THE GUARDIAN – Scarlett Johansson has been offered $10m to star in the long-gestating live action remake of Ghost in the Shell, reports Deadline. The top dollar pay cheque recognises the US actor’s newfound status as an A-list action star following standout turns in Lucy and Marvel Studio’s Avengers series of superhero films.
Hollywood’s plan for a debut English language take on the seminal 1995 Mamoru Oshii anime moved a step closer to reality in January when Snow White and the Huntsman’s Rupert Sanders was hired to direct by studio Dreamworks. Reports back then suggested the remake would be based on a new screenplay by The Reluctant Fundamentalist’s William Wheeler.
The Ghost in the Shell comic book series, film rights to which were picked up by Dreamworks co-owner Steven Spielberg in 2009, follows cyborg detective Major Motoko Kusanagi, team leader of a futuristic Japanese counterterrorism organisation focused on cyber-crime. Three anime films (one made-for-TV) have been based on the comic, of which the 1995 Ghost in the Shell was the first, as well as an animated Japanese TV series and three video games. Spielberg’s planned 3D movie failed to make it to the production stage but the approach for Johansson suggests the new iteration may have legs.
DEADLINE – Sony Pictures TV is bringing together one of the biggest movie stars, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lucy, Her), and the work of one of the most celebrated American novelists, the Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton (The Age Of Innocence) for a limited series project that is about to hit the marketplace. Johansson is set to star in and executive produce the eight-episode period series, from Charles Finch’s Pink Sands, which is based on Wharton’s 1913 novel The Custom Of The Country.
Eyed for a cable run, possibly on premium cable, it will be written by British playwright-screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement) from his original screenplay. Hampton originally wrote a feature script adaptation of Custom Of The Country almost two decades ago, reportedly for Michelle Pfeiffer who had starred in the 1993 feature Age Of Innocence, based on Wharton’s book. It was published in 2002 as part of a collection of Hampton screenplays.
Custom Of The Country is described as a scathing story of ambition featuring one of the most ruthless heroines in literature, Undine Spragg, who will be played by Johansson in her first major TV role. Undine is as unscrupulous as she is magnetically beautiful. Her rise to the top of New York’s high society from her nouveau riche roots provides a provocative and thoroughly modern commentary on the upwardly mobile and the aspirations that eventually cause their ruin.
Johansson, repped by CAA and LBI, is executive producing with Hampton and Finch. Hampton is repped by CAA and Casarotto/Ramsay.
While not as famous as Wharton’s Age Of Innocence, The Custom Of The Country has had great influence, with Julian Fellowes citing it as an inspiration for his work including his hit drama series Downton Abbey.
THE WRAP – Iron Man kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, and now he may become responsible for wiping its stars off of the planet.
In a new synopsis for Avengers: Age of Ultron posted to the Disney fan site Stitch Kingdom, Marvel explains how Tony Stark’s good attentions go awry and lead to a battle to save the planet, which seems to constantly need saving. The outline also hints at characters played by Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Paul Bettany (Vision).
The film, of course, is a follow-up to the monster 2012 hit that made $1.52 billion worldwide, and returns not only the all-star cast of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but also director Joss Whedon.
TheWrap has reached out to Disney in order to confirm the authenticity of the synopsis below:
Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron, the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
THE PLAYLIST – One of the big narratives in terms of superhero movies over the summer has been the lack of women-led movies in the genre: despite the success of everything that Marvel does, Kevin Feige has remained non-committal in terms of the studio putting out a film with a female lead. And Warner Bros. may have cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in “Batman Vs. Superman” but don’t appear to have made any strides forward in terms of giving the character her own solo movie.
And a backlash is starting to form: Jessica Chastain, being as awesome as she is, spoke up in favor of Scarlett Johansson (who had a monster hit with “Lucy” this summer) getting her own Marvel movie in the last week, and now one of Johansson’s co-stars has weighed in, with Robert Downey Jr, the figurehead of the Marvel movies, also speaking up in favor of a solo “Black Widow” film.
Speaking to USA Today (via Latino Review), Tony Stark himself spoke up in favor of the female character in Marvel movies, saying “Look, I think that the interesting thing particularly after Guardians with Zoe (Saldana), (or) even from the first Iron Man where Pepper was kind of this really – to me the Iron Man franchise would never have taken off without (Gwyneth) Paltrow. There’s something about her that grounded the story. She’s not your typical lady in a superhero movie, and then by ‘Iron Man 3′ she’s swallowing serums and putting on suits and kicking (butt) and all that stuff.” But the actor also added that he’d like to Johansson get top-billing on a project: “It would be kind of more appropriate for a character that already was like a Black Widow (to lead a movie). It just seems like whatever Scarlett does people want to go see it.”
Notwithstanding that the disappointing box office of the awesome “Under The Skin” doesn’t quite back that up, point taken. But that’s not the only Marvel spin-off that Iron Man wants to see. “The funny thing is,” he says,’ honestly, at this point, everyone deserves a franchise. I think Jeremy Renner is—when folks see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” he’s just a rockstar, a badass. And Ruffalo is pumped. He does great (work). I’d like to hear them talk even more seriously about a Hulk franchise, because that’s been one of the toughest ones to get right. But I’m sure that my parent company is feeling expansive and and bold after the summer they’ve had.”
Your move, Marvel. Given the potential of a Hulk or Black Widow movie, or even of a modestly-budgeted “Hawkeye” movie inspired by Matt Fraction’s incredible recent run in the comics, these all seem like good ideas, even if Marvel has other franchises they want to launch too. In the meantime, Downey Jr’s about to open the Toronto International Film Festival with “The Judge” —look for our review in the next few days. And the whole gang will be seen in next summer’s “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.”
VOGUE – She may have created costumes for some of the biggest films of the past 20 years – from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter to Eighties classic Big – but Judianna Makovsky says there’s no doubt about which is the biggest challenge: superhero movies. The costume designer, who has won awards for her creations across many genres, including period dramas, says that her work on the recent Captain America: The Winter Soldier came with challenges not experienced on every film set.
“Well, firstly the directors wanted the clothes to look less superhero and more real; so not a colourful spandex suit,” she explained. “We look to the past for movies like this – the comics, previous adaptations – and we don’t want to stray too far from what the character ‘should’ look like, but also Disney didn’t want it to look exactly the same. The costumes have to look new. Marvel has an incredible knowledge of the character, so we work with them throughout the process, but – although they have to be recognisable – the characters do inhabit different worlds in different films. There’s a lot to balance. Superhero films are definitely the most labour-intensive for a costume designer.”
Working with the actors on set, and in pre-filming fittings, is part of that job, said Makovsky, but it is even more crucial on action-heavy movies – since the costumes must work physically as well as aesthetically. Scarlett Johansson’s character, The Black Widow, is as feisty as she is sexy, which provided its own challenges.
“Scarlett didn’t actually start to fit for the catsuit until two days before we started shooting, so we had to do lots of trials and testing in quite a short timeframe,” Makovsky explained. “It was a challenge to get that many looks done in time. We work very closely with the actors on an action movie. We’ll make different versions of the same costume depending on what she’s doing: boots with running heels, fighting heels, standing heels; costumes that will allow her to kick; others that will accommodate a harness. I supervise all the props as well – shields for every purpose, and masks for different scenes as well. Some parts of the job are more product design than costume. Film is the art of collaboration.”
Multi-million-pound franchises being what they are, Makovsky’s costumes have a life far beyond the film – not to mention the thousands of fans who dissect her work on forums. Although it’s not the first time she’s seen little versions of her work running around – since past films, including Harry Potter, engendered a wealth of merchandise – how does it feel seeing her work worn in the form of dressing-up costumes by children everywhere?
“It’s fun,” she smiled. “The costume designers are actually not involved in merchandise so much – I wish they would involve us more – so sometimes you see a cheap copy and think ‘Oh!’ – but the Captain America ones look great.”
VARIETY – Scarlett Johansson action fantasy Lucy has made the best first-day bow of any Luc Besson film ever in the director’s native France.
Distribbed by Besson’s own EuropaCorp Distribution, Lucy nuked all opposition, taking a 43% market shasre and storming on Wednesday to 351, o54 tix sales off 615 copies, per CBO-BoxOffice.com: About $3.0 million in one-day gross box office. Figure does not include prior sneak-peak premieres.
Opening marks the best-ever first day for a Besson-directed movie – and many of the 55-year-old director’s titles have gone boffo in France – and the fourth-best first day of any film this year, only bettered by Fox’s How To Train Your Dragon 2 (427,234 admissions) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Dany Boon’s Superchondriac, distribbed by Pathe (367,153).
After Superchondriac, Lucy is the second best first day for any French film this decade.
Explanations for the boffo opening: Huge anticipation at Besson’s return to an action format, his first since 1997’s The Fifth Element; Johansson’s star turn; Lucy’s muscular U.S. debut.
“It’s a tremendous opening that confirms the good trend for French movies this year, after the huge success of comedies in the first semester (‘Serial (Bad) Weddings,’ and others), said Eric Marti at Rentrak.
“Lucy” will have to show long, long legs of course to equal Besson’s top-three hits in France with movies he’s directed, which are, per Rentrak: 1987’s Le gran bleu (9.2 million admissions); 1997’s The Fifth Element (7.7 million); 2005’s Arthur and the Invisibles (6.4 million).