Few industries enjoy taking really, really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood. So when we get to this time of the year, there’s really not much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. This is especially true in a weekly column which normally includes 10 different stories. So instead, this week and next, we’re going to review 12 of the year’s top stories, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review begins with the “Fresh Developments” which here also serve (mostly) as the “Top Stories” of the year. Our retrospective begins with (a few) of the year’s biggest stories, which were…
We’re only a week out from the opening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and already we can look back and see that 2016 was dominated by news of the next such Star Wars anthology film. That movie will be a prequel about the young Han Solo, and it will be directed by the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are coming off a string of hits that included 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie. The film doesn’t have a title yet, but we’ll call it Han Solo: A Star Wars Story for the sake of consistency. Anyway, there were three major casting announcements for the movie this year. The most obvious one was Han Solo himself, and after much reportage about other candidates, we first heard in April that the frontrunner was Alden Ehrenreich, the breakout star from the Coen Bros’ Hail, Caesar!, and that rumor was confirmed two weeks later. The next major role to be cast also came to us in two stages, and it concerned “worst best friend” Lando Calrissian. We first heard in August that Community star Donald Glover was the top contender, and Glover was indeed officially confirmed two months later. The issue of the film’s female lead was also percolating during that time, when the character was speculated to be Sana Starros, the woman from recent Star Wars comics who claimed to be Han Solo’s first wife. In October, three actresses (among others) were reported to have tested for the role: Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class), Naomi Scott (Power Rangers), and Tessa Thompson (Creed). A month later, we learned that the actress that actually landed what is presumably something of a big deal was Emilia Clarke, AKA Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm have scheduled the Han Solo prequel for May 25, 2018, which also happens to be the 35th anniversary of the release of Return of the Jedi (5/25/83).
If you’re a fan of director Christopher Nolan, you’ve probably already seen one of the trailers for next summer’s Dunkirk, but just a year ago, we didn’t even know that movie existed yet. In early January, most of the news either involved Star Wars: The Force Awakens or the obligatory annual wrap-up pieces. That left a big hole for someone of an appropriate stature to make an announcement that would ensure people would be talking about it. This year, that acclaimed personage was director Christopher Nolan, whose future had been a big question mark following the late 2014 release of Interstellar. Warner Bros had already announced a July 21, 2017 release date for Nolan’s next film, but on December 28th of 2015, news of the project finally started to break. Christopher Nolan’s next film as director was to be called Dunkirk, and it would be a World War II action adventure movie about the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk, during which British, Belgian, and French forces attempted to rescue and evacuate over 300,000 troops who were surrounded by German forces in the French city of Dunkirk. We now know the cast includes Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and One Direction alumnus Harry Styles, with composer Hans Zimmer handling the soundtrack. Dunkirk is scheduled to hit theaters on July 21, 2017 (up against the comedy Girl Trip and Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).
On February 12th, Deadpool had been in theatrical release for less than 24 hours, but box office reports were already coming in indicating that the R-rated superhero movie was breaking records. Deadpool was also a critical success, with a Certified Fresh score of 84 percent. All of that added up to validation for star Ryan Reynolds and screenwriters/producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who have been championing exactly this sort of Deadpool movie for over ten years now. To their credit, 20th Century Fox quickly set all three to work on a sequel, which would involve the character Cable (that is, if you stayed for the Ferris Bueller homage after the credits). Cable is also the frequent leader of the X-Force team, and Reynolds had already talked about his interest in seeing Deadpool being joined by X-Force on the big screen. Some of the other X-Force members who have yet to appear prominently in movies include Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown/Boom-Boom, Shatterstar, Wolfsbane, and X-23. And indeed, in October, we began hearing about possible actresses to play Domino in the Deadpool sequel, including Lizzy Caplan and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Soon after, the surprising news broke that Deadpool director Tim Miller had dropped out of directing the sequel (Miller eventually signed on to direct the Sonic the Hedgehog movie instead). The Deadpool sequel will instead be directed by David Leitch, one half of the team behind John Wick. As for X-Force, we eventually learned that the full team will debut in the third Deadpool movie, not the second.
When the news broke in 2014 that Harrison Ford had broken his leg while filming his role as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seemed reasonable to assume he might choose not to commit to that sort of action role again. In March, however, we learned that the actor would indeed be returning as the iconic character who is arguably Ford’s most action-driven. Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures announced a July 19, 2019 release date for the fifth Indiana Jones movie, to be directed once again by Steven Spielberg. This will likely be Spielberg’s third upcoming film, after Ready Player One (3/30/18) and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (date TBA). That release date also coincidentally happens to be just 6 days after what will be Harrison Ford’s 77th birthday, on July 13, 2019. We don’t know yet what form the fifth Indiana Jones movie will take, although based on Ford’s age and Indiana Jones’ fictional birth year (1899), the movie could be set during the “disco age” of the 1970s. We also learned in March that this fifth Indiana Jones will once again be written by David Koepp, who infamously gave the world the scene where Indy avoids a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator (real life spoiler: that wouldn’t work). In the past, Indiana Jones has had adventures involving the Ark of the Covenant, a death cult, the Holy Grail, and aliens. What do you think is next for Indy?
In the comics, Black Widow was actually the 15th member to join The Avengers (in between #14 Black Knight and #16 Mantis), but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite different from the comics. After a successful debut in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was one of the original team members when The Avengers premiered in 2012, right up there with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk. (In the comics, the female co-founder of the Avengers was the Wasp; indeed, she was the character who gave the team its name.) Johansson has now appeared in five Marvel movies as the character, but she had yet to receive her own solo movie. In May of this year, however, during the Captain America: Civil War press tour, there were two interesting quotes that suggested the Black Widow movie was finally closer to happening. Marvel Studios currently has nine movies scheduled from now until the end of 2019, but what’s in the works for 2020 and beyond? Presented with that question, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige came right out and said what many fans have been asking for. Responding to a list that included Falcon, Hawkeye, and War Machine, Feige said, “Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned, I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow.” Feige also clarified that discussions were “ongoing,” so Marvel was not yet ready to confirm Black Widow, but… they’re working on it. (The other big female Marvel Studios news this year was the casting of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in June.)
The seven narrative feature films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson have given us several memorable scenes (including monologues from Boogie Nights and Magnolia), but the most iconic might be from his 2007 oil prospecting drama There Will Be Blood. Even those who haven’t seen the film might know “I drink your milkshake!” or remember this Saturday Night Live sketch. There Will Be Blood was also noteworthy because it was one of only three movies Daniel Day-Lewis has starred in over the last ten years (along with Nine and Lincoln). For his first film since Lincoln in 2012, Daniel Day-Lewis will be reuniting with director Paul Thomas Anderson, starring in a (currently still untitled) drama set in the fashion industry of New York City in the 1950s. There were a lot of changes in fashion during that time, but other than than the setting of New York City, no mention has been made about specific fashion trends.
Most of the attention on future Steven Spielberg movies has this year been focused on his adaptation of Ready Player One. However, Spielberg rarely works on just one movie at any given time, and right now, in addition to the Indiana Jones sequel mentioned above, he’s got another adaptation in the works: the bestselling non-fiction book The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David Kertzer. That book relays the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child born in Italy who, after being seized by the Catholic Church in the mid-19th century, converted to Catholicism and became a priest. The central figure on the church side of the controversy will be Pope Pius IX, who will be played by Mark Rylance, marking his fourth Spielberg film in a row (after Bridge of Spies, The BFG, and Ready Player One). Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina) joined the cast back in July, but it’s still unknown (for sure) what role he’ll be playing. However, since he’s referred to by some sources as “the lead,” the obvious answer would be Edgardo Mortara himself. The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara is expected to start filming in early 2017, while Ready Player One is scheduled for release on March 30, 2018, so the earliest possible release window for the former is probably late 2018, AKA “awards season.”
If you follow film development news regularly, you’re probably used to this old familiar ditty: a troubled production gets dragged through the Internet wringer for months, and then it’s released, and it’s both ravaged by critics and ignored by audiences (Fantastic Four, for example). Every once in a (long) while, however, a movie will buck expectations and do well on both fronts. The 2013 zombie apocalypse thriller World War Z is a prime example, performing much better than pre-release predictions suggested. Paramount quickly started development on a sequel, but quite similar to the struggles of the first film, things have not gone smoothly. Paramount had penciled in a release date of June 9, 2017 (up against Tom Cruise’s reboot of The Mummy), but earlier this year, director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) dropped out of directing, and the June date was ditched in the process. In addition to starring in the World War Z movies, Brad Pitt also produces them, and in August, we learned that the director that Pitt wanted to recruit for the sequel was David Fincher, the acclaimed director of films like Zodiac, Gone Girl, and The Social Network who has previously worked with Pitt on three movies: Seven, Fight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fincher is also currently looking for his next project, after failing to get a remake of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea off the ground. As of now, we still have not heard for sure that Fincher will be directing the World War Z sequel, but we also haven’t heard of anyone else landing the job, so keep your fingers crossed.
Ever since it became pretty obvious that Walt Disney Pictures was dedicated to remaking most of their back catalog (before say, 1996), there have been a few very obvious “big titles” that remained unannounced or unconfirmed. We’re at the point now where it’s far easier to list films that Disney is not yet developing remakes of than to specifically list them all. The most popular such film (certainly in box office, being the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time) is 1994’s The Lion King. One obvious difficulty in developing a “live action” remake of The Lion King would be the question of whether a film entirely about animals could make that transition. Earlier this year, though, Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book seemed to answer that question, as it remains in the top 5 box office hits of the year to date. Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed The Jungle Book for Disney, and in Septmeber we learned that the studio has enlisted Favreau to direct their remake of The Lion King as well. Many sources are using the phrase “live action” about this film, but as this article points out, that’s highly unlikely. Instead, as with The Jungle Book, the animal characters will be CGI characters (albeit, very well animated), especially considering The Lion King has no human characters (like Mowgli). Jon Favreau and Walt Disney Pictures are also working on a sequel to The Jungle Book, but there is not yet a release date for that film (or The Lion King, for that matter).
Most of us never see both, but there are actually two (or arguably, multiple) Internets: one is the widely public Internet, and then there are the networks known as “Darknets,” which are mostly used by criminals or other nefarious forces (terrorists, racist groups, hackers, etc). One such network was the Silk Road, a platform for the sale of illegal drugs. If all of this sounds like great material for an intriguing movie, you’re not alone: renowned screenwriters and directors Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Hail, Caesar!) have signed on with 20th Century Fox to adapt the true story of the Silk Road black market network. The film will be called Dark Web, and it will be based on the two part story in Wired which you can read right here. It’s not known at this point whether the Coens will also direct Dark Web (they don’t always, as they did not direct Bridge of Spies, Unbroken, or the upcoming Suburbicon).
Johnny Depp is known for many types of films, but if there’s one general theme to Depp’s oeuvre, it’s that he specializes in playing wacky characters in movies with at least some separation from reality. In early November, with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them just two weeks away, we first discovered that Depp had a small role in that film, and would have a lead role in the next one as well (release date: 11/16/18). Although Johnny Depp will “star” in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 (or whatever it ends up being called), that doesn’t mean that he will be completely replacing Eddie Redmayne, who will be reprising his role as Newt Scamander. Director David Yates (who also directed the last four Harry Potter movies) will also be returning for the second movie (and possibly all four sequels, stretching out until 2022). Of course, everyone who saw the first movie now knows that Johnny Depp’s role is Gellert Grindlewald, who looks to have probably the second most significant role (so far) in this new spinoff franchise. On a related note, while the sexuality of Professor Albus Dumbledore was never explicitly addressed, anyone who was following the Harry Potter franchise while those movies were being made probably heard J.K. Rowling state in 2007, “Dumbledore is gay.” Specifically, Rowling said that Dumbledore fell in love with his rival wizard, Gellert Grindlewald (AKA Depp’s Fantastic Beasts character). We mention all of this because last month, J.K. Rowling seemed to hint that the younger Dumbledore might be more openly gay than any character we’ve seen in the Harry Potter movies. That statement came a few days after it was reported that casting is currently underway for the young Albus Dumbledore, to appear in the second Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released on November 16, 2018.
The funny thing about Hollywood studios basing their development decisions on pop culture phenomena is that sometimes, these events turn out to be relatively short-lived. In July of this year, it seemed like Pokemon Go would stand the test of time, but that was before Niantic and Nintendo failed to keep the momentum going (by, say, making the game about more than just catching Pokemon). But at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Pokemon Go was still very much the big, big thing. While DC and Marvel both had big panels this year, neither made any big announcements, and Legendary Entertainment — the company behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Godzilla, and Warcraft — jumped at the opportunity to make one of their own. After Warcraft tanked, Legendary was on the hunt for another video game franchise, and they found it just as Pokemon Go was gripping the world. Legendary announced that they are partnering with The Pokémon Company to produce the first-ever live action Pokemon movie, an adaptation of the character Detective Pikachu. Rather than focusing on Ash, Team Rocket, or other Pokemon hunters, this movie will adapt the eponymous 2016 Nintendo 3DS game about a Pikachu who dons a Sherlock Holmes-style deerstalker cap, carries a magnifying glass, and solves mysteries, like a little yellow Encyclopedia Brown. Although they’re calling this movie “live action,” Detective Pikachu will almost certainly be a CGI character. Legendary Entertainment is putting Detective Pikachu on the fast track, aiming to start filming in 2017. To that end, earlier this month, Legendary hired director Rob Letterman to work on the film. Although he hit a speed bump with the Jack Black comedy Gulliver’s Travels in 2010, reteaming with Black again last year for Goosebumps led to something of a surprise success. The Detective Pikachu screenplay is being worked on by Alex Hirsch (TV’s Gravity Falls) and Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy).