Weekly Ketchup: Johnny Depp to Play Dr. Seuss?

Plus, RDJ is Perry Mason, Aaron Eckhart is Frankenstein, and Arrested Development returns.

This Week's Ketchup includes news of movies based on the TV shows Arrested Development, Mister Ed and Perry Mason, as well as new movies for Johnny Depp (in a Dr. Seuss biopic), Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood and Aaron Eckhart, and four more 3D rereleases from Disney.


This Week's Top Story

OH, THE PLACES JOHNNY DEPP WILL GO AS DR. SEUSS

After a career that has included playing the Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka and Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie, Johnny Depp this week added another classic children's author name to his field of inspirations. Johnny Depp is teaming up as producer with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment (Hop, Despicable Me) for a live action biopic about the life of Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, in which Johnny Depp may also star as Geisel. Dr. Seuss was, of course, the pen name under which Geisel wrote and illustrated dozens of classic children's books, many of which have become movies, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and Illumination's upcoming adaptation of The Lorax. All of those films except Horton Hears a Who were also distributed by Universal Pictures. Screenwriter Keith Bunin, who doesn't yet have a feature film credit, but did write several episodes of HBO's In Treatment and is currently working on a film adaptation of the Joe Hill novel Horns, has been hired to start work on adapting Theodor Geisel's life story. Other film projects that Illumination Entertainment has in development include Despicable Me 2 (for which Javier Bardem is now in talks to costar as the voice of a new villain), Tim Burton's stop motion adaptation of The Addams Family, a new Curious George adaptation, and movies based upon the Uglydolls and Emily the Strange fashion franchises. In other Depp-related news, screenwriter Billy Ray (cowriter of Volcano, Flightplan) was also announced this week as being hired by Warner Bros to work on the reboot of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, in which Johnny Depp is attached to star as Nick Charles.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 ROBERT DOWNEY JR. TO CONVINCE AUDIENCES TO CONFESS AS PERRY MASON

Robert Downey, Jr and his wife/producing partner Susan Downey are teaming up with Warner Bros for a feature film adaptation of the classic TV courtroom drama series Perry Mason, which was itself based upon a series of novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. In addition to producing, Robert Downey Jr. is also eyeing the starring role of defense attorney Perry Mason, made famous by Raymond Burr in the 1957-1966 CBS series (and several later TV movies). Unlike the TV series, which contemporized the setting, this new Perry Mason adaptation will be set in Los Angeles in the early 1930s, like the original books. The supporting characters of Della Street, Paul Drake and Hamilton Burger are all expected to be included, although no screenwriter has yet been hired to actually start work on the adaptation.


#2 THE ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT FINALLY ENDS

In the five years since Arrested Development ended its three year run on FOX, the producers and stars of the cult favorite comedy series have kept fans in suspense with continued talk about a possible feature film. This week, however, series creator Mitch Hurwitz made comments at the New Yorker Festival which led to a series of Twitter remarks from others including stars Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, all of which gave the series' fans the answer they've been waiting for. Jason Bateman's Tweet sums up the plans the most concisely: "It's true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early '13. VERY excited!" What is not yet known is pretty much everything else, including what the eccentric and scandal prone Bluth family has been up to for the last five years, and what network will air the planned mini-season that leads up to the feature film. 20th Century Fox TV has reportedly had talks with both Netflix and Showtime about possibly carrying the 10 episode TV reboot. As for the movie, it would mostly be distributed by one of Fox's studios, either 20th Century Fox or Fox Searchlight. All of the show's main stars and characters (including Michael Cera, who in the past was mentioned as the biggest question mark) are expected to return, with the mini-season giving each character its own episode.


#3 THE SUCCESS OF THE LION KING 3D INSPIRES DISNEY TO LAUNCH NEW 3D RERELEASE SCHEDULE

One of the suprise hits of September (which shouldn't have been such a surprise) has been the $80 million-to-date box office take of The Lion King 3D, which was originally announced as just a two-week run and quickly got extended. The Lion King 3D was actually the second classic animated film that Walt Disney Pictures had planned for rerelease, following what would have been a release in February, 2010 of The Beauty and the Beast 3D (although the film was rereleased in other nations in 3D as planned). Now, Disney has announced plans to continue converting older animated films at a rate of two per year, of which one will be a traditionally animated Disney film, and one will be a Pixar CGI animated film. The Beauty and the Beast 3D will come out first in January, 2012, since its conversion has already been in the can for a year. Next will be Finding Nemo 3D in September, 2012 and then Monsters Inc. 3D in January, 2013, partly to promote the release of the prequel Monsters University on June 21, 2013. The fifth film will then be The Little Mermaid 3D in September, 2013.


#4 FOUR STARS HELP CHARLIE KAUFMAN ADAPT FRANK OR FRANCIS

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman had a remarkable five year run from 1999 to 2004 that included Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, in the last seven years, Kaufman has only given the world one film, 2008's Synedoche, New York, which was also his directorial debut. Now, four fairly major stars have signed on to costar in Frank or Francis, which will be Charlie Kaufman's second film as director. The Hollywood-centric musical drama story will revolve around the contentious online relationship between a blogger (Jack Black) and a pretentious filmmaker (Steve Carell). Nicolas Cage will be playing an actor famous for "big budget commercial fare," and Kevin Kline will have dual roles as the brother of a director responsible for Hiroshima, the highest grossing film of all time, and (get ready for this), as "Richard's Head," an animatronic head that helps Richard's brother "develop a completely inoffensive product that will have the broadest possible appeal and zero artistic integrity." Charlie Kaufman expects to start filming Frank or Francis (which is also an independent production) in January, 2012.


#5 CLINT EASTWOOD MAY HAVE TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

Two seemingly unrelated recent events have collided to bring you this story: Beyonce's recently revealed pregnancy and the box office success of Moneyball. Clint Eastwood had been expected to follow up his directing duties on J. Edgar with Warner Bros' long-planned new version of A Star is Born, but that movie has now been put on hold until after Beyonce has her baby. So, Clint Eastwood is now reportedly looking at doing something he hasn't done since way back in 1993 (In the Line of Fire): star in a movie that he didn't also direct. The project in question is a Warner Bros baseball drama called Trouble With the Curve which will mark the directorial debut of his Malpaso producing partner Robert Lorenz. Written by TV writer Randy Brown (two episodes of Twice in a Lifetime), this drama would star Clint Eastwood as an aging, nearly blind baseball scout who goes on one last road trip to Atlanta with his daughter to scout a promising player. The next step after Eastwood and Lorenz sign on will be for Warner Bros to find an actress to play Eastwood's daughter.


#6 THIS WEEK IN LEONARDO DICAPRIO NEWS: SATORI, DJANGO UNCHAINED CASTING, THE TWILIGHT ZONE

There is a select circle of actors whose names seem to appear in the news almost every other week, and sometimes they even come up in multiple stories. Leonardo DiCaprio is definitely one of them, and this week, there were five movie news stories for three different movies, all involving, to some degree, Leonardo DiCaprio. First up, Warner Bros acquired the film rights to the recent Don Winslow novel Satori as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. If Satori actually gets made, Leonardo DiCaprio would play a Western assassin who was raised in Japan and taught the way of the assassin, who then "gets caught up in the chaos of post-WWII as the U.S., Soviet Union, France and China maneuver for power in Southeast Asia in the early 1950s." Don Winslow will again team up with screenwriter Shane Salerno (Aliens vs Predator - Requiem; cowriter of Armageddon), after also recently working together for Oliver Stone's upcoming adaptation of Winslow's novel Savages. Leonardo DiCaprio is also very active as a producer via his Appian Way company, and one of their projects at Warner Bros is a movie that will relaunch The Twilight Zone franchise. This time, however, The Twilight Zone will not be an anthology film (like the 1983 movie or the various TV show incarnations). Instead, Warner Bros is looking for a director to tell a stand alone Twilight Zone story, and the studio's short list reportedly includes Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) at the top of the list, followed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, WB's upcoming Gravity), Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) and Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Finally, there is Quentin Tarantino's slavery era Spaghetti Western Django Unchained, which will star Leonardo DiCaprio as an evil slave owner and Jamie Foxx has the freed slave setting out to bring him down. Kevin Costner had been expected to play a plantation overseer named Ace, but he has since dropped out, and this week was replaced by Kurt Russell, who previously worked with Tarantino in Death Proof (which was also the last time Russell appeared on the big screen, even though that was 4 years ago now). Laura Cayouette, who had a small role as Rocket in Kill Bill Vol. 2, will also reunite with Tarantino as the widowed sister of DiCaprio's character. Finally, fans of LOST can rejoice that M.C. Gainey, who played Tom Friendly on that show, is also in negotiations to costar in Django Unchained as a cruel slave overseer called Big John Brittle.


#7 THE KICK-ASS TEAM REUNITES FOR SOMETHING SUPERIOR

Although there's still no word as to when (or if) there will ever be a sequel to Kick-Ass, two of the key figures responsible for that superhero drama are set to reprise their roles on another project. Director Matthew Vaughn, whose most recent film was X-Men: First Class, has bought the film rights to Superior, a recent comic book written by Mark Millar, the creator of Kick-Ass. Superior tells the story of a young boy with multiple sclerosis who's granted a magic wish that transforms him into his favorite movie superhero, allowing him to tackle the big problems of the world, such as war in the Middle East, starvation and natural disasters. Very much like Kick-Ass and other comics that Millar has sold the film rights to (such as Nemesis and Supercrooks), Superior is a comic book mini-series that has been optioned as a movie before Millar has even finished the initial story. The premise of Superior also bears some similarities to the classic Fawcett/DC Comics character Captain Marvel (AKA Shazam!). Although there are some elements of this story that lean "Rotten Idea," this is one of the week's Fresh Developments because of Matthew Vaughn's impressive streak of movies with "Fresh" ratings on the RT Tomatometer.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#2 AARON ECKHART JUST WILL NOT DIE AS I, FRANKENSTEIN

Aaron Eckhart (Battle: Los Angeles, The Dark Knight) has signed with Lionsgate to star in an adaptation of I, Frankenstein, a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, one of the cocreators of the Underworld franchise. I, Frankenstein is just one of several movies in development based upon the classic character created by Mary Shelley, with others including Guillermo del Toro?s long gestating Frankenstein project at Universal, two different contemporary versions of Frankenstein at Sony and 20th Century Fox, and adaptations of The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein and Steve Niles' Wake the Dead (which Haley Joel Osment is attached to star in). Aaron Eckhart will star as Adam Frankenstein, the original creation of Victor Von Frankenstein, who is still alive and kicking 100 years later in the modern world, and finds himself caught in the middle of a centuries-old war taking place in a modern, "dark, gothic metropolis." I, Frankenstein will be the second film (after the Australian film Tomorrow, When the War Began) directed by Stuart Beattie, who is best known as a screenwriter whose credits include Collateral and cowriting Australia, 30 Days of Night and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Production is scheduled to begin on I, Frankenstein in January, 2012 and Lionsgate has already set a release date of February 22, 2013.


#1 A HORSE IS A HORSE, OF COURSE, OF COURSE, BUT DOES MISTER ED HAVE TO BE A MOVIE TOO?

Oh, Mister Ed. For as long as Hollywood has been making movies based on old TV shows, the idea of a Mister Ed movie has been kicking and neighing in the back of the minds of movie fans who speculate about such things. Some of the elements seem sort of perfect: Mister Ed ran for six seasons on CBS from 1961 to 1966, and Hollywood obviously loves movies with talking animals (in this case, for the uninformed, Mister Ed is a talking horse who only speaks to his owner, Wilbur). One of the things working against Mister Ed seeming like a great idea for a movie is, well, it's about a talking horse. Now, Fox 2000 and producer David Friendly, who gave the world both the Fox-based Doctor Dolittle and Big Momma's House franchises, are teaming up again to develop the Mister Ed feature film. There's no writer or director attached to adapt Mister Ed yet, but Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler is "an equestrian enthusiast," which means... well, it explains why she's developing a Mister Ed movie. In addition to being the week's Most Rotten Idea, this announcement also came just a few days after the 50th anniversary of the first airing of Mister Ed, way back on October 1, 1961. One has to guess that Gabler and Friendly heard about the 50th anniversary and little light bulbs went off over their heads.

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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