This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Joker 2, the next two Ghostbusters, and Marvel’s Thunderbolts.
MARVEL IS RECRUITING MCU ANTI-HEROES FOR THUNDERBOLTS
(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/©Disney+/Marvel Studios, Jay Maidment/© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Across 28 (and counting) Marvel Cinematic Universe films and a growing number of Disney+ shows, we’ve seen dozens of adversaries and antagonists that range from misunderstood anti-hero to straight-up supervillain. In the comics, one of the titles that has brought characters like that together since 1996 is called Thunderbolts. Marvel Studios has begun development of a Thunderbolts feature film to be directed by indie filmmaker Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank, Paper Town) from a screenplay by Eric Pearson (Black Widow; co-writer of Thor: Ragnarok). No other details are known about Thunderbolts, including the premise, or which MCU characters might be members of the team, except that Marvel has been reaching out to previous MCU actors to check availability for filming to begin in the summer of 2023. There have been so many different Thunderbolts teams that the comics offer little assistance in guessing the MCU membership. The original 1996 team, for example, was led by Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) from Captain America: Civil War, but the rest of that team hasn’t appeared in the MCU (yet). Then, there’s the current Thunderbolts, most of who aren’t reformed villains at all, like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Spectrum (Teyonah Parris) from WandaVision, and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Instead, the more likely MCU members are characters like Abomination (Tim Roth) from The Incredible Hulk, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) from Black Widow, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) from Ant-Man and the Wasp, Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) from Black Widow, U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell) fom The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and that show’s titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). There is no release date yet for Thunderbolts, but filming next year suggests something like 2025 (or late 2024 at the earliest).
1. JOAQUIN PHOENIX’S JOKER SEQUEL SCRIPT IS FINISHED
(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)
In early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything, Warner Bros.’ DC Comics movie Joker (Fresh at 68%) broke Academy Awards records (as a “comic book movie”) by receiving 11 nominations (including Best Picture), and winning two (for Best Score and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix). Just about a year ago, we heard the first official news that director and co-writer Todd Phillips was working on a sequel screenplay, and this week, Phillips confirmed that the screenplay is now finished by posting the cover on Instagram, revealing the title as Joker: Folie à Deux, although there is a very solid chance that will not be the final title. In psychiatry, “folie à deux” refers to symptoms that appear to be “transmitted” from one person to another. Within the context of a Joker sequel, the title seems to suggest the introduction of the Joker version of psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn. If that’s accurate, this Harley Quinn would most likely be played by someone other than Margot Robbie, since Joker is not set in the same universe as Robbie’s character. Joaquin Phoenix has not yet signed a deal to return for a Joker sequel, but the project is otherwise considered a “go” for Warner Bros. Before Joker 2, Joaquin Phoenix will next be seen in Disappointment Blvd (from Midsommar director Ari Aster) and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon for Apple TV+.
2. MARIA BAKALOVA CONFIRMED FOR KEY ROLE IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 3
(Photo by Rich Fury/VF22/Getty Images)
One of the biggest movie surprises of 2020 was that Sacha Baron Cohen had (nearly) secretly filmed Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Certified Fresh at 85%) in 2019 and early- to mid-2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following an extensive casting call, Cohen discovered a young Bulgarian actress named Maria Bakalova to co-star as Borat’s daughter, and her breakout performance earned her immediate attention. Just last week, we first learned that The Suicide Squad star Daniela Melchior will co-star in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (5/5/2023) in a key role, and now, Bakalova has also been confirmed for another mysterious key role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Fans have been quick to speculate who both Melchior and Bakalova might be playing, with Gunn only shooting down speculation that Melchior plays Moondragon, Drax’s daughter. (In the comics, Moondragon is a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with her partner Phylla-Vell, hence why Melchior and Bakalova’s adjacent casting is sparking speculation.) As for who the mysterious actor and character James Gunn keeps hinting at might be, that might remain a mystery right up until the first fans see the mid-credits scene on May 5, 2023.
3. GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE SEQUEL TO RETURN FRANCHISE TO ITS HOMETOWN
(Photo by ©Columbia Pictures)
This was a big week for Ghostbusters fans, as two different future Ghostbusters projects made the news. Let’s start with the more obvious one, since it was hinted at directly in the Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Fresh at 63%) post-credits scene featuring this actor. Director Jason Reitman confirmed this week that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is getting a direct sequel which currently goes by the codename “FIREHOUSE.” The premise will revolve around the Spengler family (Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, and Finn Wolfhard) returning to New York City and, presumably, the “Firehouse” refers to the retired fire station where the original Ghostbusters set up their headquarters. In addition to the aforementioned three actors, Paul Rudd is also expected to return for this fifth Ghostbusters movie, and it’s likely that Ernie Hudson will as well. What’s not yet known is whether Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, or any other stars from the first movie will also return. Sony Pictures has not yet announced a release date.
4. ANIMATED MOVIE TO FEATURE NEW GROUP OF GHOSTBUSTERS
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Following the box office success of the original Ghostbusters (Certified Fresh at 97%) as the #2 movie of 1984 with $229 million domestically, the characters were spun off into an animated show called The Real Ghostbusters (to avoid confusion with another show called Ghost Busters – it’s a long story). Over 35 years later, Sony Pictures is now developing an animated Ghostbusters movie, but this movie will not be an adaptation of the original Real Ghostbusters cartoon show. Instead, a new set of Ghostbusters characters will be introduced, although anything else about the film, such as the setting (which could be somewhere else besides New York City or Oklahoma), remains unknown. The film will be directed by the team of Jennifer Kluska (co-director of Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformia and the upcoming Smurfs musical feature film) and Chris Prynoski (TV’s Metalocalypse) from a screenplay by Brenda Hsueh. Sony Pictures has not yet scheduled a release date (or a title) for the animated Ghostbusters movie. It’s also not yet known if this animated feature film will have any connection to the animated Ghostbusters series that Jason Reitman is producing for Netflix.
5. NEVE CAMPBELL NOT RETURNING FOR SCREAM 6
(Photo by Phil Bray/©Dimension Films courtesy Everett Collection)
One of the constants in the Scream franchise has been that Neve Campbell will be in there somewhere as Sidney Prescott, even if, as it was in this year’s Scream (Certified Fresh at 76%), she’s more of a supporting character. If that film was intended to hand the series off to a new generation of survivors, that transition was made all the more clear this week with the news that Neve Campbell will not appear in next year’s Scream 6 (3/31/2023). Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about her decision, Campbell said, “As a woman I have had to work extremely hard in my career to establish my value, especially when it comes to Scream. I felt the offer that was presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise.” Courteney Cox was confirmed to return for Scream 6 in March, along with other co-stars from the fifth movie like Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, and Jenna Ortega. Hayden Panettiere will also be reprising her role from Scream 4 (Fresh at 61%). Finally, an actor who will be appearing in Scream 6 who is brand new to the franchise is Dermot Mulroney, in an unknown role.
6. CHRISTOPH WALTZ TO PORTRAY TITULAR DIRECTOR IN BILLY WILDER & ME
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Although there have been plenty of movies about famous Hollywood actors, famous directors receive that sort of attention a lot less often (some examples include Ed Wood, Gods and Monsters, and Hitchcock). One of the most successful directors from Hollywood’s Golden Age was Billy Wilder, whose classic films included Double Indemnity (Certified Fresh at 97%), Sunset Blvd (Certified Fresh at 98%), Sabrina (Fresh at 97%), The Seven Year Itch (Fresh at 84%), and Some Like It Hot (Certified Fresh at 94%). Wilder was originally from Austria, so it makes total sense that it will be Austrian actor Christoph Waltz who will star as the title character in Billy Wilder & Me. Based upon the novel Mr. Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe, Billy Wilder & Me will be set in the summer of 1977 “when an innocent young woman begins working for the famed director and his screenwriter Iz Diamond on a Greek island during the filming of” Fedora (Fresh at 71%). Billy Wilder & Me will be directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Victoria & Abdul) from a screenplay by Christopher Hampton (Atonement; co-writer of The Father). Filming is scheduled to start in the spring of 2023 on location in Greece, Munich, and Paris.
7. JULIA GARNER TO STAR AS MADONNA IN MADONNA-DIRECTED BIOPIC
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Many movies take a while to get produced, but musical biopics are particularly prone to delays (even when the musical artist themselves is one of the film’s producers, as Elton John had been for nearly 20 years on Rocketman). In comparison, Madonna’s untitled biopic, which got its start at Universal just five years ago, is moving at a relatively brisk pace. In 2020, it was announced that Madonna herself would be directing the film from a screenplay by Diablo Cody (Juno, Tully). At that time, actresses being considered for the role of Madonna included Florence Pugh and Julia Garner (Ozark), and now, almost two years later, Garner has been offered the role. Rather than a full biopic, the Madonna film will focus on the “the the early days of the oft-controversial artist and queen of perpetual reinvention.” Universal Pictures has not yet scheduled a release date for the film.
8. SCARLETT JOHANSSON TO STAR IN MY MOTHER’S WEDDING
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
Following the release of Black Widow (Certified Fresh at 79%) last July, Scarlett Johansson has continued to line up new projects like Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City and Artemis with Chris Evans (though that one hit a road bump this week). Johansson’s latest project, which has already begun filming, is a film called My Mother’s Wedding, which will also be the feature film directorial debut of actress Kristin Scott Thomas. The premise is being kept secret, but the title gives us at least some hints. Johansson’s co-stars will include Sienna Miller, Freida Pinto, and Emily Beecham. It’s worth noting that some sources this week described this project as an adaptation of a 1959 novel called The Sea Change — Kristin Scott Thomas had at one time been looking to make that her feature film debut, but My Mother’s Wedding is not that movie, and The Sea Change is no longer an active project.
9. ETERNALS CO-STARS ANGELINA JOLIE AND SALMA HAYEK PINAULT TEAM UP AGAIN
(Photo by Mike Marsland, Joe Maher/Getty Images)
Now that Eternals (Rotten at 47%) and its requisite international promotion has been done for a while now, two of the film’s stars are ready to team up on something more than a little less FX-heavy. Angelina Jolie is preparing to make her fifth film as director, a drama called Without Blood based on a novel by Alessandro Baricco, and she has brought on Eternals co-star Salma Hayek Pinault and Demian Bichir to star. The premise appears to revolve around a woman (possibly Hayek Pinault) who survived a tragedy that killed her family as a child, and who then in her 50s reconnects with the person who saved her life all those years ago.