This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Downton Abbey 2, Furiosa, Haunted Mansion, and Muppet Man.
(Photo by Jasin Boland/Warner Bros)
Director George Miller and various Australian government agencies came together this week for an official statement announcing that the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road spin-off Furiosa (featuring Anya Taylor-Joy as the younger version of Charlize Theron’s character) will be the “biggest film shoot ever” in Australian history. Filming of Furiosa is scheduled to start in New South Wales in June, 2021, aiming for a release date of June 23, 2023, and is made possible by financial incentives on both the federal and state government levels. Taylor-Joy will also be joined in Furiosa by Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. The production of Furiosa is expected to bring in over 850 local jobs and increase the local economy by over A$350 million (around $285 million U.S. dollars). As one can guess by the hiring of the much younger Anya Taylor-Joy to replace Charlize Theron, the film is expected to be a prequel depicting the earlier life of the woman who became known as Furiosa, though we don’t know any details of what that might be (other than what we learned in Mad Max: Fury Road).
(Photo by ©Columbia Pictures)
The Miles Morales animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%) was both a critical hit and the winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2018. That film was directed by the team of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, and Rodney Rothman, but for the sequel, Sony Pictures has hired another trio of directors. The directors of the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel will be Joaquim Dos Santos (The Legend of Korra, Avatar: The Lost Airbender), Kemp Powers (co-director of Soul, writer of One Night in Miami), and Justin K. Thompson (an animator on shows like Star Wars: Clone Wars and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command). Dos Santos had previously been announced as the sole director of the the sequel, but both Powers and Thompson have been working with Dos Santos on the sequel since the project started. Although Sony Pictures has not yet announced the sequel’s cast or premise, the film is scheduled for less than 18 months from now, on October 7, 2022.
(Photo by © Universal Pictures)
Marvel Studios does a pretty great job of keeping most of their secrets (who knew until last week that they had cast Julia-Louis Dreyfus in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier?). Having said that, the COVID-19 pandemic has arguably made keeping secrets a little more difficult, as the sequel Thor: Love and Thunder is being filmed in Australia, where stars have to quarantine upon arrival, making their presence there more obvious. That even applies to an actor who is himself Australian, like Russell Crowe, whom we’ve known for a few weeks was filming a role in Thor: Love and Thunder, even if we didn’t know what role he was playing. At the time, it seemed possible that Crowe’s casting was another “wink wink” cameo like Matt Damon playing the Asgardian actor who portrays Loki on stage in Thor: Ragnarok, but Russell Crowe told an Australian radio show this week that he is instead playing the Greek god Zeus. The introduction of Zeus to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is significant not just because it expands the MCU beyond just Norse mythology, but also because it potentially sets up the introduction of long-time Avenger Hercules. Walt Disney Pictures is also developing a live-action adaptation of their 1997 animated film Hercules (Certified Fresh at 84%) to be produced by the Russo Brothers (the directors of the two most recent Captain America and Avengers movies). Thor: Love and Thunder is scheduled for release on May 6, 2022, starring Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher.
(Photo by ©Focus Features)
While Downton Abbey was still on the air, the show regularly filled in the gap after the end of each season (except for the first) with a Christmas special. This week, Focus Features announced that filming has begun on the sequel to the 2019 Downton Abbey feature film (Certified Fresh at 84%), and it sounds like the sequel might be another Christmas-themed story (partly because Downton Abbey 2 is scheduled for Christmas, 2021). No actual premise details have been announced yet for Downton Abbey 2, but we do know about four new cast members. The rest of the large ensemble will be joined by Dominic West (The Wire, and Prince Charles in S5 of The Crown), Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Laura Haddock (Peter Quill’s Mom in Guardians of the Galaxy), and French actress Nathalie Baye. Seemingly confirming the Christmas theme for Downton Abbey 2, Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski said, “There’s no place like home for the holidays, and we can’t imagine a better gift than getting to reunite with Julian, Gareth, and the entire Downton family in 2021 to bring the Crawley’s back home for their fans.”
(Photo by Andrew Schwartz/©Weinstein Company courtesy Everett Collection)
Like many filmmakers on his level, Steven Spielberg is at any one time developing a number of projects, some of which don’t end up happening. Spinning the clock back to 2010, there was once a time when Spielberg was developing a biopic about the life of composer George Gershwin in which Zachary Quinto would have starred (until it was eventually scrapped a while back). Fast forward 11 years to the present, and a different George Gershwin-themed film called Fascinating Rhythm is now in development, with Marin Scorsese aboard as one of the producers, and Irish filmmaker John Carney (Once, Sing Street) is attached to direct. Fascinating Rhythm is being described as an original musical drama that focuses on “a young woman’s magical journey through past and present New York City, inspired by the life and music of American composer George Gershwin.” It’s not yet known who might be cast to star in Fascinating Rhythm.
(Photo by Scott Garfield/©Columbia Pictures)
Some classic writers are cinematic evergreens (Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens, for example), but others are not as in vogue as they once were. Tennessee Williams is definitely in that category, having given us several hits in the 1950s, including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Suddenly Last Summer, but not much in the way of major Hollywood productions in the decades since. If a Tennessee Williams cinematic revival is indeed looming, it might be coming to us from an unexpected source. Frequent Denzel Washington collaborator Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) is now attached to produce and direct a new film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, adapted from the 2008 Broadway production featuring an all-black cast that included Terrence Howard, Phylicia Rashad, and James Earl Jones. It’s not yet known if any of them will return for this film.
(Photo by ©ABC courtesy Everett Collection)
Among the projects that spend the longest time in film development, a frequent theme is celebrity biopics, which can sometimes take decades to get produced for a variety of reasons. Some examples include films about Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, San Kinison, Richard Pryor, and Martin Luther King, Jr. One similar case can be found back in the February 8, 2008 edition of the Weekly Ketchup, which just happens to be this writer’s very first entry in this column. Thirteen years later, the world still hasn’t gotten the long-in-development Jim Henson biopic, but his daughter Lisa Henson is now putting together a project called Muppet Man to be produced by The Jim Henson Company and Walt Disney Pictures (which has been the Muppets’ corporate home since 2004). Although described as a biopic, the premise of Muppet Man will reportedly focus on Henson’s struggle in the 1970s to “convince broadcasters that The Muppets was a great idea and how he worked to get the characters on air where they became a comedy staple.” The screenwriter currently working on Muppet Man is Michael Mitnick (The Giver, The Current War).
(Photo by SEGA)
The ending of Sonic the Hedgehog (Fresh at 63%) teased the introduction of Tails the Two-Tailed Fox, so we’ve known pretty much all along that Tails was almost guaranteed to co-star in next year’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (4/8/2022). This week, however, set photos from Canada where Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is currently being filmed revealed that in addition to prop stand-ins for Sonic and Tails, there is also one for Knuckles the Red Echidna, one of Sonic’s long-time racing rivals. We don’t yet know who might be voicing Knuckles (or Tails), or really, much else about the sequel as of yet.
(Photo by Walt Disney courtesy Everett Collection)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Certified Fresh at 79%) was a hit that inspired several sequels, but it might be easy to forget that in the 2000s, Walt Disney Pictures attempted to adapt other theme park attractions as movies (like, say, The Country Bears) with far less success. Another theme park adaptation that flopped for Disney was 2003’s The Haunted Mansion (Rotten at 14%) starring Eddie Murphy, but 18 years later, it looks like Disney is ready to attempt another adaptation. Disney has hired Justin Simien (Dear White People, Bad Hair) to direct a new movie based on the Haunted Mansion theme park attraction, which will be adapted from a screenplay by Katie Dippold (The Heat, Snatched). We should also note that about 10 years ago, Walt Disney Pictures had been working with horror filmmaker Guillermo del Toro on a Haunted Mansion reboot — one of his unrealized passion projects — that was eventually shelved.
(Photo by George Kraychyk/©Paramount)
Several years ago, when we were frequently hearing about new movie projects based on popular toys (spurred on mostly by the success of The LEGO Movie in 2014), some people online started joking about the inevitiblity of a Hungry Hungry Hippos movie (until, almost inevitably, an actual Hungry Hungry Hippos movie project actually did enter development). Another game that was popular in the 1970s that had a similar mechanism was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, and that boxing game is finally getting its own movie as well. Vin Diesel is already attached to star in Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, although it’s unclear if he will be playing one of the boxing robots or perhaps a human coach, a la Hugh Jackman in Real Steel. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is being produced for Universal Pictures by Mattel Films and Vin Diesel’s One Race Films production company. That was actually the first of two new Vin Diesel projects announced this week, as he is also attached to star in an action thriller called Muscle for director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton), who previously directed Vin Diesel in A Man Apart (Rotten at 11%) and The Fate of the Furious (Fresh at 67%). The premise of Muscle is being kept secret.