This week’s Ketchup brings you another 10 headlines from the world of film development news (the stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next), covering such titles as The Suicide Squad, Face/Off, Major Matt Mason, Mission: Impossible 7, and Tank Girl.
After writer-director James Gunn was dismissed by Disney from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 over some controversial tweets — and before he was then re-hired for the project — Warner Bros. and DC swooped in to secure his talents for a new Suicide Squad movie. We learned later that the film would be a reboot instead of a sequel, and casting announcements began to roll in, starting with Margot Robbie (as Harley Quinn) and Idris Elba (who specifically isn’t replacing Will Smith as Deadshot), and eventually including returning stars Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, and Joel Kinnaman. More casting announcements came fast and furious after that, but on Friday, just as this article was set to publish, Gunn himself took to Twitter to officially confirm the full cast of The Suicide Squad for the first time, along with the words “Don’t get too attached.” In other words, we can fully expect that not all of the cast will survive to the end of the movie. The Suicide Squad starts filming this month, with a scheduled release date of August 6, 2021.
It’s a good time to be bad for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, which currently has a Tomatometer score of 76%, won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, and is projected to make around $90 million at the box office when it opens in October. All of that already has pundits speculating on Phoenix’s chances of replicating Heath Ledger’s Academy Awards win as the Joker in The Dark Knight. So, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if he might reprise the role to square off against Robert Pattinson’s The Batman (6/25/2021), either in that film or in future sequels. Well, Joker director Todd Phillips was asked that exact question this week, and he replied with, “No. Definitely not.” Asked again a few days later, he said basically the same thing, but with a few more words, “I don’t see it connecting to anything in the future. This is just a movie.” It’s possible that the reason why Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker won’t tie in to other DC Comics movies is that, as far as we currently know, the DCEU version of the Joker is still Jared Leto’s take from Suicide Squad. After all, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is still very much in play, as she’s reprising the role in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2/7/2020) and, as noted above, presumably in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.
Although many other franchises have come and gone since the first Mission: Impossible in 1996, last year’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout was the sixth in the series, and Paramount Pictures has already scheduled Mission: Impossible 7 (7/23/2021) and Mission: Impossible 8 (8/5/2022). Part of how the M:I franchise has stayed relevant is through a steady flow of new cast members, including Michelle Monaghan and Simon Pegg in M:I III and Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin in M:I – Rogue Nation. The first new cast member to be announced for Mission: Impossible 7 is British actress Hayley Atwell, who probably remains best known for playing Marvel’s Peggy Carter, as seen in both Captain America: The First Avenger and in the much-missed ABC series, Agent Carter. Neither Atwell nor director Christopher McQuarrie revealed in their announcements the nature of her new character, though one could speculate (and this writer is) that she might be playing a British counterpart to those led by Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.
Although she was not primarily an archer when first introduced in 2005, the Marvel Comics character Kate Bishop would go on to become the second Hawkeye and the star of one of Marvel’s most popular titles when Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series debuted in 2012. Before Avengers: Endgame was released this year, it seemed from the trailers that maybe Kate Bishop would be featured in that film (the young female archer in the trailers turned out to be Clint Barton’s daughter instead). Instead, the character’s introduction to the MCU was confirmed at SDCC to be in the upcoming Disney+ series Hawkeye. That show isn’t scheduled to be released until the fall of 2021 (and indeed, the writer wasn’t even hired until this week), but Disney and Marvel may already be in talks with their Kate Bishop actress. An offer has reportedly been made to 22-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, whose recent films have included Pitch Perfect 2, Pitch Perfect 3, Bumblebee, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in which she voiced Spider-Gwen. In addition to the Disney+ series, it’s also very possible that Steinfeld could reprise the role in future MCU movies.
It was just two years ago that Universal Pictures brought together a cast of stars to promote their new “Dark Universe” cinematic universe. That, however, was before the first movie in that proposed franchise, The Mummy, was released to both critical and box office disappointment. Earlier this year, Variety ran a story that confirmed that the Dark Universe concept was “dead,” following the news last year that Bride of Frankenstein had been cancelled. (The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss, is still coming out next year, but not as part of a cinematic universe.) Instead, it appears the next time the various Universal Classic Monsters will co-star in the same movie together will be in something called Dark Army, which started as a pitch from comedic writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy). It’s not yet known if Feig’s frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy will appear in Dark Army, and if she does, what role she would play (Bride of Frankenstein, perhaps?). In addition to various (but not yet confirmed) Universal Classic Monsters, Dark Army will also feature some new monsters.
It sounds like reprising one of Disney’s most iconic villains as Scar in this year’s CGI remake of The Lion King may have been something Chiwetel Ejiofor enjoyed, because this week, the British actor signed on for another “heel” role. Ejiofor has joined Mark Wahlberg in the Paramount action thriller Infinite (which Icelandic actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson also joined this week). Mark Wahlberg will play a man haunted by memories of past lives who then discovers that he is part of a secret society of people who have been using their past memories to shape history for centuries. Infinite (8/7/2020) started as a project for Chris Evans, as one of his first post-Captain America roles, but he subsequently departed the project and was quickly replaced by Wahlberg.
As the old expression goes, “what I really want to do is direct,” but another smart play for today’s movie stars is to become a producer. Margot Robbie started her LuckyChap Entertainment production company in 2014, and since then, she’s produced I, Tonya, and is also producing the upcoming Barbie, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and Gotham City Sirens. This week, it was confirmed that Robbie is also producing — and is likely to star in — a reboot of the post-apocalyptic comedy Tank Girl. Lori Petty starred in the first Tank Girl movie (Rotten at 38%) in 1995, which was, like Robbie’s movie will be, based on the British comic book series. Tank Girl depicts the adventures of an outlaw tank pilot with a mutated kangaroo boyfriend (played in the first movie by a heavily made-up Ice-T), supported by counterparts like Jet Girl and Sub Girl (you get one guess each as to how they each get around). This week, Robbie hired director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (of her recent film Dreamland) to direct her version of Tank Girl.
The 1960s action figure character Major Matt Mason remains fairly obscure for most people, but it has a very influential fan in the form of Tom Hanks. Although he is now 63 years old, Hanks has long been attached to star in a Major Matt Mason movie, and this week, it was confirmed that Hanks is still attached to star, despite his age. Introduced in 1966 at the height of the space race, Major Matt Mason is an American astronaut who lives on the Moon. Tom Hanks’ involvement actually started in 2012 (when he was a relatively spritely 56) as a film that would have been directed by Robert Zemeckis, but it is now being adapted by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who worked with Tom Hanks on The Da Vinci Code and its sequel Angels & Demons. Of course, it’s possible that Tom Hanks advanced age might be part of the story, perhaps in the form of a twist in which Matt Mason has been living on the Moon since the space race years.
China is increasingly becoming a factor in the box office prospects of Hollywood films, but it’s still relatively rare that those movies are actually based on Chinese properties. That, however, may be slowly changing, as suggested by one new project based on the Chinese webcomic and animated series Shi Xiong (Zombie Brother). It’s not yet known if he will also star in Zombie Brother, but Channing Tatum is producing the live-action film version. The first step came this week with the hiring of director Todd Strauss-Schulson (Isn’t It Romantic?). Although movies featuring magic or the supernatural frequently face censorship in China, Zombie Brother skirts that issue by explaining zombies through science.
Although it feels like the 1997 action thriller Face/Off is now primarily referenced in jest, the film starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta actually maintains an impressive Certified Fresh Tomatometer score of 92%. That, however, doesn’t necessarily help this week’s news, as it’s commonly held that the best candidates for remakes are movies that were flawed the first time around. That’s right, Paramount Pictures is now developing a remake of Face/Off, about the highly unlikely scenario in which an FBI agent and a terrorist end up wearing each other’s faces after a complicated surgery. Paramount Pictures has hired screenwriter Oren Uziel, who recently worked for Paramount on their movie version of Sonic the Hedgehog, which begs the question as to whether the remake will have to be delayed several months after audiences reject the CGI faces they see in the first trailer.