This Week’s Ketchup brings you seven headlines from the world of film development news, covering spinoffs or sequels following Aquaman, Before Sunrise, and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Everyone has their own way to pass the time during their COVID-19-related quarantines, but apparently, George Miller is using this time to start looking for the new star of his prequel to the 2015 fan favorite Mad Max: Fury Road (Certified Fresh at 97%). Furiosa will reportedly depict what Charlize Theron’s character was doing years before meeting Mad Max, so Miller is looking for a younger actress for the role. To that end, Miller has “Skype-tested” (instead of “screen-tested”) a number of actresses, and the one name that was floated out this week was 23-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy, who first came to most people’s attention as the star of The Witch and Split, before more recently starring in Emma and the upcoming Marvel movie The New Mutants. George Miller hopes to start filming Furiosa sometime in 2021 after he wraps filming of his current project, Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.
This year marks the five-year anniversary of the release of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s The Revanant (Certified Fresh at 79%) in 2015, and we now know that Iñárritu has recently been spotted by various sources filming in Mexico City. Iñárritu and cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma, Solo: A Star Wars Story) were spotted at locations like Chapultepec Castle doing what appeared to be camera tests using “’90s period clothing, cardboard cutouts of politicians Carlos Salinas de Gortari and José López Portillo, and pieces of the sets from enormously popular Mexican comedy show El Chavo del Ocho.” Those details might give us ideas about Iñárritu’s next film (something like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, perhaps?), or they could all just be completely random choices, potentially meant to throw people off.
Ever since his very first feature film, 1990’s Slacker (which arguably inspired aspects of the “mumblecore” genre), director Richard Linklater has shown an unusual willingness to experiment with production standards for someone who has also had mainstream success with movies like School of Rock. The most acclaimed example of this was 2014’s Boyhood, which was filmed over a dozen years (2001 to 2013) to depict the growth of a young boy into a young man. (Linklater is currently signed to direct an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, which will also be filmed over several years.) Frequent Linklater collaborator Ethan Hawke revealed recently that a fourth film may still happen in the series that started with Before Sunrise (Certified Fresh at 100%) in 1995 and continued with Before Sunset (Certified Fresh at 95%) in 2004 and Before Midnight (Certified Fresh at 98%) in 2013. The hypothetical fourth film (again co-starring Julie Delpy, of course) could take many different forms, one of which would be filmed 20 years after Before Midnight, suggesting a release sometime in 2033.
One of the biggest productions that was recently shut down because of COVID-19 just before filming was set to start was Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which was to have begun fimling in London last week. So it may be a while before we start seeing what performers like Halle Bailey (Ariel), Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), or Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric) look like in their respective costumes (or CGI characters). In the meantime, however, songwriter and composer Alan Menken talked to Rosie O’Donnell this week and revealed that he and Lin-Manuel Miranda have written four new songs for the live-action remake. This suggests that possibly some of the songs from the original film might either be left out or be shortened for the sake of a reasonably family-friendly runtime. Menken and Miranda are also currently working on songs for Disenchanted, the long-in-development sequel to Disney’s 2007 hit Enchanted (Certified Fresh at 93%).
In late 2018 and early 2019, as Aquaman (Fresh at 66%) continued its box office success (ultimately earning $1.148 billion worldwide), a series of news stories broke about both Aquaman 2 (12/16/2022) and a spinoff monster movie called The Trench. Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (who’s currently working on Aquman 2) was asked about The Trench this week, and his answer was that “theoretically, it takes place between 1 and 2. But some pieces of this are still being worked out.” The interesting thing about this is that The Trench is expected to be released after Aquaman 2, so this horror movie spinoff might end up feeling like a prequel to Aquaman 2 (or something). As for Aquaman 2 itself, Johnson-McGoldrick suggested that fans should read “pretty much any Silver Age story featuring Black Manta.” Watchmen star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is expected to return as Black Manta in Aquaman 2.
After a particularly prolific stint from 2010 to 2017, Ryan Gosling appears to be slowing his career down a bit, as it’s now been almost a year and a half since his last feature film, 2018’s First Man (Certifed Fresh at 86%). For his next project, Gosling might be returning to outer space, as he is now signed to produce and star in MGM’s adaptation of an upcoming sci-fi novel by author Andy Weir (The Martian). Ryan Gosling will play a solitary astronaut (not unlike The Martian) “on a spaceship who is tasked with saving the planet.” Random House will publish The Hail Mary sometime in the spring of 2021. Andy Weir’s novel Artemis is also being developed as a project the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie).
Since the 1990s, there has been a Korean New Wave in cinema that has slowly been appreciated more widely in the United States (Oldboy, Memories of Murder, Snowpiercer, The Handmaiden), which ultimately led this year to Parasite (Certified Fresh at 99%) winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho. Another South Korean film that has done well in the United States is the 2016 zombie movie Train to Busan (Certified Fresh at 93%), which, incidentally, you can currently watch on Netflix. The indie distributor Well Go USA acquired the U.S. rights in January to a spinoff variably called Peninsula or Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. Well Go USA hasn’t announced a release date yet for the film, but revealed that the setting is four years after the events of Train to Busan, after “government authority has been decimated after the zombie outbreak of Korea, and there is nothing left except the geographical traits of the location – which is why the film is called Peninsula.” You can also see some early photos from Peninsula in this gallery at ComingSoon.
Although the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson, has been developed and produced relatively quickly, a few different factors have prevented the film from its original release date this summer of August 14, 2020. The COVID-19 crisis is an obvious factor, and one has to figure that National Geographic’s choice to cast Cynthia Erivo as Franklin in the upcoming third season of Genius (covering Franklin after Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso) was possibly also a reason for a date change. Setting those aside, MGM is saying that the “mind-blowing” dailies for the film have ultimately led the studio to reposition Respect as an awards season platform release starting on Christmas Day (12/25/2020), expanding a little more on 1/8/2021, and then going wide on January 15, 2021, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. This is probably not the last major change to the awards season slate, and it’s also one that may cause other films scheduled for December to be pushed to 2021. You can watch the first teaser trailer of Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin right here.
The COVID-19 crisis is challenging everyone involved in film to change their lives and strategies, and that includes the smaller “indie” film distributors, some of which are not necessarily just jumping on the VOD bandwagon. Let’s start with Neon, which had a massive surprise Academy Awards success with Parasite this year. Neon has won a “heated bidding war” to acquire a revenge thriller called Pig in which Nicolas Cage plays a truffle hunter whose prize pig is kidnapped, prompting him to wreak vengeance on the perpetrators. (Basically, it sounds like John Wick in the forests of Oregon, but about a pig instead of a dog.) Neon does have a distribution deal with Hulu, but the company says Pig will be released in theaters. Neon also picked up the rights to the sci-fi thriller Possessor starring Andrea Riseborough (Mandy), Sean Bean (Ned Stark from Game of Thrones), and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight). In related news, Searchlight Pictures won the rights to Olivia Wilde’s Perfect, about Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, and STX won the rights to the psychological horror film A Head Full of Ghosts, starring Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood).
Frequent Pixar director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) has now also directed two live-action films (Tomorrowland, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), and he’s currently developing what might be his third. Although we don’t yet know a title or a premise, Bird announced in January that he’s currently developing a movie musical, and this week, frequent Pixar composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Coco, Inside Out) confirmed that he is indeed collaborating with Bird on exactly that. Giacchino didn’t reveal a premise for the live-action musical, saying only that “We are in the early stages of doing that, working on ‘Ok, what is this thing gonna be? What’s it going to sound like. Let’s come up with at least one idea we can start bouncing around and seeing how we feel about it.’ So that’s where we are. It is still early stages. But the idea is great, and, you know, it’s pure Brad Bird. It’s just really fun and emotional and exciting and silly – all those great things you expect from his movies. I am looking forward to that. I don’t know when it’s coming out… but yeah, we’re working on it.” Brad Bird has also said that the (mostly) live-action musical will also have “about 20 minutes of animation in it.”