This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering new titles such as Beetlejuice 2, Free Guy 2, and Kraven the Hunter.
(Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images, Everett Collection)
At 75, Steven Spielberg is closer to the finale of his filmography than the beginning, and his recent films seem to be ticking off dream projects from his bucket list: Ready Player One (paying homage to the 1980s), West Side Story (his first musical), and The Fabelmans (due on 11/23/2022, a fictional adaptation of his own youth). Two of Spielberg’s earliest films, Duel (Certified Fresh at 88%) and his feature film debut The Sugarland Express (Certified Fresh at 85%) were both car chase movies, but it’s a genre Spielberg hasn’t really touched as director since the 1970s. That may soon change, as he is now developing an untitled original film featuring the character of Frank Bullitt as portrayed by Steve McQueen in the groundbreaking San Francisco cop movie Bullitt (Certified Fresh at 98%), which is famous for its big car chase sequence. Whatever the Bullitt project ends up being titled, Spielberg will both direct and produce it for Warner Bros. and has enlisted screenwriter Josh Singer (First Man, co-writer of Spielberg’s The Post) to adapt the screenplay. Singer’s upcoming films also include Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, about conductor Leonard Bernstein. The Bullitt project is not expected to be Steven Spielberg’s next film as director, but it’s not yet known what will (whether it’s one of his many long-in-development projects or something new).
(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©20th Century Studios)
Speaking of Steven Spielberg, we’re still a few weeks away from the 94th Academy Awards, for which Spielberg’s update of West Side Story (Certified Fresh at 92%) received seven nominations, including Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress for Ariana DeBose as Anita (the role that won Rita Moreno her Oscar for the original 1961 West Side Story). When agents and managers are really doing their job well, such achievements often lead to new projects in the build-up to the Oscars, and that’s exactly what happened for Ariana DeBose this week. Sony Pictures has cast DeBose as the Marvel Comics “voodoo priestess” Calypso in Kraven the Hunter (1/13/2023), based on the long-running Spider-Man comic book villain. Debose is the fourth announced cast member of Kraven the Hunter, following Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Kraven himself (double dipping on Marvel characters after Avengers: Age of Ultron), Russell Crowe, and Fred Hechinger, reportedly as Spider-Man’s very first comic book supervillain, the Chameleon. First introduced in 1980, Calypso eventually became a romantic partner for Kraven the Hunter in the comics, including adapting elements of Kraven’s costume as part of hers. Kraven the Hunter is being directed for Sony Pictures by J.C. Chandor (All is Lost, A Most Violent Year). Ariana DeBose will also soon be seen in the star-studded spy thriller Argylle alongside Henry Cavill, John Cena, Bryce Dallas Howard, Samuel L. Jackson, and many others. Later in the week, Alessandro Nivola (The Many Saints of Newark) also joined the Kraven cast as “the film’s villain” (a curious label in a film filled with comic book villains).
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
Even before this week, Christopher Nolan’s (currently quite timely) atomic bomb biopic Oppenheimer (7/21/2023) already had a massive ensemble cast led by Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer and including Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh as his romantic interests. Other already announced Oppenheimer co-stars include Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Kenneth Branagh, Dane DeHaan, Josh Hartnett, Rami Malek, Matthew Modine, Jack Quaid, and Benny Safdie. But wait, this week brought six more, mostly in unknown roles. Let’s start with David Dastmalcian, who had a great 2021 playing both the Polka-Dot Man in The Suicide Squad and Piter De Vries in Dune. Another addition this week was Jason Clarke, whom fans might remember from Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and whose announcement came within minutes of Louise Lombard, who is probably best known for the After films (After We Fell, After We Collided). Two more actors who were revealed together were James D’Ancy (Jarvis from Marvel’s Agent Carter) and Michael Angarano from NBC’s This is Us. Finally, on Friday, just before this column went out, the sixth actor announced was indie actor David Rysdahl, who starred in the recent direct-to-Hulu thriller No Exit.
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Longtime movie fans who regularly follow movie development news will be familiar with film projects that take years to get made (and even more that never happened at all). Of all the films currently in development, only a few come anywhere close to the long road of a project called Megalopolis that director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocolypse Now) first started writing in the 1980s (to put that in perspective, that’s roughly around the time Coppola was making The Outsiders and The Cotton Club). Megalopolis, an ambitious drama about an equally ambitious utopian city construction project, has been mentioned here and again throughout the last 30+ years, but it sounds like it might finally happen. Coppola, now 82 years old, announced this week that he is committed to spending $120 million of his own money to get Megalopolis finally produced. Coppola confirmed that he has Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, and Forest Whitaker all attached to star in Megalopolis, along with others yet to be announced. Jon Voight, who was at the event, also disclosed that he is one of the actors in negotiations for Megalopolis.
(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)
It may not have been in development quite as long as Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, but a sequel to Tim Burton’s 1988 supernatural comedy Beetlejuice (Certified Fresh at 85%) looks like it could happen. Back in the 1990s, there were reports that Burton had considered making a sequel called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, which suggests the ghost played by Michael Keaton might have relocated for a tropical vacation. There is no indication if anything like that is still being considered, but this week, Beetlejuice 2 got a new supporter from an unexpected source, as Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company is now developing the sequel for Warner Bros. It is unknown if Tim Burton will be returning to direct or produce the sequel, and likewise, the return of key cast members like Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Geena Davis, and Alec Baldwin have not been announced, so it’s unknown which of those characters, if any, might be in the sequel.
(Photo by ©20th Century Studios)
The acquisition in 2019 of the film and TV properties of the former 20th Century Fox essentially separated them from other “Fox” properties into new brands like 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Not all projects that the studio had been developing were immediately obvious matches for Disney+, so some of them went elsewhere (mostly Hulu, which is also majority-owned by Disney). This week, 20th Century Studios president Steve Asbell was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter, and the conversation included Asbell’s plans for the studio. Asbell confirmed 20th Century Studios will produce about 10 films a year, but the majority of those will debut on Hulu, as Asbell said that the years 2023 and 2024 will have “two or three theatrical movies a year.” That suggests fewer than 10 theatrical films (including 2022) before 2025, but Asbell did discuss three major projects that all seem likely to be theatrical. One of the projects, which is expected to start filming this fall is a new Planet of the Apes, although it remains unclear if this will be a direct sequel to the most recent War for the Planet of the Apes (Certified Fresh at 94%), a prequel, or a complete reboot. Asbell also confirmed that a screenplay for a sequel to last year’s Free Guy (Certified Fresh at 80%) is also currently being written. Finally, Asbell also confirmed that a third Agatha Christie movie starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot also has been written. Branagh recently talked about his desire to see Hercule Poirot have a crossover with Agatha Christie’s other famous detective, Miss Marple, so that might be a clue about what film might be next (Agatha Christie frequently wrote crossovers between her many detectives).
(Photo by The Roku Channel)
In any given week, related movies just seem to happen concurrently, and this week, it happened to Madonna, who will appear as a character in two different biopics in the near future. Let’s start with the musical biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which appears to be a spoof of the genre, if the original trailer from 8 years ago (from the same director) is any indication. In that trailer, Madonna (then portrayed by Olivia Wilde) was depicted as having a relationship in the 1980s with “Weird Al” Yankovic, and it seems that same story might be in the new movie, as the second official photo released by The Roku Channel shows Evan Rachel Wood in character as Madonna. Other new cast members revealed this week include Julianne Nicholson (as Al’s mom), Toby Huss as his dad, and Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento (taking over the role played by Patton Oswalt in the original spoof trailer). Concurrently, Universal Pictures is reportedly engaged in an exhaustive search for the star of their Madonna biopic, in a process which reportedly tasks candidates with showing off their singing and dancing abilities in audition sessions that can sometimes last up to 11 hours a day. The process is still ongoing, but actresses who are reportedly still in the running include Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow), Julia Garner (Netflix’s Ozark), Alexa Demie (HBO’s Euphoria), Odessa Young (of the recent TV remake of Stephen King’s The Stand), and Emma Laird (Mayor of Kingstown).
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Famed escape artist Harry Houdini remains a popular character to appear in various TV and movies, but there hasn’t been a proper Hollywood biopic about him in the modern era, despite the idea occasionally being discussed for at least the last 10 years. As we near Houdini’s 150th birthday in 2024, it appears his long-in-development biopic might finally be nearing production, as it has a new home at Paramount Pictures under the auspice of producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, whose many credits for the studio include the G.I. Joe and Transformers franchises. The Harry Houdini biopic screenplay is reportedly currently being worked on by the writing team of Neil Widener and Gavin James, who made the news just last week because they are also working on the Beyblade movie (because, obviously, when you think of Harry Houdini, you think Beyblade).
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
The last few years have seen a fair number of musicians and pop stars signing on to make their acting debuts in feature films (we’re thinking here of examples like Fantasia, and Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza (Certified Fresh at 91%). (Harry Styles joining the MCU could be another example, but his debut was actually in Dunkirk.) We can now add rapper Jack Harlow to the field, as he has been cast as one of the two leads in the upcoming remake of the 1992 basketball comedy White Men Can’t Jump (Certified Fresh at 77%). Basically, Jack Harlow is taking on the character originally played by Woody Harrelson, and the Wesley Snipes character’s new actor isn’t known yet. The White Men Can’t Jump remake will be helmed by the director known as Calmatic, whose next film will be another remake, specifically of the 1990s comedy House Party (Fresh at 93%).