Florence Pugh and Rami Malek Join Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and More Movie News

This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Oppenheimer, Shang-Chi 2, and Disney’s Strange World.


This WEEK’S TOP STORY

FLORENCE PUGH AND RAMI MALEK JOIN CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S OPPENHEIMER

(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

Ever since it was first announced in September as the next film from director Christopher Nolan, one of the few things that was known about his atomic bomb biopic Oppenheimer was that it would feature an ensemble cast. That initial story was followed in October by the casting of Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife, and in November, by the casting of both Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. in supporting roles. The casting process continues this month with the additions of Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, No Time to Die), and Benny Safdie (Licorice Pizza). Pugh will depict Jean Tatlock, a psychiatrist and member of the Communist Party with whom Oppenheimer had a romantic affair. Safdie has been cast as Hungarian physicist (and “the father of the hydrogen bomb”) Edward Teller, and Rami Malek has been cast as an unspecified scientist. Universal Pictures won the rights to distribute Oppenheimer following an active bidding war with other studios, and has scheduled the film for release on July 21, 2023 (around the time of the late summer when many of Nolan’s previous films were also released).


Other Top Headlines

1. A SHANG-CHI SEQUEL IS OFFICIALLY IN THE WORKS

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

As 2021 nears its end, there have been five Marvel feature films. Two of those were Sony productions (Venom: Let There Be Carnage and next week’s Spider-Man: No Way Home) and the three solely Marvel Studios productions were Black Widow (Certified Fresh at 79%), Eternals (Rotten at 48%), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Certified Fresh at 91%). Given the world building conceit inherent in pretty much all MCU films, one might have expected sequels to be quickly developed for all three of those films, but as of this week, of those three, it’s only Shang-Chi that now has a sequel officially in development. Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed and co-wrote the first film, has entered into a multi-year deal with Marvel Studios and Hulu  includes the Shang-Chi sequel, which Cretton will both write and direct. Also included in the deal is an MCU series for Disney+, but it’s not yet known if that show will be directly related to Shang-Chi. No official casting has been announced for the Shang-Chi sequel, but stars Simu Liu (Shang-Chi), Awkwafina (Katy), and Meng’er Zhang (Xialing) are all presumed likely to return (given how obviously central to the story they are). Marvel Studios has not yet announced a release date for the Shang-Chi sequel, but it’s unlikely to be anytime before 2024.


2. SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE TO BE SPLIT INTO TWO PARTS

Shameik Moore as Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

Following the critical and box office success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%), Sony Pictures was quick to start development of a sequel, which was subsequently scheduled for release on October 7, 2022. This week, with Spider-Man: No Way Home just a week away from release, Sony released a first look at the sequel, which included an early scene and some action with Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac). Part of the reveal was that the official title will be Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One), which means that there will actually be two films to come, presumably completing a trilogy with the first film. Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld (also Marvel’s Kate Bishop on Hawkeye) are both returning as the voices of Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy, but it’s not yet known what other characters or alternate Spider heroes, will be returning or introduced in the second film (besides Oscar Isaac as Spider-Man 2099, who was actually first teased in the first film’s post-credits scene). Sony Pictures has not yet announced a release date for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part Two), but sometime in late 2023 might be a likely target date.


3. KEVIN FEIGE CONFIRMS CHARLIE COX AS THE MCU’S HYPOTHETICAL DAREDEVIL

Charlie Cox as Daredevil

(Photo by Patrick Harbron/Netflix)

Fans obviously obsess over every new MCU trailer, but it feels like next week’s Spider-Man: No Way Home received scrutiny on par with something like Avengers: Endgame. That level of attention went so far as to inspire English actor Charlie Cox to announce in September that “those are not my arms,” in reference to a scene in which Peter Parker (Tom Holland) appears to be talking to a lawyer (or a cop). The reason for the speculation is that Charlie Cox remains best known for his starring role in the Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil (Fresh at 92%), and since Netflix and Marvel parted ways, fans have been anxious to see Cox reprise the character officially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (whether the Netflix shows are “canon” to the MCU appears to be an issue of some contention). Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige was asked directly about Charlie Cox this week, and he gave an answer that was both direct and inconcise (in different ways), stating, “If you were to see Daredevil in upcoming things, Charlie Cox, yes, would be the actor playing Daredevil. Where we see that, how we see that, when we see that, remains to be seen.” If that appearance is not in Spider-Man: No Way Home, another possible scenario could be in the upcoming Disney+ series She-Hulk, since the titular character is also a lawyer who, in the comics, has faced Cox’s Matt Murdock in the courtroom a few times .


4. DAVE BAUTISTA TO STAR IN M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S KNOCK AT THE CABIN

Dave Bautista

(Photo by JA/Everett Collection)

In addition to his often joked-about  trademark “twists,” director M. Night Shyamalan is also known for keeping his production costs relatively low while also casting major Hollywood stars like Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), Mel Gibson (Signs), Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense and others), Samuel L. Jackson (Unbreakable and Glass), and James McAvoy (Split and Glass). The title of Shyamalan’s next film, Knock at the Cabin, was revealed in October with a release date of February 3, 2023, but as is often the case, no details about the premise were revealed. What we do know as of this week is that the film’s star will be professional-wrestler-turned-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-star Dave Bautista, which echoes the aforementioned tendency by M. Night Shyamalan to bolster his film’s box office appeal by casting popular A-list movie stars. Just three months after Knock at the Cabin (2/3/2023), Bautista will also return as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (5/5/2023).


5. TOM HOLLAND CONFIRMS STARRING ROLE IN FRED ASTAIRE BIOPIC

Tom Holland

(Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

The amount of time and potentially high results from a successful film production both result in a frequent phenomenon called “duelling movies,” which happens when two (or more) separate film projects are in development at the same time using essentially the same premise or concept (previous examples include asteroids, volcanoes, live-action Snow Whites, and even two different Steve Prefontaine biopics). In October of last year, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood) were announced as the stars of an Amazon Studios production called Fred & Ginger, about the classic Hollywood dancing duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. A year later, another young actor who also played Billy Elliot (on stage), Tom Holland, is now also attached to star as Fred Astaire in a completely separate biopic. The news was recently leaked and/or teased, but Holland himself confirmed that he is attached to star in the project for Sony Pictures, the studio he works with the most frequently (including the upcoming video game adaptation Uncharted, scheduled for 2/18/2022). No director was announced for Sony’s untitled Fred Astaire biopic, but Holland said that he’s going to “dust off the old tap shoes and go back to Pineapple Dance Studios [in London]” to get back in dancing form for the project, which will be produced by his Spider-Man: No Way Home producer, Amy Pascal.


6. WILL FERRELL AND JAMIE FOXX GO TO THE DOGS AS STRAYS

Jamie Foxx and Will Ferrell

(Photo by Priscilla Grant, CJ Rivera/Everett Collection)

For nearly as long as filmmakers have known that peanut butter makes dogs move their mouths up and down, Hollywood has been making movies about talking dogs like Look Who’s  Talking Now (Rotten at 0%). In a sign that the sub-genre isn’t dead quiet yet, Universal Pictures is moving forward with plans for an adult-skewing live-action/CGI comedy called Strays. The voices of the lead dogs in Strays will be provided by Jamie Foxx and Will Ferrell, with another Saturday Night Live alumnus, Will Forte, playing one of the humans. Strays will be directed by Josh Greenbaum, whose last film Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Certified Fresh at 80%) was arguably hampered last year by the pandemic. Will Ferrell will voice an abandoned dog who teams up with other strays (including one voiced by Jamie Foxx) to get revenge on his former owner (Will Forte). Strays actually already wrapped principal production recently, but it does not yet have a release date.


7. DISNEY ANIMATION SET TO TAKE US TO A STRANGE WORLD IN 2022

Walt Disney Animation Studios Logo

(Photo by Walt Disney Animation Studios)

It’s becoming increasingly common for movie studios to list untitled projects on their upcoming release calendars. Until this week, that’s exactly what Walt Disney Pictures did for next year on November 23, 2022 (on the same date as the boxing sequel Creed III and Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans). Walt Disney Pictures has confirmed that the next feature film from Disney Animation will be called Strange World. The futuristic science fiction adventure will be heavily influenced by the pulp adventures of the early 20th century (Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, etc.) and revolve around a legendary family of explorers on their latest mission on a new world. Strange World will reunite the team of director Don Hall (co-director of Moana, Big Hero 6) and screenwriter Qui Nguyen, who previously collaborated on this year’s Raya and the Last Dragon. Disney has not yet announced any of the actors who will be providing the voices of the film’s central family, the Clades.


8. UNIVERSAL PICTURES REVIVING CLASSIC MONSTER PHANTOM

Phantom of the Opera (1925)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

There is some disagreement about which movie was the first of the Universal Classic Monsters films. Officially, Universal Pictures seems to start the branding with the “talkies” of the 1930s, and specifically, 1931’s Dracula (Certified Fresh at 94%), but some fans go back to the silent era and include 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera (Certified Fresh at 90%), which was also distributed by Universal Pictures (and to complicate matters, Universal does list their 1943 remake starring Claude Rains as part of the branding). Universal is currently in the midst of a wave of UCM reboots that began last year with The Invisible Man (Certified Fresh at 92%) and will soon continue with The Wolfman, starring Ryan Gosling, but the studio is also now partnering with producer John Legend on Phantom, a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that will be set in New Orleans’ contemporary French Quarter, using that city’s music instead of the “opera” of the original 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux. Screenwriter John Fusco said of his Phantom screenplay, “The French Quarter, where New Orleans is not only known as America’s most haunted city, but the music, French Creole culture, the voodoo mystique, masquerade pageantry of Mardi Gras, just lent itself to a natural adaptation of the Paris setting, and a story that has revenge, unrequited love and mystery.”


9. BRAD PITT RACING PROJECT LEADS TO HEATED BIDDING WAR

Brad Pitt in World War Z

(Photo by Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures)

As Hollywood increasingly relies on in-house licensing (including sequels and reboots), the spec screenplay and bidding wars over hot new projects have taken a bit of a tumble over the last several years, but it does still occasionally happen. These days, bidding wars or auctions most often revolve around hot directors (such as with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer this fall) or popular movie stars, and not so much merely because of a film’s premise. This week’s big news about a bidding war revolved around an untitled racing film that has Brad Pitt attached to star and Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy) as director. Kosinski actually started filming his fourth film, Top Gun: Maverick over three years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to delay its release, and it’s now scheduled for May 27, 2022, four years after filming started. The premise of this Brad Pitt racing film hasn’t been revealed, but one of the advisors was reportedly British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, which suggests it might involve Formula One racing. The studios involved with the bidding war include Paramount, MGM, Sony, Universal, Disney, as well as the streaming services Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, but we don’t yet know who landed the project.


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Kenneth Proto

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