This week’s Ketchup includes continuing casting news for Marvel’s Thor, a MacGyver movie, Tom Cruise talking about Mission: Impossible IV, and new roles for Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Chow Yun-Fat, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones.
There was a good bit of news this about Thor, starting with the rumor that Natalie Portman is the top choice for the female lead. There’s no specific details on the role, but there are really only two major female characters in the Thor story: the Asgardian swordmaiden Sif (hard to imagine as the 5′ 3″ Portman) and the human nurse Jane Foster. And although Alexander Skarsgard (Stellan’s son, and Erik Nortman in HBO’s True Blood) remains the reported top choice to play Thor, IGN has a rundown of the many other actors who are reportedly in the running as well. Also, MTV talked to Marvel’s Joe Quesada, who confirmed that Kenneth Branagh is eager to mix in connections in Thor to the other Marvel Studios movies, specifically Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and The Avengers. Speaking of The Avengers, a scoop sent to AICN suggests that the real reason why that film was moved back a year (to 2012) last week is that Marvel is sweet on Jon Favreau, and wants him to be able to direct it after he’s finished up Iron Man 2.
Movie versions of old action TV shows generally go one of two ways: serious (Mission: Impossible, The Fugitive) or pop culture kitcsch comedy (Starsky & Hutch, Charlie’s Angels). It’s pretty clear which direction New Line Cinema plans to go with MacGyver, with one of their suits making a reference to the project needing “stick of chewing gum, a paper clip and an A-list writer” and the trade article referencing the SNL spoof, MacGruber. Strangely, the article also refers to MacGyver as being “science fiction,” which I guess means that Magnum P.I., The A-Team and Simon & Simon were also “science fiction.” MacGyver was the 1985 to 1992 spy show on ABC about a secret agent (Richard Dean Anderson of Stargate SG-1) who refused to carry a gun and had a knack for being able to rig solutions to problems through his use of common, everyday items he just happened to find. The A-Team also did this in many episodes, but MacGyver is the show that took the concept to particularly ridiculous extremes sometimes. Although the fans would probably love to see Anderson return for the movie, it’s very likely that New Line will be casting someone new. Will Forte, maybe?
According to someone who wrote in to Ain’t it Cool News, Tom Cruise was in Japan recently and revealed on a show called SMAPxSMAP that he is currently working on a story for Mission: Impossible IV. Cruise said the film might include a big action sequence in downtown Tokyo, inspired by his time there this week. There hasn’t actually been much news lately from Paramount about any actual development of the continuation of Ethan Hunt’s spy adventures in a Mission: Impossible 4, but Tom Cruise still has enough clout that if he wants the movie to get made, it probably would indeed happen.
Following The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman have signed on to star in Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry. I’m going to save myself from having to invest in a new keyboard, and just call it IAAPPFTCOLDAHMIBSFAJ. Nope, even that’s long. How about Important Artifacts…? The movie is based upon a recent book by Leanne Shapton that is written in the form of a Sotheby’s catalog with 325 entries and photographs that tell the story of the four year relationship between a New York Times food critic (Portman) and a photographer (Pitt), in the form of a romantic comedy. Paramount won a bidding war Tuesday night for Important Artifacts…, and Portman’s Handsomecharlie Films and Pitt’s Plan B will co-produce. Also this week, Pitt’s Plan B and Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to the espionage thriller novel The Night Manager by John Le Carre (The Tailor of Panama, The Constant Gardener), which will be adapted by Robert Edwards (Land of the Blind). Edwards himself was an intelligence officer during the Gulf War, so he’s a former spy writing a spy movie screenplay. That’s rather cool. The Night Manager is the story of the manager of a European hotel who is recruited to infiltrate an international ring of international arms dealers. There’s no word yet as to whether Brad Pitt will star in The Night Manager, or just produce.
Things are truly changing in China. Under Mao, the Red Army destroyed the ancestral home, family cemetery and temple of Confucious, the ancient philosopher. And now, the modern Chinese government is backing Confucious, a biopic to star Chow Yun-Fat on a budget of $2.8 million, directed by Hu Mei (For All Eternity). Filming starts later this month in the province of Hebei, and the movie is scheduled to premiere on September 28th, to celebrate Confucious’ 2,560th birthday. If the movie gets American distribution in time, that might also put Confucious in queue to be a possible Awards season possibility? In other CYF news, Twitch broke the news this week that the movie version of John Woo’s Stranglehold is actually not a sequel to Hard Boiled, but a prequel, featuring a much younger Detective Tequila. Since Chow Yun-Fat is 53 and Hard Boiled was made 17 years ago, that seems to suggest that a different actor will be cast as Tequila.
Director Catherine Hardwicke’s (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen) last film was the hit movie version of Twilight, but she’s not directing New Moon, the second movie in the series. Instead, Hardwicke’s in talks to direct Columbia Pictures’ Maximum Ride, and has signed with Summit Entertainment (the studio behind Twilight) for If I Stay. Maximum Ride is a series of young adult novels by James Patterson (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider) about six teenagers who are genetically mutated half-man-half-birds, who escape their Death Valley facility and are pursued by half-man-half-wolf hybrids. Maximum Ride is being written by Don Payne (My Super Ex-Girlfriend; cowriter of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer). If I Stay is based upon an upcoming fantasy novel by Gayle Forman about a 17-year-old classical musician with an indie rock star boyfriend who’s forced to choose between life and death after she is in a horrible car accident.
Following a $24 million opening weekend at #1 for Race to Witch Mountain, Disney has tapped that film’s director, Andy Fickman, to work on Monster Attack Network, a giant monster adventure movie based upon a 2007 graphic novel which pays homage to the Silver Age monster comics that were quite popular before superheroes made their 1960s comebacks. The cover of Monster Attack Network shows a blonde muscle man facing down a giant squid-like monster. Since Andy Fickman has now had two hits with Disney that both starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (the other was The Game Plan), one has to wonder if Disney might not be thinking of making it three-for-three by casting Johnson in this movie as well. Monster Attack Network is being adapted by Scott Elder and Josh Harmon, who also sold Disney on their spec script, Snow and the Seven, a revisionist take on Snow White about a British woman in 19th century Hong Kong who is assisted by seven Shaolin monks. Yes, really.
David Hayter is a renaissance man: he’s done tons of voice work (Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid games, notably), he’s a screenwriter (cowriting Watchmen), and now he’s setting up his own production company, Dark Hero Studios, and getting ready for his directorial debut, a werewolf thriller called Slaughter’s Road. Slaughter’s Road will star Thomas Dekker (Zach from season 1 of Heroes) and Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone). The details of Slaughter’s Road are unknown, but Variety reports that Hayter came up with the idea based on his experiences of being offered many werewolf movies that had flaws, and Slaughter’s Road is his answer to them. Slaughter’s Road starts filming this summer. Another directorial project for Hayter will be Demonology, which will be Dark Hero Studios’ first project, and is about an troubled American student at a school in Belgium.
With James Franco currently filming the Allen Ginsberg biopic, Howl, in New York City, another Beat Poets movie, Kill Your Darlings, is also casting up. Kill Your Darlings focuses on Lucien Carr (Ben Whishaw), a Columbia University graduate who is credited with introducing three of the giants of the Beat movement: Jack Kerouac (Chris Evans), Allen Ginsberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and William S. Burroughs (not yet cast). The story doesn’t end there, however, as Lucien Carr during this period was also stalked by a friend of Burroughs who was sexually obsessed with Carr, ultimately leading to a night of murder that also involved both Kerouac and Burroughs. Kill Your Darlings is the directorial debut of John Krokidas, and is produced by Killer Films (Boys Don’t Cry, Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones have joined the already cast Ben Affleck in The Company Men, a drama about the ramifications felt after a company downsizes much of its staff. Affleck plays a “corporate hotshot” who loses his Porsche and 6 figure income, Costner plays his brother-in-law who gives him a construction job, and Jones plays a senior partner who feels bad about the layoffs. The Company Men was written and will be directed by John Wells, writer and show runner of NBC’s ER and Third Watch. The Company Men is an independent production, and is scheduled to start filming in Boston in April. Both stars are also setting up directorial projects: Costner’s is The One (nothing to do with The Matrix) and Tommy Lee’s is Ernest Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream (nothing to do with the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton song… I think).
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.