Fresh Developments This Week
#1 JESSICA CHASTAIN JOINS CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S INTERSTELLAR
Jessica Chastain's continuing journey to being a household name continued this week with two new projects, one of which sees her joining the roster of a director not particularly known for enlisting new talent. That director would be Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception), and so, Jessica Chastain is now the third lead in his science fiction project Interstellar. The first two announced stars were Matthew McConaughey (the male lead) and Anne Hathaway (the other female lead). Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros have scheduled Interstellar for November 7, 2014. Chastain this week also signed on to star in a World War II drama called The Zookeeper's Wife. Niki Caro (North Country, Whale Rider) will direct this true story about a married couple at the Warsaw Zoo who used empty cages to hide over 300 Jewish refugees who shared space at the zoo with such animals as lynxes, otters, and hyena puppies. The Zookeeper's Wife will be based upon the 2007 book of the same title by Diane Ackerman. Because really, one couldn't make up that premise without it being true. Screenwriter Angela Workman also wrote the 2001 film The War Bride, and cowrote 2011's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. These projects join Jessica Chastain's consistently busy schedule which currently includes Guillermo Del Toro's ghost story Crimson Peak and the August Strindberg play adaptation Miss Julie. But, wait, there's more! Breaking news came in just before this column was published: Michael Caine will reunite with Christopher Nolan for Interstellar, which will be their sixth outing together after three Batman movies, The Prestige, and Inception.
#2 JOHNNY DEPP TO SING AGAIN INTO THE WOODS
Johnny Depp is in talks with Walt Disney Pictures to reunite with director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) for the studio's adaptation of the 1986 Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods. Johnny Depp would play the lead character as a baker who journeys into a magical forest with his wife to confront the witch (Meryl Streep, in talks) who put a curse on them. Along the way, they encounter such fairy tale characters as Cinderella, Jack of the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. Into the Woods will also mark the second time that Johnny Depp has starred in a Stephen Sondheim musical after Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (making Depp's live action musicals 100% Sondheim so far).
#3 MICHAEL FASSBENDER AND NATALIE PORTMAN TO STAR IN THE SCOTTISH... MOVIE
This week, both Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman were announced as signed to star in a new adaptation of the William Shakespeare tragedy MacBeth. Fassbender will play the Scottish lord of the title, who, with the help of his wife and three witches, attempts to seize the throne. Unlike many modern theater adaptations of The Scottish Play, this movie will be set in the 11th century (rather than, say, 1930s Chicago). This new version will be directed by Justin Kurzel, who made his feature film debut with the 2011 Australian film Snowtown. Filming is expected to start in late 2013. In other news, simply because there's no better place for it this week, Disney's new Cinderella, to be directed by Kenneth Branagh (who has directed a lot of Shakespeare movies), was announced this week to be Lily James, from TV's Downton Abbey.
#4 COLIN FIRTH ENJOYS A BIG WEEK IN COLIN FIRTH MOVIE NEWS
Colin Firth was in the states this week promoting the release of his new movie Arthur Newman (if you didn't know that movie existed, that's why he was doing so much publicity). And like the Beatles before him, the arrival of Colin Firth's Arthur Newman publicity rush brought with him lots of other Colin Firth-related movie news. The biggest Colin Firth announcement in this week of Colin Firth is that Colin Firth will be playing a Colin Firth-ish British espionage agent in The Secret Service, starring Colin Firth, which will be directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), and is an adaptation of a comic book mini-series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Colin Firth will be playing a secret agent who recruits his street tough nephew to attend a spy school where he can be trained to be more like Colin Firth. Colin Firth will be also joining Emma Stone in Woody Allen's currently untitled next film which will be filming this year in the South of France. Finally, Colin Firth revealed this week that fans of Bridget Jones' Diary (and Colin Firth) will potentially have to wait a long time before they get to see more Colin Firth (in that role), as plans for a third movie are currently stalled.
#5 THE FANTASTIC FOUR REBOOT CASTING RUMORS STARTED THIS WEEK
The rights to various characters continue to drift back to Marvel Studios, including the recently revealed Ghost Rider (along with Daredevil, Blade, and The Punisher). As it now stands, there's really only three major Marvel franchises outside Marvel, and they are The Amazing Spider-Man at Sony, X-Men (and all related movie mutants) at 20th Century Fox, and Fantastic Four, also at Fox. And it's that last property's upcoming reboot that made the most news online this week. It started with a "buried lead" type story which mentioned that Allison Williams (of HBO's Girls, and also Brian Williams' daughter) is on "the short list" for a role, which is almost certainly Sue Storm, AKA Invisible Girl/Invisible Woman. This would be a good point to mention that the Fantastic Four reboot will be directed by Josh Trank, who got a lot of good press last year with the superpowers-related shaky cam movie Chronicle. The reason Chronicle is important here is that Michael B. Jordan, one of the film's stars, is also now in talks with Fox to play Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch. And right there is where the brains of a few million fans went "kablooey..." because Michael B. Jordan is African American. If Jordan lands the role, he will be far from the first actor to play a comic book character who is usually thought of as a different race (see also: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Michael Clarke Duncan as The Kingpin, or Idris Elba as Heimdall).
#6 JAMIE FOXX TO PLAY THE RENAMED DADDY WARBUCKS IN THE ANNIE REMAKE
Jamie Foxx is in talks with Will Smith's production company and Sony Pictures to costar in the remake of Annie. If he does sign on, Foxx will be playing the rich gentleman who adopts the title orphan character, but instead of "Daddy Warbucks," the character will now be named "Benjamin Stacks" (as in stacks of $100 bills which bear the portrait of Benjamin Franklin). That sentence is making this writer regret calling this story a "Fresh Development," but hopefully it will play better in the movie. The Annie reboot will be directed by Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits), which is why this story is a Fresh Development. Quvenzhane Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild will play the title character, replacing the originally announced Willow Smith, who was seen as quickly growing out of the role. Sony Pictures is expected to release the new Annie sometime in late 2014.
#7 MR. ROGERS GETS HIS OWN BIOPIC IN A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
This year marks 10 years now since the 2003 death of Fred "Mister" Rogers. Like so many deceased celebrities, Mr. Rogers is now the subject of a biopic that is in development at the independent production company Treehouse Pictures behind the Richard Gere movie Arbitrage. It all started with a spec script called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Alexis Jolly, a staff writer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (AKA Ellen). Somewhat bizarrely, that "A" at the beginning of the title fits A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood in with a theme among Treehouse Pictures' films, which is that they all start with the letter "A" (weird, huh?). One thing that this biopic most likely will not cover is Fred Rogers' time in World War II/Korea/Vietnam, because, despite online rumors to the contrary, Fred Rogers never served in the military.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 THE MEN IN BLACK TRILOGY CONTINUES WITH MEN IN BLACK 4 (OH WAIT, THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT...)
A funny thing happened when the flop Men in Black III was actually released... it scored a Fresh 70% on the Tomatometer and earned over $624 million in worldwide box office. In other words, yeah, in no way was Men in Black III a flop (who saw that coming?). However, regardless of how studios think, that doesn't necessarily mean the world needs or wants a Men in Black IV (which is why the following is a Rotten Idea). A fourth Men in Black is exactly what Sony Pictures has in the works, as they have hired screenwriter Oren Uziel, who is also working on a rewrite of the 21 Jump Street sequel.
#1 REESE WITHERSPOON JOINS SAD KEANU IN SCI FI MOVIE PASSENGERS
Reese Witherspoon is now in talks to costar with Keanu Reeves in the science fiction/romantic drama Passengers. The movie is set on a colony transport ship on way to a distant planet on which a man (Reeves) is accidentally awoken almost a century early, and so he wakes up a woman (Witherspoon) for company. Apparently not a huge believer in the Golden Rule. This story is one of the week's Rotten Ideas based on Reese Witherspoon's RT Tomatometer, which has only 10 "Fresh" movies among her 33 rated films, for a 30%/70% Fresh/Rotten ratio. It's not really that movie-related, but here's the latest on that other Reese Witherspoon news story. Passengers will be directed by Irish filmmaker Brian Kirk (My Boy Jack) from a script by Prometheus cowriter Jon Spaihts.