Weekly Ketchup

Robert Downey Jr. Will Revive Doctor Doolittle, and More Movie News

Robert Redford and Casey Affleck join a crime thriller; Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis join a comedy; Brie Larson, Michael Shannon, and Chris Evans land new roles; and Amy Schumer ain't Barbie no more.

by | March 24, 2017 | Comments

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 Barbie, Han Solo, and Deadpool 2, as well as new roles for former (and future) Marvel Studios stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, and Robert Redford.


This WEEK’S TOP STORY

ROBERT DOWNEY JR TO TALK TO ANIMALS IN DOCTOR DOLITTLE REBOOT

Walt Disney Pictures continued to expand their “live-action remake” franchise into a money-manufacturing enterprise with last week’s Beauty and the Beast, which, as of this writing, has made nearly half a billion dollars globally in just one week. However, Disney isn’t the only studio with popular films that could be rebooted for the early 21st century. Consider, for example, the tale of Doctor Dolittle, a veterinarian with the ability to talk to his animal patients. Before the 1990s, the most famous adaptation of Doctor Dolittle was almost certainly the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison, but in 1998, Eddie Murphy starred in a remake that led to four more sequels (mostly direct-to-video). That said, we learned this week that Robert Downey Jr. is now attached to star in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, based on the character who first appeared in a series of 1920s children’s books by author Hugh Lofting. Stephen Gaghan, who won an Academy Award for writing Traffic (and was also nominated for Syriana), is now working on adapting Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle adventures for Downey. It’s worth noting that Downey’s involvement with this talking animal movie comes after years of development on another fantasy/kids remake, Pinocchio (in which he would have played Gepetto), which in some versions (like Disney’s) also features talking animals.  The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle was the subject of a hotly competitive auction this week which was eventually won by Universal Pictures.


Fresh Developments

1. ROBERT REDFORD TO BE THE OLD MAN AND A GUN (COSTARRING CASEY AFFLECK)

Fox Searchlight is now finishing deals to distribute a formerly independent crime drama called The Old Man and the Gun, and its developing cast is all kinds of impressive. Robert Redford will play the title character, a lifelong bank robber who has escaped from prison 18 times, including a daring escape from San Quentin at the age of 70, and continues to pull off a series of heists. Recent Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck will play a detective trying to catch him, and Sissy Spacek will play Redford’s romantic interest. The cast will also include Danny Glover, Elisabeth Moss, Tom Waits, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Southside with You star Tika Sumpter. The Old Man and the Gun will be directed by David Lowery, who recently directed Disney’s remake of Pete’s Dragon (which co-starred Redford) after an indie career that included 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (which starred Affleck). Lowery is also developing Disney’s live action remake of their classic version of Peter Pan.


2. BRIE LARSON TO STAR IN VICTORIA WOODHULL BIOPIC ABOUT THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Thought the United States has yet to elect a woman into the White House, 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of the death of the first woman to run for the office. That historical distinction goes to Victoria Woodhull, who was a suffragette who ran for U.S. president in 1872 as the Equal Rights Party candidate. (Woodhull was also a stockbroker, a newspaper editor, and a “magnetic healer”, so her backstory is equally impressive). If Victoria Woodhull remains a historical obscurity to most, that may change within the next year or two, because a major Hollywood star (Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel) is now attached to star in a Victoria Woodhull biopic. That actress is Academy Award-winner Brie Larson, and the studio in question is Amazon Studios, which is coming off several Academy Award wins with last year’s Manchester by the Sea. Ben Kopit, who will make his directorial debut with Victoria Woodhullalso wrote the upcoming Johnny Depp project The Libertine (which bizarrely shares its title with another Johnny Depp film from 2004).


3. KATE MCKINNON AND MILA KUNIS BOND TOGETHER FOR THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME

Last summer’s comedy Bad Moms was a mid-range box office hit ($113 million off a $20 million budget in the USA alone), so the relatively new studio STX Entertainment is very much looking to create a new franchise off of its premise. STX has already scheduled a direct sequel, A Bad Moms Christmas, for this November 3rd (2017), and a male-centric spinoff Bad Dads is also in early development (for release in maybe 2018 or 2019?). This week, however, we learned of another film which will feature two of the actresses who appeared together in Bad Moms. Kate McKinnon (of Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters) and Mila Kunis (of That 70s Show and Black Swan) are both now signed to star in a comedy called The Spy Who Dumped Me. Lionsgate will distribute The Spy Who Dumped Me, which is about two friends who go off on a crazy adventure involving espionage and high intrigue after one of them discovers that her ex-boyfriend was actually a spy (as the title suggests, obviously). The Spy Who Dumped Me will be the feature film directorial debut of Susanna Fogel, who previously worked on TV shows like Chasing Life and Life Partners. In other SNL (alumni) news, Kristen Wiig is also now in talks to costar in Richard Linklater’s next film, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, playing Cate Blanchett’s neighbor.


4. MICHAEL SHANNON IS TOP CHOICE TO PLAY CABLE IN DEADPOOL SEQUEL

20th Century Fox is now just a couple of months away from filming the Deadpool sequel (starting this summer in Vancouver), but we still don’t know who will be playing Deadpool’s frequent partner, Cable, the future warrior (and son of Cyclops). Over the last year, we’ve heard more than a few names from various sources, including Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler, and Avatar villain Stephen Lang (that one came directly from Lang himself). Recently, there was a story about Stranger Things costar David Harbour (he played the police chief) being considered, after Michael Shannon had dropped out. Well, this week, that news flipped around again, as Michael Shannon (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Man of Steel‘s General Zod) is now Fox’s top choice for Cable, with David Harbour their number two pick. Hopefully, Fox will make an official decision soon, and this months-long Cable search will finally come to an end. In other Michael Shannon news, the actor is now attached to star in an indie drama called What They Had, playing the brother of a character played by Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby). Filming starts next week in Chicago, so Shannon would have plenty of time after filming of Deadpool wraps up, probably by May.


5. CHRIS EVANS TO STAR IN ETHIOPIAN REFUGEE DRAMA RED SEA DIVING RESORT

One of the modern political stories that remain (to this writer’s knowledge) relatively ignored in film is the diaspora of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Today, there are some 125,000 people of Ethiopian descent living in Israel, but some of them only arrived there (it appears) through the efforts of Mossad, including Operation Moses, a covert evacuation of Ethiopians from Sudan in 1984. This week, a movie about that effort called Red Sea Diving Resort made the news twice for different casting announcements. Chris Evans (Marvel’s Captain America) has signed to star in Red Sea Diving Resort as Mossad operative Ari Kidron, “an agent who puts together a team that took over a deserted resort in Sudan as they began their multiyear mission.” Haley Bennett, who costarred last year in The Girl on the Train and the remake of The Magnificent Seven, is also in talks for a role, and Red Sea Diving Resort will be directed by Gideon Raff, who previously wrote episodes of Homeland and Prisoners of War (which he also created).


6. SONY ADDS BLACK CAT & SILVER SABLE MOVIE TO ITS NON-MCU MARVEL PLANS

Sony Pictures made rather big news last week with their plans for a Venom movie which will not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (ie, not connected to their first MCU movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming). We don’t know yet who is starring or directing, but the film is now scheduled for release on October 5, 2018. This Venom movie is a continuation of a development process at Sony that dates back several years to the studio’s long-standing plans for its own Spider-Man cinematic universe. Another movie that we heard about during that period was a “female Spider-Man spinoff” that might have been a Black Cat or a Silver Sable movie, depending upon the source. Well, this week, that movie was officially announced, and although it doesn’t yet have a title, it appears to be on a fast track at Sony Pictures. Screenwriter Christopher Yost, who has previously worked on Thor: The Dark World and  TV’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Wolverine and the X-Men, is rewriting Sony’s Black Cat/Silver Sable project based on a previous script by Lisa Joy, one of the co-creators of HBO’s Westworld. There is no release date yet for the project, but with Sony interested in fast tracking it, we might see it as early as sometime in 2019. As for who Black Cat and Silver Sable are, this article is a good start. Which actresses do you think would be good choices to star as Sony’s Black Cat and Silver Sable? (Note: Rogue One star Felicity Jones played a character named Felicia Hardy, AKA Black Cat, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.)


7. JAKE GYLLENHAAL AND HIS LIFE DIRECTOR REUNITE FOR THE ANARCHISTS VS ISIS

This weekend’s new science fiction thriller Life (which is, by the way, decidedly not a Venom prequel) was the second film that director Daniel Espinosa made with Ryan Reynolds, following his 2012 debut, Safe House. This week, we learned that Espinosa’s next film will be another reunion project, this time with another actor from Life. Jake Gyllenhaal will star in The Anarchists vs ISIS, Espinosa’s adaptation of a recent article in Rolling Stone that tells the true story of independent American fighters who travel to Syria to fight ISIS/ISIL alongside Kurdish forces. The Anarchists vs ISIS will be Gyllenhaal’s second movie about war in the Middle East, following his 2005 film Jarhead about Marines fighting in the Persian Gulf War (AKA Operation Desert Shield). Daniel Espinosa’s Tomatometer (as a director) is currently half Fresh (Snabba Cash, Life) and half Rotten (Safe House, Child 44), making this news story a borderline Fresh Development.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK

2. AMY SCHUMER DROPS OUT OF THE LIVE-ACTION BARBIE MOVIE

Last December, we designated the news that Amy Schumer was going to star in the live-action Barbie movie as the week’s Top Story. The premise was reportedly going to be that Schumer would play a character who was kicked out of “Barbieland” (and into the “real world”) for not being perfect enough. We use the past tense here because Amy Schumer has officially dropped out of Barbie, reportedly because of scheduling issues (Barbie is/was scheduled to start filming in June). Instead, Schumer has signed to star in an independent dramedy called She Came to Me, in which she will co-star alongside Steve Carell and Nicole Kidman. Rebecca Miller (Maggie’s Plan) will direct from her own screenplay about two love stories set in the competitive worlds of both modern opera and the tugboating industry (yes, really). As of this writing, Sony Pictures remains committed to releasing Barbie next summer on June 29, 2018, as Mattel has reportedly already put “merchandise and product cycles in motion.” Having said that, Barbie never did announce a director, so now Sony has to find both a director and a new star. We’re calling this a Rotten Idea because, come on, a Barbie movie should not be this difficult to produce in 2017. We also hope that Amy Schumer’s departure from Barbie doesn’t have anything to do with the mean things people have been saying on Twitter.


1. DISNEY CEO REVEALS HAN SOLO ISN’T ACTUALLY NAMED HAN SOLO

In 1997, George Lucas and Lucasfilm re-released the original Star Wars trilogy in “Special Edition” versions, adding or changing dozens of scenes and/or special effects. If you ask the average Star Wars fan which one alteration they know or remember best, the most common answer is likely to be the “Greedo shot first” scene. This week, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed something about the Han Solo prequel which is arguably as big of a change: his name isn’t even “Han Solo.” Speaking to Variety, Iger was quoted as saying, “You’ll also discover how he got his name.” The implication, therefore, is that “Han Solo” is not Han Solo’s actual name, and that he either had a different name before or didn’t have a name at all. This story wasn’t necessarily widely reported, but fans on Twitter definitely picked up on it. The prequel (which doesn’t have an official title yet, but might be Han Solo: A Star Wars Story) is scheduled for release on May 18th, 2018, with Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover playing the young Han Solo (or whatever his name is, I guess) and Lando Calrissian, respectively. What do you think Han Solo‘s “real” name should be? And do you think it will reveal a familial connection to other characters in the Star Wars canon (Skywalker, Palpatine, Fett, Yoda, Greedo, etc.)?  Sound off below!

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