This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Dungeons & Dragons, Excelsior!, and Revenge of the Nerds.
(Photo by Clay Enos/©Warner Bros.)
One lesson we can take from film history is that trends change over time, and a failed concept decades ago could be a success today. Consider, for example, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back in 1990, the first Captain America movie (Rotten at 13%) didn’t even get a theatrical release in the USA, and it went direct-to-video two years after it was made. Similar to the contemporary popularity of comic books, the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons is much more in vogue now than it was in 1990, when the first Dungeons & Dragons movie (Rotten at 10%) was released. Warner Bros. had been trying for several years to get a new Dungeons & Dragons movie produced, including periods when actors like Ansel Elgort and Vin Diesel were either in talks or were approached about starring. Since then, the rights to the Dungeons & Dragons movie moved to Paramount Pictures, which also has the rights to other Hasbro properties like Transformers, Micronauts, and G.I. Joe. The Dungeons & Dragons reboot appears to draw closer to actually happening this week with the news that Chris Pine is now in talks to star and also produce the adaptation. It’s not super surprising that Pine is being eyed by Paramount, as he was also their Captain Kirk in the most recent Star Trek films. The premise and setting of the new Dungeons & Dragons movie are not yet known, except that hopes of it possibly being a Dragonlance adaptation appeared to be dashed earlier this year (Forgotten Realms, though, is still totally possible). What we do know is that Dungeons & Dragons will be directed and written by the team of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who co-directed Game Night (Certified Fresh at 85%), and also co-wrote Horrible Bosses and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Daley also starred in Freaks & Geeks, which memorably had a very special Dungeons & Dragons episode. In addition to Wonder Woman 1984 (12/25/2020), Chris Pine will also soon be seen in the thriller Violence of Action, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, and the spy film All the Old Knives.
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
After directing four films for Marvel Studios (the two most recent Captain America and Avengers films), Joe and Anthony Russo are next directing films for two streaming apps: Cherry for Apple+ and The Grey Man for Netflix. We now know what film might be the duo’s return to theatrically targeted feature films, as they are now signed to direct and produce a science fiction film for Universal Pictures. Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown is attached to star in Electric State, which will be an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same title. Brown will play a teenage girl who goes on an adventure with a toy robot to discover what happened to her missing brother “in an imaginative world of humans mixing with robots, uncovering a grand conspiracy in the process.” The Electric State screenplay is being adapted by screenwriting partners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who previously worked with the Russo brothers on all four of their Marvel movies, as well as The Grey Man. Directly addressing the “theatrical or streaming” question, Joe and Anthony Russo said in their announcement that, “We’re thrilled to have this deal with Universal who has committed to a theatrical release of Electric State.” In addition to season 4 of Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown will also soon be seen in the monster movie sequel, Godzilla vs Kong (5/21/2021), which will premiere both in theaters and on HBO Max.
(Photo by A24)
After decades of relative absence from mainstream box office prominence, the mystery genre appears to be coming back, following the $300+ million takes of both Murder on the Orient Express ($352 million worldwide) in 2017 and Knives Out ($311 million worldwide) in 2019. The de facto sequel to that first film, Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile would have come out by now if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now scheduled for September 17, 2021. We can also add a film called The Maid, which Universal Pictures is adapting from a novel to be published in 2022 (possibly after the movie comes out to avoid spoilers). Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow) is now signed to produce and star in The Maid as the title character, who works at a fancy hotel where she uses her access to learn the dirty secrets of every one of the guests (the novel is also being compared to 2017’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine). In addition to Black Widow (5/7/2021), Pugh will also soon be seen in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry, Darling, and in the Disney+ series Hawkeye (reprising her Black Widow character).
(Photo by Jonathan Olley/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
When most American fans saw last year’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Rotten at 51%), they were probably unfamiliar with Naomi Ackie, who played Jannah, the leader who assists our heroes on Kef Bir. Ackie is better known in the U.K., however, where she has won the 2017 British Independent Award for Most Promising Newcomer for Lady MacBeth (Certified Fresh at 88%) (starring the aforementioned Florence Pugh, by the way), and this year, won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress in The End of the F***ing World (Fresh at 93%). The British actress is about to have a much higher profile among American moviegoers, though, as she is in final negotiations with Sony Pictures to star as the late pop superstar Whitney Houston in the musical biopic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (which takes its title from the hit single “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” off Houston’s second album). I Wanna Dance with Somebody will be directed by Stella Meghie, whose most recent film was this year’s The Photograph (Fresh at 74%), starring Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield. Meghie will be directing from a screenplay by screenwriter Anthony McCarten, who also wrote the Queen biographical musical Bohemian Rhapsody (Fresh at 60%). About casting Naomi Ackie, Meghie said, “I was moved by her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon while bringing humanity to her interior life.”
(Photo by ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection)
Like some other 1980s comedies, there are scenes in the 1984 hit Revenge of the Nerds that have glaringly not aged well at all in our post-#metoo era. Now, as many other movies from the era continue to be rebooted, Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane is preparing to do the same thing for Revenge of the Nerds, which he’ll be producing for 20th Century Studios. The project already has its comedy leads lined up, as identical twin brothers Keith and Kenny Lucas, who costarred in 22 Jump Street (Certied Fresh at 84%), are set to both star and write the adapted screenplay. The only brothers in Revenge of the Nerds were of the fraternity variety, so if they play “actual” brothers in the remake, that alone will be a significant departure from the original premise (though the film is reportedly more of a reboot than a direct remake anyway, so the entire premise might be significantly different). As Variety puts it, “instead, the contemporary reimagining will pontificate about today’s nerd culture and what even constitutes a geek in the 21st century.” It’s worth noting that this is not the first attempt at rebooting Revenge of the Nerds, which almost happened in 2006 until “officials at Emory University in Atlanta objected to some of the raunchy hijinx in the script.”
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
Although he is far from a household name in the USA, the story of former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn really does read exactly like a movie script. Following an arrest in 2018 for charges of “misuse of company assets,” Ghosn proceded through a series of legal ins-and-outs and evasion of arrest ultimately leading in 2019 to his becoming an internationally wanted fugitive still sought by Interpol. MGM is going “all in” on adapting the life story of former Green Beret Michael Taylor, the American security contractor who assisted Ghosn in his evasion from arrest and capture. Sam Rockwell is now attached to produce and star as Michael Taylor in a feature film about Ghosn’s escape, which will be developed concurrently to an MGM TV series which will also adapt Taylor’s earlier life story (with a different actor to be cast as the younger Michael Taylor). Both the Sam Rockwell movie and the prequel TV series are being adapted from a Vanity Fair article about Michael Taylor and Carlos Ghosn, which you can read right here.
(Photo by JA, Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
Anything pre-COVID-19 feels like decades ago, even if it’s only been months, but this story starts back in May of 2019 at the the Cannes Film Festival, when a serial killer film called Misanthrope was first announced. Shailene Woodley has since then been attached to star as a police officer recruited by the FBI to assist in the tracking down of a serial killer, and now we know that the “lead cop” in Misanthrope will be played by acclaimed Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn is currently filming the latest version of Cyrano (de Bergerac), starring Peter Dinklage, and he was also announced by Disney last week to be reprising his Skrull character in the Disney+ series Secret Invasion, along with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
At the end of every year since 2005, The Black List of Unproduced Screenplays has served as a survey of hundreds of film industry executives to find which screenplays appear on the highest number of “most liked” screenplay lists. The Black List takes those results and publishes the titles and premises of all of the screenplays that received at least 7 mentions. This year’s top pick, with 29 votes, is a “cannibal drama” called Headhunter about a serial killer who uses Instagram to find their next victim, until the latest target turns out to be someone totally into it (gross). #2 with 28 votes is a basketball comedy called Chang Can Dunk, and #3 with 26 votes is Neither Confirm Nor Deny, which tells the true story of a secret CIA operation that acquired a nuclear-armed USSR submarine in 1968. One of the most intriguing projects, coming in with 9 votes is Excelsior!, which tells the true story of the friendship and collaborative partnership between Marvel Comics editor and writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, who together created such characters as Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and The X-Men. Other projects on this year’s Black List include Ripper (as in Jack The), Enemies Within (about Senator Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC), and Gusher (about Anna Nicole Smith). You can browse through the entire Black List of this year’s screenplays (in PDF format) right here.
(Photo by Miramax)
While Rachael Leigh Cook fans are left still awaiting the (probably unlikely) Josie and the Pussycats sequel, as it turns out, they will at least have the remake of She’s All That (Rotten at 41%) called He’s All That. That’s because we can now report that Rachael Leigh Cook has indeed joined the cast of the gender-swapped remake, although not as the character she played in the first film (since it’s a remake and not a direct sequel). Instead, Cook will play the mother of the female lead (played by Addison Rae) who, in this version, oversees the makeover of an awkward teenage boy (played by Tanner Buchanan), whereas in the original film, those two roles were the opposite genders. He’s All That will be directed by Mark Waters, whose filmography includes notable Lindsay Lohan vehicles like Mean Girls (Certified Fresh at 84%) and Freaky Friday (Certified Fresh at 88%).
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
Michael Bay immediately followed his run as the director of several Transformers movies with the Netflix project 6 Underground (Rotten at 36%), starring Ryan Reynolds. For his next project as director, Michael Bay is returning to a theatrically-distributed action thriller in the form of a remake of a 2005 Danish film called Ambulancen, which unsurprisingly translates to English as Ambulance. Jake Gyllenhaal has been attached to star in Ambulance since the project was first announced, but this week, we learned who two of his costars will be. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who recently has starred in two different DC Comics adaptations (as Black Manta in Aquaman, and in a role-we-won’t-spoil in HBO’s Watchmen) has joined the cast in an undisclosed role. The premise of the original film involved two fugitive brothers hijacking an ambulance, and it appears that the female ambulance driver they inadvertently kidnap will be played by Eiza Gonzalez, who will also soon be seen in Godzilla vs Kong, when it premieres in theaters and on HBO Max (5/21/2021).