Johnny Depp is, if I had to sum him up in one word, elusive.
He does press, but he does it like he's being chased by assassins. No matter how much the publicity teams on his films over the years have been helpful or reached out to me, actually scheduling time to sit down with Depp has never happened.
I'm actually glad that when it did finally happen a little over a week ago, it was for a movie I really liked, and one that is slightly left-of-center for a leading man movie star. I was a Depp fan during the days before "Pirates," when he was just "that guy who appears to be completely allergic to movie stardom," when he made interesting choices that seemed designed to please only him. As a result, the first film I had to ask him about as we were settling in for the interview was "Dead Man," the unconventional western he made with Jim Jarmusch in 1995. I told him that he was the only man with enough clout to get Disney/Miramax to release the film on Blu-ray. I've actually learned since that someone else has picked up the rights and that the Blu-ray mastering is being done right now, so Depp doesn't have to lean on the Mouse anymore.
But still, starting with "Dead Man" felt appropriate in many ways, since "Rango" is absolutely a western. And since Gore Verbinski always described the "Pirates" movies as westerns when we spoke, and since Verbinski and Depp are gearing up to reunite for "The Lone Ranger," that genre was the main point of interest in our conversation.
Johnny Depp is, if I had to sum him up in one word, elusive.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Why am I not friends with David and Megan Ellison? Last week we ran the story about Megan Ellison stepping in to help finance two upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson movies, "The Master" and "Inherent Vice," and now there's news of her brother possibly stepping in to help finance "Star Blazers," with a script by Christopher McQuarrie. Harry at Ain't It Cool says the rights still aren't pinned down, and that Lucasfilm might also be in the race at the moment, which leads me to ask "Why are the rights to 'Star Blazers' a hot commodity all of a sudden?" There's a live-action version of the series that's in theaters now in Japan under its original title, "Space Battleship Yamato," but the property's been bouncing around Hollywood for years. The Ellison kids are both wealthy thanks to their billionaire father, and so far, they've been making very strong choices. Skydance, David Ellison's company, is partnered with Paramount on "MIssion Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the proposed "Top Gun" sequel, and the Jack Ryan reboot, so there's at least a small chance that if Skydance does end up with the rights to "Star Blazers," it could end up with a home at Paramount.
I wonder if he'd look good bald.
Strange thought to kick off a Monday morning, but a natural question to ask after hearing that Kevin Costner is in talks with Warner Bros. to join the cast of Zack Snyder's "Superman" project.
Since the report everyone's using as their source for this doesn't specify what role Costner will be playing, speculation is already kicking in, and the easiest guess seems to be Pa Kent. Certainly, Costner's got the easy Midwestern charm and "aw shucks" charisma to play that part, but is that really where his career is these days?
Unless this movie is structured with a whole ton of Smallville material, something I highly doubt, then Pa Kent's going to end up being a smaller role. I guess the day of Kevin Costner headlining a major studio movie is officially done, but it still seems to me like a waste of Costner if you're just hiring him for that sort of role. Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, sounds like another fairly easy fit for Costner, but again, that's traditionally a smaller role.
Besides, isn't it time for someone to reinvent Costner and rescue him from the wilderness?
Now the plot thickens.
When we published our piece on Friday about the sale of the rights to the game "Dead Island," I remarked on how fast it had all come together. Our story, which we had multiple sources on, was that The Sean Daniel Company had purchased the rights to the game and was already planning to develop it.
We were offered one small correction from a separate but unimpeachable source, which was that Union Entertainment was also onboard as a partner with the Sean Daniel Company. To be fair, other outlets reporting the sale of the rights had included Union Entertainment as part of the story originally. Union is a broker of sorts for the rights to a number of videogame properties, an important partner right now in putting this sort of IP-based material together. It's fascinating that Deadline's story, which appeared after The Wrap published their story, echoes much of the same language and specific reporting, claiming that Daniel has actually had the rights under option for a full year already, a very strange and particular detail, especially considering this next part.
In the last six to eight weeks, I've listened to a lot of other podcasts. I've been curious to see what I like, what I don't like, what aesthetic choices other people make. I've also gotten mail from many of you about what you don't like and what you do, and I'm taking all of this information and trying to incorporate it into a better podcast each time.
I think it's pretty much set in stone at this point that Scott Swan is my co-host on the podcast, but I like treating him like a special guest each and every week because it makes me laugh. Scott is my oldest friend that I'm in constant contact with, and at this point, after 21 years of working together, there's no one I have a better rapport with. That's what makes him the perfect sounding board for me as we have these loose and free-wheeling conversations.
And I think "loose" is a good description for this week's show. We were a little rusty, so the show ended up running long this week. It's worth it, though, for two segments in particular.
First, there's my interview with Oscar-nominee David O. Russell. As long as I've admired his work, I've never had the opportunity to chat with him, and I can think of no better time to do so.
Young adult literature, as a broad, overall genre umbrella, confuses me.
It's a huge business these days. It's taken over giant swaths of the chain bookstores, and it seems like every time I turn around, there's a new sensation, a new series that kids are crazy about, and Hollywood's chasing those audiences like Boy Scouts on a snipe hunt, catching dozens of "Eragon"s or "City Of Ember"s for every "Twilight" or "Harry Potter."
James Frey, the writer who was humiliated on Oprah Winfrey's show after the truth about his "memoir" came out, has rebounded into a new career as the manager of a young adult literature sweatshop of sorts, where he manages a lot of young writers on a bunch of different ideas at once, and "I Am Number Four" is the result of one of those collaborations with a guy named Jobie Hughes. The movie, in theaters and IMAX today, was adapted from the book by "Pittacus Lore" by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Marti Noxon, and it should be little surprise that a TV dream team like that has put together what feels like a very expensive pilot for a series I doubt we're ever going to see.
It's familiar fare. Alex Pettyfer stars as "John Smith," a teenager who is perpetually on the run, moving from town to town with Henri, played by Timothy Olyphant. Henri is his bodyguard, and the two of them are fugitives from a distant planet called Lorien. They are being hunted by the Mogadorians, big creepy dudes with sharp teeth and funky tattoos on their heads. There are others like John and Henri, but they're scattered, all hiding on their own. And each time the Mogadorians catch and kill one of them, another tattoo on John's leg lights up and burns him and tells him that they're one step closer, and they're coming for him as well.
Well, that was quick.
Sean Daniel has been producing movies for 20 years now, and before that, he was a studio executive at Universal, having supervised films like "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Do The Right Thing." He's a guy who has fairly broad taste as a producer, having worked on films like "Dazed and Confused," "Tombstone," "The Mummy," and "The Wolfman."
And now Sean Daniel is the producer of "Dead Island," based on the video game that became a buzz sensation based on the animated trailer that premiered a few days ago.
For most of his career, Daniel was partnered with Jim Jacks in Alphaville, but he recently established The Sean Daniel Company, and they're the ones who bought the rights to the game. It's really no wonder the rights sold this quickly. When something blows up like that, there's a momentum that can push things over, and this is a case where the heat was so instant, and so widespread, that it was a matter of who, not when.
I think we're being punked.
I've never met Jaume Collet-Serra. Never spoken with him. All I can judge is the way he approaches his films, and so far, he strikes me as a prankster. It's sort of like with Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, two very funny guys who also write movies like "Night At The Museum" and "The Love Bug." It feels like they're writing these films almost as a dare to studio executives. "Go ahead. Tell me I'm not taking this seriously. Tell me you understand comedy well enough to explain why something does or doesn't work." And when no one calls them on it, people actually make these movies and treat them like they're meant to be good.
With Collet-Serra, he has made a grand total of four movies now. One of them, "Goal II: Living The Dream," is part of a trilogy of soccer movies that all pretty much look and play the same, so you can't really judge it as his. With "House Of Wax" and "Orphan," though, I got the same feeling watching both movies. He's obviously skilled with a camera, and there's a playful sense of style to what he does.
But the movies themselves? Totally bats**t crazy.
And the feeling I get as I watch these films is that Collet-Serra totally knows that. I think he reads a script and decides, "Oh, this is obviously written by a crazy person. OF COURSE I want to direct it." I know David Johnson, who wrote "Orphan," and while David seems like a perfectly charming, intelligent, sane person, I would say "Orphan" proves that there are great churning seas of madness just below that surface. That is one wackadoo thriller. It's fun because it is so unapologetically loony.
Remember about a week ago, when I was all, "OMG, Shane Black might direct 'Iron Man 3'!" and you were all "No way, dude," and I was all "Yuh-huh!" and you were all "He's not gonna get that job." and I was all "Yuh-huh he totally should"?
Well, guess what? HitFix can now confirm that Shane Black is in final negotiations to direct "Iron Man 3" Although Marvel Studios will not confirm the negotiations at this time, sources have confirmed to HitFix that the deal is moving forward and should be finished soon.
I'm still seeing some indifference or even outright dismissal of Black as a director as I watch reactions stream by this afternoon, but the first thing that you have to keep in mind is that Marvel needed to find a filmmaker who would make Robert Downey Jr. happy for this third film, and if he brings nothing else to the table, Black's got that covered. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was a crucial movie in Downey's filmography, the right film at the right time to prove to studios that he was still able to turn up the charm. You could argue that everything Downey has today started with "KKBB," and that he owes Black a return of that sort of career boost.
Yesterday, waaaaaaaaay down at the very bottom of The Morning Read, I ran a video that is a trailer for a new video game called "Dead Island." I thought it was a nifty little mood piece, and that's about all the thought I gave it.
It is genuinely amazing to me, then, to see just how much impact one dialogue-free video game ad can have. If you look at Twitter, "Dead Island" has been trending for the last 24 hours. If you go to Google and search, there are hundreds of news articles in the last 24 hours. Axis Animation, the Scottish production house that made the trailer, has become a big story today. I'm even hearing that the film rights to "Dead Island" have become a hot property based entirely on that one short spot.
Here's how you know it's huge: Devin Faraci has written a strongly-worded editorial dismissing it.
All of this for something that is essentially a zombie version of a Coldplay video. Why? What is it about internet culture that allows something that brief and, honestly speaking, inconsequential, to suddenly become an overnight phenomenon? I think the next big talent pool for feature film directors is not going to be from music videos or short films, but from video game cut scenes and from these moody sort of announcement videos that have become increasingly common in the gaming industry.