Weekly Ketchup: Jennifer Lawrence Cast in The Hunger Games

Plus, a Russ Meyer biopic, lots of new sci-fi, and Aronofsky leaves The Wolverine.

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This Week's Ketchup includes casting news for The Hunger Games and Superman: Man of Steel, biopics about the Somali pirate hostage crisis and filmmaker Russ Meyer, the comic book adaptations Daredevil, Preacher and The Wolverine and half a dozen other science fiction projects.

This Week's Top Story

JENNIFER LAWRENCE WILL COMPETE IN THE HUNGER GAMES

After a casting search that included many other young actresses, the lead in the 2012 adaptation of the bestselling young adult novel The Hunger Games has been cast. Jennifer Lawrence (age 20), who was Oscar nominated this year for Winter's Bone, will star in the Lionsgate production as Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in a post-apocalyptic future who must compete in a fight to the death. Lawrence will also costar in X-Men: First Class as the younger version of Mystique (originally played by Rebecca Romijn). Abigail Breslin, Lyndsy Fonseca, Chloe Moretz, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan and Hailee Steinfeld were all among those that Lionsgate considered for the role. The next role expected to be cast is Peeta Mellark, the boy from Katniss' home district who also must compete in the game. Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), Hunter Parrish (Weeds) and Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) are rumored to be in the running to play Peeta. The Hunger Games is planned by Lionsgate as the first of three movies based on Suzanne Collins' trilogy, with The Hunger Games to be followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The film will be directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) from a script by Billy Ray (cowriter of Volcano, Flightplan). Lionsgate has set a release date for The Hunger Games of March 23, 2012.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 WHAT PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE FIGURED ABOUT KEVIN COSTNER AND SUPERMAN IS TRUE

One problem with the way movie news trickles out is that sometimes when a rumor is confirmed, it's already considered a fact by the time the actual truth is officially confirmed. That has the tendency to make the story, as big as it might be, seem like non-news by that time. That's the situation this week with the news that, like most people predicted, Kevin Costner has indeed been cast in Superman: Man of Steel (still just the rumored title) as Jonathan Kent, adoptive father to Clark Kent. Kevin Costner joins the already announced Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and of course, British actor Henry Cavill as Superman himself. Of Costner's casting, the Warner Bros press release stated, "Kevin will be able to communicate the quiet strength of this rural American man who raised the greatest superhero of all time." Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Sucker Punch) also spoke this week about how his version will differ from previous Superman movies. Offering Batman Begins as an example, Snyder said, "there's that structure: there's the canon that we know about and respect, but on other hand there's this approach that pre-supposes that there haven't been any other movies. In every aspect of design and of story, the whole thing is very much from that perspective of 'Respect the canon but don't be a slave to the movies.'"


#2 TOM HANKS KNOWS A CAPTAIN'S DUTY

Sony Pictures has announced development of a movie based on Richard Phillips' memoir A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, with Tom Hanks already signed on to star as Captain Phillips. As the title suggests, the book tells Phillips' true story as the captain of MV Maersk Alabama, the U.S. cargo ship which was held hostage in 2009 by a group of Somali pirates. Phillips offered himself up as a hostage in exchange for the safety of his crew, until the stand off was ultimately ended by the sharpshooting of the Navy SEALs. The book was adapted by screenwriter Billy Ray (cowriter of Volcano, Flightplan), who also adapted The Hunger Games. This true story adaptation joins a few other projects that Tom Hanks is attached to star in, which include the ensemble drama Cloud Atlas, Kathryn Bigelow's South American drama Triple Frontier and the Disney theme park ride adaptation Jungle Cruise, with Toy Story costar Tim Allen.


#3 THE KING OF THE NUDIES GETS HIS OWN BIOPIC

Fox Searchlight is negotiating to acquire the rights to a biopic based upon the life of early exploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer, who had such a reputation for leading ladies with large bosoms that his tombstone proclaims him "The King of the Nudies." Russ Meyer's filmography includes such "classics" as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Vixen!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Supervixens and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. The package includes Oscar nominated director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings) and screenwriter Merritt Johnson, who is Russell's former assistant (on Three Kings) and the cowriter of the HBO movie Temple Grandin and the upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace. As this blog entry points out, David O. Russell has already in the last year been either attached to, or rumored to be associated with, eight other movie projects, including the adaptation of the Uncharted: Drake's Fortune video game, an adaptation of the Cocaine Cowboys documentary and a modern adaption of the Biblical story of Job starring Will Smith. In addition to filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (in particular) who are known fans of Russ Meyer's films, this biopic may be of particular interest to another major player in the film community. Before becoming much more famous as a film critic, Roger Ebert cowrote (sometimes under a pseudonym) on the Russ Meyer movies Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. It would be very surprising if Ebert doesn't show up as a character in this biopic.


#4 THIS WAS A WEEK FULL OF SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES

This final spot in the "Fresh Developments" column is going to be dedicated to very briefly covering the half a dozen science fiction projects that were announced this week. The possible reason for most of these new projects may be the healthy box office opening of Battle: Los Angeles (or they might just be belated reactions to Avatar). Not all of them are necessarily "fresh," but as a group, I had to put them somewhere. Director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) is attached to another Disney science fiction project called Horizons (formerly Oblivion) about "a soldier assigned to patrol a desolate planet who meets a mysterious traveler." This project was actually first announced last summer, but this is the first time it made the Weekly Ketchup. Director Shane Abbess (2007's direct to video Gabriel) will direct 7th Day, based upon a screenplay by Ben Ripley (Source Code), and to be produced by the Dino De Laurentiis Company. 7th Day is about "a voyage to establish a new colony in outer space" and is being described as being like "The Shining on a spaceship." Sony Pictures and producer Neal Moritz (The Fast and the Furious, xXx, I Am Legend) are teaming up for Agent OX, about "a human spy living on an alien planet who must stop an invasion of Earth." 20th Century Fox has acquired an untitled "large scale science fiction adventure film" that has McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator: Salvation) attached to produce, and possibly direct. No details are known yet about the story, except that it was written by screenwriter David Callaham (cowriter of Doom, The Expendables). 20th Century Fox has also picked up an untitled spec pitch from screenwriter Peter Buchman (Eragon; cowriter of Jurassic Park III) which may have a sci-fi element, which John Moore (who directed the remakes of The Omen and Flight of the Phoenix) is attached to direct. Finally, Paramount Pictures has acquired an untitled science fiction thriller pitch from screenwriter Brian Miller, who won a contest to write the upcoming movie Apollo 18.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#5 SCREAM 5: THE FRANCHISE SAYS "I'LL BE RIGHT BACK" YET AGAIN

Scream 4 is still almost a month away from release (April 15, 2011), but Dimension Films is already looking for screenwriters for Scream 5. This news confirms the notion that Scream 4 is seen by the studio as the first of a new trilogy of movies in the Scream franchise. There's not much other news about Scream 5 than just the existence of plans to make another movie. This is a borderline Rotten Idea mostly because it's possible that Scream 4 could be a return to horror comedy gold (Scream and Scream 2 had RT Tomatometer scores of 82% and 81%, respectively). Or maybe it isn't (the RT score for Scream 3 was 38%).





#4 AFTER MARS NEEDS MOMS, DISNEY ABANDONS SHIP ON YELLOW SUBMARINE

After the disastrous opening weekend of the Robert Zemeckis-produced motion capture movie Mars Needs Moms, Walt Disney Pictures has jumped ship from Zemeckis' planned remake of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. The remake was to have been another motion capture animated project, but sources inside Disney are reportedly wanting to move away from the style, citing the way human characters are depicted as being "creepy." Zemeckis is now free to try to set up Yellow Submarine at another studio. However, after three consecutive motion capture movies (The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol), the director is now reportedly considering returning to live action. As a reminder, Zemeckis' successful pre-motion capture career included such hits as Back to the Future, Romancing the Stone, Forrest Gump and Cast Away. Admittedly, this story may not be considered "Rotten" if one thought that the idea of a Yellow Submarine remake was rotten in the first place, but it is bad news for fans of motion capture animation. The style is not quite dead yet, however, as Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is still on its way December 23, 2011.


#3 THE PREACHER DIRECTOR'S DREAM CAST INCLUDES SHIA LABEOUF AS... ARSEFACE?

A few weeks ago, director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four) was announced as the new director of the adaptation of Garth Ennis' Preacher comic book series published by Vertigo Comics. Although it's not yet official, and no one has signed on yet, this week Caruso spoke out about his dream cast for three of the leading roles, two of which have previously starred in Caruso's movies. Caruso would like to cast Chris Pine (Star Trek) as Jesse Custer (the title character), Alex Pettyfer as the Saint of Killers and Shia LaBeouf as the tragic figure Arseface. All three are pretty ridiculous choices, I think it is safe to say, to most people who are familiar with Garth Ennis' actual comic book characters. Shia LaBeouf also made the news this week for being attached to star in the Mandalay Pictures adaptation of the Joe Hill novel Horns. Keith Bunin (HBO's In Treatment) adapted the script about a man who wakes up on the first anniversary of his girlfriend's death with a hangover and two horns growing from his head which appear to now give him the ability to make people do what he wants.


#2 WILL DAREDEVIL ECLIPSE 30 DAYS OF NIGHT?

Before Marvel Studios started adapting their own superheroes, many of the best Marvel superhero franchises were made by other studios. The rights to those characters remain off-limits to Marvel as long as the other studios continue to make movies every few years. And so, it's not surprising that 20th Century Fox has X-Men: First Class coming out this year, and has reboot plans for both Fantastic Four and Daredevil. This week, 20th Century Fox announced that director David Slade (30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) is in talks to take on their next Daredevil movie. Slade's Daredevil project will continue the story after the 2003 Ben Affleck movie, so it's not entirely a reboot, but Ben Affleck won't be in it. The basis for the new Daredevil movie will be the 1986 "Born Again" storyline, written by Frank Miller, in which the Kingpin learns that Matt Murdock is Daredevil, and uses that information to completely destroy his life, piece by piece. Although writers have worked on a second Daredevil script for Fox in the past, there is no screenwriter currently attached yet, since Slade's hiring. This is one of the week's Rotten Ideas due to the way this movie will keep Daredevil out of Marvel's hands (where he arguably belongs). This writer also thought 30 Days of Night was, how do I put it... icky.


#1 DARREN ARONOFSKY LEAVES THE WOLVERINE, RETURNING IT TO ROTTEN IDEA STATUS

Fan consensus on a movie project has rarely had such a drastic 180 degree turnaround as when Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) signed on to direct The Wolverine, the second movie starring the famous mutant. This week, however, Aronofsky and 20th Century Fox announced that he has left The Wolverine to another director (not announced yet). That change puts The Wolverine right back where it previously was, as the sequel to one of the most negatively reviewed (by both critics and fans) superhero movies in recent years. Aronofsky's stated reason for leaving The Wolverine is concern about the production time, saying he discovered that "The Wolverine would keep me out of the country for almost a year." One factor in Aronofsky's decision may be his ongoing divorce from Rachel Weisz, and a possible custody dispute over their son. It would be extremely unfortunate to lose your kid because you were filming a superhero movie overseas. Set in Japan, The Wolverine had also been expected to film there, which may not be as likely now, with the recent tragedy. Hugh Jackman is still attached to star in The Wolverine, and 20th Century Fox is currently "aggressively" looking for a new replacement director.


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

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