Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Lupita Nyong'o Joins Star Wars Episode VII

Plus, new roles for Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, and Will Smith, and a remake of The Magnificent Seven.

by | June 6, 2014 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup includes movie development news for projects like Doctor Strange, remakes of Beauty and the Beast and The Magnificent Seven, and new roles for Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, Emma Watson, and Naomi Watts.

This Week’s Top Story


(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)


There was a bit of a publicity flurry from the Star Wars front this week. Your headline is that we finally found out why the original casting announcement for Star Wars Episode VII was so lacking in estrogen (they weren’t done yet, as many guessed at the time). The two missing cast members were Lupita Nyong’o (who recently won an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave), and British actress Gwendoline Christie (who is best known for playing Brienne of Tarth in HBO’s Game of Thrones). As with almost every new cast member for Star Wars Episode VII (except Adam Driver), we don’t actually know the nature of the characters Nyong’o and Christie will be playing, but one can certainly make educated guesses. Lupita Nyong’o also made the news this week for producing an adaptation of a book about the Nigerian immigrant experience called Americanah, in which she will also star. The rest of the Star Wars cast includes newcomers John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, and Max Von Sydow; and returning cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew. Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled Star Wars Episode VII for December 18, 2015. This week, there was also a flurry of “leaked” photos on TMZ and elsewhere, which was followed by a “note” from J.J. Abrams which was itself a “leaked” image (hinting that it may have all been intentional “leaking”). Finally, Chronicle director Josh Trank became the second director (after Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards) to be attached to one of the upcoming Star Wars spinoff films (probably for 2018 or 2020, since Edwards’ film is scheduled for 12/16/16). The spinoff films are expected to be cover the back stories for such characters as Han Solo, Yoda, and Boba Fett (but we don’t know which will come first, or for which director).

Fresh Developments This Week


Indie director Damien Chazelle’s debut film Whiplash doesn’t open until this fall (after being a hit at Sundance), but he’s already lining up a cast for his next film, an ambitious-sounding musical. Emma Watson and Miles Teller, our former Hermione and future Reed Richards, are in talks to star in the musical called La La Land. As the title suggests, La La Land will be a contemporary musical about the city of Los Angeles. Here’s how Damien Chazelle described his plans: “I’d like to make a contemporary musical about L.A., starting with the L.A. we know but slowly building to a vision of the city as romantic metropolis — one that is actually worthy of the dreams it inspires. I’d like to make a musical about the way L.A.’s peculiar rhythms can push its residents to the edge of their emotions, be they hope, desperation or love. Think the kind of teetering-toward-madness you see in The Graduate or Boogie Nights, and imagine if you were to push that further. In this case, the city pushes its residents all the way: it pushes them into song.”



Hollywood folks love — I say, they LOVE — to compete with each other to get a movie about a particular subject made first. You could make a Wikipedia category just about all the times this has happened. This week, Edward Snowden joined those ranks with the news that Oliver Stone is taking on Sony Pictures, with his own project about the infamous NSA leaker. Oliver Stone’s project is an adaptation of The Snowden Files, a book by Luke Harding. Past controversies that Stone has tackled in film form have included the presidencies of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, the assassination of JFK, September 11th, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.



Sony Pictures Animation has announced the acquisition of a comedy pitch by screenwriters Todd Alcott (cowriter of Antz, The Giver) and Holly Golden that will put a new spin on the Greek mythology figure Medusa. Here’s the pitch: “In our story, we meet Medusa as a young human, who, like so many of us, is overwhelmed with trying to fit a certain mold to please others. Her resulting popularity ticks off the wrong Goddess who turns her into the snake-haired monster we all know and fear. Medusa sets out on a quest to reverse this curse with the help of a goofy team of oddball and misfit mythological creatures who help her learn that what makes you different is, in fact, what makes you strong.” Sony has also already announced the animated film’s director, Lauren Faust, who has won an Emmy for her recent reboot series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which went on to inspire a new Internet meme (“Bronies” and all that). Medusa joins an animation slate that includes Hotel Transylvania 2, reboots of The Smurfs and Popeye, and further down the line, licensed properties like ALF, Tonka Trucks, and Rollercoaster Tycoon.



Both DC and Marvel Comics have long traditions of characters and comics that are both “magical” and “supernatural,” and sometimes the two are interchangeable, with the characters’ adventures venturing into the realm of horror (and in the case of Doctor Strange, even cosmic and interdimensional adventures sometimes). This week, amidst all the Ant-Man director drama, Marvel may have distracted fans slightly by revelaing that the director of Doctor Strange will be Scott Derrickson. Derrickson is mostly known for directing supernatural horror films like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but he also gave us the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves. Calling this choice “Fresh” or “Rotten” is tricky for us, because the usual way would be to say, “Scott Derrickson has directed mostly Rotten films,” and so this is a “Rotten Idea.” We’re going to buck that, though, and say that Marvel’s decision to go with Derrickson might just be the right thing for the film that takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe into all things dark and supernatural and, well, “strange.” There was also a rumor this week that Jared Leto might be in the running to play Doctor Strange, but for now, it’s just that, a rumor. Keep in mind that there are really lots of actors that are potentially in the running for Doctor Strange. (*This writer is pulling for dark horse candidate Aiden Gillen, AKA Littlefinger from Game of Thrones). And finally, we’re still waiting to see who will be directing Ant-Man for 2015, but one thing we learned over last weekend is that it won’t be Anchorman director Adam McKay.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


The week after dropping out of the science fiction movie Brilliance, Will Smith has already found a new project which appears to be on the fast track due to its timely subject. Will Smith is in talks with Sony Pictures and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free to star in the untitled “NFL concussion” drama that was previously a possibility for Scott to direct. Instead, the film will be directed by Peter Landesman, whose first film was last year’s Parkland, which was also a film released to be “timely” (to the anniversary of JFK’s death), but it ended up with a Rotten Tomatometer rating of just 48% (which is why we’re calling this one a borderline “Rotten Idea.”)



At this rate, Disney is remaking so many of their animated films as live action remakes that by the 2020s, we’ll be talking about the live action version of Home on the Range. Of course, Maleficent just opened to pretty huge numbers, so Disney is going to keep going with these sort of plans. The movie that made the news this week was Beauty and the Beast, which Bill Condon is in talks to direct. What’s interesting here is that there is already a live action Beauty and the Beast remake in the works. That film is at Warner Bros (which was also recently competing with Disney to get a new Jungle Book movie made), is being produced by Guillermo del Toro, and has Emma Watson attached to star. The Disney version gets a “Rotten Idea” tag this week because Bill Condon has had a streak recently of Rotten ratings with films like The Fifth Estate and the two parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Condon’s live action Beauty and the Beast joins a roster at Disney that now includes Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Cruella (from 101 Dalmatians), and Through the Looking Glass.



Paramount Pictures is trying to move quickly on a comedy called Daddy’s Home that previously almost happened with Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell starring. Now, Vince Vaughn is out, and Mark Wahlberg is in, as the “real” daddy who crashes in on the life of the stepfather played by Will Ferrell. It’s basically now seen as a vehicle to reunite Wahlberg and Ferrell after previously starring together in The Other Guys. What makes this a “Rotten Idea” this week is that the new director is Sean Anders, who has five credits on his Tomatometer, and the highest rating is 58%.



Although it wasn’t quite a box office phenomeon like Twlight and The Hunger Games, this spring’s Divergent did just well enough ($267 million worldwide) for Lionsgate and Summit to keep moving forward with adaptations of the rest of the books by author Veronica Roth. Just like the Hunger Games sequels, the next film Insurgent sees the cast expanding, and the actress to take an important role this week was Naomi Watts, who will be the play the leader of the “Factionless” (doesn’t that make them their own faction?). Naomi Watts is signing on for not just Insurgent, but for also both parts of the adaptation of the third book, Allegiant. Naomi Watts was also joined this week by LOST and Hawaii Five-0 star Daniel Dae Kim. Insurgent is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because Divergent belongs to the faction of Rotten Tomatometer scores.



Although there are obviously reverberations being felt (like Disney and their live action films), for the most part, it feels like Hollywood is coming down *just a little* from their obsession a few years ago with developing remakes of older films. One studio, however, that shows little sign of ever getting off the remake wagon is MGM. They’re the studio still trying to remake films like Ben-Hur and Poltergeist. One project that has always seemed like a questionable choice is a remake of The Magnificent Seven, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Anyway, The Magnificent Seven got renewed life this week with the news that Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua are both in early talks to get back together a third time after Training Day and the upcoming remake of The Equalizer. The latest draft of the remake script was written by John Lee Hancock, whose credits include The Blind Side, My Dog Skip, and Snow White and the Huntsman. This one’s Rotten status isn’t decided by Tomatometer scores; we just question whether the world needs this story retold yet again. Seven Samurai is still great. It will be great next year, and in 2020, and in 2030, and on and on. Few films retain 100% “Fresh” ratings for years and years like that.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.

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