Weekly Ketchup: Megan Fox leaves Transformers 3

Plus, the MacGyver gets serious in the wake of MacGruber

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This week's Ketchup includes casting news for Transformers 3, director news for new versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island, and news of remakes of Cinderella and Gidget.


FRESH DEVELOPMENTS


#1 MEGAN FOX TALKS HERSELF OUT OF STARRING IN TRANSFORMERS 3

Megan Fox's rise to fame has been so fast that it might be easy to forget that before Transformers came out in 2007, she had just some TV roles and had costarred in 2004's Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Transformers made Megan Fox a household name overnight, but her first solo film as a star, last year's Jennifer's Body, was a massive box office flop. While promoting that film however, Megan Fox also said this of Michael Bay, the director of the two Transformers movies that she starred in, "[he wants to] create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is." Whatever faults anyone may have with Michael Bay as a director or as a human being, Fox showed an ignorance of human tragedy to compare Bay to Adolph Hitler. There are plenty of people who weren't responsible for millions of deaths that Fox could have compared Bay to. And also, if you know your boss has a temper, is it really particularly wise to go around badmouthing him? This set off a flurry of back and forth letters between various parties defending either Michael Bay or Megan Fox. In October, things seemed to have been resolved, as Bay issued a public letter welcoming Fox back for Transformers 3, promising, "no alien robots will harm you in any way during production of this motion picture." Well, something has changed, because this week, as filming started, Megan Fox... is out of Transformers 3, to be replaced by a quickly-rewritten, new romantic interest for Shia LeBeouf's character. The initial report was that it was Michael Bay's decision, and also Paramount's decision, but Megan Fox's publicists of course immediately said that it was the actress' decision (including the report that Bay had been "verbally abusive" to Fox). As for who will replace Megan Fox, we should know the answer very soon (since the movie is currently filming!), but the initial report is that it may be British actress Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). As for Megan Fox's post-Transformers future, she still has Jonah Hex coming out next month, but the advance buzz on the DC Comics adaptation is not particularly strong. This writer predicts that by 2011, we may well see the direct-to-video release of Jennifer's Body 2: Dead Sexy, and by 2013, Megan Fox might be lucky if she gets cast in Dancing with the Stars (only to then get voted out on week 1). Transformers 3 is scheduled for release on July 1, 2011 and costars John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey.


#2 THE RACE TO REACH 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

A few months back, Disney scrapped plans for McG (Terminator: Salvation) to direct a new adaptation of Jules Verne's 1869 novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, focusing on the character of Captain Nemo. Now, the studio has hired a very different director to take on the project, and it is fan favorite David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was of course also adapted by Walt Disney in 1954 as a live action adventure film, and was one of the studio's earliest non-animated box office successes. The screenwriter for this latest attempt will be Scott Z. Burns, who wrote The Informant!, cowrote The Bourne Ultimatum, and also has Steven Soderbergh's Contagion in the works (see below). Unlike McG's Captain Nemo project, this version is expected to be a more faithful adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and not a prequel. Fincher, who recently wrapped The Social Network, is expected to probably direct another movie while waiting for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea script. This story, however, does not end there, as the next day after Disney's news broke, it was reported that 20th Century Fox also has a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project in the works. But this version is set in the future. Fox's version is being produced by Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Productions. The Scotts have been talking to Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) about possibly directing, although his development slate is very full already (including the possibility of Wanted 2). This futuristic version of Verne's story was written by Travis Beacham, one of the cowriters of the Clash of the Titans remake.


#3 ROBERT RODRIGUEZ BRINGING NEW (LIVE ACTION) LIFE TO FRANK FRAZETTA'S FIRE AND ICE

Wildly imaginative fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta died just 11 days ago on May 10, 2010, just as the final pieces were being put into place concerning one of his most revered creations. Although Frazetta's work was mostly in the form of novel and album covers, in the early 1980s, he worked with animator Ralph Bakshi on Fire and Ice, a fantastic and savage animated movie that used rotoscopic animation to bring Frazetta's artwork to life. And now, director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado; the upcoming Machete) has announced that his Troublemaker Studios has finalized acquisition of the rights to make a new live action version of Fire and Ice. Rodriguez didn't reveal exactly what he plans to do with Fire and Ice, but it seems likely that the project will utilize green screen filmmaking and CGI similar to Sin City, which Rodriguez co-directed with Frank Miller. Rodriguez had long been planning on making a new Red Sonja movie, and Fire and Ice seems like a thematic replacement for that project, as both feature scantily clad women, lots of swordplay and ample opportunities for gory action sequences.


#4 CINDERELLA IS THE LATEST DISNEY PRINCESS TO BENEFIT FROM THE SUCCESS OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND

The success of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland has led in recent months to development for live-action movies of similar properties, including multiple versions of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz and Maleficent, which will focus on the villainess of Sleeping Beauty. And now, Disney has hired a writer to adapt Cinderella as a live action movie. Disney has paid a 7 figure amount to screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada) to adapt the classic fairy tale. which also became the studio's 12th animated film in 1950. McKenna's upcoming projects also include Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford and We Bought a Zoo, which was confirmed this week to be Cameron Crowe's next film. There is no word yet as to whether the new Cinderella will be 3D, or what sort of changes might be made to the story.


#5 MACGYVER GETS SERIOUS SCREENWRITER TO COUNTER THE SPOOF THAT IS MACGRUBER

On the very same day that the spoof MacGruber is being released, the producers of the long-planned MacGyver movie have hired a new screenwriter whose resume seems to tell us of their very different approach. New Line Cinema has hired Jason Richman (Bangkok Dangerous; cowriter of Bad Company) to adapt the classic 1985-1992 adventure TV series for the big screen. Richman also did uncredited work on Rush Hour 3 and Ridley Scott's very uncomedic Black Hawk Down. As The Hollywood Reporter describes the move, "New Line plans to make MacGyver straight-laced but still keep it fun."




#6 THE TREASURE ISLAND ULTIMATUM

Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) had recently been reported as being in talks with James Cameron about directing the 3D remake of Fantastic Voyage, in which scientists shrink down to microscopic size to save a dying man. The director has decided to drop out to focus instead on a "stylized adaptation" of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic pirate novel Treasure Island. This new take on the classic tale of Jim Hawkins, Long John Silver and the hunt for buried treasure is being developed at Warner Bros by one of the producers of Sherlock Holmes. There's no word yet as to who is adapting the Treasure Island script.


#7 THE ORIGAMI KILLER STRIKES BACK: HEAVY RAIN THE MOVIE

Heavy Rain for the Playstation 3 has been a hit video game this year since its release in February, selling over 1 million copies. Back in 2006, New Line Cinema optioned the rights to the game about the search for a serial killer who leaves origami figures as a calling card. Those rights apparently lapsed, however, as this week the film rights were put up for auction. The winning bid reportedly came from Unique Pictures, the new production company of Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, former executives at New Line Cinema (apparently, they really, really wanted to make the movie after all). The gloomy visuals and themes of Heavy Rain are being compared to David Fincher's Seven, which was an early hit for New Line under Shaye and Lynne's control. There's no word yet as to who Unique Pictures will hire to write or direct the Heavy Rain adaptation.


#8 MATT DAMON AND SEVERAL OTHER STARS ARE INFLICTED WITH STEVEN SODERBERGH'S CONTAGION

The next film for director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) is called Contagion, and the Warner Bros production has an impressive ensemble cast. Matt Damon, who has worked with Soderbergh previously (all three Ocean's movies and The Informant!) will be joined by Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law. Of those five actors, Jude Law is the only one who is not an Academy Award winner (although Damon's Oscar was for cowriting Good Will Hunting, not acting). Contagion is a thriller about a virus outbreak that is expected to be stylistically similar to Traffic. Contagion was written by screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, who also previously worked with Matt Damon on The Informant! and on The Bourne Ultimatum, which Burns cowrote. Scott Z. Burns is also working on the David Fincher 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project mentioned above. Warner Bros has announced a release date for Contagion of October 21, 2011, and the movie will also be released in 3D.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#2 SCREENWRITER BROUGHT IN TO GIVE TEEN SPIDER-MAN REBOOT THAT 80S FEEL

Perhaps someone at Sony misheard their superior's instructions when it came to hiring the latest screenwriter for their teen-oriented Spider-Man reboot. It might be understandable that they would want the script to have a certain "80s" vibe (John Hughes, Steven Spielberg, etc). What Sony got instead is someone who is IN his 80s: 83-year-old screenwriter Alvin Sargent (1980's Ordinary People, 1973's Paper Moon). In addition to those 30+ year old Oscar favorites, Alvin Sargent does also have the distinction of having worked on all three previous Spider-Man movies (although he was uncredited for the first one), and he had actually been working on Spider-Man 4 before the plug was pulled. Sargent is said to be giving the reboot a "production polish" on a draft by screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt (Basic, Zodiac). This is one of this week's Rotten Ideas, because the idea of rebooting Spider-Man to appeal to the Twilight crowd remains a questionable proposition, and Sargent's work on Spider-Man 3 didn't help save that movie from being a disappointment either.


#1 GIDGET GETS REBOOTED FOR THE GRANDKIDS OF HER ORIGINAL FANS

Gidget was a popular teen female character in the late 1950s and 1960s, starring in three movies with three different stars, and launching the career of Sally Field with the short-lived 1965 TV series. First appearing in the 1957 novel Gidget: The Little Girl With Big Ideas, the premise of Gidget was that she was an all-American girl who was just crazy about one of the hot new fads of the time (surfing, the Beach Boys, etc.). And now, thanks to a collaboration between the producers of Forever Plaid and the producer of Letters to Juliet and Piranhas 3-D, Gidget is in line to be revived as both a feature film and a new TV series. There's no writers or other creative staff attached to Gidget just yet. Producer Mark Canton describes the appeal of Gidget this way, "with female surfing exploding across the globe, the time is right to bring her back in a major way." Of course, female surfing was a pretty big thing in 2002 as well, and Blue Crush only made back a little bit more than its budget. The Gidget reboot is another Rotten idea because it feels like Hollywood trying to force a tired old franchise on today's kids, and I have a feeling they're too hip to ride this particular wave. Of course, they also love Twilight...


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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