This Week’s Ketchup brings you seven headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Methuselah Man, Moonfall, Popeye, and Scarface.
As with movies like A Star is Born and The Magnificent Seven, the fan-favorite drug lord drama Scarface (Certified Fresh at 81%) was itself a remake of a 1932 mobster movie starring Paul Muni. So when Hollywood starts talking about remaking (or rebooting) a movie like Scarface, they’re really talking about remaking a remake. Universal Pictures has been trying to do just that with Scarface for several years now, including periods in when the setting might have shifted to take place within a Mexican or African-American crime world. We can now report that the latest director attached to Universal’s Scarface is Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, Certified Fresh at 95%), who most recently directed another remake, Suspiria (Fresh at 65%), and who’s also developing a remake of Lord of the Flies. It’s unclear what Guadagnino’s plans for Scarface are, exactly, except that the film will focus on an “immigrant story” and be set in Los Angeles, and that he’ll be working off a screenplay recently rewritten by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Although Australian director George Miller has been directing feature films for over 30 years (since the first Mad Max in 1979), his most recent film, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road (Certified Fresh at 97%) was such an impressive breakthrough that, for the five years since, he’s left the world wondering what he’ll do next. We’ve known for a while now that his next film will be an epic romance called Three Thousand Years of Longing, and that Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are attached to star. That film appeared to finally get close to a greenlight this week with the news that MGM has come aboard to distribute the project, which will be filmed on location in Australia, London, and Istanbul. As for the Fury Road prequel called Furiosa, this week Miller addressed his decision to cast the role with a younger actress instead of 44-year-old Charlize Theron, stating his concern that de-aging CGI hasn’t yet escaped the “uncanny valley” and citing last year’s The Irishman as an example of that. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Emma., The New Mutants) has been mentioned as a possible Furiosa star, but no official casting announcement has been made yet.
A recurring theme in this week’s news is that the directors of various 2019 movies are lining up their next films to be produced “some time” in the near future after the current COVID-19 crisis is somewhat alleviated. One of those directors is Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting), who last year gave us the Beatles-themed musical movie Yesterday (Fresh at 63%). Boyle’s new project this week is the long-in-development Methuselah Man, which in some way tells the story of a man who is over 900 years old (like the Biblical character). At one point, Tom Cruise was going to star in Methuselah Man, but the part now will be played by Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther). Danny Boyle’s frequent screenwriting partner Simon Beaufoy is expected to rewrite the script, although it’s still unknown what the premise exactly is. Whatever it is, Warner Bros. reportedly sees it as potentially the first film of a new franchise. Michael B. Jordan’s next film is expected to be the Tom Clancy adaptation Without Remorse, which is working its way through post-production as people work on it remotely.
Just last week, we reported that Cate Blanchett was the first acting talent to sign on for the video game adaptation Borderlands, even as her ambitious mini-series Mrs. America continues to air its final episodes on FX this month. Blanchett looks to stay busy, though, as she became attached to two more projects this week. Let’s start with Armageddon Times, which will be the next film from director James Gray, whose most recent film was last year’s Ad Astra (Certified Fresh at 84%). Armageddon Time was reportedly inspired by Gray’s time at the prestigious Kew-Forest School, where Fred Trump served on the school board, and which his son Donald Trump also attended. Cate Blanchett’s role in Armageddon Time hasn’t been confirmed yet. The other movie Blanchett signed on for this week is a Netflix sci-fi satire called Don’t Look Up with director Adam McKay (Vice, The Big Short, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). Jennifer Lawrence will also co-star in the comedy about a team of astronomers on a media tour trying to warn the world that Earth is about to be hit by a world-destroying asteroid. We also don’t really know what Blanchett’s role Don’t Look Up will be.
Russian-born animator and director Genndy Tartakovsky made the transition to feature films in 2012 with the first Hotel Transylvania after already achieving success on TV with shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, and Samurai Jack. It was also in 2012 that Tartakovsky came on board a Sony Pictures Animation adaptation of the long-running cartoon character Popeye (the Sailor Man). That led to test footage debuting online in 2014, but then Sony Pictures pulled the plug on the project in 2015, and it seemed like Tartakovsky’s Popeye would never see the light of day. In a surprising (and rare) twist, the rights have reverted back from Sony to King Features, which has now greenlit the Popeye feature film, with Genndy Tartakovsky back on board to deliver his original vision from nearly 10 years ago. Sony Pictures is currently working on a Hotel Transylvania 4, but Tartakovsky won’t be directing that one.
The 2009 prison drama A Prophet (Certified Fresh at 97%) was France’s Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, in addition to earning dozens of other distinctions. An English language remake has been in development since 2016, at which point Sam Raimi was considering directing (he later dropped out). The remake is still going strong, however, under the new title American Son, with Russell Crowe now attached to star as a ruthless mobster who becomes a mentor for another prisoner who goes on to build his own syndicate. In the original film, control of the French prison was divided between Algerians and Corsicans, but that will obviously be changed for this remake directed by Andrew “Rapman” Onwubolu, whose directorial debut Blue Story was only recently released to widespread critical acclaim. Russell Crowe also made the news this week because his indie thriller Unhinged is now scheduled (7/1/2020) to be the first movie in theaters when they start reopening (if they reopen).
Although the two stars of actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, were relative newcomers (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein), Wilde’s second film is going to feature some bigger stars. We learned a few weeks ago that Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women) would be starring in Wilde’s Don’t Worry, Darling, with supporting roles going to Shia Labeouf, Chris Pine, and Wilde herself. This week, we can add Dakota Johnson, who is currently in talks for a role in the New Line Cinema psychological thriller. The details are being kept secret, except that the setting is an “isolated, utopian community” in the California desert of the 1950s (which makes this writer think of all sorts of scenarios, from The Stepford Wives to The Village to the Fallout video game franchise).
Decades before the rock star biopic came back in a big way with Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, relative newcomer Gary Busey starred in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story (Fresh at 100%) as the doomed early rock-and-roller, for which Busey earned an Best Actor Academy Award nomination. A year later, Kurt Russell starred in the Elvis mini-series, and now, the two rock stars are again likely receiving movies within a year or two of each other (in this case, the “other” is Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley project starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks). Director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeopardy) is now attached to direct a Buddy Holly biopic called Clear Lake, which will reportedly focus on Holly’s musical ties with African American stars of his day like Little Anthony & the Imperials, Lavern Baker, and the recently late Little Richard. Clear Lake refers to the Iowa town near the site of the airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.
Hollywood has a long tradition of making movies and TV shows about “body swapping,” in which two characters take over each other’s bodies (a la Freaky Friday). The Switch is the title of a new movie (based on an upcoming novel of the same title) that basically takes that concept and imagines it as a real life experiment between a 29-year-old woman and her 79-year-old grandmother, who decide to live each other’s lives for two months. The granddaughter will be played by Rachel Brosnahan, the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning star of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which was recently renewed for its fourth season. The Switch is being produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners (Bridge of Spies, The Post), but the film does not yet have a director attached (Spielberg is extremely unlikely to direct, given his busy schedule).
Following the release of last year’s Midway, frequent disaster movie director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow) is now preparing to direct a movie called Moonfall. As the title suggests, Moonfall is an Armageddon-style action movie about a ragtag team brought together to rocket out to stop the Moon from crashing into the Earth. This week, Josh Gad became the first star to join what will be an ensemble cast as a character described as “odd and unkempt in a way that suggests a high level of intelligence and an equally high level of disorganization. He is a genius who correctly predicts that the moon has fallen out of its orbit, thus making the space-obsessed, profoundly unfiltered and eccentric man one of the most important people on Earth.” Gad will also soon appear in Artemis Fowl, which will debut on Disney+ on June 12, 2020.