This Week’s Ketchup brings you seven headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Fiddler on the Roof, Labyrinth 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Nearly two years ago, one of the biggest superhero stories of 2018 was the revelation that Henry Cavill was dropping out of talks with Warner Bros. for future appearances as their Superman (specifically, the movie he would have co-starred in would’ve been 2019’s Shazam!). Just a week after the announcement that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will debut on HBO Max in 2021 (speaking of which, the first image of Darkseid was revealed this week), Henry Cavill is now back in negotiations for further appearances as Superman after all. Similar to what might have been for Shazam!, the talks with Henry Cavill reportedly do not involve a Man of Steel sequel (or any other solo Superman movie), but would instead would be Superman appearances in other DC superhero movies. Which movie (or movies) this deal might involve have yet to be revealed, but the titles written about the most this week seem to be Aquaman 2 (starring Jason Momoa) and the Shazam! spinoff Black Adam (starring Dwayne Johnson). Some writers have also picked up on a possible similarity to how Marvel Studios has used the Incredible Hulk since Mark Ruffalo took over the role, with his Hulk appearing in other heroes’ movies but not his own (though in that example, it was because Universal still had the rights to any Hulk movie).
When a movie is a big hit, reporting on an announced sequel can seem like sort of a no-brainer, but Sonic the Hedgehog is not one of those movies, as its road to success was far from a foregone conclusion. It was just over a year ago that the world saw the film’s first trailer (with the original CGI character design for Sonic), which led to the release being delayed a few months while the character was redesigned to look more like he did in the Sega video game franchise. Sonic the Hedgehog eventually earned over $300 million globally (a number dinted a bit by the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic) and it was also a VOD hit, with Paramount currently reporting just under 2 million digital sales. With all of that hard work and good news under their belt, Paramount Pictures, Sega, and director Jeff Fowler are now officially starting development on a Sonic the Hedgehog sequel. The various Sonic video games have introduced a variety of supporting characters, including Knuckles the Echidna, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Tails the Fox, so it’s possible one (or all) of them could be introduced in the sequel.
A few weeks ago, Tom Cruise was announced as the world’s first movie star to actually film a movie in outer space (at the International Space Station), and already the film has made its next step towards actual production. Cruise will be reuniting with director Doug Liman, with whom he has previously worked on both Edge of Tomorrow (Certified Fresh at 90%) and American Made (Certified Fresh at 86%) (and they’re both committed to an Edge of Tomorrow sequel). Cruise’s partners on the currently untitled project also include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA itself. Tom Cruise and Doug Liman had previously been developing a movie called Lunar Park (about “renegade employees who venture to the moon to steal an energy source”), but this new project is reportedly a separate film. Doug Liman’s next film will be the post-apocalyptic Chaos Walking (starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley), and Tom Cruise’s next film will be the sequel Top Gun: Maverick, now scheduled for December 23, 2020.
One of the biggest surprises about last year’s The Irishman (Certified Fresh at 96%) was that Netflix ended up spending over $160 million on it, which is a number generally reserved for FX-heavy summer action flicks or superhero movies (to be fair, The Irishman was FX-heavy too, due to the CGI de-aging). For his next film, the 1920s serial killer true story Killers of the Flower Moon (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro), director Martin Scorsese is expecting to exceed The Irishman, with a budget somewhere in the $180-$200 million range, and that recently prompted Paramount Pictures to start looking for a financial partner. Paramount did land a major streaming company, but instead of Netflix, this time around it’s Apple who stepped in, snatching up a deal that would give the streaming rights to Apple+ after a theatrical release by Paramount. This was the second major deal for Apple+ in the last ten days, following their acquisition earlier this month of Tom Hanks’ World War II film Greyhound, which previously was scheduled for a June 19, 2020 theatrical release.
By 1971, classic Hollywood and especially old school musicals were definitely on the wane as “New Hollywood” was on the ascent, but there were still a few musicals in that tradition that became box office hits. One of those films was Fiddler on the Roof, the adaptation of the 1964 Broadway musical about a Jewish village just before the Russian Revolution. The original stage production won nine Tony Awards, and was the first longest-running play until Grease broke its record. Fiddler on the Roof also holds the distinction of being the movie that gave composer John Williams his first of five Academy Awards (before Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Schindler’s List). With Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake (12/18/2020) wrapped and coming soon, MGM is now developing a Fiddler on the Roof remake to be directed by Thomas Kail, who directed the version of the Broadway hit Hamilton that will debut on Disney+ on July 3rd.
After co-starring in Ocean’s Eight and the first movie in the eventual Crazy Rich Asians franchise, Awkwafina added another franchise to her filmography in December with Jumanji: The Next Level (Fresh at 71%), sharing the screen with Karen Gillan. Now Awkwafina and Gillan are signed to co-star in another action movie called Shelly, about an “awkw”-ard young woman (Awkwafina) who grows up to become an assassin, only to discover that her next target is none other than her worst high school bully (Karen Gillan). Shelly is being called “a cross between Mean Girls and Bill Hader’s hitman series Barry.” Prolific TV sitcom director Jude Weng (Fresh Off the Boat, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) is attached to make his feature film directorial debut with Shelly.
One of the first surprising news stories of 2020 was the announcement that Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) had dropped out of directing the sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (the job eventually went to Spider-Man director Sam Raimi instead). This week, Derrickson did sign on to develop another sequel to a popular and ambitious fantasy film, although the necessary development time probably means it won’t be his next project. The movie in question is a sequel to the 1986 musical fantasy Labyrinth (Fresh at 71%), featuring the young Jennifer Connelly and the late David Bowie as the Goblin King. The premise of the Labyrinth sequel isn’t yet known, including whether or not Connelly will be reprising her role. One possible story scenario could involve the children of either Connelly’s character or her younger brother (who was the baby kidnapped in Labyrinth). Brian Henson of the Jim Henson Company will executive produce this sequel to a film directed by his late father, Jim Henson.
Robotics engineer and best-selling author Daniel H. Wilson’s 2011 sci-fi novel Robopocalypse nearly made the transition from page to screen when none other than Steven Spielberg showed interest in tackling it, but the film has remained in limbo ever since DreamWorks put it on hold indefinitely after several production delays. In the meantime, Wilson has continued to write, and this week, he sold a spec script called The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever to Paramount Pictures. The screenplay tells the story of a NASA physicist who discovers the formation of a black hole that will destroy Earth in a few days, but he struggles to find anyone who believes his evidence or his theory. The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever is being developed by producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, who delivered a big hit for Paramount Pictures in 2018 with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (Certified Fresh at 95%) and also produce Amazon’s Jack Ryan, which stars Krasinski.
There are only so many films that a single director can ever personally take on, and Ridley Scott certainly knows this, having had to part with dozens of projects over the years. Scott is also super active as a producer through his and his late brother Tony’s Scott Free production company. This fall, Scott Free Productions hopes to start filming an adaptation of the screenplay Panopticon, which first came to attention in 2017 as one of the entries on that year’s Black List of Unproduced Screenplays. Panopticon is described as a prison thriller “told from the perspectives of a new inmate, a correctional officer, and a Wall Street hotshot.” The news this week is that Panopticon will be the next feature film directed by Colombian filmmaker Andrés Baiz, whose previous work has included 12 episodes of the Netflix crime series Narcos (Fresh at 89%).
One of the fun things about reporting on so many new movie projects every week is the occasional learning experience it provides. For example, until this week, this writer thought Scholomance was just one of the original World of Warcraft dungeons. As it turns out, The Scholomance comes from Transylvanian folklore and refers to a school of dark magic in the mountains of Transylvania; it has been featured in a few different interesting stories, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Scholomance is also the name of an upcoming fantasy book series by author Naomi Novik, who this week struck a deal with Universal Pictures for a potential film franchise. The first Scholomance novel to be adapted will be A Deadly Education, about “El Higgins, a girl with unmatched power who enters a school for the magically gifted, where failure means certain death.” Novik also wrote the Termeraire novel series about a world where dragons really exist, and for a while, it was was being developed as a possible new franchise for Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.