Weekly Ketchup: Robert Downey Jr. to Return as Tony Stark in Avengers 2 and 3

Plus, a whole bunch of sequel news, and Hollywood loses another great actor.

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Here's a "very special" edition of the Weekly Ketchup, as Hollywood this week was assaulted by an onslaught of sequel news stories comparable to either the Kryptonians in Man of Steel or the zombies in World War Z (take your pick of timely film references). We've got superhero sequels (The Avengers 2 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), science fiction sequels (Independence Day 2 and Terminator 5), comedy sequels (Bad Teacher 2 and Dumb and Dumber To), and even a sequel to Dolphin Tale. And next week, this column will even get a sequel.


This Week's Top Story

THE AVENGERS 2 AND 3 TO STILL HAVE A GENIUS, BILLIONAIRE, PLAYBOY, PHILANTHROPIST

Although the exact dollar amounts are being kept private, Robert Downey Jr. has struck a new deal with Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Some sources estimate that RDJ made something like $50 million from the success of The Avengers last year, and he will continue to reprise his role as Tony "Iron Man" Stark in The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3, which will mean that he will have starred in two different Marvel trilogies. What the deal notably does not address is any possible Iron Man 4, but that title's absence could be interpreted as confirmation that Robert Downey Jr. is probably closer to the end of his Marvel run than the beginning. The necessity for these sorts of deals springs from RDJ's unique place as the star of Marvel Studios' first movie, before Marvel started using "nine movie contracts" for future stars like Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson (made after his cameo at the end of Iron Man). The Avengers 2 is scheduled for release on May 1, 2015. There's no release date for The Avengers 3 yet, but as the (likely) final film of Marvel's Phase 3, the eventual release date might be something like May 4, 2018 (except... well, keep reading).

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 THIS WEEK IN THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2: SHAILENE WOODLEY OUT, RELEASE DATES FOR TASM 3 AND TASM 4

In addition to all of the various villains (Electro, Rhino, rumors of the Vulture, etc), one of the things that we thought we knew about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was that Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) would be playing Mary Jane Watson. Heck, we've seen images online of Woodley sporting red hair as MJ and everything. Well, things have changed. First, we heard this week that Woodley's role had been cut significantly to set up a bigger role in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. And then, that she had been cut out completely. Now, another young actress, Sarah Gadon (Cosmpolis) has joined the production just a few days later, leading to speculation that she is the new Mary Jane Watson instead (with the part about the role in this movie being a set up for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 still being true). While we're talking about actresses in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there was also this story involving Felicity Jones this week (which might be a spoiler, depending upon whether the eventual trailer gives it away anyway). And finally, following recent weeks in which release dates in the summers of 2016, 2017 and 2018 were starting to get nabbed, Sony Pictures followed suit by announcing The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 are now scheduled for June 10, 2016 and May 4, 2018 respectively.


#2 VALHALLA RISING TO GET A SEQUEL... SET OVER A THOUSAND YEARS LATER IN JAPAN?

File this one under stories that probably make so little sense because there's something we're not quite aware of just yet. Director Nicolas Winding Refn has revealed that he has plans to reunite with Valhalla Rising star Mads Mikkelsen for a sequel to that movie about a viking called One-Eye in 1,000 AD traveling with a band of Christian Crusaders. So far, so good, but here's where things get weird: The plan for the sequel is to set and film it in Tokyo (which, just to be clear, wasn't called Tokyo a thousand years ago). When pressed on this confusing aspect of the sequel, Refn just said that the movie will be "about the future." Visions and such were an important theme in Valhalla Rising, so it's possible that's what will be going on in the sequel, or maybe One-Eye will really time travel. Or maybe it's all just part of a virtual reality experiment involving one of One-Eye's descendants.


#3 DOLPHIN TALE 2 IS ANNOUNCED; THE WORLD COLLECTIVELY SHRUGS

People often forget that sequels aren't just for "genre" films; movies like Cocoon and Free Willy got them too. The reasoning might be that soggy movies are relatively cheap to produce, so when one is relatively successful, sure, why not make a sequel? And so, Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment have announced a release date of September 19, 2014 for Dolphin Tale, the 2011 movie based on a true story about a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. That 3D movie was produced on a budget of $37 million, and grossed over $95 million globally. The sequel will tell another true story from the life of Winter, and will also involve a baby dolphin called Hope that was rescued in 2010. The cast of the original movie included Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, and Kris Kristofferson, and Alcon Entertainment is now in negotiations with them to return for the sequel. Morgan Freeman is also in talks to costar in the drug mule action thriller Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. This is one of the Fresh Developments this week mostly because the first Dolphin Tale earned a Certified Fresh Tomatometer score of 82%.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#6 DUMB AND DUMBER TO GETS DUMPED, THEN UN-DUMPED, FOR 2014

Last week, Warner Bros announced that the studio was giving up on plans for a sequel to the 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The cited reasoning was that Warner Bros was still stinging from the box office failure of the similiarly budgeted The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which also featured Jim Carrey. The sequel, called Dumb and Dumber To, might have been expected to die after that. Instead, we can report a week later that Universal Pictures has announced plans to release the sequel in the summer of 2014. The rumored premise for the sequel involves a road trip to find one of the comedic duo's daughters because her kidney is needed for a transplant surgery. This is one of the week's Rotten Ideas because the fact that 20 years will have gone by since Dumb and Dumber came out might be a sign that the time for a sequel is long past.


#5 INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 GETS EXACTLY THE RELEASE DATE IN 2015 YOU WOULD EXPECT

The idea of a sequel to the alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day has been kicking around online since around July 5th, 1996. It's never seemed entirely "real," however, because 20th Century Fox never committed to an actual release date that one could circle on a calendar. Well, it's "real" now. The actual Independence Day in 2015 is on a Saturday, and so Independence Day 2 has been scheduled instead for Friday, July 3, 2015. Will Smith is not expected to return for the sequel, but Bill Pullman will be back as the ex-president in a story set many years later, with the new focus being on the next generation. And this is where we guess that one of them will be played by by either Jaden or Willow Smith. Independence Day 2 is also expected to end on a cliffhanger that leads to Independence Day 3. Planning prematurely for sequels to expensive would-be blockbusters is always a great idea. Like Dumb and Dumber To, this one is a Rotten Idea mostly because the "sell by" date is so far expired by now.


#4 CAMERON DIAZ EXPECTED TO RETURN FOR BAD TEACHER 2 -- WORSE TEACHER? BAD INSERT-OTHER-PROFESSION?

Tired of reading about sequels yet? Back in 2011, Bad Teacher was something of a surprise hit for an R-rated comedy, ending up at over $215 million in worldwide box office. And so, Sony Pictures has started development on a sequel to Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz and director Jake Kasdan both expected to return. Bad Teacher "earned" a Rotten score of 44% on the Tomatometer.





#3 THIS WEEK IN ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER NEWS: A TERMINATOR 5 RUMOR AND ARNOLD FIGHTS ZOMBIES?

Two different stories emerged this week involving Arnold Schwarzegger, and hey look, one of them is a sequel. It's also worth noting that this one is still just a rumor, too the gist of which is that Dwayne Johnson might be adding yet another franchise to his filmography by joining Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 5, which starts filming in January, 2014. If any of it is true, the rumor continues that the story might be set in the 1940s (???), and involve a heroic human figure (to be played by Schwarzenegger) who is basically the inspiration for the future cyborgs that look like him. Sure, why not. Arnold also signed on this week to take a lead role in Maggie, as a farmer whose family is besieged by a zombie invasion. This is the same Maggie that Chloe Grace Moretz was formerly in talks to costar in, but now, she's not. Score one for Hit-Girl.


#2 THEY'RE HERE (AGAIN)... THE POLTERGEIST REMAKE GETS GREENLIT

This week wasn't just about sequels. Nope, one of the big stories was about an original idea. Well, an idea that was original back in 1982, anyway. MGM and Fox 2000 are teaming up for the remake of the 1982 ghost story Poltergeist, about a family whose new home in the suburbs is haunted by angry spirits. The director this time around will be Gil Kenan (City of Ember, Monster House). The screenplay was adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, cowriter of Oz the Great and Powerful. Filming will start in September, 2013, and the remake will be released sometime in 2014.




#1 R.I.P. JAMES GANDOLFINI (1961-2013)

This column is 98% of the time just about movie development news. This week, however, we lost one of the greatest actors of our generation, which, in a way, does indeed directly impact movie development (in that there's one less quality actor that can be cast in future movies). Most people probably think of James Gandolfini as a TV actor (for obvious and justifiably defendable reasons) for his six seasons as Tony Sopranos on HBO's The Sopranos. However, Gandolfini also had a strong career as a movie actor, from his role as a hitman in True Romance (which reportedly led to him being cast in The Sopranos), two movies with Brad Pitt (The Mexican and Killing Them Softly, if you don't count Pitt's stoner cameo in True Romance), and as (an uncredited) Leon Panetta in Zero Dark Thirty. Here's six minutes of Tony Soprano watching Public Enemy. Few actors could ever pull off making us want to watch them watch a movie.

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

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