This week’s ketchup bottle sees Hollywood working on three movies with ties to movies from the 1950s, casting news for Iron Man 2, and an update on Joaquin Phoenix’s musical career.
Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox have reached a settlement over the Watchmen legal battle, so the March 6th, 2009 release can resume as planned. In the deal, 20th Century Fox does not get their logo in front of the movie, but they get a large upfront amount (estimated in the $5-$10 million range), as well as a percentage of the gross (5%-8%) equivalent to what a movie star typically gets, and participation points in any sequel or spin-off of Watchmen. Considering that the situation could have been much grimmer for Warner Bros if an extended legal battle led them to delay the movie’s rights, or even lose the battle and end up with 20th Century Fox distributing, this is probably a best case compromise for them. It’s an even better case scenario for the fans of the movie, because it should mean that Zack Snyder can keep making the movie he wants us to see (though he is reportedly cutting a lot out from the original 3+ hour cut).
Chinese action star and funnyman Jackie Chan is in talks to play gardener and martial arts instructor, Mr. Miyagi, in Sony’s remake of The Karate Kid, starring Will Smith’s son, Jaden Smith. Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks, The Pink Panther 2) is directing the movie set in China (moved from the U.S. in the original), with filming possibly starting in Beijing later this year. The move of setting may explain away Jackie Chan’s casting as originally a Japanese character, but it doesn’t explain the un-Chinese-ness of the name “Miyagi.”
The casting for Iron Man 2 continues this week with Samuel L. Jackson talking about whether he is likely to return, and news of who is likely to play Avengers member Black Widow. Talking to The Los Angeles Times, Samuel L. Jackson says negotiations have “broken down”, with Marvel apparently not willing to pay Jackson what he wants to return as Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, The Avengers and any other Marvel movies. This all started several years ago when Marvel started their Ultimate universe line, and the revamped Nick Fury (traditionally a white guy) to look just like Samuel L. Jackson, and then Jackson made a cameo in the role at the end of Iron Man. This salary negotiation also has echoes of the recent decision by Marvel to dump Terrence Howard in favor of Don Cheadle. The other hot news this week is that Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) is the frontrunner to costar in Iron Man 2 as Russian seductress Natasha Romanov, AKA Black Widow. I don’t quite see it, but maybe she pulled off a mean Russian accent in auditions.
Director McG did some press this week for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins this week, and in the process, revealed to IGN that his top pick to play Captain Nemo in the prequel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo is… Will Smith. Now, obviously, the role was modified greatly in Disney’s 1954 movie, casting the extremely British James Mason in the role, but this is a different day and age, right? The success of Slumdog Millionaire is putting Indian actors front and center, but apparently, star wattage is what really matters, and so Will Smith is being considered. Personally, I think studios should stay true to whatever source material they’re working with, and in this case, cast an Indian star. And with this project, Disney actually has a (British born) Indian actor working for them already, who I think would be perfect as Nemo: Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid on ABC’s Lost. Yes, he plays an Iraqi on that show, but Andrews’ portrayal of Sayid Jarrah shows that he has the right mix of dignity and fiery emotions to pull off Captain Nemo with ease. Or, they can cast Will Smith, and we can end up seeing Captain Nemo saying, “Aw, Hell No!” in the trailers. Of course, Disney is also the studio that cast Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia and is likely to cast Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, so… say Hoo-Ray for Hollywood!
Hot on the Golden Globes successes of HBO’s John Adams mini-series, its director, Tom Hooper (also HBO’s Longford), has been hired by Universal for their remake of East of Eden, which will reportedly hew closer to John Steinbeck’s original novel. Produced by Brian Grazer, the project was first announced in 2004 with Ron Howard expected to direct. Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liasons) is adapting the script, which Hoopers says is “an opportunity to show the sex, violence and darkness of Steinbeck’s work, along with the optimism and celebration of love.” East of Eden tells the story of how the lives of two California families interweave in the first two decades of the 20th Century. James Dean starred in the 1955 version, which because of the standards of the day, obviously had to say away from things like “sex” and “violence.” Filming is expected to start sometime later this year.
Producer Michael Cerenzie (Deuces Wild, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) has secured the rights to Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel, a biography by Marshall Terrell, in a deal that is likely to end up at Paramount. The movie will focus on McQueen’s Hollywood career (1956 to 1980), which included Papillon, The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno and The Blob, and his three turbulent marriages (Ali McGraw was #2). Steve McQueen died in 1980 after a risky operation in Mexico to remove a 5 pound stomach tumor caused by mesothelioma, at the age of 50. Also known as an avid car owner and racer, Steve McQueen established a screen persona that gave him the nickname, “The King of Cool,” that has helped sustain his legacy since his 1980 death, up there with the likes of James Dean and Elvis. Adding poignancy to his career, the list of movies that Steve McQueen almost starred in is as impressive as the movies he did (Dirty Harry, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Apocalypse Now and) Close Encounters of the Third Kind), only adding to the remorseful sense of “what might have been”, when one considers McQueen’s relatively early death.
Getting pudgy and beardy, Joaquin Phoenix is ooking more and more like the late career Jim Morrison as he abandons his successful acting career to try to become what nearly every mid 30s white guy aspires to be: a rapper. And his friend, Casey Affleck, will be there to record every excrutiating moment of it for a documentary movie, starting with Phoenix’s debut tonight at a Las Vegas night club. Or maybe Phoenix is the new Young MC and he will be awesome. Who knows?
Brendan Fraser has signed on for the lead role in the untitled medical drama formerly called The Cure, because that’s the name of the book it’s based on (and also a true story). Fraser will star as John Crowley, a father of two young children born with a rare genetic condition that is said to have no cure, who seeks the help of an “irascible” doctor (Harrison Ford), and with his help, Crowley goes on to raise $100 million towards finding a cure for his kids’ condition. The movie is the first production from the new CBS Films production company, and will be directed by Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas) from a script by Robert Nelson Jacobs (Chocolat, The Shipping News). Filming starts in early April, and unabashed heartstring pulling will probably commence in Oscars season.
Acclaimed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman will make his directorial debut with Jack Goes Boating, an adaptation of a 2007 Off-Broadway play in which he also starred. Hoffman will reprise his role in the offbeat romantic comedy, which is described as being “laced with cooking classes, swimming lessons and illegal drugs” (pot), opposite Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), with John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega reprising their stage roles. In their glowing review, The New York Times compared Jack Goes Boating with Little Miss Sunshine, so if you can imagine that movie set in New York, not having a little girl, and with Phillip Seymour Hoffman high on weed, then I guess we know what it’ll be like: awesome? Filming begins in New York City on February 9th.
The “body switching comedy” subgenre still lives, with Zac Efron’s 17 Again in theaters this April, and the news that the Broken Lizard comedy troupe’s director, Jay Chandrasekhar (The Dukes of Hazzard, Super Troopers), has signed on to work on Opposites Attract, in which a dating couple switch bodies. The comedy, which Chandrasekhar promises will be R-rated, is not officially a Broken Lizard production, but you have to figure that at least one or two of Chandrasekhar’s friends might show up in the cast somewhere.
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.