This week’s Ketchup brings another ten hot headlines from the film industry’s development cycle, representing the last seven days. Included in the mix this time around are stories about such films as The Dark Tower, Justice League Dark, Top Gun 2, the various Fast and Furious and Star Wars future movies, and… a remake of Memento?
As the media juggernaut that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues to near its release (on 12/18/15), Wired published a story that posed an intriguing question. As Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures commits to a movie-a-year schedule with no end in sight, is Star Wars a “forever franchise?” That appears to be what producer Kathleen Kennedy is committed to seeing implemented in the years and decades to come. As Adam Rogers of Wired put it, “If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise.” Star Wars is obviously not the only popular film franchise, as the superhero cinematic universes of both Marvel and DC Comics are popular box office draws. What separates Star Wars however, is that unlike any other extended film franchise, it continues to exist in the same universe that was first created in 1977. In contrast, Batman will soon be in his third cinematic “universe” within the last 20 years (the 1989-1997 franchise, the three Nolan films, and next, Ben Affleck’s version). Over at Marvel, although Marvel Studios’ is having success with their “MCU,” some of their characters remain at 20th Century Fox, fracturing Marvel’s cinematic identity in a way that has never happened with Star Wars. Past Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm’s future plans include the prequel Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12/16/16), Star Wars Episode VIII (title likely to change) (5/26/17), a similar prequel for Han Solo (5/25/18), Star Wars Episode IX (2019), and possible future solo films for Boba Fett, Yoda, and maybe even characters we haven’t even met yet.
As you could guess by the title, this year’s Furious 7 was the sixth sequel to The Fast and the Furious, and it’s been known for a while that Universal Pictures has plans for at least another three sequels. (Trivia: The first film was originally to be called Racer X, which is worth remembering as Fast and the Furious movie “X” gets closer). However, as Vin Diesel revealed this week to Variety, there are plans for far more movies featuring Fast and the Furious characters. Specifically, there are tentative plans for both spinoffs and prequels involving the various characters we’ve met in the movies. Vin Diesel said to Variety, “We’ve written out story lines for various characters,” and, “We’ve been playing with it for a long time. It’s a very rich property and we’re committed to treating it with a lot of class.” Although Vin Diesel did not specify which characters will someday get their own spinoff films, there was talk a few years ago that Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs might someday receive just such a movie.
If you’re one of those people who regularly follows film development news, and have been doing so for a while, you might recall an animated project from a few years ago called Me and My Shadow. The movie first made the news in 2010 as a DreamWorks Animation project that would combine CG and traditional animation in its telling of “Shadow Stan, an incredibly frustrated shadow that yearns for a more dynamic life but happens to be stuck with Stanley Grubb, the world’s most boring human.” In 2010, Me and My Shadow was expected to be released in March of 2013, but obviously, that never happened. Now, a few years later, Me and My Shadow appears to have been given a new chance at actually being released, and it’s via one of online fandom’s most popular directors. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), who is currently filming his next film, Baby Driver, is now attached to make his feature film debut as an animation director with Me and My Shadow. It’s not yet known if the film will still be a traditional/CGI hybrid, or how far away the film might be from release (but a good guess is that it will be a while yet).
When major news breaks, different sources are obviously going to cover the same story, but sometimes the details of the stories differ between them. Take, for example, the reports this week about the continuing notion that Matthew McConaughey is wanted to star in a highly-anticipated Stephen King adaptation. Previously, there had been stories that McConaughey was wanted for the role of Randall Flagg in Warner Bros’ The Stand. This week, a similar story broke about Sony Pictures wanting McConaughey to play the villain Walter Padick in The Dark Tower. (Where this can get confusing is that both Padick and Randall Flagg are the same character by different names in different novels.) That story came from Variety, but as The Wrap is reporting the news, it’s that Matthew McConaughey is wanted for The Dark Tower as either Padick or the film’s hero, the gunslinger Roland Deschain. What’s clear in any case is that Matthew McConaughey remains a popular casting choice for all sorts of high profile films. For example, there was the story a few weeks ago that Matthew McConaughey had turned down the villain role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
Emma Stone has signed to star in the drama Love May Fail, based upon a novel by author Matthew Quick, the author behind Silver Linings Playbook. Love May Fail is based at TriStar, a division of Sony Pictures, where Emma Stone has frequently worked on such films as Superbad, Zombieland, and the two Amazing Spider-Man movies. Stone will play a woman coming off of a failed marriage who returns to her hometown to help clear the name of her favorite English teacher, who has become embroiled in “a classroom scandal.” Love May Fail doesn’t have a director yet, but the script was adapted by Mike White (Orange County, School of Rock).
It’s not always obvious whether films with thematic connections are covered in the news around the same time for a reason, or if it’s all just a big coincidence. Two examples of that this week are the stories about separate films which are both “next projects” for two of the central figures behind this year’s Sundance hit, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. First off, let’s discuss the film that M&E&TDG director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is in talks to direct next. That film is called A Foreigner, and Oscar Isaac is in talks with Paramount Pictures to star in it. Isaac would star in this true story of a “a murdered Guatemalan man who has videos of his killers distributed after his death in order to uproot the corruption that led to the death of many others.” You can read more about that story in the original piece as published by The New Yorker. Jesse Andrews, who wrote the book and screenplay of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, is also in the news this week, because he is now set to make his own directorial debut. That film is called Empress of Serenity, and comedian/actor Bill Hader is already attached to star. Loosely based on a story by David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again), the drama will tell the story of a father and son who take an ocean cruise together, on which they attempt to bond over “intimacy issues.” Hader will play the adult son, and an older actor will play his father.
(Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images)
Joaquin Phoenix and his brother-in-law Casey Affleck (who’s married to Joaquin’s sister) made quite the splash in 2010 with the pseudo-documentary-by-way-of-celebrity-performance-art I’m Still Here (which Affleck directed). Now, Phoenix and Affleck are preparing to reunite again in the same capacities, but on a film that is much more traditional. Casey Affleck will direct Joaquin Phoenix in the western Far Bright Star, adapted from the 2009 novel by Robert Olmstead. Phoenix will play an “aging” cavalryman in 1916 who leads a group hunting down the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The story takes a dark turn when the group is ambushed, and Phoenix’s character is left to struggle for survival in the desert. Casey Affleck received a 53 percent Rotten score for I’m Still Here, but the scores for Joaquin Phoenix’s dramatic roles (and how unusual that film was) are enough to still keep this story within the “Fresh Developments” category.
As of this writing, only one film in Warner Bros’ new DC Comics universe has been released (2013’s Man of Steel), with two more wrapped and scheduled for 2016 (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad), and Wonder Woman currently filming for release on June 23, 2017. This week, most of the online attention turned towards another DC Comics super team movie which is rumored to start filming in 2016 for a possible 2018 release date. That movie is called Justice League Dark, and was previously a possible directorial project for Guillermo Del Toro (his script is reportedly still being used). In just one week, we have seen rumors about possible actors for all of the team members and the film’s villain. The first of three such stories suggested that Warner Bros might want Colin Farrell to play John Constantine (AKA Hellblazer), Ewan McGregor as Jason Blood (AKA Etrigan the Demon), Ron Perlman behind the motion-capture of the new Swamp Thing, and Monica Belluci as the sorceress Madame Xanadu. That was followed by a story suggesting that Warner Bros might want Ben Mendelsohn to play the film’s villain, Anton Arcane (who was previously the villain in the first 1980s Swamp Thing movie). Finally, there was also a story this week that the top contenders for the Justice League Dark director job might be either Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez, or the directing duo behind 2014’s Big Bad Wolves, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. With so many Justice League Dark stories happening unofficially this week, hopefully, we will soon hear some officially confirmed casting or director news.
Big news stories don’t happen happen like this every week, but occasionally, social media shows off how it has changed the way we receive entertainment news. Usually, as with this story, it’s because an actor or director makes an announcement that might have happened outside the normal publicity channels. (As in, the publicist for the actor or production sends out a story to news sources, or gives a particular one an exclusive story). Nope, instead of all that, Val Kilmer took to his confirmed Facebook account this week to break some big news. Kilmer posted, “I just got offered #topgun2 – not often you get to say “yes” without reading the script…” Val Kilmer went on to give other examples that he would say yes to, script unseen (like working with Gene Hackman or Francis Coppola). What wasn’t specified is whether Val Kilmer will be returning in Top Gun 2 as “Iceman,” but some of his comments to his post seemed to suggest that is exactly what’s happening. Previous reports about Top Gun 2 have suggested that the sequel’s premise may involve drone pilots, and how those pilots are different today than the fighter pilots of the 1980s. Top Gun director Tony Scott committed suicide on August 19, 2012, and the director of the sequel has not yet been announced.
A popular approach to the idea of film remakes is that it’s an approach best taken for films that were flawed the first time around, which suggests that “perfect” films would never have a reason to get the remake treatment. So, when film fans hear about a favorite film in development as a remake or a reboot (or a re-whatever), they are quickly and vocally unhappy. Such was the case this week with the announcement that a new production company called AMBI Pictures has acquired the rights to several independent films, including Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film, Memento, which they plan to remake. Guy Pearce starred in Memento as a man with only very limited memory of his past, so that he has tattooed himself with information and clues, as he drifts through an existence where he is extremely open to manipulation and deception by those around him. Here’s how AMBI’s Andrea Iervolino addressed their plans to remake Memento, “[which] has been consistently ranked as one of the best films of its decade. People who’ve seen Memento 10 times still feel they need to see it one more time. This is a quality we feel really supports and justifies a remake. The bar is set high thanks to the brilliance or [sic] Christopher Nolan, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.” So, the question gets asked once again: Is it worth trying to remake what so many consider a perfect film?