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 The Flash, The Predator, Stan Lee, and The Toxic Avenger.
Pretty much every year, various box office lists come out with the top-grossing actors and actresses. Generally, people think they are talking about starring roles (and usually, they are), and a common #1 answer is Samuel L. Jackson (mostly because of his roles as Mace Windu and Nick Fury). More surprising, though, is that the #2 answer (and he’s barely #2) is Stan Lee, who has appeared in cameo roles in dozens of Marvel Comics adaptations, starting (not counting TV movies) with his role in 2000’s X-Men as “Hot Dog Vendor.” There has been a debate since the 1960s about exactly how much credit Lee deserves compared to his two main cocreators, Steve Ditko (Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Strange) and Jack Kirby (almost everything else). One edge that Lee gave Marvel over his Distinguished Competition (DC) is that he served as a public face for the comics in a way that DC never had. Eventually, Stan Lee will no longer be with us (he’s 93 now), but this week brought news that one of the studios that has benefited most from his cameos is working on paying him another cinematic homage. Twentieth Century Fox has acquired the film rights to Stan Lee’s life, although the project is not described as being a true biopic. Instead, the Stan Lee movie will be an “action movie” set in the 1970s, reportedly in the style of 007 actor Roger Moore and other “dapper heroes who quipped one-liners — and, in Moore’s case, flirted with the ladies — as they sparred with larger-than-life evildoers.” Stan Lee and his POW! Entertainment partner Gil Champion will executive produce the film, which will also be produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, the producers behind the Twilight and Maze Runner YA franchises. It is not yet known what sort of access this film will have to the Marvel Comics characters that Fox does not have the film rights to (Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, etc), or if the film will focus more on those that they do have: Fantastic Four and X-Men. No screenwriter has been hired yet to work on Fox’s Stan Lee yet, so it’s also possible that the eventual film may turn out quite differently.
The Predator sci-fi film franchise can be a little confusing, because not all of the later films necessarily acknowledged some of the previous films. The two most recent films (2007’s Aliens vs Predator – Requiem and 2010’s Predators) were also relative box office disappointments, especially when the earlier films are adjusted for inflation. Possibly for both of those reasons, 20th Century Fox has been developing a fresh reboot for a while now, to be directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) from a script by Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps). (Quick trivia: Shane Black also costarred as Hawkins in the original Predator in 1987.) The original Predator was set in a jungle in Central America as U.S. commandos are stalked by an alien hunter, but we don’t know yet how closely the reboot will follow that film’s premise. What we do know now, however, is that apparently one of the leads will be a Benicio del Toro-type, because, well, Benicio del Toro is in talks to star in The Predator. Del Toro is also signed to costar in Star Wars Episode VIII (scheduled for December 15, 2017). 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Predator for release on February 9, 2018.
Although Tom Hanks is now sort of synonymous with movies based on true stories (such as last week’s Sully), Hanks actually appeared in over twenty movies before his first such film, 1995’s Apollo 13. A few years later, he starred in Saving Private Ryan, which would begin his association with World War II, leading to his co-producing Band of Brothers and The Pacific, both for HBO. (Incidentally, Hanks and Steven Spielberg are also developing a third HBO miniseries called Masters of the Air, focusing on bomber crews over Nazi Germany.) Tom Hanks’ dedication to telling World War II stories appears set to continue on the big screen as well, with the news this week that he has written a WWII-set screenplay called Greyhound. Hanks’ Playtone Pictures is producing, and he has an eye toward starring in this film about a “career officer given command of a Navy destroyer… who has to deal with combat enemies and his own self doubts.” This film (like Saving Private Ryan) appears not to be a completely “true story,” as there was no Naval destroyer during World War II called Greyhound. Aaron Schneider (2009’s Get Low) is attached to direct.
The movie has only been in theaters for one week, but Sully already appears to be one of the fall season’s early (relative) hits, having opened to $35 million (which was double digits above some predictions). It was also only one year ago that the near-future astronaut drama The Martian was a much bigger box office hit in the autumn of 2015. Hollywood is very much in the business of trying to read tea leaves (and box office numbers) to try to predict what similar films might be future successes. So, if one combines the true story of Sully with the (fictional, obviously) astronaut “endurance” story of The Martian, there are only so many possible film ideas that could be adapted. One of them is the true story of astronaut Scott Kelly, whose upcoming book Endurance: My Year in Space has been picked up in auction by Sony Pictures. In addition to sharing a year-long special mission on the International Space Station with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, Scott Kelly has an identical twin brother Mark Kelly, himself also a former astronaut. So, whichever actor eventually stars in Endurance will probably play both Mark and Scott. Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (who herself has a harrowing true story) is also Scott Kelly’s sister-in-law, and is serving as a consultant on this film adaptation. If you’re looking forward to reading Endurance: My Year in Space, you have a bit of a wait in front of you, as Knopf won’t publish it until November, 2017.
The argument can be made that Troma’s ultra-low-budget 1984 superhero spoof The Toxic Avenger was way, way ahead of its time, mocking Marvel superheroes like The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man before either of those characters had themselves been adapted to the big screen. The idea of reviving The Toxic Avenger has been kicking around in development news circles for a few years now, but this week brought the project to its next logical step towards production. With Sausage Party on its way to crossing the $100 million box office mark (currently at $94 million), that film’s codirector, Conrad Vernon, has signed on to direct the remake of The Toxic Avenger. Like Sausage Party, the original The Toxic Avenger is very much an R-rated comedy, setting the model for Troma’s over-the-top gore and gross-out prop humor. Like the previous films, this remake of The Toxic Avenger will tell the story of a “New Jersey teenager whose accidental tumble into a vat of toxic waste turns him into a mutant superhero.” In addition to Sausage Party, director Conrad Vernon has also worked on DreamWorks’ Shrek 2, Monsters vs Aliens, and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, all of which received Fresh Tomatometer scores (as did the Certified Fresh Sausage Party).
Now aged 83, exiled director Roman Polanski continues to work in Europe, three years after his most recent film, 2013’s Venus in Furs. Polanski’s next film will be called Based on a True Story (the international title is D’Apres Une Histoire Vraie), although it is indeed a fictional film. Based on a True Story will be a psychological thriller about a writer played by Emmanuelle Seigner “whose life and mind are endangered by an obsessive woman,” to be played by Eva Green, who appears to be returning to more of a focus on feature films after the recent cancellation of her Showtime drama Penny Dreadful after three seasons. Green will soon be seen as the title character in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when it reaches theaters on September 30, 2016.
As producer and showrunner Greg Berlanti put together The Flash for the CW in 2014, he was very careful to connect the show to the original 1990s The Flash TV series (as well as the CW’s Arrow). The most obvious connection between the two shows was the casting of John Wesley Shipp (the star of the 1990s show) as Barry Allen’s incarcerated father Dr. Harry Allen. This move also helped to establish the CW’s The Flash as being very much a “family drama,” in addition to being a superhero one. As Warner Bros continues development of their new DC Extended Universe with The Flash (3/16/18), there are a few pieces that they seem to be borrowing from the CW, even if they’re sticking with Ezra Miller over Grant Gustin. One of those was the choice to keep Iris West as an African American character (she’s traditionally Caucasian in the comics), to be played by Kiersey Clemons, who previously worked with director Rick Famuyiwa on Dope. And as you can gather, it looks like Famuyiwa’s The Flash will be using Barry Allen’s father as a central character. Billy Crudup, who previously worked with WB and DC on their adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen (as Dr. Manhattan), is now in talks to join The Flash as Barry Allen’s father. Warner Bros is still keeping the premise of The Flash “under wraps,” so it’s possible that other characters from the CW show might also be incorporated in the March 16th, 2018 movie version.
Earlier this year, NBCUniversal announced its acqusition of DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, which will add to Universal’s upcoming animation production slate through Illumination Entertainment (Sing, The Secret Life of Pets). DreamWorks Animation will continue to work on the films they had committed to 20th Century Fox through the year 2018, which will include the upcoming films Trolls (11/4/16), The Boss Baby (3/31/17), Captain Underpants (6/2/17), Larrikins (2/16/18), and How to Train Your Dragon 3 (5/18/18). After 2018, however, 20th Century Fox will have to expand its own animation efforts to replace the films that DreamWorks currently produces. That, at least, is what Fox Animation appears to be doing, with the news just this week alone of two new projects being put into development. The first such new animated project this week is an adaptation of the Zita the Spacegirl trilogy of children’s books by Ben Hatke. Variety describes the Zita the Spacegirl books as being about the title character as “she leaps to the rescue when her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult — taking on humanoid chickens, ancient prophecies, doomed planets, and a mystery man who takes a secret interest in her quests along the way.” It’s not yet known if the first Zita the Spacegirl movie will adapt all three books, or only the first book’s story. Fox Animation is also now developing an adaptation of the Jennifer Weiner children’s book The Littlest Bigfoot. That book was just published this week, with a sequel called Little Bigfoot, Big City, scheduled for publication in November of 2017. The Littlest Bigfoot tells the story of two girls, one human, the other a “Bigfoot,” who become friends. Jennifer Weiner’s book In Her Shoes was previously adapted as the movie starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine.
The amount of time it takes for movies to make their way through development means that producers sometimes engage in what is known as “duelling movies,” in which the same basic concept is developed as separate movies, competing with each other to see which can be finished first, and with the most success. This year, for example, there was Zootopia and then The Secret Life of Pets; and also The Jungle Book followed by The Legend of Tarzan. We’ve known for a while now that Steven Spielberg is planning on making his next two films the sci-fi adventure Ready Player One (currently filming for 3/30/18) and the drama The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. The latter will be an adaptation of the true story, set in the 1850s and 1860s, of a young Jewish boy raised by the Catholic Church “under the protection” of Pope Pius IX (and who grows up to himself to become a Catholic priest). At one point, Steven Spielberg and producer Harvey Weinstein reportedly were considering working together on the film, but this week, the news broke that The Weinstein Company is moving forward with its own adaptation of the Edgardo Mortara story. Since Spielberg hasn’t started filming his movie yet, that means the earliest his film could likely be released would be late 2018, giving Weinstein’s film enough time to itself be filmed and possibly be released before Spielberg’s. Balthasar Kormakur (Everest, The Deep) is now in talks to direct, with Robert De Niro being eyed for playing Pope Pius IX (who will be played by Mark Rylance in Spielberg’s version). We’re calling this one of the week’s “Rotten Ideas,” because this particular play feels a little like gamesmanship on the part of The Weinstein Company, right?
Next week sees the release of the remake of The Magnificent Seven (which was itself a remake of The Seven Samurai), starring Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington. Some box office pundits are already predicting that the remake will be one of the biggest pre-Thanksgiving hits, so apparently, other producers are looking at other westerns that could be remade as well. But when it comes to remaking classic films, how classic is too classic? For example, when the Ben-Hur remake was released last month, audiences did not turn out for a new version (and neither did critics). Consider, for example, the 1952 Gary Cooper film High Noon (about a marshal awaiting the arrival of a group of killers he has little chance of surviving), which regularly appears on “greatest” lists (sometimes as the greatest western of all time). Well, as you can gather from all of this, someone in Hollywood is indeed now developing a remake of High Noon, with the setting being changed to a modern day town near the Texas/Mexico border. The production company behind these plans for a High Noon remake is Relativity Studios, which earlier this year emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings. Relativity’s first film since bankruptcy was last week’s The Disappointments Room, which was not only a box office “disappointment,” but also the rare film to earn a Tomatometer goose-egg of 0%.