a week after Indiana Jones 5 and a week before Mission: Impossible 7. The other big move from Warner Bros. this week shifted Godzilla vs Kong (the fourth of their monster movies after this year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 5/31/2019) from May 22, 2020 to March 13, 2020. That May 22, 2020 date is where Fast and Furious 9 is now scheduled, and the new competition for Godzilla vs Kong on March 13, 2020 is the less imposing John Cena movie Playing with Fire.
Even if you set aside the studio-bound franchises of Marvel/Disney and DC/WB, there are still thousands of comic book properties out there that one could theoretically adapt into a movie. So it’s sort of baffling to hear the news this week that MGM has acquired, following a “competitive bidding situation” an original superhero spec script called Samaritan. (It’s also worth noting that “Samaritan” is the lead character in Kurt Busiek’s long-running and award-winning Astro City comic book series.) MGM has already attached Sylvester Stallone to star in Samaritan, continuing a relationship that goes back to the original Rocky films. The Samaritan premise reportedly revolves around “a boy learning that a missing superhero, who vanished 20 years earlier after a battle, may still be alive.” Samaritan is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because Sylvester Stallone’s recent Tomatometer is mostly Rotten (not counting documentaries or the Creed movies).
Arguably, the best online rumors are at least partially based on some level of truth. Consider, for example, the relationship between Batman and Armie Hammer (The Social Network, Call Me By Your Name). Back in the 2000s, Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller nearly made Justice League: Mortal, in which Hammer (then an unknown) would have played Batman. That may explain why people so quickly believed this week’s reports that Hammer was in talks with Warner Bros. to replace Ben Affleck in The Batman (6/25/2021). The thing is that the story was (as far as we currently know) totally “bunk,” which means that it needed to be “debunked.” We’re calling this the week’s “Rotten Idea” because, honestly, Armie Hammer might still be a pretty great choice to play both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Like Bruce Wayne, Armie Hammer comes from a well-to-do family, and he’s also one of the few movie stars of a certain profile who hasn’t yet signed on for a major role in the current Marvel vs DC franchise wars.