This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as Frankenstein, Pokemon, Wonder Woman, and the eighth movie in the Saw franchise.
This week’s biggest story in film development news is actually a continuation of something that started in April. At that time, the idea of Legendary Entertainment getting close to acquiring the live-action Pokemon rights could have been interpreted as Legendary looking for their next video game adaptation following the (presumed) success of Warcraft. Warcraft had a huge opening in China, and has earned $430 million globally (enough for Warcraft to make in the top 10 for the year, thus far), but it was also a flop critically, and in the USA. However, one week sure can change things. The “augmented reality” game Pokemon Go launched just nine days ago (7/6/16), but within a week, the game had almost as many daily active users as Twitter (!). Nintendo’s stock price subsequently jumped up 25%, (seemingly), instantly increasing the company’s value by an additional $9 billion. So, Hollywood is very much now interested in a live action Pokemon reboot, and Legendary Pictures is looking like they were ahead of the curve, considering that their talks started three months before Pokemon Go even launched. The other two studios that had been vying for the Pokemon rights were Warner Bros and Sony Pictures, but it looks like Legendary is very close to sealing the deal. It’s still unclear what approach the live-action Pokemon remake might take, but loosely, there seem like two main options: Legendary could stick closely to the traditional Pokemon lore, or they could go with a direct adaptation of Pokemon Go, perhaps following people hunting for Pokemon in the real world. If the rumors are true, the screenwriter who might have the job of figuring it out is Max Landis (American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein), whose only Fresh Tomatometer score thus far was for Chronicle.
Most of the attention on future Steven Spielberg movies this year has been on his adaptation of Ready Player One. However, the prolific director is rarely working on just “one movie” at any given time. Right now, another impending project is an adaptation of the bestselling non-fiction book The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David Kertzer, which relays the true story of a Jewish child (born in Italy) who was seized by the Catholic Church in the mid-19th century, then converted to Catholicism and went on to become a priest. The central figure on the church side of the controversy will be Pope Pius IX, who will be played by Mark Rylance, marking his fourth Spielberg film in a row (after Bridge of Spies, The BFG, and Ready Player One). It is as yet unknown what role Oscar Isaac (who is now in talks) will be playing, but since some sources have pointed to him as “the lead,” the obvious answer would be Edgardo Mortara himself. The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara is expected to start filming in early 2017 — Ready Player One is scheduled for release on March 30, 2018, so the earliest possible release window for TKoEM is probably late 2018, AKA “awards season.”
We’ve known for a few years now that Universal Pictures wants to build a new “cinematic universe” around reboots of their Universal Monsters. The first of these will be another reboot of The Mummy, set in the present day (to be released next summer, on June 9, 2017); its titular monster will be female this time, played by Kingsman: The Secret Service costar Sofia Boutella, and this week, the Internet was deluged by nearly 100 images of Boutella in “Mummy” costumes from filming on location. The non-Mummy star of that movie will be Tom Cruise, and recent months have brought news of other A-list stars who will costar. Russell Crowe will play a character similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Johnny Depp will star in The Invisible Man in early 2018. As noted in this article, Universal Pictures seems to be focusing on casting actors in their 50s. Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) isn’t quite 50 yet, but he’s close (his 50th birthday will be on March 1st, 2019), and this week we learned that he is now in talks with Universal Pictures to star in their new monster movies as Frankenstein. Specifically, Bardem is not up for the role Frankenstein himself, but rather the monster that Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates. There have been rumors that Angelina Jolie will star in a Bride of Frankenstein movie, and this news fits right in with that, because Bardem is not expected to debut in a Frankenstein movie, but one of the earlier UMCU (Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe) movies. The Mummy is nearly done filming, so it probably won’t be that film, but the next possibility might be The Invisible Man (TBA 2018). Russell Crowe’s Jekyll/Hyde-like character is also expected to appear in other UCMU movies before receiving his own feature.
One of the many films that Walt Disney Pictures is adapting into live action from their classic animated filmography actually comes from one part of a film, the 1940 classic Fantasia. Specifically, we’re talking about The Nutcracker Suite, which was based on the ballet with music written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Disney’s movie will be called The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and it will be based on both Tchaikovsky’s ballet as well as the 1816 fairy tale story by E.T.A. Hoffmann called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which the ballet was itself based upon. So, since Disney’s new Nutcracker movie is ultimately based on a ballet, this week’s news probably should have been a complete no-brainer. Ballet dancer Misty Copeland took to her Instagram account this week to post an image of the script by Ashleigh Powell (who will be making her feature film debut with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms), confirming that she will star in the adaptation. Copeland is the first cast member we have heard about, but she won’t be the last, as the various versions of The Nutcracker have a lot of characters, including the Nutcracker himself, the Mouse King (and Queen), the Sugar Plum Fairy, and of course, the large family at the center of the entire story. This magical adventure will be directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose lengthy filmography includes What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolate, The Cider House Rules, and My Life as a Dog. There is no release date officially set for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, but given the Christmas theme, there is a very, very strong chance that it is the Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) currently on their schedule for November 2, 2018.
One of the most ambitious non-superhero movies that Hugh Jackman has been attached to star in for several years now (since 2009) is 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman on Earth. As the title suggests, this film (scheduled for 12/25/17) will be a biographical musical drama about the life of 19th century circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, who, of course, will be played by Jackman (who’s also producing). In recent weeks, we’ve heard about the casting of both Zac Efron (as Barnum’s “right hand man”), and Michelle Williams (as Barnum’s romantic interest). This week, we learned that Fox is hoping to attract a young audience with the news that former Disney star Zendaya is now in talks to play a trapeze artist in Barnum’s circus. The Greatest Showman on Earth will be the feature film directorial debut of Michael Gracey (who is working on an adaptation of the manga/video game Naruto), working from a script by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3; cowriter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens). 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Greatest Showman on Earth for December 25th, by which point the world will probably be much more familiar with Zendaya, due to her reportedly major role in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017).
One can argue lots of other factors at play here, but the facts are plain: Finding Dory is Pixar’s top box office earner to date, and Finding Nemo was no slouch either, now at #4 out of 17 films. One arguable factor in both films was the voice talent of Ellen DeGeneres, without whom Dory wouldn’t really be the Dory that audiences (and critics) have come to love. Knowing a good thing when they have it, Walt Disney Pictures is striving to continue working with Ellen DeGeneres on (at least) one future project, namely an adaptation of the children’s book Castle Hangnail, by author Ursula Vernon, the creator of the Dragonbreath series. The book will be adapted by Bill Kunstler, who is best known for his work as a writer and producer on TV shows like Mom, The Crazy Ones, The War at Home, and Accidentally on Purpose. Castle Hangnail is about a 12-year-old girl who shows up at the title location hoping to fill a vacancy as a “wicked witch,” and to do so, she must accomplish a series of tasks. Ellen DeGeneres is producing Castle Hangnail, and is likely to star in the film, but which character she would play is unknown.
The story of Jesus Christ is often called “the greatest story ever told” for a reason, and Hollywood seems intent on retelling it again and again; this year alone, we’ve already had two movies about Him — Last Days in the Desert (with Ewan McGregor as Jesus) and Risen (with Cliff Curtis as “Yeshua”, AKA Jesus) — and they keep coming. The next project to tackle the tale will focus on His companion, Mary Magdalene. We’ve known for a while now that Rooney Mara (Carol, The Social Network) will star in the film as the title character, with Joaquin Phoenix taking on the role of Christ. This week, we learned that Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) is now in talks to play St. Peter, one of Christ’s 12 apostles. In many films about Jesus Christ, not all of the apostles receive the same amount of attention in the story, but St. Peter (AKA “The Rock”) is usually one of the most central figures. Director Garth Davis, whose debut film is this year’s Lion, expects to start filming Mary Magdalene this summer for the Weinstein Company, who are expecting to release Mary Magdalene sometime in 2017 (possibly around Easter).
Today’s release of the remake of Ghostbusters has brought into the spotlight the social debate over remakes, and whether some older films should or shouldn’t ever be remade, rebooted, regurgitated, etc. One thing to remember is that Hollywood’s been doing it since the “silent era,” and some of our most beloved movies (like say, The Wizard of Oz, The Thing, Scarface, The Magnificent Seven, and The Ten Commandments) were themselves remakes of earlier films. Some pundits make the argument that the best candidates for remakes are films that were either flawed in some way, or that technology has improved to tell certain stories more effectively, or in some cases, that the original is just so obscure or forgotten that most wouldn’t even recognize a remake of it. Option #3 feels the most relevant to this week’s news, because few moviegoers have likely even heard of the 1971 film The Beguiled, starring Clint Eastwood as a wounded Union soldier during the Civil War. Director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) apparently has, however, because she has written and will direct a remake of The Beguiled. Colin Farrell is now in talks to star as the soldier, who takes refuge at an all-girls boarding school and “cons his way into several lonely women’s hearts.” Farrell is joining a mostly female cast which already includes Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. There is no filming start date for The Beguiled yet, but if financing can be found, there’s a good chance it will be Sofia Coppola’s next film (after departing the live action non-Disney remake of The Little Mermaid).
When Warner Bros and DC Comics were looking for a director for next summer’s Wonder Woman (6/2/17), it was clear they were looking for a female director. The job ultimately went to Monster director Patty Jenkins, after Breaking Bad producer/director Michelle MacLaren worked on it for a while, but eventually dropped out. Arguments can be made about whether gender identity plays a role in filmmaking, but WB’s efforts to cast a female director suggests they were at least attempting to match it up. That’s why it’s particularly confusing and/or confounding to learn that the official screenwriter credits are for “a screenplay by Allan Heinberg and Geoff Johns, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg.” In other words, Wonder Woman was written entirely by men. Of course, Wonder Woman was created by a man, and a rather controversial male writer at that, about whom much as been written. That was, however, also in 1941, and one might assume that 75 years later, things might be different. This would also be a good time to note that we are aware of the super relevant (but probably coincidental) timing of this story, which we’re reporting to you on the day that the reboot of Ghostbusters is being released (and all of the gender politics that come with it, from both sides). We’ll just point you to some other articles about this issue, published by The Verge, The Mary Sue, and Romper. What do you think? Should the first ever live action movie about the original female super hero icon have been written by at least one woman?
People like familiar franchises that provide sequels with familiar expectations; we get that. But some franchises fail to transcend their very niche audiences and be embraced, at least on some level. One such franchise is the “torture porn” extravaganza known as the Saw franchise, which critically peaked at 48 percent with the first movie (still Rotten) and whose most recent installment, Saw: The Final Chapter, failed to reach double digits on the Tomatometer. That said, even if it did seem like the Saw franchise was pretty much over, another factor in play was that Lionsgate needed lots and lots of franchises and ongoing ventures after The Hunger Games (and other YA adaptations) came to an end. With all that in mind, Lionsgate is preparing to produce an 8th Saw movie, which they have scheduled for release next year on October 27, 2017 (just before Halloween, of course), and they’ve hired the creative writer/director team of the Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael) to do it. The Spierig Brothers bring a certain level of fan anticipation to the Saw franchise, as their two most recent films (Daybreakers and Predestination) both received Fresh Tomatometer scores. So, it’s sort of a tricky thing. On one hand, we have directors who have given us two pretty great genre films recently; on the other, it’s still the Saw franchise we’re talking about here. Verdict: This is the Rotten Idea of the Week.