This week’s Ketchup covers ten top stories from the last seven days in the realm of film development news, all of those stories we hear about upcoming movies. Included in the mix this time around are stories about the TV adaptations Absolutely Fabulous, Baywatch, and Deadwood, and new movies for Leonardo DiCaprio, Zac Efron, and Tom Hardy.
Jared Leto has been attracting a lot of attention this year for his depiction of The Joker in next year’s Suicide Squad, but Leto isn’t the only star who will soon be portraying The Joker on the big screen. Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) is now in talks with Warner Bros to provide the voice of The Joker in their LEGO Movie spinoff The LEGO Batman Movie. Likewise, it won’t be Ben Affleck who provides the voice of Batman, but rather, it will be Will Arnett, who also played Batman in The LEGO Movie. Michael Cera has also recently been cast to provide the voice of Batman’s sidekick, Robin. The LEGO Batman Movie will be directed by Chris McKay, who also worked as an animation supervisor on last year’s The LEGO Movie. Warner Bros has scheduled The LEGO Batman Movie for release on February 10, 2017. The LEGO Batman Movie is just one part of Warner Bros’ continuing plans for their LEGO franchise, which includes The LEGO Ninjago Movie (9/22/17) (and a possible Ninjago sequel), The LEGO Movie Sequel (5/18/18), and The Billion Brick Race, which will be codirected by Jason Segel.
Director Martin Scorsese has collaborated with Robert De Niro for eight movies now, but Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been in five Scorsese films, is definitely getting close to at least tying De Niro’s record. This week, it was announced that Scorsese and DiCaprio are reuniting for what will be their sixth film working together. That film is the long-in-development adaptation of the Erik Larson non-fiction book, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. There was recently a studio auction for the rights to this package, and the winner was Paramount Pictures, which is in need of hot properties (as the studio is currently #5 in market share). Leonardo DiCaprio will play one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, Doctor H.H. Holmes, who is believed to have killed anywhere from 27 to over 200 people during Chicago’s World Fair of 1893. Holmes constructed “The World’s Fair Hotel,” which he was secretly using to lure his victims to their deaths, in “a haunt that had a gas chamber, crematorium and a dissecting table where Holmes would murder his victims and strip their skeletons to sell for medical and scientific study.” The Devil in the White City is being adapted by screenwriter Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games).
When HBO announced in 2008 that they were pulling the plug on the Emmy-winning series Deadwood after three seasons, it left many of the show’s fans frustrated. Based upon the true stories of the 1870s frontier town in South Dakota, Deadwood was left at the end of the third season in narrative midstream, with some of the town’s historically significant true stories (Custer’s Last Stand, for example) yet to be included. There was talk at the time that HBO might produce a movie or two for their channel to wrap up the remaining stories, but the years passed, and nothing happened. Fans of Al Swearengen (Ian McShane’s foul-mouthed pimp/businessman) were excited to hear, therefore, the news that HBO has begun “very preliminary discussions” about how to bring Deadwood back as a feature film. If HBO does finally give Deadwood its shot at a feature film, it will join such previous HBO adaptations as Sex and the City (and its sequel), Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno, and this year’s Entourage. There has also been talk over the years about a possible movie based upon HBO’s Rome.
HBO isn’t the only TV channel that’s continuing to adapt their shows into being movies. This week saw the debut of the trailer for Dad’s Army, based on the popular BBC comedy series. And also this week, Fox Searchlight started negotiations with the BBC about boarding their plans for a feature film based upon the popular and long-running comedy series Absolutely Fabulous. That series about two middle-aged female friends (played by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) premiered in 1992, ran for three years, and was then revived for two more series in 2001, which was then followed by a few specials in 2011 and 2012. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are both expected to return, along with series regularly like Julia Sawalha and Jane Horrocks, and various celebrity cameos.
As one of the most prominent military leaders of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur has been portrayed dozens of times in film and television. The actors to play General MacArthur have included Gregory Peck (1977’s MacArthur), Sir Laurence Olivier (Inchon), Charlton Heston (TV’s Korea: The Unknown War), and recently, Tommy Lee Jones (Emperor). The next actor to join those high ranks is likely to be Liam Neeson, who is now in talks to star as General MacArthur in the Korean War drama Operation Chromite. The South Korean war drama will depict the events of the Battle of Inchon in 1950, which led to the recapture of Seoul, and was a strategic reversal for the United Nations’ allied forces. Operation Chromite will be directed by South Korean director John H. Lee, whose credits include A Moment to Remember, Sayonara Itsuka, and 71: Into the Fire. The production is being timed so that Operation Chromite can be released in South Korea in time for June 25, 2016, which will mark the 66th anniversary of the star of the Korean War.
Following successful hits with both Mad Max: Fury Road and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy is becoming something of a box office force to be reckoned with. This week, the news broke that Hardy is returning to the corporate family behind both of those films as the producer of a feature film based upon a Vertigo Comics title. Tom Hardy will produce, and likely star, in New Line Cinema’s adaptation of the long-running series 100 Bullets. Also seen by some writers as a strong candidate to be adapted as a TV series, 100 Bullets (which ran for 100 issues from 1999 to 2009) was about “an enigmatic man named Agent Graves as he presents different people, for reasons unknown, with a gun, the identity of the person who ruined their lives … and a hundred rounds of untraceable ammunition.” Tom Hardy is expected to be the studio’s choice to play Agent Graves. New Line Cinema is also developing the Vertigo Comics adaptation Sandman (with Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the DC Comics superhero adventure Shazam.
With only 6.7% of the 2015 market share to date, Paramount Pictures (along with Sony) is one of the studios that is under the most pressure to make big plans for the future. One of the movies that Paramount appears to be betting big on is their long-in-development adaptation of the hit 1970s TV show Baywatch. Having already recruited Dwayne Johnson for one of the film’s leads, this week, Paramount Pictures found his lifeguarding partner in the form of Zac Efron (Neighbors, High School Musical). Baywatch will tell the story of “a by-the-book and very serious lifeguard (Johnson) who is forced to team up with a young rule-flouting hothead (Efron) in order to save their beach from environmental destruction at the hands of an oil tycoon.” Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief) will direct Baywatch from a script most recently drafted by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. In addition to working on Freddy vs Jason and the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th, Shannon and Swift are also working on Disney’s Aladdin prequel called Genies. Filming of Baywatch is expected to start in early 2016 for release sometime in 2017, with what Dwayne Johnson confirmed this week will be an intended R rating, in Johnson’s words, “Like me when I drink.”
One of the big news stories last week was the announcement of release dates for both Bad Boys 3 (2/17/17) and Bad Boys 4 (7/3/19). (That was followed by a suggestion this week that Will Smith may only produce, and not star, in the sequels .) That news came from Sony Pictures, the studio whose two 21 Jump Street movies (along with Fox’s The Heat) suggest that there’s still very much a market for “buddy cop comedies.” And that right there might be why this week we learned that New Line Cinema has attached Mark Wahlberg to star in their buddy cop comedy called Partners. Compared to Mr. and Mrs Smith, Partners will follow an LAPD detective (Wahlberg) who finds that the woman he just had a one night stand with is also an FBI agent, and his superior on a high profile case they must work on together. Partners was written by Evan Turner, who has worked on ABC’s sitcom The Goldbergs. New Line Cinema is currently looking for a director, and Mark Wahlberg’s female costar.
Back in May, we first learned that 20th Century Fox has plans to reboot their adaptation of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlement comic book franchise after the failed attempt back in 2003. Earlier today, a quote from the project’s producer, John Davis, quickly became widespread, with varied interpretations. Davis was quoted as saying, “Just by going back to the roots and making it authentic to what the fan base was really excited about. It’s female-centric, which I think is interesting. I love female characters, point-of-view characters in action movies. I thought Mad Max [Fury Road] was great.” Some sources are interpreting that quote to suggest that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen characters (which include the Invisible Man, Mr. Hyde, and Allan Quatermain) will be reimagined to become female characters, or new female characters will be added (similar to next year’s reboot of Ghostbusters). What’s also possible or likely is that John Davis was just referring to the fact that three of the characters Alan Moore uses most frequently as his protagonists are all female: Mina Murray, Orlando (who alternates between male and female), and Nemo’s daughter, Captain Janni Dakkar. We’re classifying this story as a “Rotten Idea” for now, based mostly on the Rotten 17% Tomatometer score that critics gave to the last time 20th Century Fox adapted League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
When Warner Bros released Looney Tunes: Back in Action in late 2003, it was considered a box office bomb. That movie’s financial failure presumably led to the 12 years absence of any live action/animated Looney Tunes movies. What the box office numbers don’t tell you, however, is that critically, Looney Tunes: Back in Action (59% Tomatometer) was actually better received than Space Jam (35% Tomatometer), the 1996 Looney Tunes basketball comedy (though both scores are Rotten overall). Regardless, there have been rumors the last few years that Warner Bros is developing a sequel to Space Jam (presumably because Space Jam earned $230 million globally despite the critical reception). The focus of those rumors has been on Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, but until this week, there had been no confirmation (including even when his production company signed with WB last month). Avoiding the Hollywood trades and blogs that are usually the sources for such news, LeBron James instead went on NBC’s Today this morning to say this about Space Jam 2: “We hope so. We’re definitely missing Bugs and Daffy and Tasmanian Devil and every last one of them, so hopefully we can do some great things.” LeBron James made his feature film acting debut in last month’s Trainwreck, appearing alongside Amy Schumer. There’s no word yet what other NBA stars might join LeBron James in Space Jam 2.