Today’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as The Lion King, Shazam!, Star Wars Episode IX, and Quentin Tarantino’s next film.
Fans have known since this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con that the DC Comics movie to start filming after Aquaman (12/21/18) would be Shazam! We thought for a time that Dwayne Johnson would appear in the film as anti-hero Black Adam, until DC’s Geoff Johns revealed that wasn’t the case, and we learned this week that comedy screenwriter Adam Sztykiel (Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul) will be adapting that film. All that said, we still didn’t know who would star as Shazam (previously called Captain Marvel, which is a long story) himself, or any other co-star for that matter. Armie Hammer was Dwayne Johnson’s top pick, but as it turns out, the role now belongs to Zachary Levi, who remains best-known for starring as NBC’s Chuck from 2007 to 2012. Shazam! will be directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation), distributed by New Line Cinema probably sometime in 2019, and filming is scheduled to start in February. Mark Strong, who played Sinestro in 2011’s Green Lantern, will also play the Shazam! villain, Dr. Sivana, a sort of prototypical “mad scientist” type. We don’t know yet who will play Billy Batson, the boy that actually turns into Shazam.
Back in late March, reports surfaced that Walt Disney Pictures was hoping to cast Beyonce as the voice of the lioness Nala in their upcoming remake of The Lion King (7/19/19), but those rumors were followed by months of silence. This week, Disney revealed the 14 main voice actors cast in The Lion King, and Beyonce will indeed play Nala, joining previously cast actors Donald Glover (Simba), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Alfre Woodard (Sarabi), Eric Andre (Azizi), Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari), John Oliver (Zazu), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon), and James Earl Jones (reprising his role as Mufasa). The Lion King will be directed by Jon Favreau, who is coming off Disney’s mostly-CGI-animated remake of The Jungle Book, and it’s scheduled to open on July 19th, 2019, which will give fans and Hollywood insiders alike time to discuss a key issue: is a movie like The Lion King (featuring only a cast of photorealistic CGI animals) “animated” or “live action”?
Following his departure from The Weinstein Company for obvious reasons, Quentin Tarantino is now in looking for a new studio home for his ninth film. Executives from Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. were invited this week to Tarantino’s agents’ office to read his screenplay about “the tragedy and cultural phenomenon of [Charles] Manson, his followers and the famous victims of their cult violence.” (Tarantino currently does not appear to be considering offers from streaming sites like Amazon or Netflix.) Tarantino reportedly wrote the Sharon Tate role with Margot Robbie in mind, and three of the other lead roles were written for Inglourious Basterds star Brad Pitt, Django Unchained co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, and frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. Of course, none of those stars are signed yet. In other Leonardo DiCaprio news, his Appian Way production company this week secured the movie rights to Grant, about 18th president Ulysses S. Grant.
Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, the former Hollywood studio giant MGM has produced and released its films in various ways (usually through partnerships with other studios). This week, a new agreement was unveiled in which MGM and fledgling mini-studio Annapurna Pictures will partner on a new theatrical distributor called Mirror. The news came, however, with a release date with one of MGM’s partnerships (with Warner Bros) “tacked on”: Sylvester Stallone’s fifth Rocky film as director, Creed II, starring Michael B. Jordan, will be released on November 21, 2018 (up against Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, and Robert Zemeckis’ Marwencol remake, now called The Women of Marwen). MGM’s films under Mirror will be: the remakes of Death Wish (3/2/18) and Valley Girl (6/29/18), Fighting with My Family (9/14/18), the Nazi-hunting drama Operation Finale, the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake called Nasty Women, and the 25th James Bond. Annapurna’s 2018 contributions will include Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, and the untitled Dick Cheney biopic.
June Pictures is a fairly new independent film production company that even people paid to know such things aren’t all that familiar with yet. That’s starting to change, however, as one of their first films, The Florida Project, was a hit at Cannes and has real chances in this year’s upcoming awards season (it’s Certified Fresh at 95% on the Tomatometer). Willem Dafoe starred in The Florida Project, and for their upcoming film called My Life on the Road, June Pictures has landed another multiple Academy Award nominee. Julianne Moore will star as “iconic feminist activist” Gloria Steinem in My Life on the Road, which is also described as being a “coming of age” story, suggesting that another younger actress (or actresses) will also play Steinem at earlier stages of her life.
For every female-led box office success like Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, there are equally underperforming films like last year’s Ghostbusters and, if estimates prove correct, this week’s A Bad Moms Christmas. With gender equality issues and sexual misconduct allegations swirling through contemporary Hollywood, there’s arguably a greater need now for quality entertainment produced, written by, directed by, and starring women. With that in mind, Universal Pictures has won a bidding war for the rights to the 1980 children’s book The Paper Bag Princess by author Robert Munsch, which was rewarded an endorsement by the National Organization for Women. Margot Robbie is producing and is expected to star, with Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2, the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot) directing from a script by Katie Silberman.
Between the two of them, Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad have appeared in Frozen, The Book of Mormon, entries in the Marvel (Black Panther) and Star Wars franchises, and two different Disney remakes of classic animated movies (Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book). What you won’t find in either of their Wikipedia pages, however, is any zombie movie whatsoever… yet. That’s right, the voices behind Olaf and Maz Kanata may soon be screaming as they run away from brain-eating wights, because Josh Gad and Lupita Nyong’o have joined the zombie comedy Little Monsters. The movie is already in production in Australia, with Nyong’o cast as a kindergarten teacher, and Gad as “kids show personality… Teddy McGiggle.”
[BEWARE: STAR WARS SPOILERS AHEAD] Obviously, this column is about the future of movies, so anything you read here could, in some ways, technically be considered a “spoiler.” And then, there are details — and honestly, these don’t happen as often as you’d think — that are just straight-up spoilers by definition. Star Wars Episode IX won’t be released until over two years from now (12/20/19), but thanks to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, we already know four huge reveals about that movie (and, for that matter, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Really, this story has two parts. The first, which is totally not a spoiler to anyone paying attention, is that Lucasfilm is already working on “the next 10 years” of Star Wars. (Of course they are.) But here’s the especially spoilery part: “future stories beyond Episode IX with these new characters: Rey, Poe, Finn, BB-8.” By inference, that means those four characters will survive both of the next two “Episode” entries. Although critics love Star Wars, we’re calling this story a “Rotten Idea” because — did we mention? — SPOILERS.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of lots of things, like Dawson’s Creek, The Big Lebowski, and Metal Gear Solid, among others. 1998 was also the last time the Lethal Weapon franchise had a new feature film, Lethal Weapon 4, which saw franchise regulars Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, and Rene Russo joined by newcomers Jet Li and Chris Rock. Well, the Lethal Weapon TV series is apparently doing well enough that it hasn’t been canceled yet (two seasons in), which is apparently getting old school Lethal Weapon principals thinking about the good old days again. Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and director Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie) are reportedly now “huddling on the possibility of doing another film.” If Lethal Weapon 5 does move forward, the screenplay would reportedly be by Lethal Weapon 4 screenwriter Channing Gibson, whose last produced screenplay was the 2004 remake of Walking Tall starring Dwayne Johnson. Both Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4 received Rotten Tomatometer scores.
On Wednesday, the news broke that six women had spoken out about “sexual harrassment or misconduct” by film director and producer Brett Ratner. You can read more about these continuing developments at Deadline, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter. Ratner’s alleged misconduct has an arguably broader impact on the business side of Hollywood than did Harvey Weinstein. Ratner’s RatPac “essentially puts up 25% of all of” Warner Bros’ pictures (in what was supposed to be a 75 movie deal), and Ratner himself until this week had a prolific slate as both a producer and director (versus Weinstein, whose development slates have been slowing down for years). Warner Bros. is “scrubbing” the lot of Brett Ratner’s involvement, and projects like Rush Hour 4 and the Hugh Hefner biopic are either dead or, if they ever move forward, would do so without Brett Ratner. Even so, as Rotten as the impact of Ratner’s behavior is, hopefully people will continue to speak out.