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 Doc Savage, Tomb Raider, and The Divergent Series: Ascendant.
In the four movies thus far released in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, there have been several interesting casting coups. The one that people seem to talk about the most, however, was the choice in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End to cast rock guitarist Keith Richards as the father of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. (Partly because Johnny Depp had reportedly based Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards). The fifth film in the franchise will be next year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which Disney has scheduled for May 26, 2017, and started filming in Australia last year. This week, we learned that Disney and directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) have decided to resume filming to introduce a new character. That character will be played by Paul McCartney, whose nature hasn’t been revealed yet, except that he will be the center of an “extra big set piece.” The most obvious significance of Paul McCartney joining Pirates of the Caribbean is that he brings The Beatles to a franchise that already had one of the Rolling Stones. Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Orlando Bloom are all returning for this fifth film, and they will be joined by new characters played by Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, and David Wenham.
Emma Stone’s next film (the musical La La Land, 12/16/16) is still over eight months away from release, but this week, we heard news about two of the movies that she will be working on for 2017 (or beyond). One was a project we’ve already known about for a while, but the new film is called Letters from Rosemary. As the title suggests, Emma Stone will star as Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest sister of President John F. Kennedy, who received a lobotomy at the age of 23 as treatment for “behavioral problems.” The lobotomy left Kennedy mentally disabled, eventually inspiring her sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver to launch the organization we now know as the Special Olympics. Letters from Rosemary will be produced by Anonymous Content, the same company that recently had a Best Picture win with Spotlight. Anonymous Content is currently seeking a director for Letters from Rosemary, with filming possibly to start in late 2016 or in 2017. The other “true story” movie that Emma Stone is attached to star in, which also made the news this week, is the comedy Battle of the Sexes. That film will tell the story of the 1973 tennis exhibition match between Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) and Billie Jean King (Emma Stone). Stone and Carell were joined this week, in turn, by Elizabeth Shue, Andrea Riseborough, Austen Stowell (Bridge of Spies), and Sarah Silverman. Battle of the Sexes will be distributed by Fox Searchlight, and directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Ruby Sparks, Little Miss Sunshine).
Even as another company is preparing to turn Battle of the Sexes into a movie, another infamous sporting clash is also now in development. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street) is already attached to star as disgraced Olympic skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Tonya Harding was a figure skating champion and Olympic competitor who became a media sensation in 1994 when she was implicated in an assault on a fellow Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. The role of Nancy Kerrigan hasn’t yet been cast, nor has the role of the two men who plotted and carried out the baton attack on Kerrigan’s thigh above the knee cap. There’s no director yet for I, Tonya, but Margot Robbie is reportedly actively involved as one of the film’s producers in the search for one.
Like many directors whose career are on an upswing, Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) can be currently seen as having three main movies on his plate. There’s the movie that’s coming out in a few months (The Nice Guys, 5/20/16), there’s the next film after that (The Predator, 3/2/18), and then there’s the movie that might be third. In Shane Black’s case, as much as he’s long been talking about returning to Predator (which he actually costarred in as “Rick Hawkins”), Black has also been working for years on Doc Savage. What we haven’t known is which actor Shane Black might recruit to be his Doc Savage, but this week we learned that Black hopes to cast Dwayne Johnson. Much like characters like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and John Carter of Mars, Doc Savage was an influential “pulp fiction” character whose popularity was at its highest in the years before and during World War II. Doc Savage is the quintessential Renaissance Man, being accomplished both physically and mentally, and he was also surrounded by a group of associates who joined him on his globetrotting adventures. The influence of Doc Savage can be seen throughout the last 70 years, including DC Comics’ Batman, the Adult Swim cartoon Venture Brothers, and the 1984 cult classic film The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension. Doc Savage himself, however, has only been adapted to the big screen once, in 1975. Dwayne Johnson already has a lot on his potential screen platter, but it sounds like the earliest that Doc Savage could start filming is sometime in 2018, which gives Johnson plenty of time for other projects, such as the video game adaptation Rampage, the DC Comics film Shazam, and the San Andreas sequel, Ring of Fire.
One of the top entries in last year’s “Black List of Unproduced Screenplays” was Bubbles, telling the story of Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, circa 1984… from the first person narrative of the chimp himself. This week, we learned exactly how that screenplay will be realized, and it will be from producer Dan Harmon, best known as the creator of the TV series, Community. Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries will produce Bubbles in much the same style as they recently produced the animated film Anomalisa, written and codirected by Charlie Kaufman. Since Bubbles is not expected to be endorsed by anyone associated with Michael Jackson’s estate, the chances of the film using much of his music might be slim. But who knows what sort of music Bubbles the Chimp was into himself, anyway, right?
It’s been known for a few years now that Warner Bros and MGM are developing a reboot of the Tomb Raider film franchise, based on the popular adventure video games starring treasure hunter Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie in the first two films). What hasn’t been known for sure is what actress might be cast as the younger Lara Croft, to restart and reboot the franchise, post-Jolie. A few weeks ago, there was talk online that the list of actresses might include Daisy Ridley, who came to fame last year as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Well, this week, Daisy Ridley herself confirmed that she has indeed had negotiations about starring as the new Tomb Raider. As often happens with high profile casting negotiations, it is still unclear, however, if Ridley has actually been cast (yet) as the new Lara Croft. We know that because Ridley specifically said, “I’m waiting for someone to say, ‘I want you, let’s do it.'” Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) is currently attached to direct the Tomb Raider reboot, working from a screenplay by Evan Daugherty (cowriter of Divergent, Snow White and the Huntsman).
When one thinks of film production in the United States, the obvious locations that come to mind are California and New York City. It might take a little more reflection to come up with the state with the third most filming, which is currently Georgia. That’s thanks to such productions as AMC’s The Walking Dead and the various Marvel Studios that have filmed in the state in recent years (such as Guardians of the Galaxy). That status seemed to come into jeopardy this week, in reaction to a controversial bill currently on its way to the desk of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. Called a “religious freedom bill,” the legislation is perceived as permitting “unjust discrimination against gays and lesbians.” Hollywood’s reaction has been swift. Disney and Marvel threatened to “take their business elsewhere” if the bill is signed by Governor Deal. As of this writing, the other studios that have taken a stance against filming in Georgia because of this bill also include MGM, Sony, Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company, Time Warner, Universal Pictures, and 21st Century Fox. The MPAA also issued a statement that the association is “confident” that Governor Deal will not sign the bill into law.
There are so many remakes in development in Hollywood that one can forget about some of them, even if you’re an entertainment journalist that writes about them every week. One such project is the remake of the 1990s supernatural thriller, Jacob’s Ladder, about a Vietnam soldier (Tim Robbins) who experiences a series of hallucinations after returning home. This week, we learned about what form the remake is taking. The answer is that it will basically be a reunion for the 2015 thriller The Perfect Guy (which earned a Rotten score of just 20 percent), as it will be directed by David M. Rosenthal and will star Michael Ealy. The Jacob’s Ladder remake is scheduled to start filming in May, 2016, and LD Entertainment is expected to schedule the film for release sometime in 2017.
When it came time for the final Harry Potter movie to be filmed and release, Warner Bros made the (ultimately correct) decision to take the lengthy seventh book and split it into two movies. That worked in 2011 for WB, and so in 2012, Lionsgate did the same thing with the final Twilight Saga book, and in 2014/2015, repeated that strategy for the two Mockingjay films. Last weekend, however, came a result which can be seen as the argument against splitting a franchise novel in half. What happens when the first half (The Divergent Series: Allegiant in this case) opens to barely more than the opening weekend of the previous film ($29.1 million vs $54 million)? We found out the answer quickly this week, as Lionsgate is reportedly slashing the budget on the fourth film (and second half of the third book), The Divergent Series: Ascendant. We don’t know exactly what sort of numbers Lionsgate is cutting down to, but the budget on Allegiant was $110 million. The Divergent Series: Allegiant was also a critical flop, with 90 percent of Rotten Tomato scores voting against the film (10 percent Rotten, in other words). Lionsgate is sticking, however, with their target release date of June 9, 2017, which will put The Divergent Series: Ascendant up against Universal’s reboot of The Mummy and Paramount’s sequel World War Z 2.
In the weeks leading up to this weekend’s release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (currently 31 percent Rotten, as you may have heard via social media), there’s been a lot of talk from director Zack Snyder about what he might do, post-DC-Comics-adaptations. Snyder is currently working on directing the two halves of Justice League (Part One on 11/17/17, Part Two on 6/14/19). We’ve heard recently, however, that he is also considering adapting a remake of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and a 300-style movie about George Washington crossing the Delaware. Well, this week, in an interview with Collider, Zack Snyder seemed to give a better explanation of what exactly he has in mind. Basically, the question was about sequels to 300, and his reply was that he would like to apply that same filmmaking approach to other battles throughout history. Here’s the quote, specifically: “I think I mentioned that we talked about the Revolutionary War version, and we talked about the Alamo, and we’ve talked about there’s a battle in China, a ‘Lost Legion’ kind of concept, any of those kinds of things are on the table.” Although his first three films as director (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) all received Fresh scores, Zack Snyder now has had four Rotten scores in a row. The current 31 percent for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is 10 percent shy of the 41 percent earned by Batman Forever, and just 5 percent better than the 26 percent score of Superman III (the one with Richard Pryor). You can also browse through other films with 31 percent scores here.