This week’s Ketchup brings you another 10 headlines from the world of film development news (the stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next), covering such titles as Inspector Gadget, The Little Mermaid, and The Matrix 4.
When John Wick was first released in 2014, it could have been received as just a very well-made Keanu Reeves action movie, in a “one and done” way (like say, Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde). Instead, it became something of a pop culture phenomenon that helped Keanu Reeves stage a mid-career comeback, including two sequels (thus far) and continued box office success. Lionsgate has already scheduled John Wick 4 for release on May 21, 2021, but this week, we learned that the studio is also moving forward with plans for a female-centric John Wick spinoff called Ballerina about “a young female assassin who seeks revenge against the people who killed her family.” Although the premise doesn’t specify a nationality for the Ballerina, there is something of a trope involving Russian ballerinas who become super spies or assassins (mainly we’re thinking here of both Red Sparrow and Marvel’s Black Widow). The director who Lionsgate has hired to take on Ballerina is Len Wiseman, who is best known for his work with his wife Kate Beckinsale on the Underworld vampire action movies. The Ballerina character was briefly seen in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, played by newcomer Unity Phelan, but it’s possible/likely that another actress will star in Ballerina.
Less than two months after we learned that Lana and Lilly Wachowski were preparing to return to their most successful franchise, this week, we heard about the first major new casting for The Matrix 4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who co-starred in Aquaman as the villain Black Manta, has been cast in The Matrix 4 in what is described as both a lead role and a new character (i.e. he’s not “young Morpheus”). Abdul-Mateen is the third actor attached to The Matrix 4, as both Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are returning as Neo and Trinity. Warner Bros. has not yet announced a release date for the movie, but filming doesn’t start until next year, and most sources are speculating a release date sometime in 2022. As of this writing, no details about the film’s premise have been revealed, including whether it will be a direct sequel, prequel, or perhaps some sort of rebooting of the entire “Matrix” itself (and/or the franchise as a whole).
The last we heard about casting for Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid, One Direction star Harry Styles had turned down the offer to co-star as Prince Eric. The studio appears to still be on the hunt to replace him, but one of the other major roles that was still uncast did get filled this week. Daveed Diggs, who is probably best known for his work in the stage musical Hamilton, is now in talks to provide the voice of Sebastian the singing crab, whose signature song, “Under the Sea,” is probably the original film’s best known. Although it’s described as “live action,” this new take on The Little Mermaid is probably more likely to combine live-action and CGI characters, with Sebastian one of the most obvious examples of the latter (Flounder, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, is another). If he signs on, Daveed Diggs will be joining a cast that includes Javier Bardem as King Triton, Melissa McCarthy as the evil sea witch Ursula, and Halle Bailey as Ariel.
Without getting into third act details, there were some pretty obvious reasons why the 2001 Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke police drama Training Day (Fresh at 72%) never received a sequel, despite its box office and critical success. Having said that, it’s probably always been likely that Warner Bros. would want to revisit that world some day. One option might have been a remake, but instead, WB is now developing a Training Day prequel. Since the original film came out 18 years ago, we can expect that the prequel will feature a new cast (in other words, no Ethan Hawke or Denzel Washington), especially since the new story will be set closer to 30 years in the past. The Training Day prequel is expected to be set in Los Angeles in April, 1992, just before the Rodney King verdict that sparked citywide riots.
Just a few weeks after his big Best Actor win at this year’s Emmys, Pose star Billy Porter is the focus of two new casting reports for major upcoming remakes. Both stories came out today, with the first being the news that Porter is now in talks with Sony Pictures about their Cinderella adaptation. Not to be confused with Disney’s 2015 Cinderella remake, Sony’s Cinderella will be a new musical starring Camila Cabello. It’s expected that the role Porter would play is that of the fairy godmother. The other remake he may be taking on is the third Little Shop of Horrors feature, for which he is reportedly being eyed to voice the plant monster Audrey II.
Far before Jason Statham became a famous movie star in blockbusters like this summer’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Jason Statham’s main claim to fame was his work in director Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Eighteen years later, Ritchie and Statham now appear likely to reunite for another British crime story with the news that they are both attached to an untitled remake. The original movie was called Le Convoyeur (a.k.a. “Cash Truck”) and was an ensemble crime drama about a heist scheme revolving around an armored truck company.
Jojo Moyes is a British author with over a dozen of popular novels to her credit to date, but so far, the only major adaptation of any of her books was 2016’s romantic drama Me Before You (Rotten at 55%). The next Jojo Moyes book to be adapted as a feature film will be her 2010 novel, The Last Letter from Your Lover, which begins filming next week, from the producers of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The story is set across several decades, as a contemporary journalist in London (Felicity Jones) discovers a series of love letters from the 1960s between characters played by Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner.
The continuing success of Netflix and the promise of its impending competitors like Disney+ and HBO Max are challenging the ways in which the major studios produce and release their films. Streaming services seem to be a smarter option for certain types of mid-range movies that might otherwise have difficulty finding large enough audiences to justify theatrical releases. Sony Pictures, for example, has been trying to get a new version of Masters of the Universe done for several years now, but the budget required to adapt He-Man’s fantasy adventures also might mean that it has to be a huge blockbuster to justify the expense. This week, a new theory emerged that Sony may be considering selling off Masters of the Universe to a streaming service like Netflix. It could lead to an excellent film, but it’s also possibly a sign of over-caution in Hollywood, and “Hollywood playing it safe” also sometimes means Hollywood being boring.
In the 1980s, former Get Smart star Don Adams had something of a late career resurgence as the voice of the animated super detective Inspector Gadget. Although the show only ran for two seasons and 86 episodes, its cultural imprint was strong enough that Walt Disney Pictures produced a live-action movie in 1999 (Rotten at 21%), which was followed in 2003 by a direct-to-video sequel (Rotten at 40%). Despite the critical drubbings of those two movies, Walt Disney Pictures appears ready to reboot Inspector Gadget as a live-action movie, working with the producers of this year’s Aladdin remake and current Saturday Night Live writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell to do exactly that.