Today’s Ketchup brings you ten headlines from the world of film development news, covering titles such as The Joker and DC Comics’ Lobo (and this column also marks this writer’s 10th anniversary writing the Weekly Ketchup. Yay.)
As recently as this past November, we learned that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson had started development on a new trilogy of Star Wars movies (separate from the third “Skywalker trilogy” we’re currently one movie away from finishing), so this week’s news understandably took some fans by surprise. That’s because we now know of a new series of Star Wars movies, which will be written and produced by the team of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, best known for shepherding and adapting HBO’s Game of Thrones from George R.R. Martin’s popular A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Benioiff and Weiss will remain quite busy for the next year or two, as Game of Thrones ends its eight season run in 2019, so we probably won’t hear a whole lot about their Star Wars series until sometime after that (or even later). At this point, all we know for sure is that their movies will be separate from Rian Johnson’s Star Wars trilogy and likely be very different. We also don’t know for sure how these new films will impact the Star Wars Story spinoffs (of which this May’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second). [UPDATE: Edited to clarify that the new movies are not necessarily a trilogy.]
We’ve known since last summer that Quentin Tarantino is preparing an untitled drama set in Hollywood during the summer of 1969 with a real-life historical event as its background (namely the Manson Family murders). Tarantino is evidently not, however, the only Academy Award-nominated director with the summer of ’69 on his mind. Having wrapped Where’d You Go Bernadette (starring Cate Blanchett), Richard Linklater (Boyhood, School of Rock) is also filming a movie set during that period in Houston, albeit set against the backdrop of a historical event that is a lot more optimistic about the nature of humanity. The new film is “told from a child’s point of view and revolves, in some way, around the moon landing.” Linklater is also putting together a soundtrack made up of “regional hits from the time.” In the same way that Tarantino’s film is scheduled for the 50th anniversary of Sharon Tate’s murder (8/9/19), Linklater is hoping to get his film in theaters around the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.
American Psycho came out over 17 years ago, but its director, Mary Harron, has only been able to get two films greenlit since then (further illustrating the continuing difficulties female directors face in Hollywood today). Harron has finally been able to get her 5th film as director greenlit by returning to a premise similar to American Psycho, namely by making a film involving a real American psycho. British actor Matt Smith (AKA the 11th Doctor on Doctor Who) has been cast in a historical drama called Charlie Says as Charles Manson, the recently deceased criminal mastermind and cult leader responsible for directing his followers to murder seven people during the late 1960s. Charlie Says will tell the true story of three of Manson’s followers (Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel), with an emphasis on their trial in 1971 for the Tate murders. Separately from Charlie Says and Tarantino’s aforementioned film, Hilary Duff is also attached to star as Sharon Tate in The Haunting of Sharon Tate, which Tate’s sister is already calling “classless” and a “total fabrication.”
Last month, 20th Century Fox shut down development of the biopic American Heiress after its subject, Patricia “Patty” Hearst protested the project (and an upcoming CNN documentary). American Heiress had actually been on something of a fast track (possibly because of how much Hearst’s true story resembles Fox’s recent hit All the Money in the World), so its shelving left director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) with a huge gap in his schedule. As such, Mangold has now signed on for another true story at Fox, which is the long-in-development untitled film about the race between the automobile companies Ford and Ferrari to design the world’s fastest car in the 1960s. Fox’s top picks for the film’s two real-life lead characters are Matt Damon and Christian Bale, who would play automobile designer Carroll Shelby and British racer Ken Miles, respectively. Shelby and Miles were assigned by Henry Ford II to build a new car “to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans World Championship.”
Even as Hollywood’s output seems to be increasingly dominated by franchises, there are still a few movie stars who seem to be able to (almost always) singlehandedly deliver box office success. One such star is Dwayne Johnson, whose latest film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,has earned over $350 million (and counting), and whose Skyscraper (7/13/18) became a popular meme this week. As such, Johnson continues to make big new deals, and his films are moving through development quickly. First up, there’s Jumanji 3, for which stars Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan are all signed to reprise their roles, and which now boasts the screenwriters of this October’s Venom (in the same week the Venom-free trailer for Venom debuted). Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde) also signed this week to direct the Fast & Furious spinoff featuring the characters played by Johnson and Jason Statham. Finally, after a “heated” bidding war, Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to Red Notice, a “globe-trotting heist thriller” action-comedy in which Dwayne Johnson will reunite with his Central Intelligence and Skyscraper director Rawson Thurber.
We’ve heard recent news from Walt Disney Pictures about both The Merlin Saga from director Ridley Scott and a live-action remake of their classic animated film The Sword in the Stone, which prompted speculation that the two films might be connected. An article this week about Disney’s new streaming service (which will launch in late 2019) revealed some of the live-action feature films that will debut exclusively on the app, and it possibly clarifies that issue. Disney’s plan is for the new app to have 4-5 original movies each year (and 5 new TV series, including spinoffs from both Star Wars and Marvel). Some of the “priority” feature films are live-action remakes of Lady and the Tramp and the aforementioned Sword and the Stone, as well as remakes of Three Men and a Baby and Don Quixote. The Disney app will also be the destination of the movies Magic Camp and Noelle (starring Anna Kendrick), which had previously been expected to be theatrically released in 2018 or 2019.
Gucci Mane, a rapper from Alabama and Atlanta credited with pioneering a subgenre of hip hop called “trap music,” recently told his own life story in his book, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Accordingly, there are now plans for Gucci Mane’s life story to be adapted as feature film produced by Paramount Players and Imagine Entertainment. Among other credits, Imagine Entertainment is the company behind Eminem’s 8 Mile and rap industry TV drama Empire. The film is expected to tell the story of Gucci Mane’s “childhood in poverty in Alabama and his move to Atlanta, where he became involved in criminal activity. He spent nearly three years in prison starting in 2004 after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. While incarcerated, he began releasing mixtapes from prison with rappers Migos and Young Thug.”
As Batman’s most well known arch-enemy, the Joker has been portrayed in live-action movies by four different actors to date (Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto). There has been talk that Leto might reprise his Suicide Squad depiction in either a sequel to that film or a spinoff alongside Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Amidst all that, there was also the revelation last year that director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) was developing a solo movie for The Joker (which Martin Scorsese was reportedly also producing). Scorsese’s name wasn’t in this week’s news, but another frequent awards honoree, Joaquin Phoenix, is now reportedly in talks with Warner Bros. to star in Phillips’ untitled movie about the Joker’s origin story. Leto, meanwhile, remains attached to play The Joker in at least one future movie. The four films Todd Phillips has directed since 2009’s The Hangover have all received Rotten Tomatometer scores.
Marvel Comics has its own share of popular comic book “bad boys”: we’re thinking of Deadpool, Venom, Wolverine, and even The Punisher (though he’s less “fun”). Similarly, DC Comics has Lobo, a cosmic bounty hunter and mercenary whose look is something akin to a biker by way of the Insane Clown Posse. “Subtle” has never been in Lobo‘s vocabulary, so perhaps this week’s news about his potential director was always somewhat inevitable. Director/producer Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers) is now in talks with Warner Bros. to direct their long-in-development Lobo movie. The current Lobo screenplay reportedly would require a budget of over $200 million, so trimming the film’s scale is something both Bay and Warner Bros. agreed to resolve before he would sign on. Bay has directed and produced dozens of films, but none that he’s directed has been Fresh since 1996’s The Rock.
The film we now know as The Cloverfield Paradox (it was previously titled God Particle) had originally been scheduled for a theatrical release until recently, when Paramount Pictures sold the film to Netflix instead. This past Super Bowl Sunday set some crazy precedents and/or records, as the following all happened on one day: Netflix revealed the new title of the film, its first trailer, its release date (which was the same day, after the big game), and then The Cloverfield Paradox debuted on the streaming service that same night. The Cloverfield Paradox trailer appeared to promise lots of Cloverfield answers, but critics were unimpressed, and the score currently sits at a very Rotten 17%. We don’t know for sure what sort of metrics Netflix uses for these events, but they reportedly paid Paramount $50 million for the rights to the film. Meanwhile, Paramount is reportedly sticking to their plans for a 4th Cloverfield film (AKA Overlord), about zombies during World War II, to be released this fall on October 26th, 2018. Also in possibly related news, Netflix has acquired the rights to the Universal Pictures science fiction film Extinction, starring Lizzy Caplan (who, as it happens, co-starred in the first Cloverfield).