Movie Production Update: January 16, 2009

This week we have the second installment of the weekly Production Update as I bring you all the latest films and casting announcements out of the trade papers as well as a couple of websites around the Net. I am previewing 22 film titles this week and a few of them are already in the database and linked where that is the case. One story, however, I am held from posting until today comes from Variety in which Anne Thompson does a little Twilight franchise rumor passing as she gives the following update on the potential directors for the third film in the franchise, Eclipse:

Don’t believe everything you hear about Twilight and its sequels. Things are heating up already on the third installment, Eclipse. They haven’t even started the second one yet, New Moon. When you’ve got a robust franchise, filmmakers are eager to get on board. Word is, the Spanish director of The Orphanage, Juan Antonio Bayona, and 3:10 to Yuma helmer James Mangold are both circling the project, but Summit insists that no meetings are scheduled as yet. Both would be strong choices.

As to the last two unfilled roles in New Moon, vampires Jane and Aro, no offers have yet gone out, despite what you may have read. And the role of Leah Clearwater isn’t being filled, because according to writer Melissa Rosenberg, she isn’t in the script!

Really, Mangold and Bayona? I certainly see this as a good sign of things to potentially come and it would definitely up the profile of the third film from a whimsical teen girl feature into something more audiences may find an interest in.

Next we have reports that say Sienna Miller will no longer star as Maid Marian in Ridley Scott’s Nottingham with the New York Post quoting a supposed ‘insider’ saying, “Russell [Crowe] never lost the weight he put on for Body of Evidence – and so the love scenes between him and Sienna would have been laughable. He’s so old and fat and she’s so young and gorgeous. It’s just . . . gross.” What’s laughable is the fact the film is titled Body of Lies and this sounds like nothing more than a publicist trying to clear Miller’s name. Tasteless if you ask me, but it appears Miller is indeed off the project either way.

So, with the rumors and gossip out of the way let’s dig in to a batch of new titles and casting:

Title: Crowley

Studio: CBS Films

Director: Tom Vaughan

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser

Storyline: The drama is based on the true story of John and Aileen Crowley, whose two children had a rare genetic disorder. Rather than give up hope that nothing could help his children, John Crowley found a researcher (Ford) with a potential cure.

Title: The Crazies

Studio: Overture Films

Director: Breck Eisner

Screenwriter: Ray Wright, Scott Kosar

Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell

Storyline: A reinvention loosely based upon the George Romero (“Dawn of the Dead,” “Creepshow”) classic, about the inhabitants of a small Pennsylvania town beset by death and insanity after a secret biological weapon makes its way into their water supply.

Title: Opposites Attract

Studio: Bold Films

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Screenwriter: Dan Ewen

Cast: Not available

Storyline: A body-switching comedy involving a young couple who must “walk a mile in each other’s shoes” in order to make their relationship work. Bold Films and Chandrasekhar are aiming to do an R-rated take on the body-switching genre while looking at the differences between the sexes.

Title: Mother Trucker

Studio: New Regency

Director: Craig Brewer

Screenwriter: Craig Brewer

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on a Maxim article written by Steven Russell and pegged as an updated take on Smokey and the Bandit the film is an action comedy about a man who escapes from jail, steels an 18-wheeler and heads across the South to see his dying mother with police on his trail.

Title: The Karate Kid

Studio: Sony Pictures

Director: Harald Zwart

Screenwriter: Chris Murphy

Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan

Storyline: Will still center on a bullied youth (Smith) who learns to stand up for himself with the help of an eccentric mentor (Chan).

Title: The Infiltrator

Producer: 2929 Productions

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Not available

Storyline: A drama about a Customs official who helped uncover a massive money laundering scheme that involved Pablo Escobar based on “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel,” a memoir by Robert Mazur to be published by Arcade in April. Holmes’ adaptation will focus on Mazur’s transformation from a married accountant to an undercover operative who hobnobbed with unsavory figures and brought down several major banks that were laundering tens of millions of dollars for Escobar as well as Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Title: Spanking Shakespeare

Studio: Paramount Pictures / MTV Films

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Daniel Lagana

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on the debut novel by New York-based eighth-grade teacher Jake Wizner, story centers on Shakespeare Shapiro, who chronicles every mortifying detail of his quest to get into college and find a girlfriend in his memoir.

Title: Untitled Steve McQueen Biopic

Studio: Paramount Pictures (likely)

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on Marshall Terrill’s biography “Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel,” the book delves into McQueen’s offscreen penchant for motorcycles, fast cars and drugs. Project will examine his three marriages, including his stormy relationship with Ali McGraw, as well as his battle against lung cancer.

Title: Untitled Supernatural Comedy

Studio: Not available

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Ron Burch and David Kidd

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Pic doesn’t have a star attached or even a title, but it is a template for a big-scale comedy.

Title: East of Eden

Studio: Universal Pictures

Director: Tom Hooper

Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on John Steinbeck’s retelling of the Cain and Abel story, set in California’s Salinas Valley. The multigenerational story focuses on the Trask brothers and a woman who comes between the siblings. Elia Kazan directed James Dean in the 1955 Oscar-winning adaptation which also starred Julie Harris, Raymond Massey and Burl Ives and written by Paul Osborn.

Title: Daemon

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Centers on an iconic game designer who, before he died, set up a program to fight mankind, with the story then exploring the ensuing man-vs.-machine battle. A daemon is a computer program that runs without the direct control of a human.

Title: 13

Studio: Not available

Director: Géla Babluani

Screenwriter: Géla Babluani

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, 50 Cent, Sam Riley, Ray Winstone, Ray Liotta, Michael Shannon, Ben Gazzara, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Alex Skarsgard

Storyline: A remake of the French-language film 13 Tzameti, 13 centers on young man (Riley) stumbles into an underground competition where the wealthy gamble on human beings in a Russian Roulette-like competition.

Title: Black Mass

Studio: Not available

Director: Jim Sheridan

Screenwriter: Jim Sheridan, Nye Heron

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob,” a book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. FBI informant Whitey Bulger rose to prominence in Boston as a feared enforcer and built the Winter Hill Gang into an enterprise that did everything from selling drugs to procuring guns for the Irish Republican Army. His rise was helped by John Connolly, a childhood pal who became an FBI agent. Bulger disappeared 14 years ago, creating a major law enforcement scandal.

Title: Black Hole

Studio: Universal Pictures

Director: Gore Verbinski

Screenwriter: Michael Gilio

Cast: Not available

Storyline: The drama focuses on a retired rancher who responds to a phone solicitation swindle that wipes out his savings. “The script taps into the shaken trust the public has toward once-trusted institutions and examines how the people behind these institutions are sometimes themselves as much victims of the same blind trust,” said Blind Wink senior veep Jonathan Krauss, who’ll be involved in a producing capacity.

Title: Untitled Fela Kuti Biopic

Studio: Focus Features

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Not available

Storyline: A biopic about Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician and political maverick based on the book “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon” by Michael Veal. Kuti, whose full name is Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, garnered fame in the U.S. for his fusion style of music known as Afrobeat. He often was imprisoned on what human-rights groups called trumped-up charges when he went back to his native country and spoke out against its government and policies. He died in 1997.

Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Studio: Universal Pictures

Director: Edgar Wright

Screenwriter: Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin

Storyline: Based on the Oni Press graphic novel, written by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Mary Elizabeth Winstead will play the dream woman of a young slacker (Michael Cera). But the only way he can win her heart is by battling and defeating her seven evil ex-boyfriends.

Title: Untitled Brett Easton Ellis Project

Studio: Lionsgate

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Brett Easton Ellis

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Based on Vanity Fair’s Nancy Jo Sales’ coverage of artists Theresa Duncan and her partner Jeremy Blake, the East Village couple who mysteriously committed suicide last year. Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake’s suicides were followed by a flurry of press attempting to link L.A. singer/songwriter Beck and his Scientology connections to the couple, and multiple theories relating Beck’s alleged dropping out of Duncan’s project, “Alice Underground” to the artist’s suicide.

Title: Black Venus

Studio: Not available

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Not available

Storyline: Turns on a 19th-century true story of the tragic life of a South African tribeswoman, Sarah Baartman. Born with physical deformities, she ended up being exhibited as a circus freak in Paris.

Title: Cowboy Bebop

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Not available

Screenwriter: Peter Craig

Cast: Keanu Reeves

Storyline: The story is set in 2071, a time where “astral gates” make interstellar travel possible. Humanity, decimated by a lunar explosion resulting from a gate accident, spread out across the solar system, as did crime, which gave rise to the use of bounty hunters. Reeves would play Spike Spiegel who, along with Jet Black, a fellow bounty hunter and former cop, are the two pilots of the spaceship Bebop.

Title: Untitled Joaquin Phoenix Music Documentary

Studio: Not available

Director: Casey Affleck

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix

Storyline: Affleck is directing a documentary feature on Phoenix, his friend and fellow actor who last spring decided to swap the thespian business for a musical one. Phoenix is embarking on a new path as a rapper, with an album to be produced by Sean Combs. He is scheduled to make his first public performance Friday at a Las Vegas club, which will officially kick off Affleck’s shoot.

Title: Jack Goes Boating

Studio: Overture Films

Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Screenwriter: Not available

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega

Storyline: Adaptation of Bob Glaudini’s Off Broadway play in which he’ll also star. The play is described as an unconventional romantic comedy about two misfits in New York City, laced with cooking classes, swimming lessons and illegal drugs.

Title: Zombieland

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Screenwriter: Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone

Storyline: Centers on a band of survivors who team to fight the living dead in the post-apocalyptic Southwest after a zombie plague ravages America.

Thanks to ComingSoon.net, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, HitFix and the The Playlist for contributing to this report.

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