This week’s Ketchup covers seven days from the realm of film development news, including headlines for such future movie titles as Gambit, Halloween Returns, Maleficent 2, Star Wars: Rogue One, and J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
After earning $758 million in worldwide box office last year (landing it the #4 spot for the year), it may have otherwise seemed like a no-brainer that in most situations, a movie like Maleficent would be getting a sequel. That is, until you consider that Maleficent was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and there doesn’t appear to be an immediately obvious way of continuing her story. (This writer’s guess: have Maleficent help out Snow White.) Well, Walt Disney Pictures is indeed proceeding with a Maleficent sequel, and for that job, they have hired screenwriter Linda Woolverton. Linda Woolverton is something of an old hand at both Disney movies, and more specifically, live action remakes of Disney cartoons. Not only did Linda Woolverton adapt Maleficent, but she also adapted Alice in Wonderland, and is also working on that movie’s sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass, and the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast (and also cowrote the original, and The Lion King, to boot). The next question for this project will be whether Walt Disney Pictures can successfully entice Angelina Jolie to return for this hypothetical sequel, as in recent years, Jolie has sometimes proven to be sequel-resistant (which is probably at least partially why we never saw sequels to movies like Beowulf, Salt, or Wanted).
Although we’ve known for a while now that Channing Tatum had signed with 20th Century Fox to star in a solo movie for popular X-Men character Gambit, what the project still lacked was a director. Well, that changed this week with the revelation that Gambit will be directed by Rupert Wyatt, the director who exceeded expectations with the franchise reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Wyatt’s hiring is timely, as Fox has long had Gambit scheduled for October 7th, 2016, and if they had gone on much longer without a director, one can speculate that the project might have come close to being rescheduled. As for long-lingering rumors and speculation that Channing Tatum might first make his debut as Gambit in next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, in a Reddit AMA this week, Tatum directly answered the question with, “No ma’am, or sir. I definitely will not.” Well, there you go, then! This revelation might also answer some questions fans have had about how Gambit fits into the new post-Days-of-Future-Past timeline, especially if he’s ever going to have an on-screen romance with Rogue.
Although Clint Eastwood has directed over 30 movies, and Tom Hanks has starred in over 50 movies, the two have never worked together in those capacities, but that’s apparently going to change soon. Just two weeks after the news broke that Clint Eastwood is going to next direct a movie about Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Tom Hanks is now in talks with Warner Bros to take on that role. It’s something of a repeat call of duty for Tom Hanks, who also played the title character in the similarly-themed true story film, Captain Phillips, based on the true story of the highjacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. In the case of the “Captain Sully” movie (which might be titled Highest Duty, from the title of Sullenberger’s book), the heroism is much more directly in the title character’s hands, as it was Sullenberger who safely landed a commercial passenger jet in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.
Now that Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) has been cast as Newt Scamander, the fictional author of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Warner Bros is proceeding with casting the other main roles. First up is the character described as being the female lead, a witch in the United States (where the movie is set, in the 1920s or 1930s) called Tina, which is short for Porpentina. That role has gone to Katherine Waterston ( http://www.thewrap.com/katherine-waterston-joins-eddie-redmayne-in-fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them/ ), who in addition to being Sam Waterston’s daughter, also starred alongside Joaquin Phoenix in last year’s Inherent Vice. Warner Bros is expected to adapt J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff books into at least three movies, with the first film scheduled for November 18, 2016. Director David Yates also directed the last four Harry Potter movies, and currently has a new Tarzan movie (also for Warner Bros) scheduled for July 1, 2016.
Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac are both attached to star in The Promise, described as an “epic love story,” to be directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, Some Mother’s Son). The Promise is set during the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and depicts the love triangle between a woman named Ana (not yet cast), a brilliant medical student (Isaac), and an American journalist based in Paris (Bale). In addition to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the premise is expected to be heavily inspired by the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which had an estimated death toll between 800,000 and 1.5 million. Filming of The Promise is scheduled to start in the fall of 2015 at locations in Portugal, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere in Southern Europe. Terry George cowrote The Promise with screenwriter Robin Swicord, whose credits also include adapting Memoirs of a Geisha and The Jane Austen Book Club, and cowriting Practical Magic.
Most predictions pegged Jurassic World as being likely to do very well, but the reality this past week has been more than a little bit past that. As of this writing, Jurassic World is expected to surpass $300 million domestically, breaking by one day the previous record held by The Avengers, which reached $300 million in nine days in 2012. These numbers have also pushed Universal Pictures into the year-to-date lead over all other studios, by at least $80 million over #2 Warner Bros, and $160 million over #3 Walt Disney Pictures. The domination of Jurassic World is also expected to prevent Inside Out from reaching #1 this weekend, which will make it the first Pixar movie not to open to #1, after the previous 14 Pixar films held that distinction. In the arena of film development news, there were two stories that were clearly directly connected to the success of Jurassic World. Most obviously, there was the news that Sony Pictures has greenlit the science fiction drama Passengers, in which Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence had already been in talks to star. The greenlight was made while it was still possible to sign Pratt for “only” $12 million (though that was an increase from his previous asking price of $10 million). Jennifer Lawrence landed the better deal of $20 million against 30% of the profit (probably because she has proven that she is a box office star without the help of a franchise like Marvel or Jurassic Park, which hasn’t happened for Chris Pratt… yet). The success of Jurassic World was such that it was even able to awaken nearly-dead film projects that have lingered in development hell for 18 years, much like the dinosaurs it depicts. Specifically, we’re talking about Meg, an adaptation of a novel about a Megaladon (a prehistoric giant shark), which was first put into development at Walt Disney Pictures in 1997, but is now based at Warner Bros. Horror director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever, Knock Knock) is now in talks to direct Meg for Warner Bros. One of the changes that has been made to Meg since the novel’s publication is that the giant shark attacks will now be depicted as happening off the coast of China instead of the Pacific Island coast of California.
Filming doesn’t start on the first Star Wars Anthology movie Star Wars: Rogue One until late 2015, but we already know now five of the actors who will be starring in this new prequel. The fifth such actor is Forest Whitaker, who is now in talks for an undisclosed role. Star Wars: Rogue One is set just before Star Wars: A New Hope, and depicts the efforts of a group of Rebel Alliance fighters as they plot to steal the Death Star plans that Princess Leia is smuggling when we first meet her. Riz Ahmed and Diego Luna have previously been cast as two of the Alliance fighters, Ben Mendelsohn is believed to be cast as film’s lead villain, and Felicity Jones has also been cast. In other Star Wars Anthology news, there was also a story this week that Breaking Bad director (and former would-be Wonder Woman director) Michelle MacLaren has taken a meeting with Lucasfilm about the job. Of course, a studio meets with lots of directors about big movies generally, so that doesn’t mean MacLaren will necessarily land the job, but… it’s still of interest. Finally, speaking of Ben Mendelsohn, the Australian star of Animal Kingdom and The Place Beyond the Pines has signed to costar with Rooney Mara in a drama called Blackbird. Mara will play a young woman who, 15 years later, re-enters the life of a man who went to prison for having a relationship with her when she was a minor.
The Monuments Men is sometimes depicted as a bomb, and it was, critically, with a Tomatometer score of just 31 percent. What often goes unmentioned, though, is that The Monuments Men doubled its production budget, earning $155 million from a budget of “just” $70 million. Perhaps hoping to have better success, Warner Bros recently acquired the rights to a similar true story: Warner Bros and producers Bradley Cooper and Todd Phillips (The Hangover) are now developing an adaptation of the non-fiction book The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery. That title is so long (and detailed) that I can basically stop writing the rest of this story now, except to say that Bradley Cooper may also star in the movie as well as producing it. You can also read more about the “Ghost Army” in its Wikipedia entry.
There was a time (the 1980s and early 1990s) when former All in the Family costar Rob Reiner was considered one of Hollywood’s most critic-friendly directors. Such films as This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery, and A Few Good Men are all in Reiner’s filmography as director. This year, however, marks the 20th anniversary of the last time (The American President, Certified Fresh at 90 percent) one of Reiner’s films as directors earned a Fresh Tomatometer score. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying; Reiner has directed eight movies since The American President. Will his ninth effort change his luck? Critics like presidential biopics, so how about one of those? Rob Reiner will direct Woody Harrelson as the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, in the political drama LBJ. Reiner’s film is likely to be the first feature film about the life of President Johnson, although HBO and Steven Spielberg are also producing an adaptation (for that channel) of the Broadway play All the Way, with Bryan Cranston reprising his portrayal of Johnson. President Johnson was also recently depicted as one of the antagonists to Martin Luther King, Jr. in last year’s Selma. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “struggles to heal a nation and secure his presidency by passing Kennedy’s historic Civil Rights Act” will be a core story arc of Rob Reiner’s LBJ. The film will be the feature film debut of screenwriter Joey Hartstone, who has previously worked as an associate producer on the competitive reality show Project Runway. Filming of LBJ will start at locations in Baton Rouge, Dallas, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. in September, 2015.
Sometimes synchronicity in movie development news has obvious causes, but other times, it’s probably just a coincidence. The latter is probably why this week there’s two different news stories connected to the Halloween franchise. The first is direct, the second is indirect. Directly, we learned that the first Halloween movie since 2009’s Halloween II is scheduled to start filming next month. Titled Halloween Returns, this 11th film appears to be a sequel to either Rob Zombie’s reboot movies (presuming those movies were mostly set in the 1990s), or possibly the previous Halloween movies also set in the 1990s. The film will “pit a new group of Haddonfield youngsters against Myers. The now 18-year-old child of one of Myers’ victims plays a central role along with the child of a cop whose long been obsessed with Myers’ case, even putting it before his own daughter. Myers is now on death row and the two kids with their own personal vendettas against the killer sneak in to watch his execution. But when things go awry and Myers escapes, the pair, along with their friends, find themselves in the firing line.” Halloween Returns will be directed by Marcus Dunstan (The Collector, The Collection, Saw IV) from a script he cowrote with his screenwriting partner Patrick Melton, with whom he cowrote four of the Saw movies (IV, V, VI, and 3D); This is the week’s most Rotten Idea because no Halloween movie after the original has ever earned a Tomatometer score above 51 percent. As for the second Halloween-related news of the week, it’s not so much Rotten news as it is just plain weird. Director Rob Zombie is preparing to expand his oevre beyond just horror/torture movies, with an adaptation of a memoir about life with one of Hollywood’s original movie stars. Rob Zombie will direct an adaptation of Steve Soliar’s memoir Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House, which is being adapted by Oren Moverman, who also cowrote the celebrity biopics I’m Not There and this month’s Love & Mercy, as well as Jesus’ Son and The Messenger. Rob Zombie’s highest Tomatometer score as a solo director was the 53 percent he earned for The Devil’s Rejects.