This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering titles like Buck Rogers, Cleopatra, Furiosa, The Others, and Tut.
Director George Miller is getting closer to a filming start date for Furiosa, his prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (Certified Fresh at 97%), about the life of Charlize Theron’s character before she became… well, the person she was in Mad Max: Fury Road. Back in March, we first heard that Miller was considering casting Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Emma.) as the younger Furiosa, and this week, that casting was confirmed. In addition to Taylor-Joy (who played Magik in The New Mutants), however, Miller has also cast Australian star Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor, obviously) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who played both Black Manta in Aquaman and Doctor Manhattan in HBO’s Watchmen (our apologies if that’s a spoiler for a show that aired a year ago). Hemsworth will reportedly play a character called Dementus who has a huge silver scar on his face, and Abdul-Mateen will play a character called Pretorian. Those names seem to confirm that the film will indeed be set in “post-apocalyptic” times, and not, as some might have guessed, before the end of the world. Tom Hardy is not expected to reprise his role as Mad Max, as his character would be much younger, and also because Max and Furiosa did not seem to know each other before they met in Fury Road. There is no release date yet for Furiosa, but George Miller plans to start filming in 2021, which suggests a date in 2022 or 2023. You can read here what Anya Taylor-Joy is already saying about being cast as Furiosa, and read here to find out what Miller might have planned for the prequel.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world still hasn’t seen Wonder Woman 1984, the second collaboration between star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins following their work together on the first Wonder Woman (Certified Fresh at 93%). We’ve known for a while that Gadot and Jenkins have plans to eventually make a third Wonder Woman movie together, but what we didn’t know until this week is that, in the meantime, they will be reuniting for another movie about a heroine with ancient mythologial roots. Gadot is now attached to star in and Patty Jenkins will direct Paramount Pictures’ Cleopatra biopic, based on the life of Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Cleopatra has been a favorite epic subject for Hollywood since its earliest days, including Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 film starring Claudette Colbert and the 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor. There have been many attempts at Cleopatra biopics over the last several years, including one at Sony Pictures that in the past had both Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga possibly in talks to star. That Sony project has been in development for over 10 years, and it’s not known at this point whether Sony will push forward to compete with the Gal Gadot version, or whether Sony has given up on Cleopatra completely.
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther was an milestone for many reasons, but one of them was that it achieved a level of live-action production design and world building that one more usually associates with animation. That style is called “afrofuturism,” and we’re soon going to get a Sony Pictures Animation feature film called Tut, which will interpret the life of young Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankamun through an afrofutristic vision. Tut will be the animated feature film debut of director Matthew A. Cherry, who won the Academy Award this year for Best Animated Short for Hair Love (which you can watch on Facebook right here). Cherry’s vision for Tut “will take audiences on a journey through ancient Egypt and celebrate a culture that introduced the world to countless modern conventions and technologies.” There is no voice casting news for Tut yet, and given the production time for major animated films, we probably can’t expect to see it released until 2023 or later. Matthew A. Cherry will also be producing a 12 episode Hair Love spin-off series for HBO Max called Young Love.
Just last week, we learned that 90 year old Clint Eastwood is preparing to direct and star in his next movie Cry Macho, and this week, another director who’s nearly as old also announced a major new project. 82-year-old Ridley Scott wrapped filming this week on The Last Duel, starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Adam Driver, and then in March, he will start filming Gucci, starring Lady Gaga. And then, after that (at which point he will be 83), Scott will direct Joaquin Phoenix in the epic Napoleon Bonaparte biopic Kitbag. The title reportedly refers to the kitbags carried by soldiers during war, and the expression that “there is a general’s staff hidden in every soldier’s kitbag.” The ambitious biopic will reportedly cover Napoleon’s, “swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine.” Although Napoleon was a popular subject in Hollywood’s earliest years, there hasn’t been a major such movie since 1970’s Waterloo (Rotten at 27%), the box office failure of which is often cited as the reason why Stanley Kubrick gave up on his own Napoleon biopic in which Jack Nicholson would have starred.
Although Selena Gomez has stayed busy with her music (and the videos that go with it), supporting roles in movies like The Dead Don’t Die (Rotten at 54%), and a Woody Allen movie few people have seen, you actually have to go back four years to 2016 and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Fresh at 64%) to find a movie in which Gomez had a prominent role (and even that was as part of an ensemble). Gomez appears intent on fixing that soon, with this week’s new project, and also the recent news that Gomez’s voice role in Hotel Transylvania 4 may be larger than we originally thought. Gomez will produce ( and will likely also star) in a psychological horror film for STXfilms called Dollhouse, which is being compared to Black Swan, but set in the fashion world of New York City. Gomez’s producing partners on Dollhouse will include Shaun Levy’s 21 Laps Entertainment, whose filmography includes Arrival, Fist Fight, Kin, and Ryan Reynolds’ upcoming action movie Free Guy. (This probably goes without saying, but just to be clear, Selena Gomez’s Dollhouse also has nothing to do with the FOX TV series starring Eliza Dushku.)
Over the last 20 years or so, there have been a few different attempts to adapt the lives of famous 1950s/1960s “Rat Pack” members like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as biopics, but neither ever came to be (though HBO did portray them collectively in 1998’s The Rat Pack, Rotten at 57%). With no active development for biopics about either of those crooners, it’s now looking more likely that the first major feature film about the life of a Rat Pack member will instead be about the life of Sammy Davis, Jr. Lena Waithe (Master of None, Ready Player One) is producing the Sammy Davis, Jr. biopic with MGM, and the screenplay will be adapted from the memoir Sammy Davis Jr: My Father by his daughter Tracey Davis. Sammy Davis Jr. had many personal distinctions, including both African American and Jewish heritage, multiple starring film roles, and several songs that made it to the Top 20 pop charts, including “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Love Me or Leave Me,” and “I’ve Got to Be Me” (possibly a great title for his biopic?).
We’re all so used to science fiction and superheroes that we can easily take it for granted that they’ve always been around, but the origins for many genre concepts are relatively new. For example, it was “only” 92 years ago in 1928 that the sci-fi adventurer Buck Rogers was first introduced (predating Flash Gordon, John Carter of Mars, and thousands of superheroes, including Superman). Although Buck Rogers went on to become a popular 1930s and 1940s comic strip and serial star, the character has been relatively underused ever since, except for the 1979-1981 TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (starring Gil Gerard and Erin Gray), which may be well-remembered by Generation X, but probably not by many under 40. After several months of negotiations, Legendary Entertainment, the production company behind recent reboots like Godzilla and Dune, is now in development on a new feature film that would reboot Buck Rogers, focusing on a man who wakes up from centuries of suspended animation 500 years in the future. It’s not yet known which version of Buck Rogers will be adapted, including for example, whether the reboot might include characters from the TV show like Twiki the robot and Erin Gray’s Wilma Deering. In tangentially related news, Walt Disney Pictures is also now developing a feature film based on the popular theme park attraction Space Mountain.
It might feel a lot longer ago than 2009, but that was indeed the year that the romantic comedy The Proposal (Rotten at 45%), which as it turned out, was sort of one of the “last hurrahs” for the romantic comedy genre as a major Hollywood release (they’re more common these days on streamers than in major theatrical releases). But when people do eventually go back to movie theaters post-COVID-19, they are still going to want date movies, so it’s not at all surprising that some “rom-coms” are still in development, especially when they’re hybrids with other genres. Sandra Bullock will produce and is attached to star in a Paramount Pictures romantic adventure called The Lost City of D, which is being compared to the 1984 classic Romancing the Stone. Although he’s not signed, the producers reportedly also hope to recruit Bullock’s Proposal co-star Ryan Reynolds to join her in their first movie together since. Sandra Bullock will star as an author who discovers that the “fictional” city she’s written about is actually real, leading her to try to discover its location. The most recent screenplay draft was written by Dana Fox (Isn’t It Romantic, Couples Retreat).
Children’s author L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books, but the argument could be made that the amazing success of The Wizard of Oz has left such an overwhelming legacy that the other books were not adapted as frequently (or at all) as they would have been if the 1939 The Wizard of Oz had never existed. (Of course, the Oz would has indeed been revisited, usually as “reimaginings” like the Broadway musical Wicked, or the R&B musical The Wiz.) Warner Animation Group is now developing another film in that vein, as the studio has made a deal with two-time Tony-nominated director Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge!) to direct their musical adaptation of the book Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz, which, as the title suggests, is basically the same story but from the perspective of Dorothy’s dog. The most recent movie from Warner Animation Group was the prequel Scoob!, which ended up going to VOD because of the pandemic, but the Toto movie is reportedly still fully intended for a theatrical release (given how long animation takes, Toto is still a few years away anyway).
It seems like most movie remakes come from about 20-30 years earlier — for example, the 1980s had lots of 1950s remakes, and the 2000s and 2010s had a lot of remakes from the 1980s. So, as we’re now 20 years from the year 2000, we can expect to see remakes of movies from the aughts start to appear, and one such project made the news this week. Universal Pictures is partnering with Sentient Entertainment (TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan) to develop a remake of the 2001 supernatural thriller The Others ( Certified Fresh at 83% ), starring Nicole Kidman as a mother struggling to protect her children from a supernatural menace in their home. The original movie was set in England in 1945, but it’s possible the remake may have a different setting (possibly modern times, or any other decade). It’s also not yet known who will be adapting the screenplay, or who will be directing the film.