For a week that you would think would have been dominated by April Fool’s Day jokes, there was an abundance of interesting bits of news in these first few days of April. Let’s start, dear reader, with…
MAGNUM FINALLY GETS A STAR?
Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Matthew McConaughey has been offered the role of Thomas Magnum in Universal Picture’s extremely-long-in-development movie version of Magnum, P.I., with the frequent costar of Kate Hudson currently mulling over the script by Rawson Thurber, whose only contribution to the great spectacle that is filmmaking thus far has been 2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. I did genuinely enjoy that little sports comedy, but I don’t quite know how that translates to adapting Magnum, P.I. to the big screen. Besides just that though, the obvious issue here is Matthew McConaughey, who I guess sort of has a similar charm to 1980s-era Tom Selleck, but I think too many people firmly equate Selleck to Magnum, that McConaughey is going to be very challenged to overcome that. Besides, Tom Selleck is still in pretty good shape, and it would be cool to see a “Magnum 20 years later” story, in my opinion. With this reportedly a prequel, however, that’s not the way Universal is going.
DIMENSION FILMS IS SHORT CIRCUITING
Variety is reporting that Dimension Films, the Weinstein Co.’s genre division led by brother Bob, has commissioned the original screenwriters of 1986’s Short Circuit to work on a remake project about the loveable military robot who gets turned into a peace-lover after getting hit by lightning. The funny thing is that it’s twenty years later, and today’s robots (which are still basically resigned to doing factory work… well, that and military missions over Afghanistan) don’t actually look that much more advanced than Number 5’s original design. With so many appalling remakes getting done these days, I can’t really say I hold much opinion either way about a Short Circuit movie, since my reaction is basically not far from the realm of “Oh yeah, I remember seeing about 20 minutes of that on cable once…”
ROB MARSHALL’S 9 > FEDERICO FELLINI’S 8 1/2?
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) is returning to the Broadway adaptation trough with word this week from the Hollywood Reporter that a huge cast has either signed on, or is in advanced talks, to fill out Nine, an adaptation of the 1982 broadway musical which was itself an adaptation of Federico Fellini‘s classic film, 8 1/2. Standing in for the long late Fellini will be Javier Bardem, hot off being spooky as hell in No Country for Old Men, and the many women of the cast are likely to include (recent Oscar winner) Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, PenÃ©lope Cruz, Sophia Loren and Dame Judi Dench, in this story of a film director’s attempts to manage the many women who populate his life. Filming of this Weinstein Co production was originally expected to start last month, but it has been re-scheduled for September, 2008, following the death of its originally planned director, Anthony Minghella. The additional time also allows for recent rewrites by Michael Tolkin (The Player) to be synched up with the songwriting and choreography, and for Nicole Kidman to give birth to her first child this summer (her two children with Tom Cruise were adopted).
THE WRIGHT/PEGG TRILOGY COMES TO ITS EXCITING CONCLUSION
Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, has renewed his relationship with Working Title Pictures, which covers two movies: Baby Driver, a car/road action movie he will direct first, and At World’s End, which will reteam him with star and cowriter Simon Pegg, in what AICN is speculating might be about a conspiracy that lizard people control the world (sort of like They Live!, starring Rowdy Roddy Piper?). At World’s End is said to be the third in the pair’s trilogy of movies paying homage to three of their favorite genres. Zombies, cop buddies and…? What isn’t stated in any of this is what effect these two projects will have on Wright’s movie version of Marvel Comics’ Ant-Man, which was expected to be a sooner-rather-than-later sort of thing. Now a “not” sort of thing?
THIS WEEK IN GRAPHIC NOVEL LICENSING
- Ben Stiller is getting into the wacky “graphic novel” adapation business by teaming up with DreamWorks to produce, and possibly star in, an adaptation of the graphic novel, The Return of King Doug, about a man who is forced to return to the fantasy world that he abandoned thirty years earlier.
- The Benderspink production company picked up rights to two graphic novels this week. First up is Last Blood, about a group of vampires protecting the last human survivors of a zombie apocalypse (so, basically, it’s a lot like I Am Legend, but with more survivors, and nicer vampires?).
- Benderspink also acquired movie rights to the graphic novel Pencilneck by Victor Carungi, which sounds like a fairly standard mob/crime thriller, but based on something from the oh-so-popular-these-days “graphic novel” arena.
- And now a footnote. As “graphic novels” are seemingly becoming *the* most common source for adaptations, I am suspecting that some screenwriters are just writing their scripts as “graphic novels” first these days as a fast track to getting concepts sold that they would never even get noticed as regular old “spec scripts” without that distinction. Not that this necessarily applies to the three titles announced this week. Just something I might do if I was a screenwriter, honestly. It’s a very tough business.
THIS WEEK IN BIOPICS
- Thomas Haden Church has signed on to play Kate Hudson’s husband in Big Eyes, the biopic in which Hudson plays Margaret Keane, the painter famous for drawing children with extremely out of proportion eyes (hence the title). Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the screenwriters of Man on the Moon, The People vs Larry Flynt, and Ed Wood are directing from their own script.
- Production started this week on Billy, a biopic about the influential evangelical minister which focuses on his early years, with Graham to be played by Armie Hammer, the basically unknown actor who is currently signed on to play Batman in the Justice League of America movie. The cast also includes Martin Landau (Space: 1999) and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman).
- Jane Campion (The Piano)’s next film will be Bright Star, a biopic about the English poet, John Keats (Ben Whishaw), who died young at 25. The cast also includes Abbie Cornish, Kerry Fox and Paul Schneider.
- Mos Def has joined the cast, as rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, of the movie about Cadillac Records, the classic record label that was the home of many of the 20th century’s best blues and early soul performers, which now has a shorter title of just Cadillac.
- Universal Pictures has picked up the rights to First Man, a biography of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The script is being adapted by newcomer Nicole Perlman, who has also worked on the movie Challenger, about the investigation of that space shuttle’s destruction, and a Wright Brothers project, One Day at Kitty Hawk. One can’t claim Ms. Perlman’s choice of script projects doesn’t have a theme.
- The Informant, the next project for director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy), which has long had Matt Damon attached, got a lot more cast members this week, including Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Joel McHale (E!’s The Soup, which is basically Talk Soup, the show from which Greg Kinnear‘s career evolved). The Informant will be a darkly comic thriller that tells the true story of an agribusiness insider’s (Matt Damon) efforts to work with the F.B.I. (Bakula and McHale) to expose a price-fixing scam and other shenanigans.
- Universal Pictures is developing Kill the Messenger, a biopic about journalist Gary Webb‘s investigations into connections between the C.I.A., Nicaraguan contras and the drug trade.
- Filming starts next week in Germany on The Last Station, a biopic about Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s final years, starring Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy, Helen Mirren as Tolstoy’s wife, Paul Giamatti as Tolstoy’s closest follower and James McAvoy as a secretary sent by Giamatti’s character to work for him. The Last Station is being directed by Michael Hoffman (Restoration, The Emperor’s Club), with several German companies co-producing, from a script based upon the 1990 novel of the same title by Jay Parini.
- The cast of Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies was already cool (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, David Wenham, Giovanni Ribisi), but now we know that Billy Crudup is going to be playing F.B.I. big shot J. Edgar Hoover, and that’s just gravy.
- Francis Ford Coppola started filming his semi-autobiographical project, Tetro, in Argentina this week, but even so, he’s made a small adjustment to one of the lead characters, with Javier Bardem (a dude) dropping out, and his mentor character (to Vincent Gallo‘s character) becoming a non-dude, in the form of acclaimed Spanish actress Carmen Maura (Volver).
SHAKING THE REST OF THE KETCHUP OUT OF THIS WEEK’S BOTTLE
- The G.I. Joe movie, which looks like it will have a cast larger than Roots, got some more cast rumor action this week in the form of Brendan Fraser and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who (if this isn’t just a fan making it all up) may be playing “Gung Ho” and “Shipwreck”, respectively. I’m not that familiar with the 80s version of G.I. Joe (I grew up on the earlier, one-make-fits-all version), but I will agree with that article’s writer that “Gung Ho” does indeed have a distinct “Village People-ish” look. If Brendan Fraser actually dresses up like that, I might Tivo this one someday.
- The movie version of the Gears of Wars videogame got a little bit of press this week, with word that that the project has a screenwriter, Stuart Beattie (Collateral; also cowriting G.I. Joe), and they are aiming for a summer, 2010 release.
- Screenwriter Stuart Beattie, who’s working on the two movies in the two items above this one, has another video game adaptation he’d like to work on, which is Halo, which he has taken it upon himself to write a spec script, adapting the novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, and outlining two additional movies that could follow, forming a trilogy (apparently not adapting the actual Halo trilogy of videogames directly?). Beattie is doing this separately from actually having a deal with anyone involved with the actual project (which at one time was Peter Jackson, but is still Microsoft, the distributor of the games), but I suppose it’s interesting just because it shows that someone who’s done this type of movie before is interested.
- Kirsten Dunst, Ryan Gosling and Frank Langella will star in All Good Things, the dramatic debut of Capturing the Friedmans director, Andrew Jarecki. The movie’s mystery revolves around the missing girlfriend (Dunst) of the son (Gosling) of a real estate tycoon (Langella).
- Alpha and Omega, a CGI animated adventure from Lions Gate (aiming for a 2010 release) about two wolves trying to reunite with their pack, has landed its voice cast, with Justin Long (“The Mac Guy”, Live Free or Die Hard) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) voicing the lead wolves, and Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper, Larry Miller and Christina Ricci voicing other roles.
- Reality TV star (and country singer) Trace Adkins (The Celebrity Apprentice) will play the Ghost of Christmas Future in David Zucker‘s holiday spoof, American Carol, using his musical abilities to save Scrooge (Kelsey Grammer) from danger. Dennis Hopper, Jon Voight and Leslie Nielsen also costar, but it’s not known if they’ll be singing too.
- 20th Century Fox has picked up the movie rights to Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, an article in a recent issue of Vogue about “daredevil cargo pilots” who enjoy flying freight under dangerous circumstances. I take note that the same studio just recently picked up rights to a similar project in the form of the Ice Road Truckers show on the History Channel.
- Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of about 80% of the best characters Marvel Comics ever came up with, has long since been an independent entity, and at age 85, he’s still coming up with new ideas, with the news this week that he’s signed a deal with Disney Pictures, for three original concepts: Blaze, Nick Ratchet and Tigress.
- Producer Michael Bay’s Friday the 13th remake had two bits of casting news this week: stuntman Derek Mears will play Jason Voorhees, and the female lead will be played by relative newcomer Amanda Righetti. That the character of Jason Voorhees barely appeared in the first Friday the 13th movie is apparently a mistake not being made by this remake.
- Warner Bros has acquired the movie rights to the Hyperion Cantos series of science fiction novels (novels that aren’t graphic, even!), which are set during a space war centering around a planet with electric trees, time tombs that allow for time travel and a giant monster called the Shrike that impales people on metal trees. I can’t help but notice that this acquisition comes just two weeks after the news that the Dune property is returning to movie theaters.
- Shekhar Kapur, the director of the Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett, has signed on with Warner Bros to develop an adaptation of Larklight, a 2006 fantasy novel by Philip Reeve, which is set in a Victorian Era alternate universe where space faring is common, and two young siblings must team up with space pirates to prevent a bad guy from taking over the world.
- Machete, the movie hinted at by a fake trailer in last year’s Grindhouse, was originally mentioned by director Robert Rodriguez as being planned as a direct-to-video project, but with word from its star, Danny Trejo, that Rodriguez himself plans on directing, that might suggest that the film may actually get a theatrical release (as Rodriguez is not normally a “direct to video” level director)?
- An adaptation of The Matarese Circle, a novel by Robert Ludlum (the Bourne trilogy) by the writing team behind the recent 3:10 to Yuma remake, is being shopped around Hollywood, with Denzel Washington attached to star as one of two spies (one American, one Russian) who have been enemies for years, but now must team up to fight some bad guys.
- Chuck Russell (The Mask, Eraser, The Scorpion King) has signed on with producer Dean Devlin (Independence Day, the Librarian series of direct-to-video adventures) to rewrite and direct Northern Lights, an action drama set in the world of acrobatic pilots, with filming expected to start this fall in Louisiana.
- The movie adaptation of DC Comics’ Teen Titans, about a super team formed by the sidekicks of various grown up superheroes (led by Batman’s Robin), is still alive, with word this week from Mark Verheiden (writer of several episodes of Smallville and Battlestar Galactica) of what he’s got in mind for the project.
- Luke Wilson, Gretchen Mol and David Koechner (The Office) start filming in Philadelphia next week for Tenure, a romantic comedy about two professors competing for the same tenure spot in their department’s faculty.
- A remake of the 1980s horror quasi-classic, C.H.U.D., is apparently in the works… sort of, with word from Bloody-Disgusting.com that the project might actually be called Urban Decay, in which case, I guess it becomes just a movie about some other type of cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers?
Greg Dean Schmitz can be contacted via his MySpace page, there’s a RT Forums thread devoted to him, and his IMDb discussion thread is currently a very lonely place.