This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (the stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about Battlestar Galactica, Pacific Rim 2, and remakes of both Murder on the Orient Express and Splash.
Director/screenwriter/producer Guillermo Del Toro was so instrumental in creating the giant monsters/robots world of Pacific Rim that when he left the sequel, it seemed like a franchise would never happen. Quite the opposite is happening, as the Pacific Rim sequel is getting closer and closer to filming soon as the feature film debut of Steven S. DeKnight (who directed episodes of Smallville and Daredevil). This week, the Pacific Rim sequel landed a new star that gives us an idea of where the franchise is heading next. John Boyega, who played Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has been cast as the son of Stacker Pentecost, the robot pilot commander who was played in the first film by Idris Elba. Universal Pictures will distribute the film in 2017, with Legendary Pictures handling the release in China (similar to what both companies are currently doing with Warcraft). As for Idris Elba himself (who is not expected to return), he also made film development news this week. Kate Winslet is now in talks to join Elba in the romantic drama The Mountain Between Us, based on the 2010 novel by Charles Martin. The pair will play two injured survivors of a plane crash who fall in love while trying to escape the dangers of a remote frozen mountain. The Mountain Between Us will be the Hollywood debut of Dutch-Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (Omar, Paradise Now), working from a script cowritten by Chris Weitz, whose filmography includes About a Boy, The Golden Compass, Cinderella, and the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
One of the big about faces in last year’s awards season was The Big Short, which marked a dramatic change for director/writer Adam McKay from his earlier comedies working with Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights). McKay is sticking to serious and controversial “true story” material with the revelation this week that he is working on a movie about the medical company Theranos, and the controversy surrounding its core blood testing product which led to a drastic multi-billion-dollar stock re-evaluation. McKay recruited an impressive cast of stars for The Big Short, and he’s recruited a big star for his Theranos movie as well, as Jennifer Lawrence is attached to play Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. McKay and Lawrence will now start meeting with studios and producers in what is expected to become a heated bidding war for the timely drama. If development of the project continues expeditiously, it’s possible the movie could be produced soon enough to be a contender in this year’s awards season (much as The Big Short was also put together quickly in the spring/summer months of 2015).
When Star Wars became an industry-changing surprise hit in 1977, it inspired a wave of other science fiction movies and TV shows, including the short-lived 1978-1979 ABC TV drama Battlestar Galactica. The show, about a fleet of human refugees in outer space searching for the lost colony (Earth), only aired 34 episodes, but the franchise was popular enough that it was rebooted in 2004 as a more serious Sci-Fi Channel series that ran for four seasons and was followed by its own spinoffs and TV movie events. Through all of that time, and since the reboot series ended, there has been talk about a possible Battlestar Galactica movie that would reboot the franchise yet again. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men: Apocalypse, Superman Returns) was formerly developing that movie, but he has since departed the project (in 2014). Universal Pictures is still committed to the idea of reviving Battlestar Galactica as a new movie franchise, with two potential key figures making the news this week. Reportedly, Universal is hoping to recruit director Francis Lawrence to direct the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Lawrence is no stranger to serious blockbuster fare, having directed both I Am Legend (also a remake/reboot), and three quarters of The Hunger Games (all except the first film). In the meantime, while negotiations with Lawrence continue, Universal Pictures has also hired TV writer/producer Lisa Joy to start work on the Battlestar Galactica reboot screenplay. Joy has written and produced episodes of HBO’s upcoming Westworld series, as well as three episodes of Burn Notice.
Another ambitious new film project that seems to be coming together relatively quickly is the all-female spinoff of the Ocean’s Eleven heist franchise (which some sources report will be called Ocean’s Ocho, suggesting eight stars instead of eleven). It was just reported last week that Cate Blanchett was to be the “Brad Pitt” to Sandra Bullock’s “George Clooney”, and this week, we heard about three more actresses that may be joining the ensemble. Reportedly, Elizabeth Banks is also likely to join the heist comedy, with Mindy Kaling and Helena Bonham Carter also recently signing on. If they are all confirmed, they bring the cast up to five, with three more characters yet to be cast. One of those characters is likely to be the one who would have been played by Jennifer Lawrence, whose involvement had been reported previously, but who has now moved on (probably due to scheduling conflicts with other projects, such as the Theranos movie reported above). The fourth movie in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise will be directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit), and it’s looking like Warner Bros might release the film sometime in 2017. In releated news, Elizabeth Banks also recently departed as director of the sequel Pitch Perfect 3 citing scheduling conflicts as the movie moved from filming this summer to the 2016-2017 school year, when Banks devotes more time to being “mom” to her two young children. Universal Pictures has scheduled Pitch Perfect 3 for December 22, 2017, and is currently looking for a new director.
We’ve known for a while now that 21st Century Fox is developing a remake of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, to be directed by Kenneth Branagh (who is also starring as Detective Hercule Poirot). But what we haven’t known is who Fox and Branagh were going to be casting in what; if it follows the example of the 1974 film, it could be a superstar-studded ensemble mystery drama. This week, we learned that the film will indeed have some big names, because the first star to join Kenneth Branagh might be Angelina Jolie Pitt, who is now in talks. It’s not yet known which of the thirteen possible murder suspects Jolie might play, but the possibilities include the characters originally played by Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, and Vanessa Redgrave, who were all European (Swedish, Hungarian, and British) in Agatha Christie’s novels. This new version of Murder on the Orient Express was adapted by screenwriter Michael Green, whose filmography includes 2011’s Green Lantern and the upcoming sequels Wolverine 3, Alien: Covenant, and the Blade Runner sequel. 21st Century Fox has scheduled Murder on the Orient Express for release on November 10, 2017. Angelina Jolie Pitt also made the news this week as the animated film The Breadwinner (which she is producing) has been picked up for distribution. The Breadwinner will tell the story of a young Afghan girl who is growing up in the shadow and control of the Taliban.
The last two weeks have seen lots of online attention given to the idea that perhaps audiences are experiencing “sequel fatigue,” which has resulted in disappointing box office for movies like Neighbors 2, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice: Through the Looking Glass, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. As such, the tone this week seems to have shifted back to remakes (like the aforementioned Murder on the Orient Express). Although he’s apparently not yet ready to make any official announcements, producer Bryan Grazer was quoted this week about his idea for remaking the 1984 hit comedy Splash (starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah as the mermaid he falls in love with). Here’s what Grazer had to say: “I’m actually gonna do Splash today, and I can’t say. I’m actually going to do it from the point of view of — I can’t say anything about it. There’s a movie star involved or gonna be involved. I haven’t announced it.” Grazer’s plans to remake Splash join a mini-trend of upcoming “sea people” movies, including Guillermo Del Toro’s next film (reportedly a 1950s-set romance about a trapped “merman” played by Richard Jenkins), DC Comics’ adaptation of Aquaman coming in 2018 (7/27/18), and two different adaptations of The Little Mermaid that are in various stages of development. Bryan Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment partner Ron Howard also made the news this week, as he is now attached to direct a science fiction novel adaptation called Seveneves, about the fate of humanity some five thousand years in the future.
We are still several months from the release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, but this week we already heard about another magician-turned-superhero, Mandrake the Magician. The character is most famous as a comic strip character who first appeared in 1934, and whose adventures have been adapted for radio, serial films, television, and TV animation (as one of the stars of the 1986-1987 series Defenders of the Earth alongside Flash Gordon and The Phantom). The idea of a Mandrake the Magician movie has been kicking around Hollywood for many years now (like three other films about 1930s heroes, namely Buck Rogers, Doc Savage, and Flash Gordon). This week, we learned that it might actually happen, with the news that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno) is now attached to star. The project doesn’t yet have a screenwriter, but Get Hard director Etan Cohen is attached to the project. We’re calling Mandrake the Magician one of the week’s (borderline) “Rotten Ideas” due to the 29 percent Tomatometer score for Get Hard. Another factor is the perceived low audience demand for the movie (are people really that excited about a Mandrake the Magician movie… in 2016?).
Just after last week’s Ketchup went live, some fairly major news started to trickle out about the fifth Transformers movie, Transformers: The Last Knight (6/23/17). Since then, it has been confirmed that Sir Anthony Hopkins has joined the cast, though we don’t know yet what sort of character he might be playing. One idea that is floating around out there is that Anthony Hopkins might be taking over the role of Unicron, voiced by Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie, but that’s completely unconfirmed at this point. This is something of a huge “get” for the Transformers franchise, due to Hopkins’ reputation as an actor, and one could argue that Hopkins needs Transformers (or any huge blockbuster project like it), because his latest movie, Misconduct, earned a rather amazing distinction: Variety reported this week that upon its UK release, Misconduct earned a box office of just $141 (not millions, or thousands… just $141).
For people who follow box office trivia closely, Mel Gibson’s 2004 Biblical epic The Passion of the Christ is something of a groundbreaking anomaly. For one thing, it was an R-rated religious epic filmed entirely in languages other than English. Gibson’s film also was released far before the many other Christian films that became something of a box office phenomenon in recent years (Heaven is for Real, Miracles from Heaven, etc). So, perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising that screenwriter Randall Wallace (Braveheart) revealed he is writing a sequel to The Passion of the Christ for Mel Gibson to direct. The sequel is expected to focus on Christ’s resurrection and the days before and after Christ’s ascension. Although The Passion of the Christ was a $370 million global box office blockbuster, the film also earned a Rotten Tomatometer score of just 49 percent.
For many fans of DC Comics, one of their most anticipated feature film projects may have been Guillermo Del Toro’s much-reported idea of uniting various DC supernatural characters as a reaction to Justice League, variously known as either Dark Universe, or Justice League Dark. Del Toro’s film would have featured such characters as John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, and Etrigan the Demon. This week, we learned that Justice League Dark is indeed going to “happen,” but it’s… not going to be a theatrically-released feature film, or even live action. Instead, Warner Bros Animation is reportedly now working on producing Justice League Dark as one of their upcoming direct-to-video animated films. In the category of “animated feature films,” DC and Warner Bros have long had much more success than Marvel, which stopped producing their movies in 2011, with Thor: Tales of Asgard. We’re calling this the Rotten Idea of the Week, because Justice League Dark had been one of those potential DC Comics adaptations that might have helped define the new DC Cinematic Universe, along with such non-Justice League movie concepts as Shazam!, Lobo, and Booster Gold (all three of which have been talked about in recent months). Having said that, we do appreciate the silver lining that we will at least get a Justice League Dark animated movie.