This week’s Ketchup covers ten stories from the world of film development news, such as the latest announcements about Don Quixote, The Six Billion Dollar Man, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Toy Story 4.
This Week’s Top Story
BUZZ AND WOODY TO BE PLAYED WITH AGAIN IN TOY STORY 4
Ever since the 2010 release of Toy Story 3, there’s been occasional stories from people like Tom Hanks or director John Lasseter about the possiblity of there someday being a Toy Story 4. Last week, the focus at Disney appeared to be on the big Marvel event, and this week, the studio turned their attention to two other big franchises. During an earnings conference call, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that Toy Story 4 is scheduled for June 16, 2017. Director John Lasseter, who these days mostly focuses on being Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, will make Toy Story 4 his third feature film in the franchise, after taking a break from Toy Story 3 so that he could focus on directing Cars 2. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack are all also confirmed to be returning as the voices of Woody, Buzz, and Jessie, respectively. This announcement will undoubtedly change other studios’ June, 2017 plans, which currently include How to Train Your Dragon 3 (6/9/17), Wonder Woman (6/23/17), and Despicable Me 3 (6/30/17). The Toy Story 4 script is being adapted by actors-turned-writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who previously cowrote and costarred in (the coincidentally titled) Celeste and Jesse Forever.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 EPISODE VII OFFICIALLY TITLED STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
How many movies can make top news based on just a title? Apparently, the Star Wars franchise can, because Lucasfilm did exactly that in a “Tweet” confirming that filming had wrapped on November 6, 2014. The title of the movie formerly known as Star Wars Episode VII will be Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Walt Disney Pictures releases it next year on December 18, 2015. The title is a change from the three prequels, which each had awkward titles like Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. The other detail many fans and writers noticed was that this film will be the first time “The Force” will be mentioned in a title. “The Force” now joins such other previously Star Wars concepts in titles as “the Empire,” “the Jedi,” “the Clones,” and “the Sith” (The Phantom Menace, still not iconic). Star Wars: The Force Awakens is directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8, TV’s LOST), and features a cast of both new and returning stars. The returning cast includes Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew, and the new cast includes John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, and Max von Sydow.
#2 HONEY, I SHRUNK MATT DAMON: DOWNSIZING
Right now, science fiction is just about the last thing anyone thinks of when they consider the films of director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, Nebraska), though he did cowrite Jurassic Park III. A satirical science fiction comedy is exactly what Payne plans on directing next, as Matt Damon has signed on to star in a movie called Downsizing. The movie’s been in development for a while, and at one point, Payne’s Sideways star Paul Giamatti had been expected to take the lead role instead. Matt Damon’s signing on to Downsizing also means that he will be dropping out of the Chinese historical epic The Great Wall. Downsizing is about an economically challenged man who realizes that life would be a lot easier if he was smaller, so he shrinks himself (but his wife changes her mind at the last minute). Casting that wife will probably be the next step; at one point, Reese Witherspoon had been attached to that role, and it’s not currently known if she still is.
#3 TERRY GILLIAM’S DON QUIXOTE FINALLY HAPPENING
Early in the 2000s, director Terry Gilliam’s attempt to film a movie in Spain called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote became such a train wreck that it went on to be documented in the 2002 documentary feature Lost in La Mancha. Johnny Depp eventually left the project entirely, and Jean Rochefort is now in his 80s, but it now looks like Terry Gilliam will finally get his Don Quixote movie made. Jack O’Connell, who is starring next month in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken has been cast in the role that was previously Johnny Depp’s, although some elements of the premise appear to have been changed in the last 14 years. John Hurt will also costar as the title character when filming starts in Spain in January, aiming for a release in May of 2016. This will reportedly be the seventh time that Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Fisher King) has tried to get this movie produced.
#4 KEVIN SPACEY AND MICHAEL SHANNON TO MEET AS ELVIS AND NIXON
In the tradition of Dick and Frost/Nixon, we’re about to get another movie about President Richard Nixon meeting someone, and this one’s a doozy. Michael Shannon will play Elvis Presley, and Kevin Spacey will play Richard Nixon, in Elvis & Nixon. Coming from producer Cassian Elwes (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club), Elvis & Nixon is another true story, based on the morning in late 1970 in which President Nixon swore in Elvis Presley as an undercover Federal agent for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. This will actually be the second movie about this event, after a low budget 1997 comedy called Elvis Meets Nixon (with Nixon played in that movie by Bob Gunton, AKA the warden from The Shawshank Redemption). The Shannon/Spacey version will be directed by indie director Liza Johnson (Return, Hateship Loveship), who will be working from a script cowritten by actor Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Saw), making his screenwriting debut (producer Cassian Elwes is his brother).
#5 CHANNING TATUM JOINS QUENTIN TARANTINO’S THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Channing Tatum and Demian Bechir (The Heat, A Better Life) have been cast in Quentin Tarantino’s next film, The Hateful Eight (which now definitely has more than eight stars). Demian Bechir will play one of the eight title characters, but Channing Tatum will not (though we don’t know much more than that). The other seven title characters will be played by Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, and Tim Roth. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bechir, and Channing Tatum will all be working with Tarantino for the first time in The Hateful Eight, which is about a stagecoach forced to stop during a wintry trip through Wyoming in the years following the Civil War. The Weinstein Company will distribute The Hateful Eight in 70 mm in late 2015. In other Channing Tatum news, 20th Century this week hired screenwriter Josh Zetumer, who worked on the RoboCop remake, to start work on their Gambit movie, in which Channing Tatum will star as the Cajun X-Man.
#6 THE CONTINUING STEVE JOBS BIOPIC SAGA: CHRISTIAN BALE OUT, MICHAEL FASSBENDER IN (MAYBE)?
Two weeks ago, it seemed like the long process of Sony Pictures finding a star for their Steve Jobs biopic had finally come to an end with the casting of Christian Bale in the role. Except that, this week, Bale dropped out of the film, reportedly because he felt he wasn’t “right for the part” (a decision that you would think would be much more common, but really isn’t). This comes just a week after the news that Seth Rogen had been cast as Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (and we don’t know if Seth Rogen will stay attached or not). Sony and director Danny Boyle are now re-considering other actors for the role, with the top choice currently being (though this certainly isn’t a sure thing, either) Michael Fassbender. Something that Christian Bale and Michael Fassbender have in common is that they were both potential stars of another recent “biopic” (sort of): Noah, which eventually went to Russell Crowe instead.
#7 CHRIS COOPER CAST AS RECLUSIVE AUTHOR J.D. SALINGER
When author J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey) died in 2010, it may have been inevitable that a movie about Salinger would follow close behind (as sometimes happens; for example: Steve Jobs). Academy Award winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) has been cast as author J.D. Salinger in an independent drama called Coming Through the Rye, about two teenagers in 1969 who try to find Salinger. The premise was also somewhat the inspiration for the 2000 movie Finding Forrester, in which Sean Connery played an author clearly inspired by J.D. Salinger, giving the Internet one of its favorite early memes. Coming Through the Rye will mark the feature film debut of TV director Jim Sadwith, whose own experiences are the basis for the film’s script.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 JAMIE FOXX AND BENICIO DEL TORO (AND THEIR HAIR) TO STAR IN HARMONY KORINE’S THE TRAP
Although director Harmony Korine had directed four films before it (like Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy), it was with last year’s Spring Breakers that he attracted much more attention. That raised profile may have been a factor in this week’s dual news, which is that first Jamie Foxx and then Benicio Del Toro both signed on to star in The Trap, Harmony Korine’s next film. The Trap is described as both an ensemble gangster drama, a revenge tale, and Korine’s “most ambitious film to date.” James Franco changed up his look considerably for Spring Breakers, so one has to wonder if Foxx and Del Toro will do the same for The Trap. This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas not because of Foxx or Del Toro, but because Harmony Korine’s other four movies besides Spring Breakers all have Rotten Tomatometer scores.
#1 MARK WAHLBERG TO BE STRONGER, FASTER, BUT MAYBE NOT BETTER AS… THE SIX BILLION DOLLAR MAN
If you keep following movie development as long as this writer has (since 1997), you start remembering that certain movie projects have been in development for close to twenty years. One such project is the movie version of the 1970s science fiction TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, which, for obvious reasons, has long been retitled The Six Billion Dollar Man. Those attempts were both variably dramatic or comedic, with the comedy versions including attempts by writer/director Kevin Smith, and a time when Jim Carrey was attached to star. The project is now back on the dramatic side of things, with Mark Wahlberg set to reunite with his Lone Survivor director Peter Berg. Just like Lee Majors in the TV show, Wahlberg will play a former astronaut who survives a crash through the help of extensive cyborg/bionic implants, including both legs, his right arm, and one of his eyes. The Six Billion Dollar Man is this week’s most Rotten Idea based on the Tomatometer scores for previous action films Peter Berg directed, such as Hancock and the board game adaptation Battleship. Now that they have their Steve Austin, Dimension Films just has to get to work on casting Steve Carell as the Six Billion Dollar Man‘s boss.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.