Admittedly, it’s hardly the most enthralling piece of news about Star Wars: Episode VII, but it’s still fun to see who J.J. Abrams is gathering as his team to get working on the new trip to that Galaxy Far, Far Away. One of the first confirmed members is an old Abrams hand and recent Empire interviewee, costume designer Michael Kaplan.It’s not tough to see why Abrams would tap Kaplan for the job. They worked together on revising the look of Captain Kirk and co on Star Trek and Into Darkness, and Kaplan also provided the togs for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which Abrams produced.Kaplan’s CV goes back much further and deeper than just the Enterprise crew. One of his earliest jobs was working alongside Charles Knode on 1982’s Blade Runner. He also counts Flashdance, Fight Club, Panic Room, Pearl Harbor, Curly Sue, Clue, I Am Legend and Miami Vice among his credits. So he’s certainly got the chops to tackle the Lucas universe now inherited (for Episode VII, at least) by Abrams.Michael Arndt is busy working on the script and, assuming they all make deals, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are expected to appear in some capacity. Abrams has also said he wants John Williams to write the score, and Disney aims to have the new Wars on screen sometime in 2015. Meanwhile, why not read our feature on Kaplan and other members of J.J.’s behind-the-scenes Trek crew and start taking bets on the next one to get recruited…
Last month, when Iron Man 3 was hitting cinemas, Joss Whedon hit the red carpet to support his Marvel colleagues and got talking about his work on writing Avengers 2. He dropped a hint that a brother-sister team could feature in the sequel, with speculation jumping to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Now, Whedon’s been chatting with IGN and confirmed that the duo is at least in the current script draft.“You know, they had a rough beginning. They’re interesting to me because they sort of represent the part of the world that wouldn’t necessarily agree with the Avengers,” he says. “So they’re not there to make things easier. I’m not putting any characters in the movie that will make things easier.” Joss Whedon making life easy for his characters? Perish the thought!That’s not all the Marvel news to leak onto the web this weekend, as Entertainment Weekly sat down with Kevin Feige and others to talk about the company’s filmic plans for Phase Three, which kicks off in 2015 with Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man.The company president didn’t have a lot to say about the likelihood of Doctor Strange, Black Panther or other characters being part of Phase Three, since they’re still in development. He did, however, confront all the recent Hulk standalone rumours. “What we’re excited about exploring and expanding is Mark – and Banner’s not in Planet Hulk at all,” Feige says. “The fun of the Hulk is his interaction with humans. “Mark could stand in his own movie. We’re talking about it. We’re excited to sit down and go, ‘What is a stand-alone Hulk movie?’”As for the ironclad elephant in the room, i.e. the likely return of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man? Since negotiations are presently still ongoing (Downey Jr completed his original contract with Iron Man 3), both sides are pushing their agendas. “My intent is to launch another franchise, independent of any that I can even imagine right now,” says Downey, planting the possible seed for him to leave. “My intent is to dominate the playing field for as long as I can, with my own challenges, with myself.” He’s definitely in talks for Avengers 2 and conceivably a third, but more stand-alone Stark? We’ll have to wait and see.Feige, on the other hand, countered with his thoughts on the future. “I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man film and a fifth and a sixth and a 10th and a 20th,” the producer says. “I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond. Or Batman for that matter. Or Spider-Man. I think Iron Man is a character just like that.” For more from Feige and co on Phase Three, head to EW.
While the high concept pitch sounds like a Disney teen movie, the cast for Barely Lethal is making us think it could be a little more interesting than that. Samuel L. Jackson and Hailee Steinfeld have signed on to star.Fanboys director Kyle Newman is set to call the shots for the comedy, which sees a 16-year-old international assassin (Steinfeld) aching to experience a more normal life. So she decides to fake her death and enrol in a suburban high school.Jackson, who has been spending time in the last few years wrangling superheroes as Nick Fury, will find his skills (and his patience) tested further as the mentor who initially trains the young woman.His presence in a film about an assassin who gives up her career for a normal life is giving us flashbacks to The Long Kiss Goodnight, but Shane Black won’t be around to write this one – the script is by John D’Arco.Steinfeld will next be seen in Ender’s Game and the new take on Romeo And Juliet. She’s also worked on Can A Song Save Your Life? Jackson will crop up as a voice in DreamWorks’ snail ‘toon Turbo and as part of the cast for the Oldboy remake. He’s also in RoboCop and will return as Fury for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Iron ManJon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr are reuniting – and this time the only metal involved will be pots, pans and cutlery. Because the old Iron Man collaborators are working on Favreau’s new indie comedy drama Chef.Favreau, who is also in development on big projects such as Magic Kingdom, has decided to get back to his Swingers/Made roots for the low-budget character drama that will also feature Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara and John Leguizamo.In addition to directing from his script, Favreau will star as a man who loses his job in a posh restaurant and faces estrangement from his family to boot. In the hopes of reigniting his career and winning the love back, he decides to start up a food truck.We don’t yet know what Downey Jr will be doing in the movie, but it’s nice to see him taking time out of his busy schedule to work with his old mucker.The cameras are set to start rolling on July 8 in LA. We can’t wait for the marketing campaign that trumpets “from the star and one of the producers of Iron Man 3!”
Dungeons & Dragons is such a core concept of early gaming life for those who grew up during (and those just after) its heyday, that it seemed inevitable for someone to one day turn it into a film. That day was late in 2000, when the execrable Jeremy Irons/Marlon Wayans film pooped out into the world, making us all view the kids’ cartoon version with hopeful nostalgia. Surprisingly, it hasn’t burned down the idea nor salted the earth and now Warners wants to give it another stab.The studio is looking to bring the warriors, mages, thieves, elves and others back to life by taking Wrath Of The Titans/Red Riding Hood writer David Leslie Johnson’s script Chainmail – itself based on a more obscure game crafted by Dungeons designer Gary Gygax – and having him re-work it to focus on the ideas from the main title.It’s not really shocking in the age of Game Of Thrones and, perhaps more pertinently, Warners’ own success with The Hobbit that the studio would want to try to recapture the magic on screen. This one has proven tough to make in the past, and there are plenty of trapdoors awaiting the unwary, but D&D deserves to be honoured with a great film, so if the right creative team can be found, we’ll stay hopeful, but keep our swords close.
EXCLUSIVE: Well, that didn’t take long. Benjamin Bratt has stepped in to voice the villain Eduardo in Despicable Me 2. He replaces Al Pacino, who exited the project over creative differences with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. He’s getting to work right away on a film that Universal is counting on for a major summer release that begins July 3. Despicable Me 2 is the fourth film from Illumination Entertainment and the sequel to its 2010 hit Despicable Me, one of Universal’s most profitable films ever, with north of $540 million worldwide on a $69 million budget. The sequel is directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, and scripted by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Illumination founder Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy producing. Bratt, whose credits include Snitch, La Mission, The Woodsman and Traffic, is repped by WME, Circle of Confusion and attorney Robert Myman.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BAFTA TV Craft Prizes; BBC Renews ‘The Village’; ‘Oh Boy’ At German Lolas; Al Jazeerano comment
The Olympics was a three-time winner in factual categories at Sunday night’s BAFTA TV Craft Awards with the opening ceremony taking honors for multi-camera directing. BBC’s Super Saturday grabbed a prize for sound and Channel 4′s Paralympics earned a nod for digital creativity. Among series winners, Neal Street Productions/BBC One’s Call The Midwife brought Philippa Lowthorpe a directing award and Christine Walmesley-Cotham was honored for make-up & hair. Sheena Napier won for her costume design work the BBC’s Parade’s End and Darryl Hammer won for production design on the BBC/HBO Hitchcock biopic The Girl. Tom Turnbull won in the visual & graphic effects category for ITV’s Julian Fellowes’ penned Titanic. A full list of winners is available here.
BBC Orders More Tales Of ‘The Village’:BBC One has commissioned a second season of working class period drama The Village. The series from Company Pictures is set in England’s East Midlands and is told through the eyes of central character Bert Middleton. Criminal Justice and Silk’s Peter Moffat created the show with the plan to see it span the whole of the 20th century. The initial six parts covered 1914-1920 and the second season will move into the Roaring Twenties. John Simm, Maxine Peake, Nico Mirallegro, Bill Jones, David Ryall and Juliet Stevenson starred in the first season which is still airing in the UK. Newcomer Alfie Stewart will take over playing Bert as an 18 year old for the second series. John Griffin is exec producer. There is currently no U.S. broadcaster.
With just 30 days to go in the 2012-2013 TV season and the May sweep starting tomorrow, it seems this week we need to talk about the future as much as the past. The recent past is straightforward but full of shifts: Week 30 of the current season saw CBS remain No. 1 in overall viewership for an eighth week in a row but lose the adults 18-49 top spot after four weeks to Fox. But it was a very tight lead for News Corp-owned network for the week of April 15-21, with competition breathing down its neck. By competition, let’s be specific. Last week saw NBC’s Monday and Tuesday airings of The Voice prove just how dominant it has become by easily taking the two top spots in adults 18-49 (5.2 and 4.6, respectively) and in viewership (14.448 million and 14.155 million). That closed NBC right up on Fox. With a four-week demo high for the unsteady American Idol on Wednesday, a dip for Glee, growth for Hell’s Kitchen and a strong UFC on April 20, Fox pulled a 1.9/6 in the key demo. However, with The Voice’s results plus coverage from Boston of the marathon bombing and manhunt appearing in primetime throughout the week and lots of repeats overall, NBC tied with CBS in adults 18-49. The two were just behind Fox with a 1.8/4. Third place was also a tie, with ABC and Univision garnering a 1.4/4.
Here’s where it gets a bit sticky. Ratings and sharewise, Fox actually stayed in place from the previous frame, while CBS declined from its Week 29 2.4/7, NBC inched up from its 1.7/5 and ABC did the same from its 1.3.4. The CW rose a tad to 0.4/1 from the 0.3/1 it earned the week before. ABC was second in viewership with 6.62 million compared to CBS’ 8.26 million. Fox was third with 5.61 million and NBC was fourth with 5.56 million. Year-over-year, ABC’s demo rating was down 26% and its viewership down 14%. The CW fell 20% in the demo and 8% in its total audience. Compared with the same frame during the 2011-2012 season, Fox slid 14% in 18-49 and 19% in viewership. CBS stayed the same in the demo and was up 1% in viewership. NBC also went up, by 13% in adults 18-49 and 7% in viewership.
After the seemingly disappointing box office figures (and resulting financial write-off) wrought by Rise Of The Guardians, there was much relieved wiping of brows at DreamWorks Animation recently when caveman family comedy The Croods proved to be a hit. So how is the company responsible for four Shreks, three Madagascars, three Kung Fu Pandas, at least two How To Train Your Dragons responding? By ordering up a sequel, of course! The clue was in the list of follow-ups we just mentioned.The first film’s writing/directing team Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders are planning to return, but the details beyond that are still a mystery. It doesn’t even have a release date yet, which is a refreshing change given how studios work these days.Croods found Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman as a family in a weird, fictional pre-historic period where evolution has created a load of hybrid creatures and the Earth is undergoing massive seismic shifts.When their safe cave is destroyed, Grug (Cage) and his family must venture out on a quest to find a new home. They meet Guy (Ryan Reynolds) a more developed human who introduces them to a raft of new ideas. The sequel will no doubt find them facing fresh challenges, and we’d expect the whole original cast to return.
Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell’s history-making Kickstarter campaign notched its $2M initial goal within 10 hours of launching last month. While that meteoric rate didn’t hold up, the Kickstarter did top out at a payday nearly three times its initial goal. A record 91,585 backers contributed $5,702,153 to the feature film project, which shoots in the summer and will see distribution aided by Warner Bros. Digital. Joining Bell in the cult series’ big screen return will be Jason Dohring. The Veronica Mars movie will also have a presence at Comic-Con in July, Thomas also announced, although an official con panel is TBD.
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