Weekly Ketchup

Chris Evans to Star as Gene Kelly in New Biopic, and More Movie News

Michael Keaton's Batman joins the Batgirl movie, and new projects for Benedict Cumberbatch, Rooney Mara, Colin Firth, Vanessa Kirby, and more.

by | January 7, 2022 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as as new biopics about Jean-Michel Basquiat, Napoleon Bonaparte, Audrey Hepburn, Gene Kelly, and Suge Knight.


This WEEK’S TOP STORY

CHRIS EVANS TO STAR AS GENE KELLY IN NEW BIOPIC

Chris Evans and Gene Kelly

(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

Like a few other Marvel Studios stars who have a lot more time on their hands post-Avengers: Endgame (Certified Fresh at 94%), Chris Evans continues to line up new roles. Before this week, the biggest new project for him was this summer’s Lightyear (6/17/2022)*, the Toy Story spinoff in which Evans will provide the voice of Buzz Lightyear. Last month, we also learned that the MCU’s Spider-Man, Tom Holland, is attached to star as classic Hollywood icon Fred Astaire in a new biopic, which then leads us back to Chris Evans. Fred Astaire is most often compared to Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris), and now, Evans is attached to star as Gene Kelly in an untitled drama set at the MGM lot in 1952, which happens to be the year Singin’ in the Rain premiered. The premise bears some similarities to Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit (Certified Fresh at 80%), as its plot is described as a 12-year-old boy’s “imagined friendship” with Gene Kelly. Chris Evans is also acting as one of the project’s producers, along with Rian Johnson (Knives Out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), and screenwriter John Logan (The Aviator, Skyfall). Although the film is set at MGM, no studio is involved yet, including MGM itself. As for the million-dollar question about whether Chris Evans can actually dance, here’s a video.


Other Top Headlines

1. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH JOINS WES ANDERSON’S HENRY SUGAR

Benedict Cumberbatch

(Photo by Jason Smith/Everett Collection)

One of the most frequently reported-on projects of 2021 (read: the July entry) was Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, and already, the director is lining up the cast for his next project after that. In September, Netflix made a massive deal with the estate of children’s author Roald Dahl, and the first project to emerge from that deal is an adaptation of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, which Wes Anderson will direct as his second Roald Dahl movie after the stop-motion animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox (Certified Fresh at 93%). The title character will be played by Benedict Cumberbatch in his first film with Anderson. Dahl’s book is a compilation of several stories offering fanciful takes on how Dahl came up with his stories, and other cast members (possibly representing other stories in the book) will also include Dev Patel, Ralph Fiennes, and Sir Ben Kingsley. Fiennes previously co-starred in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but the other three are new additions to Wes Anderson’s troupe of actors.


2. COLIN FIRTH AND TOBY JONES JOIN OLIVIA COLMAN IN EMPIRE OF LIGHT

Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's Baby

(Photo by Giles Keyte/©Universal Pictures)

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the filmmaking industry in 2020, one of the last big Academy Award-winning films was Sam Mendes‘ World War I epic 1917 (Certified Fresh at 89%), which was nominated in 10 categories and won in three (Cinematography, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects). , Mendes has been developing his next project, called Empire of Light, for some time, but it’s only now ready for filming. Not much is known about the premise of Empire of Light except that it’s set at an old movie theater in England in the 1980s and that, until this week, the attached stars were Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown) and newcomer Michael Ward. We still don’t know much about the story, but we now know the cast will also include Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Crystal Clarke, and Tanya Moodie. Sam Mendes’ frequent cinematographer Roger Deakins is also lensing Empire of Light, which is expected to be released in the midst of awards season in late 2022.


3. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN JOINS THE BATGIRL SOLO MOVIE

Michael Keaton in Batman (1989)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

At the end of each year, when the movie news cycle slows down to a near stop, the Weekly Ketchup transforms into the retrospective Yearly Ketchup for a couple of weeks. During that period,  there are always a few stories that break that are still worth swinging back to cover in the new year. For example, a few days before Christmas, we learned that Michael Keaton, who will be reprising his role as Batman in The Flash (11/4/2022), will also be doing the same in the Batgirl solo movie being produced by and for HBO Max for 2023. Batgirl herself will be portrayed by Leslie Grace, who was one of the breakout stars in last summer’s musical In the Heights, with J.K. Simmons playing her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Brendan Fraser also in the cast in an unknown role. Bad Boys for Life (Certified Fresh at 76%) co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are currently filming Batgirl on location in London.


4. TAIKA WAITITI RECRUITS WILL ARNETT FOR SOCCER MOVIE NEXT GOAL WINS

Will Arnett

(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

One of the most surprising stories of 2021 was the revelation of allegations about the private life of movie star Armie Hammer, which quickly led to his departure from the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding. (Next month’s Death on the Nile had already wrapped filming by that point, so Hammer can still be spotted in the film’s trailer.) Another project that Hammer had previously filmed scenes for was director Taika Waititi’s underdog soccer movie Next Goal Wins. Waititi recently gathered the production back together for reshoots, with Will Arnett taking over Armie Hammer’s role in what is also described as a larger part than was originally envisioned. There is no release date for Next Goal Wins yet, but it will be sometime after Waititi’s next film, which is the Marvel sequel Thor: Love and Thunder (7/8/2022).


5. ROONEY MARA TO PORTRAY AUDREY HEPBURN IN BIOPIC FOR APPLE STUDIOS

Rooney Mara

(Photo by Mike Marsland/Getty Images)

One of the Rotten Ideas covered in last week’s Yearly Ketchup was the continuing legal battle over Paramount Pictures’ interest in remaking the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Certified Fresh at 89%), starring George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn. That film may now never happen (thanks to those aforementioned legal issues), but Hollywood will soon revisit Hepburn in another way. Rooney Mara is now attached to star in an untitled Audrey Hepburn biopic for Apple Studios (and presumably Apple TV+), which will be directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name). The details of the project are not yet known, and that includes whether the film will be a traditional “biopic” (as in a decades-long adaptation of Hepburn’s life), or if it will be more of a “snapshot” of the actress’ life, like The King’s Speech, My Week with Marilyn, and the recent Princess Di film Spencer.


6. CYRANO STAR TO PORTRAY JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT IN SAMO LIVES

Kelvin Harrison Jr.

(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

Jeffrey Wright is a well-established actor now, but one of his earliest breakout roles was 1996’s Basquiat (Fresh at 68%), as the 1980s artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who started his career using the street art pseudonym SAMO before dying at the age of 27 in 1988 from a heroin overdose. The life story of Basquiat will soon become the basis for a feature film again as Cyrano costar Kelvin Harrison Jr. is now attached to star in the film Samo Lives. The biopic will be directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox, Luce), from a screenplay Onah co-wrote with screenwriter Peter Glanz. The project already has a website at SamoLives.com, where you can read more about Basquiat’s life and the director’s intentions for the film.


7. VANESSA KIRBY JOINS JOAQUIN PHOENIX IN NAPOLEON BIOPIC KITBAG

Vanessa Kirby

(Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)

Director Ridley Scott may have recently turned 84, but he continues to direct feature films at a furious pace, which in 2021 included both The Last Duel (Certified Fresh at 86%) and House of Gucci (Fresh at 63%). Showing no signs of slowing down, Scott is preparing to film both the Gladiator sequel and his long-in-development Napoleon Bonaparte biopic called Kitbag, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Jodie Comer, who also co-starred in The Last Duel, had been expected to play Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Josephine, in Kitbag, but she had to drop out this week because of scheduling conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic. Within a few hours of that announcement, however, the role quickly went instead to Vanessa Kirby, who may be best known for her portrayal of Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown. Ridley Scott is preparing to film Kitbag at historical locations across Europe later this month, and the epic is scheduled to premiere on Apple TV+ sometime in 2023.


8. LIFE OF HIP HOP PRODUCER SUGE KNIGHT TO BE ADAPTED AS FILM

Suge Knight in 2004

(Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)

Hollywood is in the midst of a new wave of musical biopics, and there is an argument to be made that it really got its start with the surprise box office success in 2015 of Straight Outta Compton, about the early hip hop group N.W.A. One of the key figures in that film’s last act was producer Suge Knight, who co-founded Death Row Records with that group’s Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. That led to a mega-successful career and an eventual downfall over legal issues, all of which is now in development as an untitled Suge Knight biopic. The film is being co-written by screenwriter Nick Cassavetes (co-writer of Blow, My Sister’s Keeper) and indie producer Anthony Thorpe. Suge Knight is currently incarcerated on charges of voluntary manslaughter and will become eligible for parole in 2037.


9. DWAYNE JOHNSON SAYS “NO CHANCE” HE WILL RETURN FOR FAST 10

Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in Fast Five

(Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/©Universal Pictures)

In 2017, FX aired a mini-series called Feud: Bette and Joan (about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford), and if there’s ever a season about the movie stars of today, it might center on the lingering back-and-forth between former Fast and Furious franchise co-stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. In November, Diesel took to Instagram to invite Johnson back to play Luke Hobbs in the final films in the franchise, and last week, Johnson gave his reply, which can best be summed up in two words: “no chance.” Within context, Johnson’s statement read more fully as, “I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return.” Universal Pictures has scheduled Fast 10 for release on May 19, 2023 and Fast 11, the franchise’s expected final entry, is scheduled for sometime in 2024. Justin Lin is expected to start directing both films in early 2022.


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