This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Blacula, The Rose, The Toxic Avenger, and the Marvin Gaye biopic.
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Director Yorgos Lanthimos gave us a strange take on romantic relationships in The Lobster (Certified Fresh at 87%), starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, and their next project together seems like it might be thematically similar. The project was announced this week during the Cannes (virtual) market, with Farrell and Weisz attached to star in Love Child, a dark comedy from director Todd Solondz (Happiness, Wiener Dog, Welcome to the Dollhouse), who describes it as “my first movie with a plot and my first movie taking place in Texas.” That plot is described as “a ‘dark and hilarious twist’ on the classic Oedipus story, with a precocious kid who schemes to rid himself of his brutish dad so he can have his mom all to himself. But things go awry when a handsome stranger appears.” Weisz will presumably play the Mom, but it’s unclear whether Colin Farrell will play the dad or the “handsome stranger” (or, since this is a Solondz movie, maybe he’ll play both?).
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Hollywood has been trying to make a proper Janis Joplin biopic since the 1970s (and the legal struggles were such that 30 Rock spoofed it the “Jackie Jormp-Jomp” episode). In 1979, one such Joplin project was fictionalized and retitled as The Rose (Fresh at 78%) instead of The Pearl, with Bette Midler starring as a beloved singer struggling with substance addiction. Cynthia Erivo is now set to star in a remake of The Rose for Searchlight Pictures, although there is currently no director or writer. Erivo began her career on Broadway before expanding to film in movies like Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale, and as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. It’s worth noting that she has won an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony Award (all for The Color Purple), which means that she’s only an Academy Award win away from earning EGOT status. Cynthia Erivo is currently starring as Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha (not to be confused with Jennifer Hudson’s upcoming Respect), and she will also co-star as the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio on Disney+ in 2022.
(Photo by Wilson Webb/20th Century Fox)
We’ll never really be able to know how much better some films that were released during the COVID-19 pandemic might have done at the box office otherwise. One of those films, which opted for a streaming release in February, was the vacation comedy Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Certified Fresh at 79%), starring Kristen Wiig and her Bridesmaids (Certified Fresh at 90%) screenwriting partner Annie Mumolo. MGM is now partnering with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company on an adaptation of the novel The Husbands by author Chandler Baker, who will also adapt the screenplay from her own novel., and Wiig is signed on to star. Described as a Stepford Wives-esque thriller, The Husbands centers on “an overworked mother who, while house-hunting in a nice suburban neighborhood, meets a group of high-powered women with enviably supportive husbands” (and presuming the comparison to The Stepford Wives is accurate, you can probably guess where The Husbands goes from there).
(Photo by Jeff Neumann/©Showtime)
In 2004, director Alexander Payne had just directed three films (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt), but his fourth, Sideways, a seemingly unambitious buddy comedy about two wine enthusiasts, ended up being something of an arthouse blockbuster, earning over $100 million, five Academy Award nominations, and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. The stars of Sideways were Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti, and now, Giamatti is set to reunite with Payne on another indie-flavored comedy called The Holdovers. Giamatti will play a “universally disliked teacher” at a prep school during Christmas, 1970, as he has to watch over the “holdovers,” who are students unable to go home. Filming of The Holdovers is scheduled to start in early 2022 on location in New England.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Musical biopics are all the rage, particularly with the box office success, critical and audience acclaim, and awards attention of several recent films; the most recent Oscars ceremony alone recognized Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Certified Fresh at 98%), The United States vs Billie Holliday, and (partly) One Night in Miami (Certified Fresh at 98%). So it shouldn’t surprise anyone — particularly readers of this column — that new ones are announced with great regularity, and the big new project his week involves 1960s and 1970s soul and R&B star Marvin Gaye, whose story will be told in What’s Going On, which takes its title from one of Gaye’s most famous songs (and albums). What’s Going On will be produced by Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Andrew Lazar, and directed by Allen Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, The Book of Eli). The budget of What’s Going On will reportedly be the “biggest ever for an African American music biopic, north of $80 million,” and it’s expected to be released sometime in 2023. In related news, the long-in-development disco-era Spinning Gold, about Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart (to be played by his son) is finally moving forward, with a supporting cast that includes Wiz Khalifa as George Clinton, Tayla Parx as Donna Summer, and Ledisi as Gladys Knight. Lastly, another musical biopic starting to cast up is I Wanna Dance with Somebody, starring Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston, with Moses Ingram (of the upcoming Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi) as Houston’s longtime friend and assistant Robyn Crawford.
(Photo by Neil Davidson/IFC Films courtesy Everett Collection)
Sometimes movies with similar premises or settings are released within a few years of each other. The 2015 action thriller Everest (Fresh at 73%), for example, was set on Mount Everest, but it was not about any of the famously historical attempts to first climb the mountain. That will be the premise of another movie called Everest, in which Ewan McGregor will star as English mountaineer George Mallory, along with Mark Strong as Arthur Hinks and Sam Heughan as George Finch. Jeffrey Archer’s novel Paths of Glory (not to be confused with the Stanley Kubrick film) is described as inspiring Everest. Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) will direct Everest from a screenplay by Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air) when filming starts in the UK and Italy in January, 2022.
(Photo by Scott Garfield/©Columbia Pictures, Deana Newcomb/©Millennium Entertainment)
Sometimes, we pretty much give you the entire story in the headline, and there it is. Jack Black is now in negotiations with Sony Pictures to star in the quickly-coming-together comedy Oh Hell No, starring Ice Cube and to be directed by Kitao Sakurai, who is fresh off the release of his COVID-delayed comedy Bad Trip (Certified Fresh at 76%). Ice Cube will play a man who becomes very upset when he discovers that his mom is dating Jack Black’s character. Sony Pictures has scheduled Oh Hell No for release on June 17, 2022, which currently puts it up against Pixar and Disney’s Lightyear origin story for their Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear, to be voiced by Chris Evans.
(Photo by RCF/Everett Collection)
Producer Lloyd Kaufman’s ultra-low-budget production company Troma Entertainment has given us such schlocky titles as Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., Tromeo & Juliet, The Class of Nuke ‘Em High (and its four sequels), and most infamously, The Toxic Avenger (and its three sequels). Big-time Hollywood production company Legendary Entertainment gives us super-expensive movies like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the Jurassic World franchise, and recently, Godzilla vs Kong. Surely, there is no project that could ever connect the two, right? That notion went out the window when Legendary decided to reboot Troma’s The Toxic Avenger, with Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage taking over as the toxic waste-powered superhero. We also now know that the “slick” villain of The Toxic Avenger will be played by Kevin Bacon. Elijah Wood also signed onto the film this week, as did prolific character actor Jonny Coyne, joining a growing ensemble that includes Jacob Tremblay (as Toxie’s son), Taylour Paige, Julia Davis, and Sarah Niles.
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
Julia Butters was just 9 years old when she co-starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Certified Fresh at 85%) as the young actress who gave Leonardo DiCaprio some much needed advice, and she’s currently 12 years old. It’s a reminder of how quickly time passes, particularly for child actors, and what a brief window some of them have for certain types of roles before they age out of them (consider, as another example, the cast of Stranger Things, who are quickly aging past their own characters). Julia Butters is going from one acclaimed director to another, though, as Steven Spielberg has cast her in a role inspired by his own sister in the untitled drama based on his own childhood years living in Arizona in the 1950s and 1960s. Butters is joining a cast that already includes Michelle Williams as the mom, Paul Dano as the dad, Seth Rogen as a favorite uncle, and Gabriel LaBelle as the fictionalized version of Steven himself. Australian actor Sam Rechner was also cast in the film this week as a high school classmate. Filming of this untitled drama (sometimes listed as The Fabelmans) is currently underway in Los Angeles, aiming for a theatrical release in 2022 after Steven Spielberg’s next film, the remake of West Side Story (12/20/2021).
(Photo by Everett Collection)
For about 20 years now, MGM has been leaning heavily on remakes. Since 2010, MGM has remade Carrie, Hercules, Poltergeist, Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider, Overboard, A Star is Born, The Addams Family, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (as The Hustle). We will soon be able to add the 1972 “blaxploitation” horror classic Blacula (Rotten at 48%) to that list, as the studio is indeed now developing a Blacula remake in association with Bron and Hidden Empire Film Group. The Blacula remake will be directed by Deon Taylor, whose previous films included Meet the Blacks (Rotten at 17%) and its sequel The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2. Blacula was followed a year later in 1973 by the sequel Scream Blacula Scream (Rotten at 29%), so this remake already has sequel potential.