Weekly Ketchup: Martin Freeman Cast as The Hobbit

Plus, Mel Gibson is in and out of The Hangover 2

This week's Ketchup is full of news about prequels, sequels and remakes. The prequels in the news this week are The Hobbit and X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, and there's also news for The Hangover 2 and Iron Man 3. Hollywood's remake fever continues this week with revisits to The Day of the Triffids, The Forbin Project, The Thin Man and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


THIS WEEK'S TOP STORY


MARTIN FREEMAN AND MANY OTHERS ARE CAST IN THE HOBBIT

Following weeks of rumors, Martin Freeman, the star of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and costar of the original, UK version of The Office, has been confirmed as being cast as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's two movies based upon J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Martin Freeman is not the only actor to be announced this week, however, as most of the Company of Dwarves has also been cast. British TV actor Richard Armitage (who also has a role as a Nazi in Captain America: The First Avenger) will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company. The selection of Armitage echoes the theme of the other actors playing dwarves; all are relatively obscure actors best known for working in British TV or film. They are: Aidan Turner (Kili), Rob Kazinsky (Fili), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), John Callen (Oin), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Peter Hambleton (Gloin). The dwarf actors join the previously cast Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis, who are reprising their Lord of the Rings roles as Gandalf the Grey and Gollum. Still yet to be cast are a number of human and elf roles, including Elrond (presuming Hugo Weaving is not returning), Beorn and Bard the Bowman. Among the actors who are reportedly in talks about unspecified roles are David Tennant (Doctor Who), Stephen Fry, and Saorise Ronan. Finally, there is Smaug the Dragon, for whom Bill Nighy is reportedly in discussions to provide the voice work. Filming is scheduled to begin on the two Hobbit movies in February, 2010, either in the UK or New Zealand (pending further announcement).


FRESH DEVELOPMENTS THIS WEEK


#1 SEQUEL TO A ROTTEN MOVIE GETS A FRESH DIRECTOR: WOLVERINE 2

The last few weeks have been full of stories about both who will direct the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and what will be the next movie for director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) following this December's Black Swan. More recently, those two stories started to come together, with word that Aronofsky was the seemingly unlikely frontrunner for the Wolverine 2 job. This week, Wolverine star Hugh Jackman confirmed that Darren Aronofsky has indeed signed on with 20th Century Fox. Jackman was effusive in his praise for Aronofsky, though he admitted, "well, I would say that, but I really do feel that, and I feel this is going to be very different." Jackman continued, "this is Wolverine. This is not Popeye. He's kind of dark... but you know, this is a change of pace. Chris McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects, has written the script, so that'll give you a good clue. [Aronofsky's] going to make it fantastic. There's going to be some meat on the bones. There will be something to think about as you leave the theater, for sure." Darren Aronofsky has long wanted to make his version of a superhero movie, going back several years before Christopher Nolan came aboard the Batman movie, when Aronofsky was developing an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One at Warner Bros. Another quasi-superhero project that Aronofsky was once developing (which has since been abandoned) was a reboot of Robocop at the now-struggling MGM.


#2 DISNEY MAKES ANOTHER MARVEL DEAL AND SCHEDULES IRON MAN 3 FOR 2013

When Walt Disney Studios acquired Marvel Studios several months ago, a lingering question was what exactly would become of the already announced movies Marvel had planned with Paramount Pictures. Marvel and Paramount had established a good relationship with the first two Iron Man movies, and it was to continue with Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. This week, Disney paid Paramount $115 million for the transfer of the distribution rights to The Avengers and the planned Iron Man 3, with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger remaining Paramount releases. Additionally, this announcement also included a May 3, 2013 release date for Iron Man 3, which may make it the first major Marvel Studios movie to be released after The Avengers on May 4, 2012. Other Marvel Studios projects currently in development include Runaways, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Black Panther and Luke Cage.



#3 SPIELBERG'S NEXT MOVIE AFTER WAR HORSE WILL BE... ROBOPACLYPSE

Steven Spielberg is currently filming the World War I drama War Horse, but the acclaimed director has already chosen his next project, which will see him returning to the science fiction genre. Robopocalypse is an upcoming novel (June, 2011) by Daniel H. Wilson about the human race struggling against a robot uprising, which brings to mind movies like I, Robot and the Terminator franchise. Even as it was still being written, screenwriter Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), who also wrote several episodes of LOST, Alias, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, worked in conjunction with Wilson, receiving novel pages and adapting them into the screenplay. Robopocalypse will be distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, and Spielberg expects to start filming in January, 2012 for a release in 2013. Although Robopocalypse will be Spielberg's next film, the reason for the long delay in filming is that he'll be busy with postproduction on War Horse, and he'll also have the CGI animated movie Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn in postproduction. Both War Horse and Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn will be released in December, 2011, just five days from each other.


#4 WILL JOHNNY DEPP LOSE WEIGHT TO PLAY THE THIN MAN?

Although there's no script yet for the project, Johnny Depp reportedly wants to star in a Warner Bros remake of the 1934 film The Thin Man. Depp's idea includes recruiting director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha), who is currently directing Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The Thin Man was originally based upon a 1934 detective novel by Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon), and went on to inspire five more sequels, all of which also starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. There was also a Thin Man TV series on NBC from 1957 to 1959. The Thin Man tells the story of retired private investigator Nick Charles and his wife Nora who return to detective duty after the disappearance of a friend (who is actually the "Thin Man," not Nick Charles). Since there's no script for the Thin Man remake yet, the project is probably at least a few years away from happening. In the meantime, Rob Marshall is expected to start talking to Universal soon about possibly directing their planned movie adaptation of the hit musical Wicked.



#5 SAM RAIMI EYES THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS REMAKE

A few weeks ago, the news of a planned remake of The Day of the Triffids hit the Internet to a tepid reaction from fans. This week, the rights to that remake went up for auction, and they were won by Mandate Pictures, representing Sam Raimi's Ghost House production company. Mandate reportedly paid more for The Day of the Triffids than for any other project they've ever purchased. The reason for the high bid is that Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead franchise) hopes to direct this remake, as the original movie was one of his favorite films growing up. The Day of the Triffids was a British 1951 science fiction novel by John Wyndham about a bio-engineered species of intelligent plants that take over after a massive meteor shower blinds most of the humans on Earth. The Day of the Triffids was then adapted as a British movie in 1962, and also as two UK TV mini-series, in 1981 and then last year in 2009. When the remake was announced in September, there was talk about The Day of the Triffids being filmed in 3D, but there's no word yet as to whether Sam Raimi also wants to film it in 3D.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#4 MEL GIBSON GAINS AND THEN LOSES A CAMEO ROLE IN THE HANGOVER 2

Mel Gibson made the news twice this week, and both times, it was for the same movie, as his notoriety first helped and then hurt his career, once again. First, the news broke that Gibson was a "done deal" to have a cameo role in The Hangover 2 as a Bangkok tattoo artist. This cameo was to have been the sequel's version of the cameo that Mike Tyson had in the first movie (as himself). However, this decision by director Todd Phillips did not apparently go over so well with his cast and crew. A few days later, Phillips had to announce that Mel Gibson would not be appearing in The Hangover 2 after all, saying, "I thought Mel would have been great in the movie and I had the full backing of [Warner Bros President] and his team. But I realize filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and this decision ultimately did not have the full support of my entire cast and crew." As for who specifically in the cast might have objected, the word on the web is that it was Hangover star Zach Galifianakis who most loudly complained about Mel Gibson's possible participation. This story is one of this week's Rotten Ideas mostly because there's no way it can possibly be seen as "fresh." If Gibson had stayed in, that would have been a controversial choice, but announcing and then dropping him doesn't look so good either. As Deadline writer Mike Fleming points out, this situation is in stark contrast to the cameo given in the first movie to Mike Tyson, who was convicted for rape, and served time in prison for the crime. In other words, Mel Gibson's reputation for his repeated racist/sexist remarks and behavior now make him lower on Hollywood's social ladder than a convicted rapist. This news also makes the future of The Beaver, the Jodie Foster-directed movie starring Mel Gibson as a man whose best friend is his beaver hand puppet, even more questionable.


#3 M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN HITCHES HIS CAREER TO THE SMITH FAMILY

A few months ago, director M. Night Shyamalan was reportedly working on a top secret project that would have starred Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Cooper. However, no studio apparently wanted to make that project, and so it has now been "quietly shelved." That bit of bad news is not keeping Shyamalan from trying to find new work, however, and he has found a new friend in Will Smith. Smith's Overbrook production company has come aboard a project called One Thousand A.E., which apparently has no connection to the animated science fiction film Titan A.E., although it is also a science fiction project. No story details have been revealed yet about One Thousand A.E., but the movie is being seen as a starring vehicle for Will's son Jaden Smith. There is also an adult lead character, but Will Smith will not be taking that role. One factor that might be the difference between Shyamalan's recently shelved project and One Thousand A.E. is that unlike that untitled project, One Thousand A.E. was not written by M. Night Shyamalan himself. Instead, One Thousand A.E. was written by screenwriter Gary Whitta, whose first produced film was this year's The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington. One Thousand A.E. is one of this week's Rotten Ideas because of the decreasing reputation that M. Night Shyamalan now has after a string of critical flops to which his name was attached.


#2 LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN: A ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW REMAKE?

This Tuesday, the FOX TV show Glee will be airing an episode called The Rocky Horror Glee Show, in which the high school characters put on a stage production of the original The Rocky Horror Show for Halloween. Before that episode even airs, Glee creator is already in talks with 20th Century Fox about possibly directing a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Rocky Horror Show was a British 1973 play which was then adapted as the 1975 20th Century Fox film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie tells the story of two young lovers who find themselves stranded in the rain at a mansion populated by an assortment of strange characters, including aliens and a lingerie-clad mad scientist named Frank N. Furter. The long-running movie attracted a loyal following which included people who dressed up as the characters and acted out the movie as it ran. Audence members would also shout back sarcastic and double entendre lines based on what the characters in the movie were saying. The idea of a Rocky Horror Picture Show remake is one of this week's Rotten Ideas for nearly the same reason that 20th Century Fox is considering remaking it. The studio looks at the $100 million that the original movie has made in its 35 year theatrical run, and wants to possibly double that potential revenue with an update. However, the fact that The Rocky Horror Picture Show can keep bringing in audiences is also the very reason it doesn't need to, and shouldn't be, remade.


#1 MCG WANTS TO GIVE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS THE 300 LOOK

British industrialist Richard Branson and his Virgin brand name have tackled the music industry, record stores, airlines and soon are expanding into commercial space travel with Virgin Galactic Airways. Now, Richard Branson is also looking to get into the movie business with the news that he has acquired a script called Columbus about the famous discoverer's voyage to and conquest of the Americas. McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator: Salvation) is attached to direct Columbus, which is described as doing for Christopher Columbus and his conquistadors what 300 did for the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae. The Columbus script was adapted by newcomer screenwriter T.S. Nowlin, who does not yet have any movies to his credit. Columbus is likely to be first major feature film based on Christopher Columbus since the early 1990s when Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise both bombed at the box office, regardless of that year's 500th anniversary status. Columbus is actually the second film project for Branson's Virgin Produced company, following their currently untitled sketch comedy movie which has dozens of stars as its cast. Columbus is this week's most Rotten Idea because McG and his bombastic visual style, especially if they're setting out to be "300 style", seems an odd choice for the tale of Christopher Columbus. Does the mentioning of 300 mean that the conquistadors will be filmed in slow motion action poses, for example?


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

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