This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Ant-Man 3, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the Madonna biopic.
Although the Marvel Comics characters are now all under the same corporate banner, the many years during which 20th Century Fox had the rights to Fantastic Four and X-Men had a very deep impact on how the Marvel Cinematic Universe was initially shaped. Specifically for The Avengers, some of their major villains were actually first introduced in Fantastic Four issues, so technically, it was Fox that had the rights to those characters. For example, that’s ostensibly why the Skrulls were replaced by the Chitauri in The Avengers (although they were eventually available for Captain Marvel). Another major Avengers villain who was “off limits” was the time-travelling Kang the Conqueror, who was a Fox property because he is a future descendant of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (it should be noted that Kang’s background is super convoluted and includes stories in which he’s actually Reed’s father). Marvel made a major move towards incorporating Kang the Conqueror into the MCU this week by casting Jonathan Majors, the star of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, as a major villain in Ant-Man 3 that most sources are speculating will indeed be Kang the Conqueror. Kang is an obvious natural fit to be introduced in Ant-Man 3, as Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang has already helped introduce time travel elements, most notably in Avengers: Endgame. Film and comics journalists were, of course, quick to start writing their “Who is Kang the Conqueror?” and “What does Kang the Conqueror mean for the MCU?” pieces. There is no current release date for Ant-Man 3, but the delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic suggest that it probably won’t come out until sometime in 2023 (or late 2022 at the very earliest).
Whenever Thor: Love and Thunder comes out (tentatively 2/11/2022, depending upon the COVID-19 pandemic), it will make Thor the first MCU character to receive a fourth solo film (Captain America and Iron Man both stopped at three films each). One of the most publicized details about Thor: Love and Thunder has been the revelation that Natalie Portman will be returning as her Jane Foster character, who, as in the comics, will be come the new female incaration of Thor. That has understandably led some fans to speculate that Chris Hemsworth would therefore be retiring his run as the character, but this week, in an interview, he responded to that theory very directly. Hemsworth said, “Are you crazy?! I’m not going into any retirement period. Thor is far too young for that. He’s only 1,500 years old. It’s definitely not a film that I say goodbye to this brand. At least I hope so.” It’s also worth noting that in the comics and at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Thor has sometimes traveled with the Guardians of the Galaxy, so it’s possible that even if Portman takes over one version of Thor, Hemsworth could continue as another. In related news, Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Perry Mason) was cast this week as Bruce Banner’s lawyer cousin She-Hulk in the upcoming Disney+ series. It’s not yet been confirmed whether She-Hulk might someday cross over into the MCU movies, but several other of the shows (such as the first two, WandaVision and The Falcon and Winter Soldier) obviously do. In the comics, She-Hulk has been a member of various versions of The Avengers (including the all-female A-Force team) and also had a long run in the 1980s as a member of the Fantastic Four.
Although there have obviously been dozens (hundreds?) of major biopics about major celebrities, it is relatively uncommon for the film’s subject to be directly involved besides possibly as a producer or screenwriter. There have been a handful of films in which where the celebrity played themselves, but the only movie that this writer can think of that the star subject actually directed was Richard Pryor’s Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (and even that film was a fictionalized version of Pryor’s life). Of course, Madonna has sort of made an entire career out of doing things differently (which is in itself a “biopic trope”), and so the news was not really that surprising this week that she will be directing her own biopic. The Univeral Pictures project doesn’t yet have a title (though Material Girl seems like an obvious choice?), or a confirmed star to actually play the young Madonna (though recent rumors speculated Ozark star Julia Garner might have it after Madonna started following Garner on Instagram). We’ve known that Madonna was working on something for a few months now, because earlier this year, Madonna revealed that she and Juno (Certified Fresh at 94%) screenwriter Diablo Cody were working on a project during their COVID-19 quarantine time. It’s not yet known if Madonna will be writing any new music for her biopic, or if the actress playing her will do her own singing in the role.
Since the show first started in the 1970s, the success of Saturday Night Live has led to an unintended division of sorts between comedians and comic actors: the SNL alumni and everybody else. One comedian who didn’t graduate from the long-running NBC institution is Dave Chappelle, who instead starred in his own popular sketch show, Chappelle’s Show, from 2003 to 2006. Chris Rock, on the other hand, is a former SNL star who frequently works with his old SNL pals, including Adam Sandler and David Spade. It appears that Rock wants to bring Chappelle into that fold, because the former revealed this week that he has written a new screenplay that he is “giddy” about that he hopes he can co-star in alongside both Dave Chappelle and Adam Sandler. Rock didn’t get into any details about the story, and it’s also not yet known if this would be a feature film, or possibly part of Adam Sandler’s ongoing Netflix package deals.
If you’d like to stump one of your anime-loving friends, you could ask them if they know what film currently holds the all-time box office record for an anime feature film. The answer is not any of the obvious guesses, like, say, a Hayao Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli film (though Spirited Away is indeed #2), a Pokemon movie, or a beloved futuristic sci-fi film like Akira or Ghost in the Shell. Nope, with over $358 million worldwide box office, that film is 2016’s Your Name (Certified Fresh at 98%) (released in the USA in 2017), Makoto Shinkai’s romantic fantasy about a young couple who seek to rediscover each other after briefly swapping bodies, Freaky–style. An English-language live-action remake of Your Name is now in active development, with Toho and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company co-producing for Paramount Pictures. Lee Isaac Chung, who won both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with his film Minari (Fresh at 100%), is already signed to direct and rewrite the Your Name remake, based off an earlier screenplay draft by Emily V. Gordon (co-writer of The Big Sick, Certified Fresh at 98%). Minari was picked up by A24 for release in the USA, but its release appears to have been held back in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Movies based on the works of Jane Austen have never really gone out of style, but just within the last few years, we’ve gotten new adaptations like Love & Friendship (Certified Fresh at 97%), Emma. (Certified Fresh at 87%), and although it wasn’t a direct adaptation, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Rotten at 45%). Jane Austen’s last novel, published posthumously in 1817, was Persuasion, and like most of her work, it has been adapted for film and TV several times, though arguably not as famously as her first five novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Northanger Abbey). The two most famous versions of Persuasion were both produced for television (in 1995 and in 2007), but now Fox Searchlight is preparing a full feature film version. Australian actress Sarah Snook, who is probably currently best known for HBO’s Succession (for which she’s nominated for an Emmy this year) is now signed to star in Persuasion, which will be directed by Mahalia Belo in her feature film debut from a screenplay by Jessica Swale (Summerland, Certified Fresh at 76%). Snook will play the lead, Anne Elliot, who is forced to reconcile her feelings when the naval officer she once rejected returns to England as a celebrated and wealthy ship’s captain (that role is yet to be cast).
Peter Dinklage really has been staying quite busy since wrapping his role as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, with several films either wrapped or preparing for production. (One of those films, the animated sequel The Croods: A New Age, was just bumped up a month from its original December 23 release to Thanksgiving Wednesday, on November 25.) Searchlight Pictures is now partnering with Dinklage, who will executive produce and star in a psychological thriller called Keith. That’s, however, all we know about the premise, as it’s being kept “under wraps,” but we can probably guess Dinklage might play Keith? Keith is expected to fit in with other “genre” movies that Searchlight Pictures has recently released or has coming soon, including Ready or Not, Antlers, and Guillermo del Toro’s remake of Nightmare Alley.
Jake Gyllenhaal was out this week (as much as one can be “out” during COVID-19) promoting his latest film, Netflix’s The Devil All the Time (Fresh at 65%), which he produced, starring his Spider-Man: Far from Home co-star Tom Holland. As often happens, this was also an opportunity for one of Gyllenhaal’s future film projects to be announced, and that’s exactly what happened. Jake Gyllenhaal will reunite with his Southpaw (Rotten at 59%) director Antoine Fuqua (who also directed Training Day and The Equalizer) for an English-language remake of the 2018 Danish drama The Guilty (Certified Fresh at 97%). Gyllenhaal will star as a 911 call center operator who finds that his attempts to save the life of a caller lead him into a mystery where “nothing is as it seems, and facing the truth is the only way out.”
Although the franchise obviously has a large ensemble cast of comedy voice actors, the Sony Pictures Animation hit Hotel Transylvania (Rotten at 45%) and its sequels have mostly been described in the press and marketing as “Adam Sandler movies.” For Hotel Transylvania 4, which is currently scheduled for release on August 6, 2021 (up against James Gunn’s The Sucide Squad), Sony Pictures made a move this week that suggests the focus of the sequel may tilt more towards Dracula’s daughter Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez, as Gomez has effectively been promoted to the role of executive producer on the film (a title also held by the franchise’s creator Genndy Tartakovsky). Hotel Transylvania 4 will be directed by the team of Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon, who are currently best known for their work on the animated TV shows DC Super Hero Girls (Kluska) and SpongeBob SquarePants (Drymon).
The movie business operates as a never-ending train of projects that all go through sort of the same standard pattern (development, production, promotion, release), but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused that train change course or, in some cases, stall completely. One odd consequence of this is that, as several major 2020 films are delayed until 2021, the release schedule is getting a little crowded, as Hollywood still has all of the the films that were originally scheduled for 2021 to release. One such film is the sequel to 2017’s animated comedy The Boss Baby (Rotten at 53%) called The Boss Baby: Family Business. Apparently set decades after the first film, Alec Baldwin’s baby character is now an adult, or at least his brother, voiced by James Marsden, is; it’s unclear in the synopsis if the “Boss Baby” is still a baby. Anyway, the new voice cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Eva Longoria, and Amy Sedaris, who plays the sequel’s new genius baby. Universal Pictures is sticking with its original plans to release The Boss Baby: Family Business on March 26, 2021, despite all the new competition in 2021 from delayed 2020 films.