Weekly Ketchup

Chris Evans Will Return to the MCU, and More Movie News

David O. Russell casts his next film, Brendan Fraser goes to work for Darren Aronofsky, Ben Affleck goes to work for Disney, and John McCain and Alice Guy-Blaché both get biopics.

by | January 15, 2021 | Comments

This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering new films from the Academy Award nominated directors of Black Swan and American Hustle, and more.


This WEEK’S TOP STORY

CHRIS EVANS TO RETURN TO THE MCU, BUT HOW?

Chris Evans as Captain America
(Photo by Jay Maidment/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

When it comes to big-budget superhero movies, press releases will frequently keep some details hidden or vague in the interest of not spoiling the film’s premise or story beats. This week’s big news, however, was possibly a rare example of film speculation run amok. Let’s start with the baseline story, which is that Chris Evans is expected to return for at least one more Marvel Studios film after ostensibly leaving the role of Captain America in Avengers: Endgame (Certified Fresh at 94%). Most sources reporting the announcement filled in the blanks to assume Evans was returning as Steve Rogers, but the original story didn’t actually say that. The other possibility to consider is that Evans could be reprising his role as Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm, A.K.A. The Human Torch, possibly in a small cameo role. Kevin Feige confirmed just a few weeks ago that he is currently casting the Fantastic Four reboot, and we’ve also heard recently about the next Spider-Man movie bringing in actors who played villains in the Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. So, it seems plausible that alternate realities — or a multiverse — could be at play in the future of the MCU, and Chris Evans could have a cameo as someone other than Captain America (it would also explain why Evans tweeted “News to me” in response to the Captain America speculation). Having said that, if Evans is returning as Captain America, the obvious explanation would involve time travel. We already know from the Loki trailer and the casting of Jonathan Majors as the time-traveling villain Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania that the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely feature be very “wibbly wobbly timey wimey.” We’ll just have to wait and see.


Other Top Headlines

1. ROBERT DE NIRO, RAMI MALEK, CHRIS ROCK, ZOE SALDANA, ANYA TAYLOR-JOY JOIN BIG ENSEMBLE

Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough, Jason Mendez/Everett Collection)

Director David O. Russell doesn’t always work with big ensemble casts filled with famous names, but he definitely has done it a few times (American Hustle and I Heart Huckabees, for example). We still don’t have a title for his next film yet, which has already signed Christian Bale, Margot  Robbie, and Tenet star John David Washington. The cast expanded twice this week, starting on Wednesday with the news that Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Zoe Saldana (Marvel’s Gamora) had signed on. The very next day, the cast grew even bigger with the additions of Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Chris Rock, Matthias Shoenaerts, Michael Shannon, and Anya-Taylor Joy (The Witch, The Queen’s Gambit). The project is currently filming in Los Angeles, but details are being kept vague as to what it’s actually about, except that Christian Bale and Margot Robbie are playing a doctor and a lawyer (not necessarily respectively). Whatever the movie ends up being titled, the end result will be distributed by 20th Century Studios, possibly as a late 2021 “awards season” release.


2. DARREN ARONOFSKY CASTS BRENDAN FRASER AS THE WHALE

Brendan Fraser in The Poison Rose
(Photo by ©Lionsgate)

After taking a few years following his most recent film, 2017’s mother! (Fresh at 68%), director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) appears to be getting closer to filming his next, an adaptation of the 2012 play The Whale by playwright Samuel D. Hunter. For the lead role, Aronofsky has cast Brendan Fraser to play “a six hundred pound recluse hiding away from the world and slowly eating himself to death.” A24 will be distributing The Whale, but the project does not currently have an announced production start date, so we don’t have a firm idea of when it might be released, either.


3. BEN AFFLECK JOINS DISNEY TO DIRECT KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

Ben Affleck in State of Play
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Author Shannon Messenger’s 2012 children’s fantasy novel Keeper of the Lost Cities has become a series of nine books (and counting), including a few New York Times bestsellers. Walt Disney Pictures obviously hasn’t gotten out of the live-action fantasy movie business, but aside from something like Artemis Fowl, many of their films in that zone lately have been remakes of their animated classics. In that light, it makes total sense that Disney is moving forward with a Keeper of the Lost Cities movie, but what’s more surprising is that it’s Ben Affleck (Argo, Certified Fresh at 96%) who they’ve hired to direct and co-write the adaptation. Studio-wise, the hiring of Ben Affleck is sort of a “get” for Disney, since he has worked quite a bit for Warner Bros. in recent years, including appearance in a few recent movies (and an upcoming HBO Max mini-series) as Batman.


4. THE GOOD WIFE WRITER TAKING ON SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN BIOPIC 

John McCain
(Photo by Robert Spencer/Getty Images)

This coming August 25th will mark the third anniversary of the death of U.S. Senator John McCain, whose other accomplishments include surviving five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his two campaigns for president in 2000 and 2008. McCain’s life has been detailed in a number of books, and this week, three of them (The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain, Faith of My Fathers, and Worth the Fighting For) written by former McCain speechwriter and chief of staff Mark Salter were optioned by Stampede Ventures to be adapted into a bigraphical feature film. Stampede Ventures is also the production company currently developing Frosty the Snowman starring Jason Momoa and the Walter Cronkite drama Newsflash. Salter will also co-write the adaptation with producer Craig Turk (TV’s The Good Wife, F.B.I.), with McCain’s widow Cindy McCain acting as the project’s executive producer. Faith of My Fathers was adapted as a TV movie in 2005 with John McCain portrayed by Shawn Hatosy, and Ed Harris also co-starred as McCain in the HBO film Game Change (Fresh at 67%).


5. FIRST FEMALE DIRECTOR ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ GETTING HER OWN BIOPIC

Alice Guy-Blache in 1913
(Photo by Everett Collection)

We recently started a new year, which also could have offered a good jumping off point for the #52FilmsbyWomen challenge, during which movie fans commit to watching at least one movie from a female director every week for a full year. Although male directors ha obviously dominated the industry for much of the last 120+ years, the very first female film director, Alice Guy-Blaché, made her debut in 1896 with the short film The Fairy of the Cabbages (note: in 1896, all movies were short films). The life of Alice Guy-Blaché is now being developed as a biopic from the same filmmakers who also adapted her life story as the 2018 documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (Certified Fresh at 95%). At the time a secretary for the Gaumont studio, Guy-Blaché was actually in the room when the Lumiere Brothers held their very first public screening in 1895, and within a year she was making her own movies. This eventually led her to America, where she directed over 1,000 short films during the Silent Film Era, working with stars like Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. Jodie Foster narrated the Be Natural documentary, but it’s not yet known if she will also be involved with the biopic.


6. CARDI B TO MAKE HER LEAD ACTING DEBUT WITH ASSISTED LIVING

Cardi B
(Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Getty Images)

Rapper and pop star Cardi B has had a lot of success in her musical career, but it has been less than three years since her first studio album came out, and only 16 months since she made her feature film acting debut in Hustlers (Certified Fresh at 87%), starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu (admittedly, Cardi B’s screentime in Hustlers is almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-her). With all that in mind, she’s ready to take on a lead role, as she is now signed to star in a Paramount Pictures comedy “in the vein of classic funny films like Tootsie, Sister Act, and Mrs. Doubtfire” called Assisted Living. Cardi B will play a small-time crook on the run from the law who finds refuge disguising herself as an elderly resident at her grandmother’s nursing home. Assisted Living got its start at Paramount as a spec script by TV producer and writer Kay Oyegun (This is Us). Cardi B will also have a supporting role in Fast & Furious 9 (5/28/2021, tentatively).


7. ANNA PAQUIN JOINS SHAZAM! STAR IN FOOTBALL BIOPIC AMERICAN UNDERDOG

Anna Paquin
(Photo by Jason Smith/Everett Collection)

One of the last films to have a wide release in the USA in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down theaters was the faith-based romance I Still Believe (Rotten at 51%), which still managed to earn back its production budget ($16.4 million against $12 million). That film was the first from a new faith-based production company called Kingdom Story Company, and their second and third movies will both feature Shazam! star Zachary Levi. The teen drama Unbreakable Boy is currently filming, and production will soon start on the football biopic American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. Zachary Levi will star as Warner, who overcame a series of hurdles (including having the bad luck of trying out for the QB job for the Green Bay Packers early in Brett Favre’s career) to become the only person inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Arena Football Hall of Fame. The news this week is that True Blood and The Piano star Anna Paquin has also signed on to co-star as Brenda Warner, Kurt Warner’s wife. American Underdog will be directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin (who also directed I Still Believe) and the film will be distributed by Lionsgate.


8. MICHAEL PEÑA JOINS ROLAND EMMERICH’S DISASTER MOVIE MOONFALL

Michael Pena
(Photo by @ Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

After trying a few other genres (Anonymous, Stonewall), disaster movie specialist Roland Emmerich has been getting back to his roots more recently (Independence Day: Resurgence and the war movie Midway), and will especially do so with Moonfall, which is about exactly what it sounds like. The Moonfall ensemble cast will include Halle Berry, Charlie Plummer, Donald Sutherland, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley (Samwell Tarley from Game of Thrones), and until this week, Transformers star Stanley Tucci. Tucci had to drop out of the production due to recently imposed travel restrictions preventing him from flying from the U.K. to Canada where the film is being produced. Instead, Ant-Man MVP supporting actor Michael Peña has signed on for Tucci’s role as a “a wealthy car dealer” who is married to the ex-wife of Patrick Wilson’s character. Presumably, some of those used cars are about to get demolished by some big old moon rocks.


9. ARMIE HAMMER DROPS OUT OF J.LO ROMCOM SHOTGUN WEDDING

Armie Hammer
(Photo by Daniel Smith/Warner Bros.)

Armie Hammer became the focus of an online controversy this week, the nature of which we won’t get into. The news came out just before Hammer was about to spend four months in the Dominican Republic filming the romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Jennifer Lopez, but the production will now need to recast the role, as he has dropped out. This will actually be the second time the role will be recast, as it was originally supposed to be played by Ryan Reynolds (who is still executive producing Shotgun Wedding). Lopez and whoever-replaces-Armie-Hammer will star in Shotgun Wedding as a couple having a destination wedding in the Caribbean who then begin to get cold feet, just as everybody in the wedding party also gets taken hostage. Shotgun Wedding will be directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect, Sisters) from a screenplay by Liz Meriwether (No Strings Attached) and Mark Hammer (Two Night Stand), who as far as we can tell, isn’t related to Armie Hammer.


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