Weekly Ketchup: Naomi Watts to play Princess Di
Plus, more vampire movies and new roles for Scarlett Johansson, Russell Crowe, and Denzel Washington
This week's Ketchup covers the week that led up to the beginning of the Berlin International Film Festival, which like Cannes later in the year, is the location of many moviemaking deals. And so this was another week with far more stories than would fit in this column of just 10 (or so) of the week's bigggest movies news stories. Included in the mix this week are adaptations of novels by authors Anne Rice, John Le Carre and Emile Zola, a remake of one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films, and new roles for Glenn Close, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Denzel Washington and the stars of Wedding Crashers Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
This Week's Top Story
NAOMI WATTS TO BE CAUGHT IN FLIGHT AS PRINCESS DI
The latest edition of the Academy Awards is still two weeks away, but casting is already underway for movies that might be considered for awards in 2013 or 2014. Recent years have seen British biopics of royalty and politicians such as The King's Speech and The Iron Lady receiving much of each year's attention. And now, Naomi Watts is set to possibly join similar ranks in Caught in Flight, a movie about the last two years in the life of Princess Diana, during which Diana came into her own as "a major international campaigner and humanitarian." Caught in Flight will be directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the German director of Das Experiment and the Academy Award-nominated Downfall, which also depicted the final days of a major historical figure, Adolph Hitler (a scene from which you may have seen on YouTube, as it is the center of a very popular meme). The Caught in Flight screenplay has been adapted by Stephen Jeffreys, whose previous credit was the 2004 Johnny Depp film The Libertine. Filming is scheduled to begin later this year in the United Kingdom.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BLACK WIDOW TO COSTAR WITH THE INCREDIBLE HULK AND COBRA COMMANDER
Scarlett Johansson will be returning as Black Widow this summer in em>The Avengers, and this week she set up two movies that will see her costarring with either one of her Avengers costars, or one of the costars of The Dark Knight Rises. Can a Song Save Your Life? is a musical drama from Once director John Carney that will feature Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld. Johansson will play a singer who moves to New York in the hopes of making it big, but her boyfriend gets a contract before she does, and dumps her. Mark Ruffalo will play a record producer who discovers Johansson singing at a bar, and Hailee Steinfeld will play his daughter. Johansson will also costar with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an untitled project that will also mark his directorial debut. Although not all details have yet been revealed, Gordon-Levitt will be playing a character described as a modern Don Juan who is trying to overcome his problem of being a "selfish dick."
#2 PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN IS A MOST WANTED MAN
The works of British spy novelist John Le Carre have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity in terms of being adapted into movies in the last 11 years, with adaptations of The Tailor of Panama, The Constant Gardener and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy all being critically well received. At 80, Le Carre is still publishing new novels every few years, and his 2008 release A Most Wanted Man is now getting its own movie adaptation as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman is in final negotiations to star in A Most Wanted Man as a German spy chief in Hamburg trying to figure out a mystery involving "a mysterious, tortured and near-dead half-Chechen, half-Russian man on the run... desperate for help and looking to recover his late Russian father's ill-gotten fortune." Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) will be directing A Most Wanted Man from a screenplay adapted by Andrew Bovell (Lantana; cowriter of Edge of Darkness).
#3 CRUELLA DE VIL, DRACO MALFOY AND THE OLSEN TWINS' LITTLE SISTER TO COSTAR IN THERESE RAQUIN
Therese Raquin was a 1867 French novel by Emile Zola which the author adapted into a play which has since been adapted over a dozen times, including several TV movies. Therese Raquin has not, however, ever been adapted as an English language feature film, but that is about to change. Glenn Close and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) are now attached to star in Therese Raquin, and Tom Felton (AKA Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies) is in negotiations as well. Therese Raquin is the story of a young woman (Olsen) who, with her lover (not yet cast), conspires to murder the sickly cousin (Felton) that she was forced to marry by her aunt (Close) out of pity, and that murderous act then leads to the couple being haunted by his ghost. Theater director and actor Charlie Stratton adapted the Therese Raquin screenplay, and will also be making his feature film directorial debut with it.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#6 DENZEL WASHINGTON + MARK WAHLBERG = 2 GUNS
In the same week as the release of his latest action film Safe House, Denzel Washington is now in talks with Universal Pictures to join Mark Wahlberg in the Boom! Studios comic book adaptation 2 Guns. Wahlberg and Washington will be playing a DEA agent and an undercover naval intelligence officer (though it's unclear which is which at this point) who are both investigating each other after they both steal money from the mob. 2 Guns will be directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who recently worked with Wahlberg on Contraband, which was itself an adaptation of Kormakur's film Reykjavik-Rotterdam. So, essentially, Baltasar Kormakur made the same movie twice, and practice didn't make perfect, as Contraband still received a Rotten RT Tomatometer score, as he has six times, versus only two Fresh scores. And that's why 2 Guns is one of the week's Rotten Ideas. The 2 Guns script was written by Blake Masters, who worked on the writing staff of Law & Order: Los Angeles, making this his feature film debut.
#5 THIS WEEK IN VAMPIRE MOVIES: RUSSELL CROWE MAY PLAY HARKER, AND THE VAMPIRE LESTAT RETURNS
Hollywood may be running out of Twilight books to adapt (at least until they start remaking them), but other vampire movies are still getting greenlit in hopes of attracting that audience. One such project is called Harker, which reimagines Bram Stoker's original Dracula to change the character of Jonathan Harker (the attorney who originally went to Transylvania to meet the Count) into being a Scotland Yard detective investigating a series of murders. Harker is based at Warner Bros, and may be moving ahead thanks to the slowing down of the studio's live action Akira adaptation. Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown, House of Wax) had been attached to that film, but with Akira slowing down, Harker may now have a better chance to move ahead, with him also attached to direct. The next step, then, would be for Warner Bros to find a star for Harker, and Russell Crowe is reportedly in early talks to play that Scotland Yard detective. However, Russell Crowe is also in talks with 20th Century Fox and Darren Aronofsky for his Biblical adaptation dream project Noah. But Dracula isn't the only famous vampire to make the news this week, as Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat might also be on his way back to the big screen. Imagine Entertainment has acquired the rights to The Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth Anne Rice novel to feature Lestat. If The Tale of the Body Thief someday gets made, the end result would be that, of the first four Lestat novels, only the one actually called The Vampire Lestat will have not yet been made into a movie. The Tale of the Body Thief is about a deal that the Vampire Lestat makes with a human psychic that has the ability to switch bodies, except that Lestat quickly finds out that what he thought was just a temporary experiment may be permanent because the body thief is, you know... evil. Imagine Entertainment has hired newcomer screenwriter Lee Patterson to start work on adapting The Tale of the Body Thief. Harker is one of the week's Rotten Ideas based mostly on the 100% Rotten status of Jamue Collet-Serra on the RT Tomatometer, but The Tale of the Body Thief is in more of a borderline "who knows?" status.
#4 JASON STATHAM TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF HEAT... BUT IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK
Movie fans on the Internet went a little crazy this week over the news of a Heat remake, but the misleading headlines were missing some crucial details. Director Brian De Palma (Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars, Femme Fatale) is indeed attached to a remake of Heat, but it isn't the 1995 movie starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino that's getting remade. Instead, De Palma is remaking the 1986 movie called Heat, which starred Burt Reynolds as a recovering gambling addict and former soldier of fortune who works as protection for Vegas high rollers, with Jason Statham now attached to star as the Burt Reynolds character. In a way, that movie called Heat is sort of an ideal candidate for a remake, since it was never that popular to begin with, and there's not even enough reviews on the Tomatometer to get much of a feel for whether it was even any good, either. However, it isn't the fact that it's a remake that makes this story one of the week's Rotten Ideas, it's Brian De Palma's filmography. Although his career does include such critical hits as Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Scarface, The Untouchables, and Carlito's Way, Brian De Palma hasn't had a "Fresh" movie on the Tomatometer since Mission: Impossible in 1996. Sixteen years is a pretty long time to have a Rotten patch.
#3 HENRY CAVILL TO HELP THE CHINESE BUILD THE GREAT WALL
"Whitewashing" is the term used to describe the (not so) proud Hollywood tradition of casting Caucasian actors in roles or movies that would seem a better fit for an actor of another ethnicity. There are many examples, but the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai is the perfect example for this story for a few reasons. But, first, here's the meat of the story: British actor Henry Cavill is in negotiations to be cast in The Great Wall, the story behind the construction of The Great Wall of China. Cavill recently starred in Immortals, but his really big movie on the horizons is the Superman movie Man of Steel. The Great Wall will be directed by Edward Zwick, whose previous films include The Siege, Love and Other Drugs, and most significantly to this story... The Last Samurai. Edward Zwick also cowrote The Great Wall with Max Brooks (writer of the upcoming zombie movie World War Z) and producer Thomas Tull (Jonah Hex, Sucker Punch). There are no known details of how exactly Cavill might fit into this movie's depiction of the Great Wall's construction, but in the real world, the wall was built in the 5th Century BC to control the Chinese Empire's borders against nomadic invasions.
#2 VAUGHN AND WILSON: FROM WEDDING CRASHERS TO INTERNS
There may never be a sequel to Wedding Crashers, but Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are set to reunite in the comedy Interns, about two laid off guys who try to restart their careers by interning at an Internet company. Vaughn and Wilson have been wanting to reunite for a while, and coincidentally, those plans at one time included the possibility of them costarring in 2 Guns, the same movie described above as now a Wahlberg/Washington vehicle instead. Interns will be directed by Shawn Levy (Just Married, Night at the Museum, Real Steel), which is really why this is one of the week's Rotten Ideas. Of the 9 movies that Shawn Levy has directed, only one of them (Date Night) has a "Fresh" rating on the RT Tomatometer.
#1 ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S REBECCA JOINS THE ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY REMAKE CLUB
Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won two Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Picture (beating The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator and The Philadelphia Story, among others). Without a doubt, Rebecca is a true Hollywood classic. And so... DreamWorks is going to remake it. Of course. DreamWorks has hired screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) to adapt the original du Maurier novel about an American woman (Joan Fontaine) who marries a rich Englishman (Sir Laurence Olivier) whose first wife died mysteriously. Often, a movie concept receives the Most Rotten Idea label because of the RT Tomatometer rating of those involved, but in this case, Steven Knight is batting 100% Fresh, not Rotten at all. What makes this one stand out is the very idea of remaking one of Hitchcock's greatest films. In particular, DreamWorks didn't even try explaining why the remake is being developed... is it really just because the original film is 70 years old and (gasp) black and white? Tsk tsk.
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.