Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Dwayne Johnson to Star in Big Trouble in Little China Remake

Plus, new roles for Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Emily Blunt, and Clint Eastwood eyes another biopic.

by | June 5, 2015 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup covers seven days from the world of film development news, including headlines for movies like the Captain Sully biopic, Stephen King’s The Stand and The Dark Tower, and remakes of Sister Act and Big Trouble in Little China.

 This Week’s Top Story


By this point in 2015, after some 15 years of pretty extensive remaking and rebooting of 1980s “classics,” it might seem like there aren’t many films that haven’t yet been adapted, and that’s mostly true. That just means that Hollywood is now getting to the point of adapting those movies previously thought “untouchable,” like say Ghostbusters (now getting two reboots, actually) and the Indiana Jones franchise (which Chris Pratt may take over from Harrison Ford). Another such film is John Carpenter’s 1986 genre-blender and quote-generator Big Trouble in Little China, which is probably the second most iconic role of Kurt Russell’s career, after only Escape from New York (also by John Carpenter). Now, Dwayne Johnson is in talks with 20th Century Fox to produce and star as Jack Burton in a remake of Big Trouble in Little China. Johnson will star as a big-talking truck driver who gets involved with crazy mystic types in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Big Trouble in Little China was considered a box office bomb in 1986, but in the decades since, it has become a true cult classic, and now holds an 83% Tomatometer score. The remake script is being adapted by the screenwriter team of Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who have previously worked on Thor and X-Men: First Class, and also have the Power Rangers reboot in development for January 13, 2017.

Fresh Developments This Week


Following the surprise runaway success of American Sniper, Clint Eastwood became an unusually hot director (especially for someone 85 years old), and his decades-old studio home at Warner Bros has spent the last few months trying to find a suitable deal for Eastwood’s next film. Some of the possibilities included the Richard Jewell biopic (which remains at 20th Century Fox), and the long-in-development next version of A Star is Born (which Bradley Cooper is now believed to be directing instead). Warner Bros is now in negotiations to acquire the rights to Sully, the true story of pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who successfully landed a passenger airliner on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew on board. The script by Todd Komarnicki (2007’s Perfect Stranger) reportedly delves deeper into “behind the scenes” intrigue that the public was not aware of at the time.


Jessica Chastain has had something of a whirlwind career since 2011 (when she had six major roles in one year), but she hasn’t really had many opportunities to show off her comedic abilities. That’s about to change with the news that Chastain is attached to star in the Weinstein Company comedy Plus One, with Amy Schumer wanted to costar as her comedic opposite. Chastain will be playing a woman called “Rachel, who comes out of a long-term relationship only to realize all her friends have married off and there’s no one single left to go out with — except Summer, the loud, sexually over-sharing wild card who is now Rachel’s only option for a wing woman.” (Rachel is apparently a popular name in Hollywood right now, as it’s also the name of the title character in The Girl on the Train, one of the other movies in the news this week.)


One of the biggest successes in publishing this year has been a novel by author Paula Hawkins called The Girl on the Train, which has attracted comparisons to both Gone Girl and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The book’s success quickly attracted development attention from DreamWorks, and last month, we learned that director Tate Taylor will be reuniting with the studio behind his most successful film, The Help. The project’s progress is moving quickly, with the news this week that Edge of Tomorrow star Emily Blunt has been offered the lead role as a “lonely alcoholic” who “fascinates about a house she sees every day on a commute train, until that compulsion makes her the only witness to something horrible that happens there.” Kate Mara (Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot) is also being eyed for one of the two other major female roles in the books. Tate Taylor also recently directed the James Brown biopic Get On Up, and is developing the business biopic Tupperware Unsealed. Emily Blunt is currently filming the Snow White sequel The Huntsman, along with Chris Hemsworth, in which she reportedly plays the film’s villain.


Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the first time an adaptation of the best-selling 1988 novel The Alchemist went into development, including a period when author Paulo Coelho tried unsuccessfully to buy back the rights for $2 million. Actor Laurence Fishburne eventually acquired the rights, and now The Weinstein Company is in talks to partner with Fishburne, who will also direct. Idris Elba is talks to costar (possibly as the title character) in the story of a young Spanish shepherd who takes off on an adventure across the Mediterranean which eventually leads to the Pyramids of Giza, where an ancient treasure is believed to be waiting for his discovery. The Alchemist has sold over 65 million copies in 65 different languages, setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.


Following the recent news about the two-movie adaptation of IT being put on indefinite hold, two of Stephen King’s most ambitious books (or series of books) have received more positive news. First up, there is the long-in-development plan for The Dark Tower series of books and stories, which Ron Howard was at one time attached to. The plan was, and is believed to still be, for there to be films and a cable TV series complimenting them, being produced and aired either concurrently or at least complimentarily. Sony Pictures is close to talking to Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (2012’s A Royal Affair) about directing the first film, The Gunslinger, in the planned franchise. In addition to writing and directing A Royal Affair, Nikolaj Arcel also adapted the script for the original Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (but not its sequels). Similarly, director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) is seeing his plans for adapting Stephen King’s The Stand expanding, with the current plan being to precede his 3 hour movie with an 8 part miniseries on Showtime. The miniseries The Stand will start filming in early 2016, and is expected to focus on the first half of King’s book, in which a mysterious virus called “Captain Trips” decimates most of the population of North America, and the survivors start to come together in two camps, one good, one evil.


Following the disappointing (relative to budget) box office results for the Memorial Day weekend release of Tomorrowland, Walt Disney Pictures pulled the plug on another expensive retrofuturistic science fiction film. After recent reports that filming was scheduled to start in the fall of 2015, Walt Disney Pictures has instead decided not to move forward with plans for a third TRON movie, a sequel to 2010’s TRON: Legacy. Director Joseph Kosinski and Tron: Legacy stars Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde were expected to return, and we now know that Disney was hoping to cast Jared Leto as well. The perceived move away from live action science fiction is tempered by the fact that Disney owns both Marvel and Lucasfilms, and the continued success of Disney’s live action adaptations of their classic animated features. Joseph Kosinski started negotiations with Sony in March about directing heir Gran Turismo movie, so this move may help speed up that video game adaptation’s green light. TRON: Legacy received a Rotten Tomatometer score of 51%, which is why we’re calling this news a (mild) Fresh Development.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


There were “only” about 30 Walt Disney Pictures animated features before the 1990s, so eventually as Disney raids their archives for live action adaptations, two options seem likely: they’re either going to have start adapting more modern movies (that’s already starting with 1991’s Beauty and the Beast), or eventually, they’ll be planning live action versions of lesser known movies like The Sword in the Stone, Make Mine Music, and Saludos Amigos. They’re not quite there yet, but it seems like a couple of times a month, we hear about another classic Disney film that has been added to their growing development slate. This week, it was Walt Disney’s third animated feature’s turn, as one of the shorts from Fantasia is now in development as Night on Bald Mountain. As the film’s final musical sequence, “Night on Bald Mountain” is also the film’s most terrifying, sending little children to bed with images of terrifying demons being summoned by their scary master, all to the not-particularly-dulcent-tones composed by Modest Mussorgsky. For the task of adapting Night on Bald Mountain as a Maleficent-style sympathy-for-the-devil story, Walt Disney Pictures has hired the screenwriting team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who made their feature film debut with the Rotten (23%) Dracula Untold last year, and they also have The Last Witch Hunter coming this October, and Gods of Egypt scheduled for next April. Night on Bald Mountain will be the second live action film adapted from a Fantasia short, following 2010’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.


With the continued success of Universal’s female-ensemble-musical Pitch Perfect 2, it seems likely that other studios are looking through their vault for similar projects to revive. That’s at least the rationale we’re imagining behind the news this week that Walt Disney Pictures is now developing a remake to the 1992 musical comedy hit Sister Act. Whoopi Goldberg starred in Sister Act as a lounge singer who takes refuge from murderous mobsters in a convent, pretending to be a nun, where she teaches and inspires the choir to sing with more “soul.” Sister Act was followed by a sequel (Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit), and a stage musical adaptation. For the job of remaking Sister Act, Walt Disney Pictures has hired the screenwriting team of Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith, whose previous comedies have included Legally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, She’s the Man, The House Bunny, and 10 Things I Hate About You. The duo did receive Fresh scores for Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, but their four films since have all received Rotten scores of 50% or lower.


With his second film, way back in 1996, director Michael Bay earned a Fresh RT Tomatometer score with The Rock. That was apparently enough for him, because it’s been all green splats ever since, 8 movies in a row (as director, Bay has also produced-not-directed many Rotten films). It’s for that reason that we at the Weekly Ketchup have learned that it’s usually a safe guess to just automatically chalk up any new Michael Bay directing project as one of the week’s Rotten Ideas. Bay is currently directing his Benghazi siege movie 13 Hours, and is also at least producing the continuing Transformers franchise, but this week, Bay became attached to direct a new science fiction action movie. Michael Bay is attached to direct an adaptation of the upcoming science fiction novel Time Salvager by Wesley Chu. Time Salvager is about a criminal from the future (after mankind has left Earth) who performs time travel missions to the past in attempts to procure needed resources, who meets a doomed scientist, and then brings her to his future, which his bosses don’t like. Time Salvager (the novel) will be published on July 7, 2015, if you want to (legitimately) be able to complain that the eventual movie is worse than the book.