This week’s Ketchup has sequel news for The Da Vinci Code, relaunch news for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and potential new movie franchises to follow for lovers of Angelina Jolie and post-apocalyptic first person shooter video games.
Although Angels & Demons, the second movie starring Tom Hanks as author Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon character, isn’t in theaters until May 15th, the author has already written a third novel and Columbia Pictures is trying to secure the rights. Unlike Angels & Demons, which was actually the first book featuring Langdon (adapted as a film sequel after The Da Vinci Code proved so popular), Brown’s next book, entitled The Lost Symbol, is a true sequel to The Da Vinci Code, or the second sequel to Angels & Demons, to state it most accurately. The Lost Symbol will be published by Doubleday, with an amazing 5 million copies being shipped out for the book’s September 15, 2009 release, although with Angels & Demons selling 39 million copies and The Da Vinci Code selling 81 million copies, those 5 million copies are probably just the tip of the religious conspiracy investigating iceberg. There’s no word yet about whether director Ron Howard or star Tom Hanks will be returning for The Lost Symbol. What The Lost Symbol is actually about isn’t known either, except that Freemasonry is the latest secret society on Langdon’s check list, and it is set in Washington, D.C.
After three live-action movies in the early 1990s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returned in 2007 in TMNT, an all-CGI-animation movie. Rather than another CGI movie, however, the Turtles will next be seen on the big screen in a return to their live-action roots, in an origin story aiming for a 2011 release date. In addition to the expected turtle suits, producer Scott Mednick speculated that “face replacement technology” may also be used to make the Ninja Turtles’ faces more expressive. The movie will be based upon the original 1984-1987 black and white comics by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, which were actually spoofs of the “gritty comics” trend at the time exemplified by titles like Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil and Ronin. About them, Mednick said, “the original dozen comics created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman are some of the best source material one could hope for.” As someone who remembers quite well the cultural sense of horror I felt 1987 when those cool comics had been “kiddiefied” into a cartoon series that seemed to be the exact opposite of what TMNT was about, I’m completely on board with the idea of the Turtles being returned to their roots. There’s no word yet on whether any of the original Turtle voices like Corey Feldman will be invited to return, but I hope not.
Bethesda Softworks, the video game company also responsible for the epic Elder Scrolls fantasy role-playing franchise, has filed trademarks for its other big franchise, the Fallout series, set in a violent post-nuclear apocalyptic future tinged with a retro-futuristic gallow’s humor. The trademarks cover both “motion picture films about a post-nuclear apocalyptic world” and “entertainment services in the nature of an on-going television program.” This column obviously doesn’t cover TV shows, but the idea of either/both a Fallout movie or TV show is still worth noting, no doubt. Fallout 3 was released in October, 2008 on three formats, and sold over 600,000 copies in its first month, as well receiving spectacular reviews and lots of “Best of the Year” awards. There are also rumors that Bethesda is developing a Fallout MMORPG, which might be what these possible TV and movie plans are connected to.
Ever since Guillermo del Toro was announced as the director of The Hobbit, we’ve heard that the plan was for two movies; one based on The Hobbit, and one “bridge movie” that would show what Tolkien’s characters were doing in the sixty years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That plan has apparently been scrapped, with only the events of The Hobbit to now be split into two movies, in a fashion similar to how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows is being split in half. Talking to Empire, Del Toro said, “We’ve decided to have The Hobbit span the two movies, including the White Council and the comings and goings of Gandalf to Dol Guldur.” The Hobbit Parts One and Two are still scheduled for releases in December, 2011 and December, 2012.
Angelina Jolie has signed with Fox 2000 to star in what is hoped to be the first of a new franchise of movies based upon the medical examiner character Dr. Kay Scarpetta, as featured in 16 popular novels by Patricia Cornwell. The first film will not be based on any one particular Patricia Cornwell novel, and is only described as “a suspense thriller in the vein of Silence of the Lambs and Seven,” which I believe could be said to describe most of the Kay Scarpetta novels. There’s no director attached yet, and Fox is currently looking for a writer. Angelina Jolie could be said to be in the market for a healthy film franchise, following the news that the next Tomb Raider movie will be a rebooting with a new actress as Lara Croft. Variety mentions Wanted 2 as a potential project for her, but that somehow seems unlikely to me. Speaking of that project, Evan Spiliotopoulos was announced this week as the Wanted 2 screenwriter, which sent websites into a tizzy because his filmography is mostly kids movies like Pooh’s Heffalump Movie and the upcoming Battle for Terra. Mark Millar, creator of Wanted, was quick to defend Spiliotopoulos on his official forum, mentioning that he had heard the writer had done great work on an unproduced action script. Doing some research, it appears that the action movie Millar is referring to is probably The Last Call, a comic book adaptation for Universal or The Box, a supernatural action thriller that director Barry Sonnenfeld is attached to at Fox (and not the movie that Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko fame has coming out in October).
The long story of making The Fighter, a biopic about modern day boxing half-brothers “Irish” Mickey Ward and Dicky Eklund, seems to be finally coming to an end. The title is singular because it was Mickey who made it to the big time, while Dicky gave up boxing for a life of crime and drugs, but eventually becoming Mickey’s trainer. Christian Bale has signed on to costar as Dicky with Mark Wahlberg, who has been long attached to star as Ward, with the previous potential Eklunds being first Matt Damon, and then Brad Pitt. Another significant change in the project is the departure of director Darren Aronofsky, who had long been expected to make this his next project after The Wrestler. In his place is David O. Russell, who has worked with Wahlberg twice previously (Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees). The most recent script drafts were by Scott Silver (8 Mile; cowrter of the upcoming Battle: Los Angeles) and Lewis Colick (Ladder 49, October Sky). An interesting coincidence is that both David O. Russell and Christian Bale have been YouTube sensations because of bouts of anger on movie sets. If they don’t get along, any angy outbursts on set will likely be recorded, maybe this time as a duet. Production is scheduled to start in July, 2009, possibly in Boston.
Director/writer Sofia Coppola’s next project is Somewhere, which like Lost in Translation, is primarily set in a hotel: Hollywood’s famous Chateau Marmont. Stephen Dorff stars as a “bad-boy actor stumbling through a life of excess at the Chateau Marmont. With an unexpected visit from his 11-year old daughter, he is forced to reexamine his life.” Elle Fanning costars as Dorff’s daughter. Filming will take place in Los Angeles and Italy in June and July, 2009. Somewhere will be distributed by Focus Features, which also distributed Lost in Translation, which they describe as “among Focus’ most beloved movies, so we have long looked forward to making another picture with Sofia.” Sofia Coppola’s first film was 1999’s The Virgin Suicides, and in between Lost in Translation and Somewhere, she also directed the ambitious but flawed Marie Antoinette; both films starred Kirsten Dunst.
Jason Statham (Crank, The Transporter) is set to star in a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson thriller The Mechanic, about a veteran hit man training a young man to take his place when he retires, who then becomes the assassin hired to kill off his mentor. Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) is in talks to direct. Charles Bronson and his Mechanic director, Michael Winner, went on to work together again two years later on Death Wish, the huge hit which launched a five-film franchise for Bronson. At one point, Michael Douglas had also been involved in a possible Mechanic remake.
The week after State of Play opened at #2 and $14 million at the box office, that film’s director, Kevin MacDonald, has been signed to direct the big budget sci-fi project The End of Eternity, based upon the classic 1955 novel by Isaac Asimov. The End of Eternity is about an organization of time cops called Eternals from the far future who travel back in time to make changes to human history for the better, and one Eternal who discovers that he is a pawn in a scheme within the Eternals. The End of Eternity is being produced by New Regency, which has a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, the studio that also handled the 2004 adaptation of another Asimov project, I, Robot. Kevin MacDonald also directed The Last King of Scotland and Touching Void, and is currently filming Eagle of the Ninth, a historical mystery drama about the search for a missing Roman Legion in Scotland in the 2nd Century.
Andy Serkis, who’s most famous for being the CGI model of Peter Jackson’s King Kong and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, will be starring as the late British punk rocker Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Ian Dury contracted polio at the age of 7, which he struggled with his whole life, but was still able to lead Ian Dury and the Blockheads as a successful early New Wave band, and as a solo artist, until his death from colorectal cancer in 2000. The rest of the ensemble cast includes Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast), Naomie Harris (28 Days Later), Olivia Williams (Rush Hour), Toby Jones (Truman Capote in Infamous) and Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti the Pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is being directed by Mat Whitecross (codirector of 2006’s The Road to Guantanamo) from a script by Paul Viragh, who also wrote a movie called Dark Blue Rising, in which Andy Serkis will also star and make his directorial debut. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll starts filming in London on May 3, 2009.
High School Musical‘s Vanessa Hudgens has signed to star in Beastly, a teen supernatural romance based upon the young adult novel of the same name by Alex Flinn. Beastly is a retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, set in 21st century New York City. Alex Pettyfer, who starred as Alex Rider in 2006’s Stormbreaker, is in talks to star as an arrogant 17-year-old who is magically transformed by a witch in his English class into a disfigured “beast,” forcing him to find romance, without his good looks, with a “beauty” who might be able to break the spell. Daniel Barnz (Phoebe in Wonderland) is directing and adapting the script for CBS Films, with filming scheduled to start in June, 2009. Other CBS Films projects include Crowley, a medical drama starring Harrison Ford and a remake of My Fair Lady.
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. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.