Few industries enjoy taking really, really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood. So when we get to this time of the year, there’s really not much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss, especially not in a weekly column which normally includes 10 different stories. So, this week and next, we’re going to instead review 12 of the year’s top stories, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review begins with the “Fresh Developments” which here also serve (mostly) as the “Top Stories” of the year. Our retrospective begins with one of the year’s biggest stories, which was…
JANUARY: JENNIFER LAWRENCE TO STAR IN THE MIRACLE MOP BIOPIC JOY
If Jennifer Lawrence had never even met director David O. Russell, much less starred in two of his movies (American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook), there’s little doubt that she would still be a major young star today. Those collaborations did, however, give Jennifer Lawrence her first Academy Award (Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook) and her first two Golden Globes. David O. Russell is a director who very much believes in working repeatedly with a recurring cast of actors and actresses, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Jennifer Lawrence would also be in his next film (it’s still big news, though). What is surprising is that the film called Joy is a biopic about the woman, Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop. Two other actors who appeared in both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, are also expected to have roles in Joy. Filming starts in February on Joy, and the film is already scheduled for Christmas Day, 2015. Meanwhile, in somewhat related news, later in the year, a biopic about Tupperware was also announced, with Sandra Bullock attached to star.
FEBRUARY: KATE WINSLET, AARON PAUL, AND MANY MORE TO STAR IN TRIPLE NINE
Unlike big tentpole hopefuls like superhero movies and animated family films, “prestige films” from acclaimed directors usually have much shorter development lifetimes. For that reason, a few of the movies in this particular year-in-review have release dates in 2015 (or in 2016). One of those is the heist film Triple Nine, about a group of police officers blackmailed into committing a crime, using the “999” code for “officer down” as a cover for the heist. Based just on that premise, Triple Nine might not seem particularly unusual or worthy of including as one of the year’s top stories. Director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless, The Proposition) does not, however, have an average filmography. There is a common notion in Hollywood these days that John Hillcoat is a director on the verge of mainstream success and popularity, and the cast he’s attracted for Triple Nine suggests this. His film’s cast will include: Casey Affleck (in the lead role), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Gal Gadot (2017’s Wonder Woman), Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Aaron Paul (TV’s Breaking Bad), Norman Reedus (TV’s The Walking Dead), and Kate Winslet. Triple Nine is currently scheduled for September 11, 2015.
MARCH: PIXAR ANNOUNCES THE INCREDIBLES 2, CARS 3, AND TOY STORY 4
Among animated film fans (and especially fans of Pixar), a subject for much debate concerns sequels (versus original stories). The pros and cons are similar as those about sequels in general, but it’s a concentrated debate for a company that only produces on average, about one movie a year. Pixar’s next two films, both currently scheduled for 2015, will be original stories (Inside Out on 6/19/15 and The Good Dinosaur on 11/25/15), but this year, we learned that their four films after that will likely all be sequels. We had already known, going into 2014 about the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory (6/17/16), but in March, we learned that a sequel to The Incredibles and a third Cars movie are both in development. And then, last month, Disney also announced that Toy Story 4 has been scheduled for release on June 16, 2017.
APRIL: STEVEN SPIELBERG’S NEXT TWO FILMS: ST. JAMES PLACE AND THE BFG
As frequently happens when director Steven Spielberg is in between films, early 2014 saw a flurry of speculation about what the his next film might be after the 2012 release of Lincoln (and his departures from almost directing both Interstellar and American Sniper). Among the films that made the news that way (and which remain in development) were the Hernan Cortez biopic Montezuma, the dramatic true story The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, and a remake of West Side Story. In April, within a few days of each other, we instead found out two entirely different films which Steven Spielberg will be directing next. First, there is the Cold War true story about the legal case of U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers, which we now know is called St. James Place. The Coen Bros worked on the script, and frequent Spielberg collaborator Tom Hanks will star in St. James Place, along with Amy Ryan and Alan Alda. Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled St. James Place for October 16, 2015. Nearly concurrently, Steven Spielberg is also directing the Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG. That children’s fantasy about a giant helping a young girl and the Queen of England against a group of evil giants will be released in 2016.
MAY: THE COEN BROTHERS TAKE ON THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD WITH HAIL, CAESAR!
This time last year, the Coen Brothers were receiving acclaim for Inside Llewyn Davis, about the folk music scene of the early 1960s. For their next film, Joel and Ethan Coen will focus on another era of entertainment history, and this time, it’s one presumably particularly close to their hearts: the final days of the golden age of Hollywood in the 1950s. That film will be called Hail, Caesar! and it will feature a star-studded ensemble, including George Clooney, Josh Brolin (as real life “fixer” Eddie Mannix), Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Channing Tatum. Universal Pictures has announced a release date of February 5, 2016, but it’s very possible that this will be a wide release following a awards-qualifying run in select cities in December, 2015.
JUNE: JAKE GYLLENHAAL IGNITES DEMOLITION FOR WILD DIRECTOR
After helping Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon develop career-redefining roles in Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, director Jean-Marc Vallee will next work with Jake Gyllenhaal on a film called Demolition. Written by Bryan Sipe, Demolition is “the story of an investment banker struggling to understand his emotional disconnect after the tragic death of his wife [to be played by Naomi Watts]. He begins to tear apart his life in a effort to see where he went wrong and is ultimately rescued by a woman he meets in a chance encounter.” And then, hilarity ensues (…or not). Presumably, the next step would be to cast the female lead. We also learned this year that Jean-Marc Vallee is developing a Janis Joplin biopic, but that film is probably years from being made.
JULY: LEONARDO DICAPRIO SEEKS REVENGE ON TOM HARDY IN THE REVENANT
As noted earlier, many of the most “fresh” stories of 2014 will be in theaters in late 2015, potentially in awards contention. One such film is The Revenant, the next film from acclaimed director Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is itself currently a big awards season contender. The Revenant is set in frontier America, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the title character, who seeks vengeance on three other fur trappers who rob him and leave him to die after he’s been mauled by a bear. Tom Hardy will play one of the fur trappers who committed the evil deed. 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Revenant for release on Christmas Day, 2015.
SEPTEMBER: MATT DAMON TO RETURN AS JASON BOURNE
This year, Jeremy Renner has been filming two big new sequels in the form of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then Mission: Impossible 5, along with Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames. One sequel, however, that Renner won’t be filming any time is the The Bourne Legacy 2, which had been scheduled for July 16, 2016. Oh, there’s still going to be a Bourne sequel scheduled for that date (just not that one). Earlier this autumn, Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass started negotiations with Universal Pictures to return for a fourth movie about Jason Bourne, following their collaboration on the two sequels The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). The goal is indeed to get the film ready in time for that 7/16/16 release date. The Bourne Legacy sequel with Jeremy Renner (and director Justin Lin) remains in development… for some later date (especially now that Justin Lin is attached to direct Star Trek 3). We also found out this year that Paul Greengrass is developing a remake of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
OCTOBER: A MONTH OF BIG SUPERHERO ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR DC AND MARVEL
We’re used to thinking of July as the month for big superhero movie announcements, since that’s when San Diego Comic-Con is. This year, however, all of that really happened in October. First, Warner Bros and DC Comics announced 10 movies for 2016 to 2020, all as part of a Justice League cinematic universe (that started with Man of Steel). Those films included Suicide Squad, two Justice League films, and solo movies for Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, and Cyborg. Around that same time, we started to hear about Marvel’s plans, which started with Robert Downey Jr. being signed to appear in Captain America: Civil War (adapting the crossover event in which Iron Man was a central figure). It was two weeks later, however, that Marvel Studios had their own big event, announcing their own two part team movies Avengers: Infinity War (Parts 1 and 2), along with Inhumans, and solo movies for Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) and Captain Marvel.
NOVEMBER: WONDER WOMAN GETS WOMAN WONDER DIRECTOR
Once Warner Bros confirmed that they would indeed finally produce a live-action Wonder Woman movie, we started hearing a lot about their goal being to hire a female director for the job. It was in November that we heard that the job was likely to go to Michelle McClaren, who has developed a strong body of work on television. Specifically, McClaren’s filmography includes four episodes of Game of Thrones, three episodes of The Walking Dead (including a rather important season two episode), and a whopping 11 episodes of Breaking Bad (including four from season five with some of the most important plot beats). For her work on Breaking Bad, Michelle McClaren has been Emmy-nominated twice as director, and won two Emmys as producer. There was more news about Michelle McClaren developing Wonder Woman two weeks later.
DECEMBER: READY PLAYER ONE ADAPTATION ATTRACTS SHORTLIST OF POPULAR FILM DIRECTORS
Admittedly, December is always sort of a short and slow news month, so we were limited on the stories we could choose for this slot. One particularly interesting story, though, was the idea that Warner Bros is hoping to attract director Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, Memento) to work on their adaptation of the science fiction novel Ready Player One. Of course, this didn’t (and doesn’t) mean that Christopher Nolan will actually take the job, but it was the start of an indication that WB has very ambitious plans for what will be a movie about a teenager in the future obsessed with 1970s and 1980s role-playing games and video games (merged with a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory type premise). Soon after, Ain’t It Cool News reported that the longer director wishlist for Ready Player One includes Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass), and at the top of the list, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), whose films themselves influenced the novel. We expect to learn who will actually nab this now highly anticipated film in 2015.