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 new projects for Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix, and Margot Robbie.
On top of everything else in M. Night Shyalaman’s Split (Certified Fresh at 77%), the most memorable scene in the movie may have come at the end when it was revealed that it was secretly set in the same world as Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (Fresh at 70%), which, of course, subsequently led to this year’s Glass (Rotten at 37%). Regardless of how Glass itself was received, the box office success of these movies is a reminder that, like Quentin Tarantino, Shyamalan remains one of the few directors whose name carries marquee value. So, it’s little surprise that this week, Universal Pictures moved quickly to schedule two “mystery” projects from M. Night Shyamalan for release on February 26, 2021 and February 17, 2023. The year 2023 is relatively unclaimed so far, but that date in early 2021 is the week before the reboots of Mortal Kombat and Masters of the Universe, both of which are staked out on March 5, 2021. Although no details are given for Shyamalan’s new projects, they are described as being “original” movies. One possibility has been suggested by Collider, which is that these movies could be a longer story split in two. M. Night Shyamalan has now directed three movies within a “superhero” framework. What genre might he take on next?
Joker (currently Fresh at 75%) doesn’t come out for another two weeks, but its future seems pretty bright at this point, following the film’s top prize win at the Venice Film Festival and with opening weekend box office predictions in the $90 million range. Joaquin Phoenix will probably emerge from all of this with an even more prospects for major studio prestige films, but this week he signed on to work with an acclaimed independent director first. Joaquin Phoenix’s next film after Joker will be an untitled independent drama with a secret premise from writer-director Mike Mills. This will be Mills’ fourth film following Thumbsucker, Beginners (which gave Christopher Plummer his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), and 2017’s 20th Century Women (for which Mills received a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination).
With dozens of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and various Marvel movies from both Fox and Sony, it’s nearly inevitable nowadays that actors and directors with Marvel credentials will end up working together on other projects. Taika Waititi, for example, is fitting two non-Marvel movies in between Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder (11/5/2021). The first of those two is Jojo Rabbit (currently Fresh at 75%), in which Taika Waititi plays a ridiculous daydream version of Adolf Hitler, and the second will be a soccer underdog true story drama called Next Goal Wins. This week, Michael Fassbender, whose run as Marvel’s Magneto finished this year with Dark Phoenix, signed on to star in Next Goal Wins as soccer coach Thomas Rongen, who in 2011 became coach of the American Samoan team in their effort to qualify for the World Cup. Waititi reportedly is now casting actors of Fa’afafine heritage to play the American Samoan soccer players. Next Goal Wins is also based upon the 2014 documentary of the same title, which won several awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the British Independent Film Awards in 2014.
In addition to appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Certified Fresh at 85%) and starring in upcoming films Bombshell (12/20/2019) and Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2/7/2020), Margot Robbie is staying super busy in her role as producer. It was just last week that we learned Robbie is producing a Tank Girl reboot, but this week, we found out she will also executive produce (and co-star in a supporting role) a feature-length adaptation of a comedy short film called Fools Day (which you can watch on YouTube right here), about a class of 4th graders who accidentally kill their teacher (Margot Robbie) while playing an April Fools Day prank. Cody Blue Snider, who wrote and directed the original short film, will also co-write and direct Fools Day as her feature film debut. Robbie is also attached to star in the long-in-development Barbie movie (5/8/2020), and this week, that project got some indirect competition in the form of Dream Doll, a biopic about Barbie creator Ruth Handler, which will be co-produced by Rita Wilson.
While many of his contemporaries became big stars much earlier, the career of Bob Odenkirk has been more of a “slow burn” since the 1980s, although his status has definitely grown with the success of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul (all four seasons are Certified Fresh at 97% or higher), in which he stars. “Above-title billing” might be just around the corner for Bob Odenkirk with the news this week that the previously mysterious “Untitled Universal Event Film” scheduled for August 14, 2020 will be a revenge thriller called Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad, who wrote John Wick and John Wick: Chapter Two (and co-wrote the third film), is the mastermind behind Nobody, which is described as as a “summer thriller” in which Odenkirk will play a “a suburban dad, overlooked husband, and all-around nobody [with] a long-surpressed rage that explodes after two thieves break into his house, propelling him on a brutal path that will uncover dark secrets he fought to leave behind.” (So, basically, Nobody sounds like an adult Home Alone through the lens of John Wick, Falling Down, and Straw Dogs?)
This year marks 47 years since the 1972 biopic Lady Sings the Blues (starring Diana Ross as jazz singer Billie Holiday) was released and eventually received five Academy Award nominations. It’s been six years now since director Lee Daniels produced and directed Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Fresh at 72%), but he’s now getting ready for his next film, which will be called The United States vs Billie Holiday. Instead of a full biopic, the drama will focus on a drug sting orchestrated by the Federal Department of Narcotics led by an agent with whom Billie Holiday had “a tumultous affair.” Singer-songwriter Andra Day has been attached to star in The United States vs Billie Holliday for a while now, and this week, we learned that she will be joined by Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound), Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (of Netflix’s upcoming Dolemite is My Name). The United States vs Billie Holiday is reportedly inspired by the 2015 bestselling book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari.
In 2014, Warner Animation had a surprise success with The LEGO Movie (Certified Fresh at 96%), which earned over $469 million worldwide, even if the subsequent sequels didn’t do quite as well. Part of the formula behind the success of The LEGO Movie was that, like the toys it was based upon, the film was able to “borrow” characters from franchises like DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. Another popular franchise that is built largely upon the popularity of other pop culture items is Funko’s Pop! vinyl figures, and like LEGO before them, the Funko Pop! figures are also now getting their own movie from Warner Animation. As with LEGO, Warner Bros. and Funko have a long history of licensing brands like Batman and Harry Potter, and the Funko Pop! movie is expected to draw heavily from those in-house properties. It will be a while before we get a release date for the Funko Pop! movie, but in the meantime, future Warner Animation movies will include Scoob (5/5/2020), Tom & Jerry (4/16/2021), and Space Jam 2 (7/16/2021).
Much like the Bob Odenkirk movie above, until this week, Paramount Animation also had an untitled film scheduled for next summer on July 31, 2020. We can now report that the movie will be called Rumble, and that it will be a joint project with WWE Studios (Fighting with My Family). Rumble will be “set in a world where monster wrestling is a global sport and monsters are superstar athletes,” with a voice cast that includes Will Arnett (Batman from The LEGO Batman Movie), Terry Crews (TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Tony Danza, and WWE wrestling stars like Becky Lynch and Roman Reigns. Other Paramount Animation movies scheduled for 2020 include Sonic the Hedgehog (2/14/2020), The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge (5/22/2020), and Clifford the Big Red Dog (11/13/2020). In related news, this week Paramount Animation also unveiled their new “Star Skipper” opening animation that will appear before these 2020 movies.
Even if you set aside comic book movies and various big budget franchises like Disney, Fast & Furious, James Bond, and Star Wars, the hunt for original movies each year is still made difficult by the abundance of remakes, and there’s no end in sight. To illustrate the point, this week’s headlines included remakes of The Craft, House Party, and Set It Off. First up, the cast for The Craft was announced, with Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, and Zoey Luna joining the previously announced Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale). Then, the House Party remake announced it will now be directed by Calmatic, the director of the video behind the hit country/rap song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. That movie has been in the mix for a while now, as it’s one of the projects that LeBron James is producing, along with Space Jam 2 (7/16/2021). Finally, the 1996 heist movie Set It Off is also getting remade, which Issa Rae (Insecure) is now developing at New Line Cinema, with Issa Rae likely to take one of the starring roles.
Every once in a while, we get a cautionary tale about the power of social media, frequently at the expense of “old school” figures who lack the foresight to realize how badly their words can be blown out of proportion. Let’s start with this Variety profile of longtime TV producer Norman Lear, who also went on to produce movies like The Princess Bride and Fried Green Tomatoes. In that piece, there are some quotes from Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra, including this one: “We have so many people coming to us saying, ‘We want to remake this show or that show… very famous people whose names I won’t use, but they want to redo ‘The Princess Bride.'” And that right there was enough to explode online, as people took to their phones and computers to voice their disapproval of the mere thought of remaking the beloved 1987 fantasy comedy. Those expressing said disapproval included Jamie Lee Curtis and the original film’s star Cary Elwes, who simply said, “There’s a shortage of perfect movies in this world. It would be a pity to damage this one.” The bottom line: there are people in Hollywood who think The Princess Bride should be remade, and those people should be ashamed of themselves.