Weekly Ketchup: Dwayne Johnson May Be Hercules
Also, new projects for Edgar Wright and Guillermo del Toro, and Disney's next theme park adaptation is extreme.
After last week's column that was almost entirely Rotten, this week saw the movie news cycle return to a more stable balance. These ten stories feature some big names both in front of (Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Depp, Paul Walker) and behind the camera (Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright), as well as a Nelson Mandela biopic and a movie about Irish hero Cú Chulainn.
This Week's Top Story
DWAYNE JOHNSON'S GRANDMA MIGHT CLAP AND EXCLAIM, "HERCULES! HERCULES! HERCULES!"
The world may never actually get to see Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson star in the long-planned Kamehameha historical biopic that was much talked about in the early 2000s. Instead, Johnson is now in talks with MGM to star in Hercules, to be directed by Brett Ratner (Tower Heist, X-Men: The Last Stand and all three Rush Hour movies). Rather than being directly based upon the original Greek myths about the demi god Hercules, this Hercules movie will be based upon two comic book series published by Radical Publishing: Hercules: The Thracian Wars and Hercules: The Knives of Kush. As detailed on their Wikipedia page, Radical's strategy as a company "in the comic book business is to create properties that are pre-packaged for adaptation to film and other media." The Hercules script was adapted from those comic books (and the related materials created by Radical to help sell the property) by Ryan Condal, who also cowrote the currently shelved Warner Bros adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 JOHNNY DEPP'S NIGHT STALKER ATTRACTS DIRECTOR EDGAR WRIGHT
One could interpret Johnny Depp's current movie plans as being in the midst of a wave of TV series adaptations. Depp has a cameo in next month's 21 Jump Street (the show that launched his career); in May, he stars in the 1960s-1970s soap opera adaptation Dark Shadows, and then in 2013, he'll be playing Tonto in The Lone Ranger, which, among other things, was one of the original hit TV series (1949 to 1957). On top of all that, Johnny Depp is also producing and is likely to star in a Walt Disney Pictures adaptation of the 1974-1975 ABC TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, about a reporter whose cases regularly involve supernatural beings like vampires, werewolves and zombies. Although Disney's The Night Stalker doesn't yet have a writer to actually adapt a script, the studio has already hired Edgar Wright, the British director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. The Night Stalker joins Edgar Wright's still-in-development Marvel Comics adaptation Ant-Man, which is also based at Walt Disney Pictures as part of Disney's 2009 acquisition of Marvel, and Wright is also still developing The World's End, which will end the "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy" of movies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
#2 GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S DAY OF THE DEAD ISN'T A REMAKE
Given director/producer Guillermo Del Toro's long ties to the horror genre (Cronos, Mimic, The Devil's Backbone), one might reasonably expect a movie titled Day of the Dead to be a zombie remake. Or, one could remember that del Toro is Mexican, and that "Dia de Muertos" is a major holiday there, and that would be the correct assumption. Guillermo del Toro will be producing a CGI animated film called Day of the Dead that is scheduled for release in the fall of 2014 (November 1-2 being the dates of the festivities). Day of the Dead will tell "a Romeo and Juliet style love story set against a Mexican 'Day of the Dead' backdrop." The film will be directed and cowritten by Jorge R. Gutierrez, the writer/animator/producer of the 2007-2008 Nickelodeon animated TV series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. At this point, Day of the Dead also appears to be an independent production, but Guillermo del Toro's involvement will undoubtedly help the movie secure distribution at some point in the next 30 months.
#3 MICHAEL FASSBENDER TO BE BOTH THE COUNSELOR AND CU CHULAINN
After a very successful year that included roles in Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method and Shame, Michael Fassbender continues to land hot new roles on a fairly regular basis. One of his upcoming roles is in Ridley Scott's Prometheus, and after a few weeks of rumors, this week we found out for sure that Fassbender and Scott will be working together again soon. Fassbender will star in The Counselor as an attorney who gets involved with the drug business. The project is developing very quickly, as it was just a short while ago that novelist Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) sold it as his first ever spec script, and then soon after, Ridley Scott came aboard as director. The next step is the casting of the film's villain, and the actors that are reportedly being considered for the prime role include Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Brad Pitt. Michael Fassbender is not content to just star in other people's projects, however, as he is also getting into producing. The Irish/German actor has his eye on the legends of Cú Chulainn, the central figure in the Ulster Cycle in Irish mythology of the 8th century. To get the project started, Michael Fassbender has hired Public Enemies cowriter Ronan Bennett to start cracking on adapting the original Old Irish poems.
#4 IDRIS ELBA: FROM THE WIRE AND THOR TO... THE NELSON MANDELA BIOPIC
South African leader Nelson Mandela has been showing up quite a bit in the movies lately, as portrayed by Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Terrence Howard (Winnie) and David Harewood (Mrs. Mandela). What the world hasn't yet gotten, however, is a proper biopic just about Mandela himself (and not, say, his wife or a sports team). That is, however, not for the lack of trying, as attempts to adapt Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, have been ongoing for about a decade now (including a time, pre-Invictus, when Morgan Freeman was expected to star in it). Now, Idris Elba (The Wire, Thor) has confirmed that not only is he signed to star as Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom, but that filming is scheduled to begin later this summer. What isn't yet known is who will be directing, or what the status of the screenplay currently is.
#5 DREAMWORKS REVEALS THEIR STAR-STUDDED TURBO CAST
Except for Megamind, we're currently in a near-streak of sequels and spin offs from DreamWorks Animation, but after Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, the opposite will happen: five original movies in a row. The third film in that line up will be the 7/19/13 release Turbo, about a snail whose dreams of racing are fulfilled when he somehow is endowed with super speed. This week, we found out who exactly will be starring in Turbo, and it's quite a list. Ryan Reynolds will be providing the voice of Turbo himself, while the rest of the voice cast includes (in alphabetical order) Snoop Dogg, Paul Giamatti, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michael Pena, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz and Kurtwood Smith. Longtime DreamWorks animator David Soren will be making his feature film directorial debut with Turbo after previously directing the direct-to-video title Merry Madagascar.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 WARNER BROS REPLACES SHELVED LIVE ACTION AKIRA WITH PLANS FOR BLEACH
Warner Bros has been making movie news for years now with their plans for a live action Akira remake, but that project has now been indefinitely shelved. However, the studio seems intent on bringing some manga to live action, as Warner Bros is now developing an adaptation of Tite Kubo's Bleach. In the original manga series, a teenager with the ability to see spirits gets an upgrade to his abilities when he becomes a "Soul Reaper," a personification similar to the Grim Reaper. Bleach has also already been adapted as an anime TV series, four anime feature films, a series of rock musicals, a series of video games and a collectible trading card game. Warner Bros has recruited comedy director Peter Segal (Get Smart, Anger Management, 50 First Dates) to produce, and potentially direct. The screenwriting adaptation will be handled by Dan Mazeau, whose feature film debut will be as a cowriter of Warner Bros' upcoming sequel Wrath of the Gods. The reason Bleach is one of the week's Rotten Ideas mostly has to do with the strange decision to give this manga adaptation to a comedy director, and a screenwriter whose only credit to date is a sequel to a remake that wasn't particularly well received.
#3 JOHN MCCLANE'S SON WILL BE... NEWCOMER JAI COURTNEY
Ever since 20th Century Fox revealed that the fifth film in the Die Hard series, A Good Day to Die Hard, would prominently feature John McClane, Jr. (as well as Bruce Willis as his dad), there have been a lot of names rumored to be in the running for the role. At various points, that list has included D.J. Cotrona, James Badge Dale, Liam Hemsworth and Aaron Paul. This week, however, we found out who actually landed the role, and it is... nearly unknown Australian actor Jai Courtney. Jai Courtney has appeared in several episodes of Spartacus: Vengeance and will costar with Tom Cruise in One Shot. Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney's father/son adventures will take them to Moscow, where they will fight bad guys, save the world, and such. Director John Moore (Max Payne, Flight of the Phoenix) will start filming A Good Day to Die Hard in April, and 20th Century Fox has already scheduled the film for release on February 14, 2013. John Moore's RT Tomatometer scores are also why A Good Day to Die Hard continues to be a Rotten Idea... especially for long time fans of the franchise.
#2 PAUL WALKER TO SCALE A SKYSCRAPER FOR UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Paul Walker has signed a producing deal with Universal Pictures that comes along with him signing on to star in the studio's disaster movie, Skyscraper. This week's story doesn't really explain what Skyscraper is, but if we go back a few years to 2008, the announcement back then explained that Skyscraper is a Towering Inferno-style disaster movie about a mile high building in Chicago that goes wrong, forcing a crew to save the city from mayhem (presumably because a building that big is about to fall on everyone's heads). One also has to wonder if this is truly a sign that we are moving past post-9/11 paranoia, into the time when a movie about a massive skyscraper falling down is seen as a suitable entertainment. There's no director for Skyscraper yet, and the script's writer Mike Sobel doesn't yet have any proper credits outside of working as an assistant on two direct-to-video sequels. In addition to Paul Walker presumably getting a producer credit, Skyscraper will be produced by Neal Moritz and Original Films, with whom Paul Walker has worked in the past on the Fast and the Furious movies. And, speaking of which... Walker's next movie will be Fast & Furious 6, which is already scheduled for release on May 24, 2013. As for why Skyscraper is one of the week's Rotten Ideas... here's a link to Paul Walker's RT Tomatometer page. Nuff said, right?
#1 DISNEY'S YETI/MATTERHORN MOVIE TO BE TOTALLY EXTREME, TO THE MAX!
Walt Disney Pictures continues to develop movies based on other theme park attractions besides Pirates of the Caribbean, but in the case of at least one of them, the connection seems to be variable. The ride in question is the Matterhorn at Disneyland, and the movie that is supposedly inspired by it is currently untitled, and may not have the word Matterhorn in it at all. This week, Disney hired screenwriter Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm, Scream 3, Transformers: Dark of the Moon) to work on the screenplay, and along with that hiring, we got a synopsis for the movie. Whatever the title ends up being, the movie will be about "five young adventure seekers -- an action sports guy, travel guide, cartographer, archeologist and escape artist -- who venture into the Alps for mysterious reasons and face Yetis that guard a secret." It's worth noting that "Yetis" are a myth most often associated with a completely different mountain range (the Himalayas) which are way, way, way far away from the Alps, but to be fair, that's a mistake that the Disneyland ride has always made as well. As for why this untitled "hardcore adventuring" theme park adaptation movie is the week's Most Rotten Idea, it isn't really because of (just) that, anyway. Nope, it's because of all the little green splotches on Ehren Kruger's RT Tomatometer page.
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.