The Fall of Harvey Weinstein
Perhaps the biggest story of the year, the repercussions of which are ongoing, is the floodgate of sexual misconduct allegations opened against super-producer Harvey Weinstein in the wake of a New York Times interview with Ashley Judd. Dozens of other women came forward with their own horror stories dating back decades, leading to Weinstein’s instant disgrace and dismissal from the Weinstein Company. And Weinstein, it turned out, was only the tip of an unpleasant iceberg, with copious allegations against other high profile Hollywood men following: Brett Ratner, Louis CK and Kevin Spacey among them. The effects of the #MeToo hashtag were seismic.
Christopher Plummer replaces Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World
A knock-on effect of the above, director Ridley Scott took the extraordinary measure of scrambling to re-shoot every scene already completed with Kevin Spacey in his upcoming drama. Spacey’s entire performance as billionaire industrialist Jean Paul Getty was in the can, but with only weeks to go until the film’s January 2018 release date, Christopher Plummer stepped into replace him. Scott said Plummer had always been his first choice for the Getty role anyway, but the timing hadn’t originally worked. Spacey’s completed Netflix film about Gore Vidal has been shelved, meanwhile, and House Of Cards will continue into its eighth and final season without its former star.
Star Wars musical chairs
Everything seemed to be going well… until five months into shooting it wasn’t. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, previously the directors of The Lego Movie and the Jump Street films, ran into such insurmountable differences with Disney/Lucasfilm over the tone and direction of Han Solo: A Star Wars Story that they were ultimately fired. Ron Howard was parachuted in to reshoot parts of what had been done and complete what hadn’t. One known casualty of that was Michael K. Williams who couldn’t make the new schedule due to other engagements and therefore had his entire role chopped.
Just a couple of months later, the Curse of the Creative Difference struck the Star Wars universe again, with director Colin Trevorrow departing Episode IX. Sources cited a mismatch of visions between Trevorrow and the studio, and a personality clash with its head honcho Kathleen Kennedy. In this case it was The Force Awakens’ director J.J. Abrams, who gamely jumped back aboard to steer the erratic ship.
It smashes the box office
Incredibly, one of the biggest hits of the year is an R-rated (15 in the UK) horror movie. Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It currently ranks fifth in both the US and UK’s annual box office results, and tenth in the world overall, with a total haul of approaching $700m. Unadjusted for inflation, it’s officially the highest grossing horror movie of all time. Pennywise the clown clearly struck a lucrative vein. We’ll see whether his luck holds out in a couple of years’ time, when Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman return to pick up the other half of the book in It: Chapter 2.
Wonder Woman soars but Batman falters
The DC Movie Universe finally scored a commercial and critical hit with Wonder Woman in June. Audiences embraced Gal Gadot’s kick-ass Themysciran warrior princess to the tune of well north of $800m at the box office. Director Patty Jenkins has signed up for the sequel, currently slated for release in November, 2019. As the first female-led superhero movie of the current era, it was a welcome PR coup for DC, who beat arch-rivals Marvel to that particular punch. But elsewhere in the DCU it was business as hapless usual, with Justice League proving underwhelming (due to a messy production and Henry Cavill’s woeful CG-animated face), and Ben Affleck continuing to appear uncomfortable in the role of Batman. In January he dropped out of directing the standalone The Batman, with those duties eventually falling to War For The Planet Of The Apes’ Matt Reeves. And by November Affleck was expressing the desire to find a “graceful and cool way” to hang up the cowl permanently, after only two outings (plus that cameo in Suicide Squad). The rumour mill currently has Jake Gyllenhaal poised to step into his bat-boots the minute he vacates them.
Stallone quits Expendables but seizes Creed 2
Back in January, Sylvester Stallone announced that all systems were go on Expendables 4. But by April it was all off again: the action franchise’s key mover walking away from the whole shebang, reportedly over numerous disagreements with studio Nu Image / Millennium. Sly then opted instead to bring some of that old-timers vibe to the Creed sequel, which will see Dolph Lundgren’s Russian Rocky nemesis Ivan Drago returning to the ring. Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed (who was killed, you’ll remember, by Drago in the hoo-ra Rocky IV in 1985). With Creed’s original director Ryan Coogler busy with Marvel’s Black Panther (he remains part of the Creed family as an exec-producer), Stallone initially opted to produce, write, play Rocky in and direct Creed 2. He was, however, eventually dissauded from the latter by Michael B. Jordan and the suits at Warner Bros. The Land's Steven Caple Jr. took his place in the director's chair in December.
The La La Land / Moonlight Oscar ceremony balls-up
The 2017 Academy Awards Ceremony clattered to an ignominious climax in February, when the Oscar for Best Picture was initially awarded to the wrong film. Thanks to an embarrassing mix-up, the presenters of the award, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, initially congratulated the makers of La La Land, having mistakenly read out the contents of the envelope for Best Actress (which went to La La Land’s Emma Stone). The La La Land team duly bounded in delight to the stage, speeches were made, but then there followed minutes of confusion before La La Land’s producer, Jordan Horowitz, took the microphone to announce “This is not a joke; Moonlight won Best Picture.” The team behind Barry Jenkins’ drama then took the stage themselves for an awkward exchange of statues. On the sidelines, Ryan Gosling laughed…
James Cameron takes back the Terminator
Following two underperforming sequels (Salvation and Genisys), James Cameron has finally had enough of seeing his earliest success diminished, and has taken back some control of the Terminator franchise. He won’t be directing himself – that job has fallen initially to Deadpool’s Tim Miller – but he’ll be producing whatever comes next, and exercising a greater degree of control. His first order of business was to bring back Linda Hamilton, rendering everything that’s happened since T2 non-canonical. Cameron is also, of course, talking about a trilogy.
Prior to the Weinstein scandal, the issue that had the movie blog-and-twitterspheres exercised was ethnically clumsy casting in high-profile movies. In quick succession, Matt Damon was the protagonist of Zhang Yimou’s otherwise overwhelmingly Chinese The Great Wall; Scarlett Johansson took flak for starring as the (Japanese, more or less) Major in the live-action Ghost In The Shell; and Sofia Coppola had to explain why she’d entirely deleted a significant African American role from her version of The Beguiled (previously a novel and Don Siegel film with that character intact). A sign that studios and actors were finally listening came when Ed Skrein was cast in the new Hellboy as Major Ben Daimio: in the comics a character of mixed-Asian heritage. Laudably, Skrein withdrew from the film in short order when he realised the implications. "Representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people," he explained in a statement, "and to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts. I have decided to step down so that the role can be cast appropriately."
Denis Villeneuve attached to Dune
Hot on the heels of the first trailer for his stunning Blade Runner 2049 came the news that Denis Villeneuve was attaching himself to an equally iconic and arguably even more ambitious sci-fi property: Frank Herbert's Dune. Screenwriter Eric Roth came aboard in April to begin tackling the screenplay for Villeneuve and studio Legendary. Dune is, of course, the dense space opera involving the struggles of the Atreides family and the war for control of the desert planet Arrakis, home to both a valuable "Spice" that allows interstellar travel, and to deadly giant sandworms. The first novel in the original sequence of six (the narrative of which spans millennia) was previously attempted by Alejandro Jodorowsky and eventually achieved with qualified success by David Lynch. The heavy philosophical nature of Dune being subjected to any sort of blockbuster treatment is, at the very least, a huge challenge. But on the evidence of his work to date, Villeneuve is certainly the ideal candidate for the job.
David Gordon Greene & Danny McBride making new Halloween
Previously best known for their collaborations on stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride raised eyebrows sky high when it was announced they were the new team behind the venerable stalk-and-slash Halloween franchise. McBride, however, clarified that the pair were deadly serious. “We're definitely going to do a straight-up horror," he explained. "Halloween has always been one of my favorite movies of all time. There's a simplicity and an efficiency to that first one that I think allows the movies just to be scary as hell. And so Green and I, our approach is to get back to that." The film will follow on from the original Halloween II, ignoring everything since. Jamie Lee Curtis is returning (since her character, Laurie, now didn’t die, because H20 and Resurrection didn’t happen), and original director John Carpenter has, unusually, given the project his full support and blessing.
The long-developing Friday The 13th reboot, meanwhile, was shut down in February, mere weeks before Breck Eisner was due to start filming.
Valerian cripples EuropaCorp
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets was initially announced by its director Luc Besson as “The Fifth Element to the power of ten”. It turned out… not to be that, and the balls-out awfulness of his passion project ended up tanking his entire studio. Long a reliable profit-machine thanks to prolific meat-and-potatoes action hits like the Taken and Transporter franchises, EuropaCorp was forced to announce record losses in Valerian’s wake, leaving it “considering various options” to cut costs and raise money. CEO Marc Shmuger stepped down, with Besson taking back direct control of the studio while it tries to weather the storm.
Universal’s Dark Universe has a shaky start
Universal already has an extremely successful horror “shared universe” thanks to James Wan’s The Conjuring and its spin-offs (the Annabelle films; Corin Hardy’s upcoming The Nun; the mooted Crooked Man). But its attempt to revive its classic monsters roster fared less well. A high-profile official launch of the “Dark Universe” strand happened in advance of The Mummy’s premiere, with a glossy shot of an assembled Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella (from The Mummy), Johnny Depp (the intended Invisible Man), Javier Bardem (Frankenstein’s Monster) and Russell Crowe (Dr Jekyll, the Nick Fury-ish linking device for the individual films). Then The Mummy actually came out, to the great indifference of most critics and the cinema-going public who were far more interested in Wonder Woman. Bill Condon’s Bride Of Frankenstein remake was put on indefinite hiatus pending significant rewrites, and the Dark Universe’s creative overlords Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan walked away from the whole business. Universal is currently regrouping and rethinking how it moves forward.
Tom Hardy is Venom
Marvel have taken Spider-Man back in house with this year’s Homecoming, but those plans at Sony for some sort of separate Spider-based extended universe are still scuttling on. Specifically that means Venom remains a going-concern, and the surprise news in May was that Tom Hardy had signed on for the film’s lead, Eddie Brock: his first comic-book property since Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Hardy is, reportedly, a fan of the symbiotic alien that manifests as a black Spidey costume and requires a human host to wear it. He’s working on the voice as we speak. Probably.
Adam Wingard directing Godzilla Vs Kong
Like Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Gareth Edwards (and, in other franchises, the likes of Rian Johnson and Taika Waititi) before him, hitherto small-scale indie horror-hound Adam Wingard is making the leap to a massive corporate studio blockbuster. It’ll be the director of You’re Next, The Guest, Blair Witch and Netflix’s recent Death Note who calls the shots on the titanic battle of Godzilla Vs Kong: the fourth instalment in the series that began with Edwards’ Godzilla and continues through Vogt-Roberts’ bonkers Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King Of The Monsters. “The most important thing when you’re making this type of film is that it’s not about pushing against authority,” Wingard said, addressing the issue of independent directors like himself who’ve previously not fared well on multi-million dollar studio properties. “It’s about everybody getting on the same page. When you’re doing anything that involves a lot of money, it should not be an ‘us vs. them’ kind of thing. As long as you’re open to ideas when they come – and sometimes they’re good and sometimes you have to push back – it’s just about being able to communicate.”
Daniel Day-Lewis retires
Always an elusive and somewhat reclusive figure, Daniel Day Lewis this year finally announced his permanent retreat from the limelight. Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Phantom Thread will be his final film. In November he explained that his characteristic immersion in his role for the film had seen him “overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. It was hard to live with and it still is. It’s settled on me and is just there.” He said putting out an official statement was intended to draw a line under his decision, so that he doesn’t “get sucked back into” any further projects. “All my life I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting,” he said, “and I don’t know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion. It was something I had to do. I want to explore the world in a different way.”
Bryan Singer departs Freddie Mercury film
Another dramatic severing of a film from its director, Bryan Singer was fired by 20th Century Fox in December from the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Singer’s erratic behaviour on set had already been reported, with stories of him failing to show up – leaving cinematographer Thomas Newton Sigel to cover for him – and clashing with cast members, notably stars Rami Malek and Tom Hollander. Singer, for his part, claimed he’d been under immense pressure due to a family illness, and that Fox had been unreasonable in not giving him time to address a difficult personal situation. Dexter Fletcher was announced as Singer's replacement on December 7.
Daniel Craig returning as Bond in 2019
One of the most misquoted and misunderstood statements in recent times has been the business that Daniel Craig would “rather slash his wrists” than play Bond again. He never exactly said that. In the interview in question, he was saying that, immediately post-Spectre, he’d rather slash his wrists than dive straight into another Bond: he was exhausted with Bond and didn’t want to think about it again for a good long while. Well that while is now up, and after almost two years of speculation, Craig finally confirmed in August that he will return to play Her Majesty’s agent 007 for a fifth time, in a film that will surface in 2019. But Bond 25, he says, will be his last. “I think this is it. I just want to go out on a high note, and I can’t wait.”
Tarantino might make a Star Trek
Emphasis on “might”, but easily the biggest “wait, what?” moment of December so far has been the news that Quentin Tarantino has been having Star Trekkie conversations with studio Paramount and director J.J. Abrams. Cue innumerable “Say ‘Illogical’ one more time, motherfucker!”-type memes. The story is actually just that Tarantino has an idea for a Trek film. But when Tarantino has ideas, people listen, to the extent that Paramount has convened an impromptu writer’s room to crank out a script based on his thoughts. How it fits into the recent Star Trek movie timeline is as-yet unclear, although we appear to be looking at something with an R-rating, which might make it a peripheral, "darker" tangent to the main series. And we’re saying that producer and “story by” credits are much more likely than Tarantino boldly going himself. But still, it’s a thing.
2017 saw us saying our final farewells to: Roger Moore, John Hurt, Bill Paxton, Jonathan Demme, Adam West, William Peter Blatty, Miguel Ferrer, Michael Nyqvist, Martin Landau, Robert Hardy, Jerry Lewis, Tobe Hooper, Harry Dean Stanton, Om Puri, Gorden Kaye, Mary Tyler Moore, Tim Pigott-Smith, Michael Parks, Peter Sallis, Glenne Headly, John G. Avildsen, Stephen Furst, Sam Shepard, Jeanne Moreau, Robert Guillaume, and Johnny Hallyday.
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