Weekly Ketchup: Actresses Read for The Dark Knight Rises

Plus, movies about the moon, Merlin, and the Magic Kingdom

by Greg Dean Schmitz | Friday, Nov. 12 2010

This week's Ketchup includes news about a number of movies with similar titles: The Dark Knight Rises, The Magic Kingdom, Dark Moon and the title that ties them all together, Wes Anderson's Moon Rise Kingdom. There are also movies based on the wizard Merlin, the BBC TV series Walking with Dinosaurs, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and adaptations of both Akira and 21 Jump Street.



Christopher Nolan is currently meeting with several actresses for two new roles to be introduced in The Dark Knight Rises. One is described as a love interest, and the other is a villain. The Batman comics are full of characters that meet either definition, so just on that, it's difficult to guess exactly which characters we might be talking about. What might give us some hints, however, are the six actresses said to be among those being talked to. In alphabetical order, they are: Anne Hathaway, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively (Gossip Girl, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz. Looking at this group, it appears four of them might be considered for a younger character, and Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts are being considered for an older character. That, however, is just a guess, and maybe the dividing factor is actually something completely different, like hair color or acting style and/or chops. Something that is particularly interesting about Anne Hathaway being in the mix is that Forbes recently named Hathaway "Hollywood's best actress for the buck," and if she appears in The Dark Knight Rises, that is likely to not only shoot her into the stratosphere even further, or mean that her rate for future movies go up a lot, lot higher.



A few weeks ago, the news broke that Disney had plans for a theme park movie that would tie together many of their franchises and characters into one movie. This week, more details about that movie were revealed, with the news that Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Zathura) is in talks to direct The Magic Kingdom. The hiring of Favreau is also a bit of corporate synergy, since Disney now owns Marvel Studios, the company behind Favreau's two Iron Man movies. The original Magic Kingdom script was written by Ronald D. Moore, creator of the TV shows Battlestar Galactica and Caprica (Moore also cowrote Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact). However, Disney is now looking for a new screenwriter to work with Favreau while the director is also working on other big projects like next summer's Cowboys & Aliens, and Iron Man 3, which is scheduled for 2013. The Magic Kingdom is being compared to Night at the Museum, as it will tell a story about Disney's theme park characters coming to life. It's not yet known if this will directly tie in to other movies based on Disney theme park attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and the planned new Haunted Mansion movie that Guillermo del Toro is producing, cowriting and may direct.


One of the signatures of the films of director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) is the ensemble casts, which often include Bill Murray, and his next movie follows that pattern. Anderson's next film will be called Moon Rise Kingdom (not to be confused with several other movies in this week's Ketchup), and it will tell the story of a small New England town in the 1960s where the running away of two young lovers leads the townspeople to think they have gone missing for more nefarious reasons. Edward Norton will play a scout leader who leads his troops in the search and Bruce Willis will play the town sheriff who is having an affair with the girl's mother, to be played by Frances McDormand. Bill Murray will play the girl's father, and Tilda Swinton has also been cast in an unknown role. Anderson cowrote Moon Rise Kingdom with Roman Coppola, who also cowrote The Darjeeling Limited, and has previously worked as Anderson's second unit director on that film and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Wes Anderson plans to start filming Moon Rise Kingdom in the late spring of 2011.


It started with The Blair Witch Project, and continued with [REC] (and the remake Quarantine) and Cloverfield, but the two Paranormal Activity movies are really now inspiring a mini-wave of "lost footage" movies. Two reasons these movies are especially attractive to Hollywood is that they can be produced relatively cheaply, and also quite quickly. This week, three different projects made the news, and all three are competing with each other because they share a common theme: aliens. First, there is Apollo 18, which the Weinstein Company acquired and will be produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted). The concept of Apollo 18 comes from a conspiracy theory that speculates that the real reason (not budget cuts) that NASA stopped going to the moon in the 1970s after Apollo 17 was that astronauts found evidence of aliens there. Apollo 18 will be the directorial debut of Trevor Cawood, a 3D animator who was a technical director on the two Matrix sequels. Filming of Apollo 18 will start in December, and the movie is scheduled for a release in March, 2011, which is quite a fast turnaround. The Apollo 18 script was written by Brian Miller, who won a contest run by Timur Bekmambetov earlier this year. However, Apollo 18 is not the only lost footage movie about aliens and the NASA Apollo missions, because there is also a project called Dark Moon (which was actually first announced in mid-October). When Warner Bros heard this week about Apollo 18, the studio immediately dumped Dark Moon, but Joel Silver's Dark Castle (which actually releases their movies through Warner Bros) quickly picked the project back up. Dark Moon was written by The Fourth Kind writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi, who will also direct Dark Moon this winter, racing against the production of Apollo 18. While those two movies with nearly identical concepts move forward, this week was not so kind to The Zone, the found footage alien invasion movie that was to be an unusually low budget project for director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla). There's no known reason for why Columbia Pictures pulled the plug on The Zone, but one reason speculated is, surprise surprise, because maybe there are just too many "found footage" movies being made.


Dinosaurs have long been a staple of big screen spectacles (Jurassic Park, Godzilla, King Kong, etc), with recent examples including appearances in Journey to the Center of the Earth, Night at the Museum and Land of the Lost. Starting as a mini-series in 1999, the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs (which airs on the Discovery Channel in the USA) has led to a series of sequels and specials covering many different periods of prehistory and the creatures that inhabited them. This week, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, which (like the various TV shows) will combine CGI dinosaurs with live action scenery, but unlike the TV series, the movie will also be in 3D. It's not yet known if the Walking with Dinosaurs will replicate the documentary feel of the TV shows or if the movie will introduce a more dramatic element. Walking with Dinosaurs 3D will be codirected by Neil Nightingale (a TV producer of shows like Lost World: Vanished Lives and The Meerkats) and Pierre de Lespinois, who has directed several similar TV projects like Walking with Cavemen and When Dinosaurs Roamed America. The Walking with Dinosaurs 3D script is being written by John Collee, who wrote the Charles Darwin biopic Creation and cowrote both Happy Feet and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which also had a subplot with similarities to the travels of Charles Darwin.


British production company Working Title Films has started development of a new project about the wizard Merlin in a modern setting. Although The Sorcerer's Apprentice failed to do much at the box office, people do seem to like that Harry Potter kid, and he's English to boot. Merlin is most famously associated with Arthurian legend, and as such has appeared in many movies, most notably John Boorman's Excalibur, which focused much of the story not on Arthur but on Merlin. This new Merlin project was written by British screenwriter Jay Basu, whose only produced credit to date is 2005's Song of Songs. There's no word as to when this Merlin project will start production, but when it does, it may face competition from Warner Bros, which is developing a remake of... Excalibur.


As Christopher Nolan's star has risen with his Batman movies, another beneficiary of his success has been his brother Jonah Nolan, who cowrote The Prestige, The Dark Knight and the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises. In addition to Interstellar, a science fiction drama that Steven Spielberg may someday direct, Jonah Nolan has also written Hell and Gone, a romantic historical drama set during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This week, Warner Bros started negotations with director J. Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) to take on the project. The combination of a historical tragedy that killed hundreds of people with a romance story obviously brings with it comparisons to James Cameron's Titanic. The popular story behind how the Great Chicago Fire started is that a cow belonging to a Mrs. O'Leary kicked over a lantern, but the reporter behind that story later admitted that he had made that part of the story up.


Although he went on to his own career as a director of over a dozen movies like Affliction, Auto Focus and American Gigolo, Paul Schrader will probably always be best known as the screenwriter of early Martin Scorsese movies like Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ (and he cowrote Raging Bull). Paul Schrader's next film will be The Jesuit, which he will direct from his own script about a recently released ex-con in Texas whose wife and ten year old son are murdered, sending him off on an "explosive" revenge rampage. Schrader will start filming The Jesuit in March, 2011, and already has four stars lined up. Those four actors are Willem Dafoe (who also starred in The Last Temptation of Christ), Michelle Rodriguez, Paz Vega (Spanglish, Talk to Her) and Manola Cardona (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, La Mujer de me Hermano). There's no word yet as to who will be playing the central character of "Neto," but of the four stars announced, Manolo Cardona would seem the most likely.



Besides his regular work for other people in movies like Get Him to the Greek and Megamind, Jonah Hill's own pet project has long been getting the movie version of 21 Jump Street made. Debuting in 1987, 21 Jump Street was one of the very first shows on the newly launched FOX network, and told the story of a team of LAPD cops who go undercover as high school students. 21 Jump Street ran for 5 seasons, and is also remembered now as the show that launched the career of a young unknown who called himself Johnny Depp. Jonah Hill will be starring as one of the young-looking cops, as well as producing, and now the word has come out that Sony Pictures' top choice to costar with Hill is Channing Tatum, the star of Step Up and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sony did a series of script readings with several young stars, and Channing Tatum was the one that matched up best with Jonah Hill. 21 Jump Street will be the live action debut of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Jonah Hill cowrote the 21 Jump Street adaptation, along with four other writers: Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec (cowriters of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol), Michael Bacall (cowriter of Scott Pilgrim Vs the World) and Joe Gazzam. This is one of the week's Rotten Ideas partly because of the mixed track record of movies based on TV shows, but also because the legacy of Johnny Depp will always linger over 21 Jump Street. Like the title of this story says, does anyone really think Channing Tatum is the next Johnny Depp?


This news actually broke late Friday afternoon last week (and was discussed in the comments then), but since that was after the deadline for the column, this gets to be this week's Most Rotten story. The site Bloody Disgusting apparently has an inside source in the production of the live action adaptation of the classic manga and subsequent anime film Akira, because the site actually broke two casting stories this week for Akira. The Warner Bros project will be directed by the directing team of Albert and Allen Hughes (From Hell, The Book of Eli). Akira is the sprawling epic tale about a young bike gang member who is subjected to government experiments which unleash terrific superpowers in him. First up is what lands this story in the "Rotten Idea" category, which is that the lead role of the biker known as Kaneda (which will be Americanized) has been offered to Zac Efron, best known as the star of High School Musical. Efron is reportedly looking to expand his career past being known as just a teen heartthrob, but his recent movies 17 Again and Charlie St. Cloud mostly played off of his popularity with young girls, so that goal might not really be going along that well. As the title of this story says, Zac Efron does indeed look like an anime character brought to life, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The second casting news that Bloody Disgusting broke is not as Rotten, which is that Morgan Freeman is considering taking the role of The Colonel, the leader of the government experiments. Warner Bros is looking to start filming of Akira in 2011, possibly around the same time as when Christopher Nolan will be filming The Dark Knight Rises. Morgan Freeman is likely to reprise his role as Lucius Fox in that third film, but since both Akira and The Dark Knight Rises are Warner Bros projects, the studio will probably make the two schedules work. Going back to Zac Efron, what do the Akira fans out there think? Do you think Zac Efron can pull off the role of a cocky motorcycle punk?

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