Today’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Red Sonja, Suicide Squad 2, and the future of the Star Wars franchise.
It was just last week that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy teased the post-Episode IX future of the Star Wars franchise (with spoilers). Possibly aware that these sorts of secrets stay secret only very briefly in today’s social media world, StarWars.com made a huge announcement this week. The revelation involves director Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick, The Brothers Bloom), whose first Star Wars movie is next month’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. An emphasis should be put on first, because the big news is that Johnson is creating a new Star Wars trilogy which will launch after J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX (12/20/19). Rian Johnson will write and produce this new trilogy and direct the first entry. The new trilogy is still mostly shrouded in mystery, except that, “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.” That last part touches upon a common complaint about the “Star Wars story” movies (Rogue One and the upcoming Solo), which is that they don’t expand the Star Wars universe enough. In related news, Disney has revived plans for a live action Star Wars TV series which is now planned to launch on their upcoming streaming app before the end of 2019.
As of this writing, the talks appear to be more “off again”, but this week, Marvel fans (in particular) were sent into a swoon with the news that Disney had had talks about possibly buying and/or merging with 21st Century Fox. If such a deal were to happen, it would probably focus on the film divisions (for various reasons), and would extend Disney’s reach beyond family fare to include such franchises as Alien, Avatar, and Planet of the Apes, and working relationships with several major directors. The biggest change such a deal would mean is that some of Marvel’s most popular characters, like X-Men, Wolverine, Deadpool, Silver Surfer, and Fantastic Four (and villains like Doctor Doom, Galactus, and Kang) could be united with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Avengers, etc). One character fans immediately speculated this news might affect greatly was Deadpool, who at Fox is allowed to be spectacularly R-rated. (In related news, Deadpool 2 was promoted this week by a new poster and a special issue of Good Housekeeping).
It’s not uncommon for an actor to sport transformative makeup to portray an older character, but it does make one wonder why the producers don’t just cast someone who’s actually, you know, the right age. That was definitely a thought this writer had watching the first trailer for All the Money in the World, in which Kevin Spacey (58 years old) was to play J. Paul Getty, who was 81 when his grandson was kidnapped in 1973. Following the continuing accusations against Spacey, Sony Pictures was left with a major awards season contender that became nearly unreleasable. In response, director Ridley Scott has gone with his original choice, 87-year-old Christopher Plummer, who has already started reshoots of the approximately 10 minutes the J. Paul Getty Sr. role has in the film. Sony is sticking with the December 22, 2017 release date. Coincidentally, Getty’s kidnapped grandson is played by Charlie Plummer (no relation).
Sandra Bullock’s last film as actress, Our Brand is Crisis, came out over two years ago, but Bullock is now in the midst of a new wave of activity. She’s already wrapped filming of the spinoff Ocean’s Eight (6/8/18), and is about to start filming the post-apocalyptic drama Bird Box for Danish director Susanne Bier. Now, Bullock has joined a true story drama called Let Her Speak, in which she will star as Texas senator Wendy Davis. On June 25, 2013, Senator Davis filibustered for 11 hours to block Senate Bill 5, which included “more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas and would have closed all abortion clinics in the state.” Let Her Speak does not yet have a director attached, and the package (the script and Bullock’s involvement) will next be shopped to various studios. Sandra Bullock is a former resident of Austin, Texas.
It was just last week that the Weekly Ketchup reported that Julianne Moore will star in My Life on the Road, based on the life story of famed feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Just after that article debuted, news broke about casting for a separate Gloria Steinem biopic, creating a “duelling movies” situation where separate films with the same concept compete against each other. Carey Mulligan will star as Gloria Steinem in An Uncivil War for director Dee Rees, whose Mudbound opens next week. In the past, duelling biopics have included Prefontaine and Without Limits (both about runner Steve Prefontaine); and Capote and Infamous (about Truman Capote and In Cold Blood).
After years of development, Warner Bros. subsidiary New Line Cinema finally announced that Zachary Levi will star as superhero Shazam! (and that Mark Strong will play the film’s villain, Doctor Sivana). Shazam! is sort of an unusual case because the title character is a young boy who transforms into an adult superhero, so he has to be played by two different actors. Levi will portray the hero, and we now know that his younger counterpart, Billy Batson (variably portrayed as either a pre-teen or a teenager), will be played by 15-year-old Asher Angel (of TV’s Andi Mack). Filming of Shazam! is scheduled to start in early 2018 under the direction of David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation), and it’s expected to be released sometime in 2019.
Author W. Bruce Cameron scored something of a licensing home run with his very first book, 2001’s 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter: And Other Tips from a Beleaguered Father (Not That Any of Them Work), which was adapted by ABC into a sitcom (and probably would have lasted longer than three seasons if not for the death of original star John Ritter). Most of Cameron’s books since then, however, have involved dogs, starting with 2010’s A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans, which itself was adapted this year into a poorly reviewed movie with something of a troublesome release. Cameron’s most recent novel is called A Dog’s Way Home, and it too is now being adapted by Sony as a faith-based movie. Ashley Judd, Edward James-Olmos (Battlestar Galactica), and Alexandra Shipp (Storm from X-Men: Apocalypse) are all attached to co-star for director Charles Martin Smith (Air Bud, Dolphin Tale). A Dog’s Way Home is Judd’s first new film since the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
The movie rights to some of Marvel Comics’ most popular titles from the 1970s are a bit complicated, because Marvel was heavy into licensing deals during that time (read Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story for more on that). Obviously, titles like Godzilla, Star Wars, and Conan the Barbarian always resided outside Marvel, but characters created for those comics vary (Marvel’s Machine Man, for example, was created for the 2001: A Space Odyssey comic). The chainmail bikini-wearing warrior Red Sonja was created for Conan the Barbarian and quickly became one of Marvel’s most popular 1970s comics, but Marvel didn’t retain any film or TV rights. Brigitte Nielsen starred in a 1985 Red Sonja film (Rotten at 15% on the Tomatometer), but later attempts at a Red Sonja movie (like the one starring Rose McGowan) never came to fruition. That may soon change, as Millennium Media (of the 2011 Conan the Barbarian, which is Rotten at 24% and, incidentally, co-stars McGowan) has restarted development on a new Red Sonja movie.
As we head into the tail end of the year, studios continue to wring their hands over box office numbers (see: this widely shared piece about Blade Runner 2049). Any would-be franchise obviously can be stalled by box office disappointment (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, for example, might be the last epic movie too). Universal’s The Mummy (Rotten at just 16% on the Tomatometer), however, was specifically intended to launch an entire “cinematic universe” for Universal (a la Marvel) called Dark Universe. Well, with the departure of the masterminds of that plan, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, this week, it now appears Dark Universe may never come to be (at least not as planned). This comes just a month after Universal delayed production on Bride of Frankenstein and cancelled the film’s 2/14/19 release date. It’s still possible that some of the reboots might happen, such as The Invisible Man, Van Helsing, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but they may no longer be interconnected.
Until relatively recently, Warner Bros. planned for Shazam! to feature the debut of Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero Black Adam (leading up to his own solo movie). Then, when we learned Zachary Levi was cast as Shazam! and Mark Strong would play the film’s villain, Doctor Sivana, it was also confirmed that Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam would not appear in Shazam! after all. This week, multiple sources told The Wrap that the new plan involves Suicide Squad 2, which is expected to start filming next October after Shazam! The reported premise of Suicide Squad 2 involves the team being “tasked with tracking down a weapon of mass destruction,” with that weapon being Black Adam himself. Suicide Squad 2 will be directed by Gavin O’Connor, who is coming off the The Accountant (Rotten at 52%), and of course, Suicide Squad itself only earned a 26% on the Tomatometer.