This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering new roles for Zac Efron, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and Ellen Page.
This WEEK’S TOP STORY
JOHNNY DEPP TO BE REPLACED IN FANTASTIC BEASTS 3
(Photo by ©2018 Warner Bros.)
The news broke on Monday that Johnny Depp lost a libel case in a London courtroom over a newspaper’s use of the phrase, “wife beater.” Within the week, Warner Bros. decided to move forward with their fantasy sequel Fantastic Beasts 3 with a new actor to be cast as the villain wizard Gellert Grindelwald, formerly played by Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Rotten at 36%). Fantastic Beasts 3 actually started filming in the U.K. in September, and was to have continued filming until February, but the role will now be recast with a different actor, and all of the scenes that Depp filmed will be reshot with his replacement. The news came from both Warner Bros. (in a statement that read “Johnny Depp will depart the Fantastic Beasts franchise”) and from Depp himself, who posted an image of a typed letter on his official Instagram account. This delay in filming also led today to Warner Bros. rescheduling the Fantastic Beasts 3 release date from November 12, 2021 to sometime in the summer of 2022 (though that may have been an inevitable delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic anyway). Both The Wrap and Collider posted speculative lists today of stars who could possibly replace Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, with only Colin Farrell and Tilda Swinton appearing in both articles.
Other Top Headlines
1. DOCTOR STRANGE DIRECTOR ANSWERS SPOOKY BLACK PHONE
(Photo by Andrew Schwartz/©Screen Gems)
Marvel Studios distinguished Doctor Strange from its other previous superhero movies by hiring horror director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) — incidentally, his replacement on the sequel, Sam Raimi, also has roots in horror. Earlier this year, we learned that Scott Derrickson is expected to direct the long-in-development thriller Bermuda (about the Bermuda Triangle), but that project hasn’t started filming yet. Another new project that Scott Derrickson is now attached to direct is Black Phone for Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures. Black Phone will be an adaptation of a horror novella by Joe Hill (A.K.A. Stephen King’s son), which is reportedly about “a dead cinephile, a lonely kid, an eight-foot-tall locust and a man locked in a basement stained with the blood of murdered children.” Blumhouse has already started casting Black Phone, starting with Mason Thames (For All Mankind) and 11-year-old child actor Madeleine McGraw (A Christmas Wish, Toy Story 4).
2. ZAC EFRON TO BE STUCK IN THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK FOR GOLD
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
Over the last several years, survival thrillers like All is Lost (Robert Redford), 127 Hours (James Franco), The Shallows (Blake Lively), and Adrift (Shailene Woodley and an unconscious Sam Claflin) have pitted their lead characters against nature and the elements. Zac Efron will soon join the club as he is signed to star in a survival thriller called Gold. Efron will play one of two men who find a huge chunk of gold in the Australian Outback, which leads to Efron’s character waiting by the find while the other man leaves to get the equipment necessary to actually plunder the loot, even as he (Efron) has to deal with “desert elements, ravenous wild dogs and mysterious intruders, [and] the sinking suspicion that he has been left to die out there alone.” Australian filmmaker Anthony Hayes (Animal Kingdom, Certified Fresh at 94%) co-wrote Gold, which he will direct, and in which he will also co-star (it’s unclear which role he will be playing). Other roles that Zac Efron has in the works include remakes of both Stephen King’s Firestarter and Three Men and a Baby (for Disney+).
3. TOM HARDY TO LEAD VIETNAM WAR ENSEMBLE CAST OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
The Things They Carried is the title of a 1990 collection of short stories by novelist Tim O’Brien that all revolve around the same platoon of soldiers during the Vietnam War, one of which was adapted in 1998 as the Kiefer Sutherland film A Soldier’s Sweetheart. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghost in the Shell) is getting ready to start filming a new movie based on The Things They Carried that will apparently adapt several of the book’s stories. We can sort of guess that the end result will be more of an anthology film based on the ensemble cast that was announced this week, which includes Tom Hardy (who’s also producing), Tye Sheridan, Pete Davidson, Bill Skarsgård, Moises Arias, Angus Cloud, Stephan James, and Martin Sensmeier. Hardy will likely next be seen in the Marvel sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage (6/25/2021), which will introduce Woody Harrelson as the titular symbiote serial killer Carnage.
4. FROZEN CO-STARS TO REUNITE FOR ANOTHER (LIVE-ACTION) MUSICAL
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Unless you’re a Broadway fan, Jonathan Groff might be one of the biggest movie stars of recent years whose face isn’t actually recognizable by many fans, because his biggest role was as the voices of Kristoff and Sven in Frozen (Certified Fresh at 90%) and Frozen II (Certified Fresh at 77%), which together have earned over $2.73 billion dollars worldwide. Groff may be closer to raising his visual profile with the news this week that he will reunite with his Frozen co-star Kristen Bell for another musical, which this time will be live action. Bell and Groff will co-star in Molly and the Moon, written by the creators of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, playing an expectant couple who sing songs to their unborn baby, with the movie then taking us inside the mom’s womb (one has to wonder if this part will also be entirely live action) where a little girl in a rowboat sings back at them. The screenwriters were reportedly inspired by a real-life experience with a child born with a rare genetic condition that required post-natal surgery (we don’t know yet if that part is a spoiler for Molly and the Moon).
5. STEVE COOGAN TO STAR IN WACKY COMEDY ABOUT THE BONES OF KING RICHARD III
(Photo by Jason Smith/Everett Collection)
One of the most amazing relatively recent stories for fans and followers of British royalty came in 2012 when the skeletal remains of King Richard III (1452-1485) were discovered under an English parking lot, answering many long-lingering theories about Richard III’s physical condition during his life and the circumstances of his death. Actor Steve Coogan (The Trip, Philomena) is now signed to reunite with his Philomena director Stephen Frears for a comedy/drama called The Lost King, which will tell the true story of historian Philippa Langley, who helped discover King Richard III’s remains. Coogan will play Langley’s husband, but the actress who will play her hasn’t been cast or announced yet.
6. PIERCE BROSNAN AND HELENA BONHAM CARTER IN A ROMCOM? NOT BLOODY LIKELY
(Photo by Steve Mack, Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
Almost certainly because of Election Day (or Election Week, as it were), this was actually sort of a slow week for movie news out of Hollywood proper, but England made up for it. One of the projects announced across the pond is Not Bloody Likely, which is described as a romantic comedy (though not necessarily a traditional “rom-com”) set during the original 1914 stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. If you’re not familiar with that title (or the 1938 movie starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller), you might know the 1964 remake My Fair Lady (starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison), or maybe one of the loose remakes like She’s All That. Pierce Brosnan will star in Not Bloody Likely as George Bernard Shaw opposite Helena Bonham Carter, who will play an actress that Shaw is determined to cast in the play, but partly just as a ploy to rekindle their past romance. Helena Bonham Carter will soon be seen reprising her role as Princess Margaret in Season 4 of Netflix’s The Crown.
7. COLIN FIRTH WILL STAR IN A ZOMBIE COMEDY
(Photo by Giles Keyte/©Universal Pictures)
We may have already gotten to the point of a zombie movie potentially having anybody as its star with Warm Bodies (Nicholas Hoult), The Dead Don’t Die (Adam Driver, Bill Murray), and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (where does one even start), but if those films all form some sort of “arthouse zombie” subgenre, well, we got news of another entry this week. Academy Award winner Colin Firth has signed to star in the tentatively titled zombie movie New York Will Eat You Alive, which will be an adaptation of the Chinese digital comic Zombie Brother. New York Will Eat You Alive will be directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (Isn’t It Romantic, Fresh at 70%), and one of the producers will be Channing Tatum, though it’s not yet known if Tatum will also take a role in the film. The exact nature of Firth’s role isn’t clear, but it will reportedly be a chance for him to show off his “deadpan” humor (get it, because it’s a zombie movie, and… right, moving along).
8. ELLEN PAGE TO STAR IN ESPORTS MOVIE 1UP
(Photo by James Atoa/Everett Collection)
Hollywood is still slowly working on improving its critical relationship with video game movies, but things have started to get better recently with movies like this year’s Sonic the Hedgehog (Fresh at 63%). One of the reasons Hollywood is compelled to keep trying is that video games continue to be a major pop culture phenomenon (with many younger fans never knowing a time when they weren’t). Recently, eSports has grown in popularity — for the unfamiliar, the term refers to organized competitive gaming similar professional sports, including leagues, huge arenas filled with spectators, sponsorship deals, and celebrity players. As big of a deal as eSports has become, it hasn’t been the center of a major Hollywood film yet, but that will soon change. Ellen Page and Paris Berelc are now signed to star in 1UP, an “underdog comedy” set in the world of competitive eSports. 1UP will be directed by Kyle Newman (Fanboys, Rotten at 32%) for BuzzFeed Studios as part of that company’s new efforts to expand into film production. Paris Berelc will play a gamer who quits her college eSports team over the sexism of her male teammates, and Ellen Page will play the coach of her new all-women’s team (who’s dealing with her own recent experience with a GamerGate-style scandal).