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 Alien Nation, Booster Gold, LAbyrinth, A Wrinkle in Time, and the sequel Shanghai Dawn.
Big, ambitious superhero movies have a tendency to inspire fan rumors and speculation, much of which turns out to be untrue. Every once in a while, though, there’s an exception. For this week’s top story, we have to go back to early 2015, when Warner Bros and DC Comics were casting last month’s Suicide Squad. At the time, there was talk about Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike, HBO’s True Blood) being in the running to play Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke the Terminator. The reasoning was that Manganiello had been in director David Ayer’s 2014 film Sabotage, so the two were going to work on Suicide Squad together as well; Manganiello obviously was not in Suicide Squad, and neither was Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. Fast forward to last week, when Ben Affleck posted a teaser video of “someone” playing Deathstroke, which was quickly confirmed to be for Affleck’s solo Batman (and possibly Justice League in 2017?). Well, there’s still no indication that Deathstroke will be in Justice League, but this week, Joe Manganiello was indeed confirmed as Batfleck’s Slade Wilson. Some sources have also described Deathstroke as being the “main villain” in the Batman solo movie, while others have claimed that “just about every major bad guy you’ve ever wanted to see” will be in the film (though it’s possible both claims could be non-exclusively true). As for the character, he’s a villain-turned-antihero originally most associated in the 1980s with New Teen Titans (the team with Cyborg, Raven, Nightwing, etc), who, like many popular comics characters, later branched out into other heroes’ adventures. And if that name “Slade Wilson” sounds familiar, it might be because Rob Liefeld created Marvel’s Deadpool (AKA Wade Wilson) as something of an “homage” to DC’s Deathstroke. There’s still no release date for Affleck’s solo movie as Batman, but it’s looking more and more like Warner Bros might be slotting it for sometime in 2018, with filming to possibly start sometime in 2017.
Director Alfonso Cuarón at this point is probably best known for his (relatively) big budget work on such films as Gravity, Children of Men, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so it’s perhaps understandable if one isn’t familiar with his work in his native Mexico. Indeed, it has now been 15 years since Cuarón’s last Mexican film, 2001’s Y Tu Mama Tambien. This week, we learned that he will soon return to Mexico for his next film, which is scheduled to start production later this year. Although the film does not yet have a title, it will be about a “a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.” Cuarón was born in 1961 (in Mexico City), so there is a good chance this film will be at least partly autobiographical (or at least influenced by his family and childhood). He has worked a few times in the past with Warner Bros (A Little Princess, Gravity, HP&TPoA), but this next film will be produced by Participant Media (Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, Deepwater Horizon).
After the critical and box office success of 2014’s Selma, director Ava DuVernay quickly became one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood. She was approached for Marvel’s Black Panther and DreamWorks’ science fiction film Intelligent Life, both of which she departed or turned down. Instead of working with Marvel, Ava DuVernay instead signed with their parent company, Walt Disney Pictures, to direct their adaptation of the classic Madeleine L’Engle children’s book A Wrinkle in Time. Oprah Winfrey became the first actress to sign on for A Wrinkle in Time, as the mysterious Mrs. Which, but her companions remained uncast until this week. Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling are both in talks to costar with Oprah as Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Kaling). If A Wrinkle in Time is successful, it’s very possible/likely that Disney will eventually want to adapt the other three books in L’Engle’s “Time Quintet,” which are A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. As for A Wrinkle in Time itself, it’s about a group of children who “travel through time and visit strange worlds in order to find their missing scientist father.” Walt Disney Pictures has not yet announced a release date for A Wrinkle in Time, but there is an Untitled Disney Live Action Film scheduled for August 3, 2018, which (through process of elimination) might be A Wrinkle in Time.
One common theory about remakes among some movie fans suggests that the best candidates are films that weren’t so great the first time around (or at best, were “mediocre”). Consider, for example, the 1988 sci-fi cop movie Alien Nation, starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin as mismatched partners (Caan’s a human who dislikes aliens, Patinkin’s an alien) who, within 90 minutes, become good friends and team up to take down an evil human drug dealer. Alien Nation has a Rotten Tomatometer score of 54 percent, but it did manage to get a FOX TV series spinoff that ran for one season in 1989-1990. As such, 20th Century Fox arguably has a legitimate reason to revisit Alien Nation, since it’s one of the franchises currently gathering dust in their back catalog. Coming off something of a disappointment with his recent science fiction film Midnight Special — which did not find much of a theatrical audience — director Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) has signed with Fox to write and direct a remake of Alien Nation, to be produced by two of his partners on his upcoming period romance Loving, which is being released this November. At this early point, there has obviously been no casting yet, but Michael Shannon has starred (or co-starred) in all five of Nichols’ films as director, so one would have to guess that he’s probably got a good shot at one of the two leads (possibly as alien Detective Sam Francisco?).
Earlier this year, Gary Oldman was cast by Focus Features as Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the historical drama Darkest Hour. The film will take place during 1940, in the months after Churchill became prime minister, as he had to deal with the fall of France to the Nazi invasion and the start of the German bombing of England. Production is scheduled to start later this year in England, and this week, we learned of three more actors who will be playing historical figures in Darkest Hour. John Hurt will play Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain (who promised “peace for our time” with Hitler); Lily James (Lady Rose from Downton Abbey) will be playing Churchill’s personal secretary; and Kristin Scott Thomas will play his wife Clementine. Those four Brits will be joined by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn, who will play King George VI, who was recently the focus of the film The King’s Speech. Darkest Hour will be directed by Joe Wright, who is looking for a critical hit after floundering last year with Pan (Wright’s previous Fresh films include Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna, and Anna Karenina). Focus Features has scheduled Darkest Hour for release on November 24, 2017, so they are clearly expecting Darkest Hour to be one of their “awards seasons” films next year.
There are only so many words in the English language, and many of the ones that make for great one-word movie titles are already taken. For example, David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly starred in the 1986 fantasy Labyrinth, but does that necessarily mean that no other film can ever use that title? Or can this conundrum be resolved through creative capitalization? If, say, your movie is set in Los Angeles, maybe you can call it LAbyrinth, which obviously is nothing like Labyrinth at all. We’re talking specifically about an adaptation of Randall Smith’s non-fiction book LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal. We just love it when book titles basically do most of the writing for us, so all that’s left to mention now is that Johnny Depp is “circling” the lead role in LAbyrinth, which is LAPD homicide detective Russell Poole. As the title indicates, Detective Poole investigated the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.), and the implication of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, all of which was possibly the origin of the Los Angeles police scandal. LAbyrinth will be directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner), whose latest film was this summer’s The Infiltrator, also based on a law enforcement true story.
When author Ann Patchett published her novel Bel Canto in 2001, its setting of South America in the mid-1990s was only a few years old, but the adaptation of the book has taken so long now that it’s going to end up being a period piece (unless it’s given a contemporary setting, of course). Bel Canto is one of the movies that’s being shopped around to financiers and distributors at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, and as such, we know much more about the project. Julianne Moore is attached to star, along with Demian Bichir (Savages, The Hateful Eight) and Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins, The Last Samurai). Moore will play an American opera singer who travels to a South American nation under the rule of a dictator to give a private concert for a wealthy Japanese industrialist (Watanabe) whose estate is then invaded by guerrilas (led by Bichir’s character). Bel Canto will be directed by Paul Weitz whose filmography includes a few high points (American Pie, About a Boy, In Good Company, Grandma), but more Rotten scores (Down to Earth, American Dreamz, Cirque du Freak, Little Fockers, Being Flynn, Admission).
Chris Benoit was a popular professional wrestler for 22 years (1985-2007) who held several championships, and his signature submission move was called the “crippler crossface.” Benoit also strangled his wife and 7-year-old son before hanging himself using a weight lifting machine in 2007. Similarly to the 2014 drama Foxcatcher, which depicted a murder-suicide involving Olympic wrestling competitors and their coaches, Chris Benoit’s life and death will also be adapted as a feature film called Crossface, and it will be directed by Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans, Punisher: War Zone). As one of the few female directors working in Hollywood with action experience, Lexi Alexander had at one time been a popular fan choice to direct Wonder Woman (and she commented about it in 2014). Unfortunately, Alexander’s two film credits to date both have Rotten Tomatometer scores, which is why we’re calling this one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
Not counting Fox’s Fantastic Four or X-Men movies, most of Marvel’s movies are now living in the same “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” which means that characters like Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man all live in the same world. Over at Marvel’s distinguished competition, DC Comics, the movies have much less of a history of co-existing (despite most of them being at the same studio, Warner Bros). This is something that Warner Bros has been rather famously trying to correct, starting with Man of Steel, and continuing with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and next year’s Wonder Woman and Justice League. These films have also shared a “grimdark” tone (something that critics have cited in their negative reviews). So, when it was revealed about a year ago that WB and DC were adapting the popular superhero Booster Gold as a movie, many fans got quite excited, because Booster Gold represents a lighter tone arguably more similar to some of Marvel’s movies. (That Greg Berlanti, the producer responsible for TV shows like The Flash, was working on it, was seen in the same vein.) In the comics Booster Gold is a frustrated ex-sports star living in Gotham City in the 25th century who “borrows” equipment from a superhero museum so that he can travel back in time and become a superhero superstar in the past (our present). Ostensibly, the Booster Gold movie was seen by some as an opportunity to bring levity to DC’s superheroes, as Booster Gold could maybe crossover with his fellow heroes and help change their films’ tones. This week, however, Greg Berlanti revealed that, “As of right now we have no connective tissue to those worlds… it’ll be a separate thing.” So, we’re calling this a Rotten Idea, because even if Booster Gold itself is a great, fun, movie, the opportunity for the other DC Extended Universe movies to also be fun is basically being sidestepped. It’s also unclear what heroes Booster Gold will be inspired by if his own movie isn’t connected to the DCEU (though the best guess would be other characters WB and DC don’t plan on ever adapting to the big screen).
In 2000, Jackie Chan was at the height of his career as a martial arts action movie star and looking for his next big American crossover hit. So he starred with Owen Wilson in a western adventure comedy called Shanghai Noon, which made just enough money ($56 million domestic) to spawn a sequel in 2003 called Shanghai Knights. And then… it seemed like that was that. Over time, Chan focused more on making his films in China, as he (now 62) and Owen Wilson (now 47) continued to do that inconvenient human thing where they continue to age. Thirteen years later, Chinese box office is bigger than it’s ever been, and producers in China are continuing to look for projects that will allow them to work both domestically and with Hollywood movie stars (such as Matt Damon in The Great Wall). This brings us back to Shanghai Noon, and the ostensible trilogy that was never finished after Shanghai Knights. Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are now in talks to reprise their roles in the third film, Shanghai Dawn. The director is already set, and it’s going to be Jared Hess, whose debut film remains his most famous: Napoleon Dynamite. That Sundance hit received a Fresh Tomatometer score, but Hess has not been able to replicate that, with Nacho Libre (40 percent), Gentlemen Broncos (19 percent), and Don Verdean (30 percent) all receiving Rotten scores. Shanghai Noon was Certified Fresh at 79 percent, and Shanghai Knights was also Fresh at 66 percent, but the expiration date on this trilogy may have already passed.