Today’s Ketchup brings you ten headlines from the world of film development news, covering titles such as Doctor Sleep, Jungle Cruise and Super Mario Bros, and new biopics about Mister Rogers and Aretha Franklin.
Tom Hanks is on some sort of crazy streak playing iconic real-life figures of both the 20th and 21st centuries. In the last five years alone, he’s starred in Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks (as Walt Disney), Bridge of Spies, Sully (as pilot “Sully” Sullenberger), and The Post (as Ben Bradlee). What all of his characters have in common are that they are leaders with varying levels of “fatherly” character traits, something Hanks spoofed in 2016 with a monologue on Saturday Night Live. With all of that in mind, it makes perfect sense that he should be cast as Fred Rogers, the star of PBS’ Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in a new biopic, and that’s exactly what was announced this week. Tom Hanks will star as Fred Rogers in a film called You Are My Friend, in which Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Certified Fresh at 94%) will direct the story of award-winning journalist Tom Junod’s friendship with Rogers after he “begrudgingly accepts an assignment to write a profile piece on the beloved icon and finds his perspective on life transformed.” You Are My Friend may be fast tracked, very similarly to Tom Hanks’ The Post.
The Tom Hanks news above received a lot of social media attention this week, and rightly so, but another brilliant biopic choice may have been lost in the shadow of Mister Rogers — and the story behind this one is just as remarkable. That’s because it was the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, who hand-picked Jennifer Hudson to play her in a new biopic to be produced by MGM. Hudson first came to fame as a contestant on American Idol and followed that up with an Academy Award-winning role in Dreamgirls, as well as a debut album that won four Grammy Awards. This news came via music industry legend Clive Davis at his pre-Grammys party Sunday night. The untitled Aretha Franklin biopic will be produced by Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) and Harvey Mason (Sing, Pitch Perfect 2).
The 2013 supernatural horror film Mama was not produced by genre blockbuster factory Blumhouse, though one might be forgiven for thinking it was. That distinction might be even more confusing in a few years after the release of Blumhouse’ newly announced thriller, title simply Ma. Much like Blumhouse’s biggest 2017 hit, Get Out, Ma will come to us from a director not (completely) associated with the genre. Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train, Winter’s Bone) will reunite with his The Help costar Octavia Spencer on Ma, and Spencer will also be joined by Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans (who worked with Tate Taylor on The Girl on the Train). Spencer will play “a lonely woman who befriends a group of teenagers with torturous consequences for the kids.”
The idea of Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining getting a sequel has been kicking around at Warner Bros for years now, mostly in the form of a prequel called The Overlook Hotel. Another possibility came directly from The Shining author Stephen King in 2013, when he published his novel Doctor Sleep, which is a sequel about Danny Torrance as an adult. Add in the fact that Stephen King is particularly “hot” at Warner Bros. right now, following the runaway success of scary clown movie IT ($700 million worldwide), and this week’s story makes even more sense. As you might have already guessed by all of this buildup, Warner Bros. has officially started development of a movie to be adapted from Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, with Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil) writing and directing. It is not yet known if Warner Bros. might recruit Shelley Duvall (who’s now 68) to reprise her role as Danny’s mom, Wendy.
As hit NBC family drama This is Us continues to power through its award-winning 2nd season, its stars (like Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones) have also been landing movie roles on the side. Another of the series’ stars, Chrissy Metz, has technically been in two movies (2007’s Loveless in Los Angeles, and, as an uncredited “Heavy Girl”, in The Onion Movie), but by most metrics, she has yet to truly make her major motion picture debut. That film will be The Impossible from Fox 2000, which will be an adaptation of Joyce Smith’s book, The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection. As you can probably guess from that lengthy subtitle, The Impossible will be an inspirational movie about a mother (Metz) whose 14-year-old son was proclaimed dead (after falling into a frozen Missouri lake), and then came back to life. Chrissy Metz’s The Impossible should not be confused with 2012’s The Impossible, another true story, about a family’s struggles to survive a tsunami while vacationing in Thailand.
As people continue to discuss the woeful lack of prominent female directors working within the Hollywood system, one name that repeatedly surfaces is Michelle MacLaren, who at one time was attached to direct last year’s Wonder Woman. Although she has yet to make her feature film debut, MacLaren has racked up an impressive TV resume in this new Golden Age, including 11 episodes of Breaking Bad, three episodes of The Walking Dead, and four episodes of Game of Thrones. Well, we now know what her first film will be, because MacLaren has signed with Universal Pictures to direct their long-in-development adaptation of the Image Comics graphic novel Cowboy Ninja Viking. Chris Pratt remains attached to star as the title character, an assassin with three different personalities — you get one guess at what they are. Universal Pictures has scheduled Cowboy Ninja Viking for release next summer on June 28, 2019, which currently puts it up against Transformers 6 and the 47 Meters Down sequel called 48 Meters Down (yes, really). There’s also director news this week for Bad Boys 4 Life and the Men in Black reboot.
Going all the way back to the days of Fred MacMurray, Dean Jones, and Don Knotts, Walt Disney Pictures has shown an interest in building a roster of live action movie stars. These days, much of Disney’s live-action output is obviously via Marvel and Lucasfilm (and soon, Fox), but they’re still invested in remakes of their classic animated films. Emily Blunt co-starred in Disney’s 2014 musical Into the Woods, and will star as the title character in this December’s Mary Poppins Returns (12/25/18). Blunt is continuing that streak by signing to co-star in Disney’s Jungle Cruise, based on their long-running and popular theme park attractions. Blunt joins Dwayne Johnson in the film, which will be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter, Non-Stop), whose filmography is unfortunately dominated by Rotten scores (of his 8 films as director, only Run All Night and The Shallows were Fresh).
In recent years, as Mel Gibson has been talking up his plans to return to the Bible with a sequel to 2004’s The Passion of the Christ (Rotten at 49%). Jim Caviezel was just about the same age as Jesus (est. 33 to 36) at the time of that film, but since he’s not immortal or a deity, Caviezel has continued to age, and he’ll turn 50 this September. Regardless, he remains Mel Gibson’s choice for the sequel, which will be called The Resurrection (or possibly, The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection). Jim Caviezel will also co-star in another New Testatment-based film next month as Saint Luke in the film Paul: Apostle of Christ (3/28/18).
The extremely Rotten (15%) 1993 live-action Super Mario Bros movie starring Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper is frequently regarded as the first in a long line of similarly Rotten video game movies. One of the chief complaints of that film was that the colorful fantasy world of the Super Mario games never belonged in “live action” to begin with, though an animated adaptation probably would have looked a lot like the various Super Mario TV shows of the era. Nintendo and their new partners Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Sing, The Secret Life of Pets) apparently hope to buck that trend, because they’re now partnering on a deal that has reportedly been in the works for over a year, and is tied to the theme parks partnership between Nintendo and Universal. The Super Mario Bros movie could possibly come out sometime in 2021, 2022, or 2023. (Note: This news actually first ran in November, but was widely reported again this week.)
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you know that several years ago, author J.K. Rowling confirmed that the popular headmaster character Albus Dumbledore was homosexual. When Jude Law was cast as Dumbledore in the sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, there were some expectations that the romantic relationship between Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp) would be depicted. This week, however, frequent Harry Potter director David Yates stated that the sequel will “not explicitly” depict Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality. Yates suggested a more scholarly or platonic admiration, saying, “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.” Fans took to Twitter en masse in response to this news, but J.K. Rowling replied coyly, “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?” There were many pieces written about how Dumbledore’s sexuality will be portrayed (at least in this sequel), including this one from The Guardian, and this Forbes piece that argues the reason mostly has to do with how international audiences might react. Is it easier in 2018 to imagine that a wizard can cast magic spells than it is for that same wizard to just be himself?