Weekly Ketchup: Jeremy Renner Is the New Bourne Star

Plus, lots more casting news, sequels, and a new J.J. Abrams movie.

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This Week's Ketchup saw many casting announcements, including new roles for Elizabeth Banks, Tom Cruise, James Franco, Jeremy Renner, Winona Ryder, Jason Statham and Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Also included in the news cycle are stories about The Bourne Legacy, Fast Six, The Hunger Games and Prom 2.

This Week's Top Story

JEREMY RENNER IS THE NEW NOT-JASON-BOURNE IN THE BOURNE LEGACY

In the last year following the Oscar success of The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner has joined two major franchises with roles in both Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers (as Hawkeye). Now, Universal Pictures has added to Renner's franchise collection by offering the actor the lead role in The Bourne Legacy. This fourth film follows the three starring Matt Damon as a spin off about a new secret operative (Renner) "from a covert government program that is even more dangerous than the Treadstone brainwashing program that hatched Bourne." The Bourne Legacy will be directed by Tony Gilroy (Duplicity, Michael Clayton), who also wrote the screenplay, as well as writing or cowriting the three previous Bourne movies. Filming of The Bourne Legacy is scheduled to start in September, 2011. As for the archer superhero Hawkeye, Kevin Feige of Marvel also confirmed this week what has long been suspected, which is that there are plans to spin off Hawkeye into his own movie after The Avengers. Hawkeye joins several other planned Marvel movies which include Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Black Widow, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Doctor Strange.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 DENZEL WASHINGTON TAKES FLIGHT AS A LESS HEROIC CAPTAIN SULLY TYPE

One of the stories in last week's Ketchup was the news that Robert Zemeckis is producing an low budget R-rated comedy called How to Survive a Garden Gnome Invasion, but he isn't expected to personally direct that film. This week we found out what might be Zemeckis' next film as director, as he is in talks with Paramount Pictures to direct Flight, which has Denzel Washington loosely attached as the star. Written by John Gatins (the upcoming Real Steel; cowriter of Coach Carter), Flight is the story of a commercial airliner pilot named Whip Whitaker who is hailed as a hero after saving his plane from a possible crash. The twist, however, is that Whip was himself under the influence of drugs and alcohol and (likely) the cause of the tragedy that the media calls him a hero for preventing. John Gatins also last week signed with DreamWorks to start work on a Real Steel sequel. Flight can be seen as a dark, fictional take on the true (and truly heroic) story of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, whose own memoir Highest Duty is also in development to be adapted into a movie. If the deal goes through, Flight will be Zemeckis' first live action film since 2000's Cast Away (the story of which also started with an airplane mishap). Robert Zemeckis is coming off producing the recent flop Mars Needs Moms, a decade of directing and producing motion-capture CGI movies (like Beowulf and The Polar Express), and Disney cancelling his planned mo-cap remake of Yellow Submarine.


#2 JASON STATHAM TO BE ONE OF DIRETOR TAYLOR HACKFORD'S MOST UNLIKELY STARS?

Action star Jason Statham is in talks to star as the "honorable thief" Parker in a film based upon the popular character from a series of novels by Donald E. Westlake. Parker will be directed by Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman), for whom this will be a rare recent foray into genre work (Hackford's 1980s-1990s films included White Nights, Against All Odds and The Devil's Advocate). Seven of Westlake's novels have also been previously adapted as such movies as Point Blank and Payback (both based on the Parker novel The Hunter) and What's the Worst That Could Happen? There's no word yet as to which specific Parker novels by Westlake are being adapted, but it appears likely that the answer is that elements of several novels are being incorporated. That job of adapting Westlake's books was handled by screenwriter John J. McLaughlin, cowriter of Black Swan and the 2005 Tommy Lee Jones movie Man of the House.


#3 J.J. ABRAMS'S NEXT SECRET PROJECT SOUNDS LIKE A SUCKER PUNCH

J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company, in addition to producing twist-filled shows like Alias, LOST and Fringe, are developing a reputation for "secret" movies, starting with Matt Reeves' Cloverfield, and continuing this year with J.J.'s own Super 8. Some details about the latest secret project at Bad Robot were revealed this week, as we learned about something called Zanbato. Sharing a name with a very large Japanese sword (thanks, Wikipedia!), Zanbato reportedly involves both Japanese history and robotics, and is described as being about "swashbuckling robots with swords." That byline, as noted in this story's title, sounds a bit like a segment from the recent flop Sucker Punch. Zanbato is being written by the team of Monica Breen and Alison Schapker, who have worked as writers and producers on various Bad Robot TV shows (including the three mentioned above), and are also show runners on ABC's Brothers and Sisters. In other news related to Bad Robot (by way of Cloverfield), that film's director Matt Reeves, who recently remade the Swedish vampire thriller Let the Right One In as Let Me In, has signed on for another vampire movie. This time, Reeves will direct the adaptation of the novel The Passage written by Justin Cronin (under the pen name Jordan Ainsley). The Passage starts off with cancer patients getting healthy after being bitten by South American bats, which leads to experiments that ultimately lead to an outbreak of nearly indestructible telepathic vampires. Of course. Last week, Matt Reeves also came on board a project at Universal which was formerly known as a remake of They Live (but isn't anymore).


#4 TOM CRUISE GETS INTO POLITICS, CRAZY STUPID LOVE STYLE

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Bolt, Fred Claus) has become in recent years something of a hot property, able to work in both animation and live action, and selling each new script for millions of dollars (which is much better than many screenwriters do). These recent sales include this summer's Crazy, Stupid Love (starring Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling) and the upcoming Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand comedy My Mother's Curse. Fogelman's latest (untitled) story idea was pitched to five studios this week, with Tom Cruise attached to star (which surely helped), and ended up being picked up by Warner Bros for a deal worth $2-3 million depending upon whether it actually gets made. The story revolves around a man blessed with a lucky life who becomes a politician, which leads to his first lifelong major mistake, an affair which leaves both his political career and private life in tatters (yes, it is a comedy, regardless of how tragic that sounds). This untitled project joins Tom Cruise's other upcoming projects which include the recently wrapped Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, a supporting role in the musical Rock of Ages and the science fiction movie Oblivion from TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski.


#5 LAY THE FAVORITE TELLS A PROFESSIONAL GAMBLER'S TRUE STORY

Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Prestige) and Bruce Willis are signed, and Joshua Jackson (Fringe) is in talks, to star in Lay the Favorite, based on the true story of professional gambler Beth Raymer. Catherine Zeta-Jones was recently reported to be in talks to play the wife of Willis' mentor role, but it appears she may have dropped out so that she could take a role in the musical Rock of Ages instead.. Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) will direct from a script by D.V. DeVincentis, cowriter of Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, which was also directed by Frears. That also means this is the first time one of DeVincentis' scripts is being produced without John Cusack in the lead role.




#6 THE HUNGER GAMES GETS FIVE CASTING ANNOUNCEMENTS IN THE SAME WEEK

The Lionsgate publicity department went into overdrive this week, with a total of five different casting announcement stories (covering 7 roles) in as many days, all for the same movie. The movie in question is The Hunger Games, the adaptation by director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) of the popular young adult novel by Suzanne Collins about teenagers in the future forced to fight to the death. Story #1 was the casting of newcomers Dayo Okenikyi as Thresh and Rue. They were followed by another pair of young actors as Jack Quaid and Leven Rambin will play the District 1 Tributes Marvel and Glimmer. Another young actress to land a role is Willow Shields, who will play Primrose Everdeen, the little sister of Katniss, who will be played by Jennifer Lawrence. This week's news wasn't all younglings, however, as Elizabeth Banks is likely to play Effie Trinket, the District 12 escort and Paula Malcolmson (Trixie from Deadwood) will play Mrs. Everdeen.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#3 WINONA RYDER AND JAMES FRANCO TO SHARE THE STARE

Winona Ryder recently costarred in Black Swan, a dark psychological drama set in the world of ballet. Now, the actress is signed to star in The Stare, which has a plot synopsis that sounds a lot like Black Swan, except set in the world of stage theatre instead. Ryder will play a playwright whose mind starts to "warp as she struggles to launch her next production. She's plagued by dreams and visions of being watched, but can't decide if she's at the center of a manipulative plot or simply losing her grip on reality." James Franco will also costar as one of the actors in her latest production. The Stare will be the highest profile film to date for independent director Jay Anania (Shadows and Lies, which also starred James Franco), who is also coincidentally the younger brother of the late Elizabeth Edwards. Filming of The Stare is scheduled to start on May 6, 2011 in New York City. The Stare is one of the week's (borderline) Rotten Ideas based solely on the resemblance its synopsis bears to Black Swan.


#2 DISNEY GREENLIGHTS LIKELY PROM SEQUEL

The Walt Disney Pictures teen movie Prom may not open in theaters until next Friday (4/29/11), but the studio is wasting no time. The studio has hired that film's screenwriter Katie Wech to write another teen movie which could be a sequel to Prom, depending upon how well the movie actually performs next weekend. Not much is actually known about this potential sequel yet, but there is speculation that it could continue the story of the sophomore characters featured in Prom (along with members of the senior class). Since reviews aren't in yet for Prom, this story about a potential sequel ends up in the Rotten Idea category until we find out that Prom is some sort of modern day John Hughes classic (which is unlikely... hence, the Rotten Idea).


#1 THE FAST, FAST, FAST, FAST, FAST AND THE FURIOUS

Prom isn't the only movie opening on April 29, 2011 that is already getting a sequel. This week, Universal Pictures signed a new two year deal with producer/screenwriter Chris Morgan which includes Morgan working on the script for Fast Six, the obligatory next film after Fast Five. Chris Morgan also wrote the third (TF&TF: Tokyo Drift) and fourth (Fast & Furious) movies in the franchise, as well as cowriting Universal's Wanted and their upcoming Keanu Reeves movie 47 Ronin. This news of Fast Six is the week's most Rotten Idea based mostly on the regularly low RT Tomatometer scores, including the two released films written by Chris Morgan (35% and 27%, respectively). The reason that Universal keeps chugging along with the franchise also made the news today, however, as early box office from Australia is showing Fast Five to be trouncing Marvel's Thor down under.

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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