This Week’s Ketchup covers ten headlines from the realm of film development news. Included in the mix this time around are several superhero movies (like Inhumans, LEGO Batman, and Thor: Ragnarok), as well as R.L. Stine’s Fear Street, and the prequels Die Hard: Year One and Alien: Paradise Lost.
Ever since the May release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the news that Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk would not appear in Captain America: Civil War, fans have been wondering when they will next see the “Green Goliath.” This week, we learned the answer is that Mark Ruffalo is now in talks to join Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok, which Marvel has scheduled for November 3, 2017. This news comes just a week after the directorial role went to Taika Watiti, the codirector of the recent vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Tom Hiddleston and Jamie Alexander are also already confirmed to be returning as their Asgardian characters Loki and Lady Sif. As would be expected for the third Thor movie, there are expected to be new characters introduced, and this report gives us ideas about who two of those characters might be. As the title suggests, Thor: Ragnarok reportedly will feature the introduction of the Valkyrior (AKA the Valkyries), the Asgardian female warriors who escort fallen mortal fighters on their way to Valhalla. This news is especially of note to many comics fans as it’s being interpreted to include the character Brunnhilde, who was a longtime member of Marvel’s Defenders under the “superhero name” Valkyrie. There is also speculation that Valkyrie’s introduction may bring along Marvel’s Enchantress as well. If Enchantress (AKA Amora) is indeed in Thor: Ragnarok, this may get confusing for non-comics fans, as a character called Enchantress is also in Warner Bros’ upcoming Suicide Squad movie. (And that’s without even getting into how both DC and Marvel have characters called Captain Marvel, and how both characters are getting their own movies.) In other Marvel news, the studio is reportedly also considering hiring director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) for their 2018 film Black Panther, but as of this date, this report hasn’t been confirmed yet.
Following the success of The Grand Budapest Hotel (including four Academy Award wins), director Wes Anderson has decided upon his next film, and it will be a return to one of his most unique directorial styles. For his sixth feature film as director in 2009, Wes Anderson made the unusual decision to make a stop-motion animated movie called The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a children’s novel by Roald Dahl. We don’t know the title yet for this new stop-motion comedy, except that it will be about a group of dogs. It didn’t take long for us to find out who the dogs will be voiced by, because the news also came this week, directly from one of those actors. Jeff Goldblum has revealed that he will be joined by Bob Balaban (Best in Show), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator Edward Norton as the voices of the four lead dogs. Goldblum also mentioned that the film will be “Japanese-inspired,” but what exactly that means right now is extremely open to interpretation.
As the highest paid actress in Hollywood, it is not at all unusual for Lawrence to make the news each week. This week, however, she made the news three times, and the first was actually directly about how much she gets paid. Specifically, Jennifer Lawrence herself penned an essay titled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” for the Lenny Letter e-zine run by Lena Dunham. The essay quickly went viral across social media. Within hours, Lawrence also made the news for leaving Sony’s romantic comedy The Rosie Project, which also soon after lost its prestigious director, Richard Linklater. The studio is important to this story because it was Sony (via last year’s leaked e-mails) that Lawrence was specifically writing about in regards to the salary paid to the stars of American Hustle. Both of those stories broke on Tuesday, as did the third story, which is that Jennifer Lawrence is now in talks to work with director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Noah, Black Swan). It’s not yet known what film Lawrence and Aronofsky will be working on together, but we do know it’s not the Evel Knievel biopic, because Aronofsky has now left that film as well.
The argument could be made that one step towards gender equality in Hollywood is for a decrease in “male” being the default gender for lead roles. We’re already starting to see this recently, with the change of next year’s Ghostbusters leads to women, and Sandra Bullock’s Our Brand is Crisis character originally being written for George Clooney. Now, after playing at least the co-lead in Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron is in talks with Sony Pictures for a similar role in which she will play a role originally intended for a man. The movie in question is (currently) called The Grey Man (which might be changed to something like The Gray Woman), and Brad Pitt was previously in talks for the role. If she signs on, Charlize Theron would play “an expert CIA op-turned-assassin who is forced to evade adversaries as” (s)he saves the lives of daughters (s)he didn’t know (s)he had. It’s not yet known how the premise will be changed to match Theron, but some possibilities (we can think of) include a coma (a la Kill Bill Vol 1), a surrogate mother, or faked infant mortalities. The original script was by Joe and Anthony Russo, who will no longer be available to direct, because of their commitments to Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and the two parts of Avengers: Infinity War.
As this column goes live today, the box office prospects for the Goosebumps movie aren’t quite clear yet, but the film does have a 72 percent Fresh Tomatometer score. Possibly wanting to make a deal before author R.L. Stine raised the price, late last week the news broke of another deal involving an R.L. Stine franchise. 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment (Spy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) are now developing a movie based upon R.L. Stine’s Fear Street young adult series of supernatural/horror novels. First published in 1989, the Fear Street books follow older characters than the Goosebumps books, and are targeted at older readers as well. With over 100 Fear Street novels in publication, it’s not yet known if the movie will follow a similar approach to Goosebumps. The Goosebumps movie with Jack Black was produced by Sony Pictures, so there likely will not be any direct connection between the two movies.
Comic book and superhero adaptations have obviously long been a big part of Hollywood for a some time now, but one of the actresses who has done her part even more than most is Rosario Dawson. Included in her filmography are such projects as Men in Black II, the Sin City movies, Netflix’s Daredevil and Luke Cage, and roles for DC Animation as both Artemis and Wonder Woman. This week, Dawson added another animated DC Comics character to that list, as she will provide the voice of Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, in the Warner Bros movie LEGO Batman, spinning off from Batman’s appearance in last year’s The LEGO Movie. Dawson joins the already cast Will Arnett (Batman), Michael Cera (Robin), and Zach Galifianakis (The Joker). Warner Bros has scheduled LEGO Batman for February 10, 2017.
The reason the path movies often take from concept to production is called “development hell” is that it frequently feels like the movies might never escape it and actually get produced (and sometimes, they don’t). Unlike Dante’s Inferno, however, one mustn’t necessarily abandon all hope. One example of this is the manga/anime adaptation Battle Angel Alita which James Cameron first started developing in the late 1990s as a possible next film after Titanic (along with Avatar, which actually did get made, although that also took years and years). With Cameron now dedicated to producing and directing multiple sequels to Avatar, the project (with the inverted title of Alita: Battle Angel) has now been handed over to someone else. The new director taking over Alita: Battle Angel will be Robert Rodriguez, whose lengthy filmography includes both comic book adaptations (the two Sin City movies) and even another film featuring a quasi-cyborg female character (Planet Terror/Grindhouse). Rodriguez also knows full well how long it can take movies like this one to get made, having spent years on such titles as remakes of Red Sonja, Fire & Ice, and Heavy Metal.
This was a good year to be a young Swedish actress with a breakout English-language role. First, there was Alicia Vikander, the star of Ex Machina, who followed that film’s success with new deals for several movies, including Bourne 5 wtih Matt Damon. The other Sweden girl to have a breakout role this year was Rebecca Ferguson, who starred as Ilsa in this past summer’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Earlier this year, Ferguson had been in the running for the female lead in Gambit, and she did land one of the lead roles in the novel adaptation The Girl on the Train. This week, Ferguson’s name was mentioned in connection to three more movies, including a prequel/sequel for a popular science fiction franchise. The firmest job offer is for The Snowman, an adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, which Michael Fassbender is already attached to star in, for director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Ferguson is also considering a front runner for a new female role in Alien: Paradise Lost, the sequel to Prometheus, which featured another Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace, who is expected to return for the prequel/sequel. Finally, Rebecca Ferguson is also a front runner to replace Kate Winslet in Guernsey, AKA The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Here in the United States, the 2013 sequel A Good Day to Die Hard is commonly perceived as a box office bomb, with the five-film franchise’s lowest domestic box office ($67 million), and scathing reviews. However, a look at the worldwide box office total tells a different story, as it was the third Die Hard film in a row to earn over $300 million (and only $79 million behind the franchise’s top earning film, Live Free or Die Hard). So, there still appears to be a financial incentive for 20th Century Fox to keep making Die Hard movies. However, Bruce Willis also turned 60 this year, which means he can’t be starring as John McClane for much longer. An attempt was made with A Good Day to Die Hard to set up a franchise hand-off to McClane’s son, played by Jai Courtney. This week, we learned that 20th Century Fox is now developing a sixth film which will attempt another way of continuing Die Hard without the need for Bruce Willis filming the action. That approach will be a prequel currently called Die Hard: Year One, and will tell the story of young police officer John McClane on the “gritty” streets of 1979 New York City, where he learned how to be so “die hard.” Although the bulk of the story will be set in 1979, with John McClane played by a new actor, Bruce Willis is expected to also costar, providing “book end” scenes set in the modern day to lead into the flashbacks. 20th Century Fox is teaming with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Live Free or Die Hard director Len Wiseman, who also directed Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, and the 2012 remake of Total Recall. Although the fourth Die Hard was Certified Fresh, it was also the only film of the six on Len Wiseman’s Tomatometer not to receive a Rotten score.
This year’s edition of New York Comic Con was held last weekend, and as usual, there were events for comic book movies and TV shows. What sort of stood out this week, however, was that at least partly connected to the event, two major stories broke this week, and they both have been quickly debunked. (Though, as often happens, the debunking wasn’t necessarily as well-covered as the initial headlines.) The first story was the rumor that Marvel Studios was delaying their Inhumans movie (7/12/19) due to conflicts with Marvel Television, which currently prominently features Inhumans on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Many reasons for this were speculated, and it’s all much more than we can detail here. Anyway, this story was quickly debunked, even before NYCC was over. For your further reading, Forbes also covered this notion of there being some sort of feud between Marvel’s film and TV divisions (short version: no). The second major Marvel kerfuffle of the week started with the news that Marvel and Fox are partnering on two new TV shows featuring X-Men (or at least, their related characters). Charles Xavier’s son will star in Legion for FX, and the Hellfire Club (Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, etc) will star in Hellfire for the FOX network itself. This was quickly followed by an online rumor that the X-Men shows resulted from a deal that exchanged the Fantastic Four movie rights back to Marvel for a film in 2020. The problem with that speculation was that Fox has long held the TV rights, so there was no reason to make such a deal. We’re calling both of these Marvel rumors this week’s “Rotten Ideas” not so much for the content of the non-stories, but because of all of the disappointment that results for fans, due to stories like these being spread without more thorough fact checking.