This week in movie news:
10 amazing hidden details in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Descender comic book adaptation lands a writer; Fifty Shades Darker cast adds Bella Heathcoate; Paramount picks up DiCaprio vehicle Conquest; Demolition gets a second trailer; a Magic Tree House film is in development; Jessica Chastain will star in Sitting Bull drama; Michael Pitt and Imogen Poots will star in The Sleeping Shepherd; Eddie the Eagle Super Bowl TV commercial offers words of inspiration; Green Room gets a red band trailer; Rooney Mara is in talks for Mary Magdalene film; Keira Knightley may join Colette biopic; Finding Dory voice cast includes Michael Sheen; Family Guy writers sell new film, and Inside Out wins 10 Annie Awards.
Descender comic book adaptation lands a writer
Screenwriter Jesse Wigutow has signed on to write the film adaptation of Descender, the sci-fi comic book created by Jeff Lemire. The writer is finishing up work on a film based on Brian Michael Bendis' graphic novel Fire and recently did some rewriting work on Bad Santa 2, set to hit theaters this fall. He has also previously contributed to a Tron sequel as well as remakes of The Crow and The Osterman Weekend.
The story is set during a time when artificial intelligence and other robotic lifeforms are hunted down by bounty hunters and centers on one robot named TIM-21, who may hold to key to destroy the galaxy. Sony secured the film rights to the project about a year ago. At this early stage, there's no indication regarding which directors or actors are being considered.
Fifty Shades Darker cast adds Bella Heathcoate
Bella Heathcote has joined the cast of Fifty Shades Darker as Leila, a former lover of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). She marks the latest addition to director James Foley's film, following the recent announcement that Oscar winner Kim Basinger will appear as Elena, another one of Christian's ex-loves.
Dornan and Dakota Johnson are returning for the sequel -- which is set to hit theaters on February 10, 2017 -- and the final chapter in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed. Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford and Max Martini will also reprise their roles. The sequel is expected to be a major tentpole for Universal, as the first film brought in $560 million worldwide on a production budget of $40 million.
Paramount picks up DiCaprio vehicle Conquest
Paramount has acquired Conquest, a new film with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star and Mark L. Smith writing. Smith previously served as a co-writer on The Revenant, for which DiCaprio is heavily tipped to win his first Academy Award. Thus far, plot details have remained firmly under wraps, as has word on who else might be in line to join the project.
With Smith and DiCaprio's previous collaboration earning such acclaim, all eyes will be on Conquest. Smith's other writing credits include 2007 thriller Vacancy, The Hole from director Joe Dante (Gremlins) and last year's Martyrs, a remake of the French-Canadian horror film of the same name.
Demolition gets a second trailer
Fox Searchlight has released a second trailer for upcoming drama Demolition. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Davis, an investment banker who struggles to rebuild his life following the death of his wife. When a complaint letter evolves into a series of personal confessions, Davis's plight draws the attention of a customer service rep (Naomi Watts), and the pair establish a surprising connection.
Demolition is the latest film from director Jean-Marc Vallée and continues the filmmaker's focus on character-focused dramas. His last two films -- Reese Witherspoon vehicle Wild and Dallas Buyers Club -- garnered awards consideration, with the latter film snagging Oscar wins for stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. In recent years, Gyllenhaal has earned strong buzz for raw performances in films like the 2014 thriller Nightcrawler.
Source: Fox Searchlight
Magic Tree House film in development
Lionsgate has acquired the film rights to the 54-volume Magic Tree House book series by Mary Pope Osborne, with the intention of developing an ongoing series of live-action films based on the property. Osborne is attached to executive producer with her husband Will Osborne, though no other producers have yet joined the project.
Since their inception in the early 1990s, the Magic Tree House franchise has sold more than 130 million books and been translated into more than 35 languages, indicating that a film adaptation could certainly have legs with an international audience. The stories center on a brother and sister who are transported through history, thanks to a mysterious tree house filled with a collection of books.
Jessica Chastain will star in Sitting Bull drama
Jessica Chastain is in talks to headline Woman Walks Ahead, a new period drama. The actress would star as Caroline Weldon, a 19th-century artist and activist determined to help Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull fight for hit tribe's land. Steven Knight -- creator of Peaky Blinders and screenwriter of Tom Hardy drama Locke -- will write the film, and Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns) is attached to direct.
The project has been in development for more than a decade but appears to be finally gaining the traction it needs to enter production. Securing a star of Chastain's caliber will only help matters, as the two-time Oscar-nominated actress recently starred in both Ridley Scott's The Martian and Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak.
Michael Pitt and Imogen Poots will star in The Sleeping Shepherd
Michael Pitt (Hannibal) and Imogen Poots (Need for Speed) are set to lead The Sleeping Shepherd, an upcoming film from writer/director Frank Hudec. Meanwhile, Isabelle Huppert (Amour) and Willem Dafoe (John Wick) have also joined the film, which marks Hudec's first feature-length directorial effort since his 2000 dark romantic comedy Building Bombs.
Inspired by the true story of of art thief Stéphane Breitwieser, The Sleeping Shepherd centers on a failed painter named Alex (Pitt) who teams with rich girl Karoline (Poots) for an art-stealing trip throughout Europe. However, their crime spree is cut short when Alex is captured, leading his mother (Huppert) to launch a scheme to save her son's life.
Source: Solution Entertainment Group
Eddie the Eagle Super Bowl TV commercial offers words of inspiration
20th Century Fox has released a Super Bowl TV spot for its upcoming sports drama Eddie the Eagle. The film stars Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Michael "Eddie" Edwards, a British ski-jumper whose ambition to win ultimately took him all the way to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Hugh Jackman co-stars as Bronson Peary, Eddie's charismatic coach.
From the producers of Kingsman: The Secret Service, the film marks the latest vehicle for Egerton, who was the breakout star of that Matthew Vaughn film. Dexter Fletcher -- best known as an actor whose work includes an appearance in Vaughn's Kick-Ass -- serves as director for Eddie the Eagle, his third directorial effort to date.
Source: 20th Century Fox
Green Room gets a red band trailer
A24 Films has released a red band trailer for Green Room, the new film starring Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots. The project is written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the filmmaker behind acclaimed 2013 indie thriller Blue Ruin, and serves as his follow-up to that earlier release.
Chronicling the aftermath of a murder during a punk rock concert, the crime thriller is set to hit theaters in a limited release on April 1, 2016, before going wide on April 15. Green Room was screened at last year's Cannes Film Festival and is expected to continue Saulnier's focus on intense violence. Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Mark Webber are also slated to appear in the film.
Source: A24 Films
Rooney Mara is in talks for Mary Magdalene film
Rooney Mara is in talks to star as Mary Magdalene in the self-titled upcoming biopic directed by Garth Davis. The film is reportedly set to be a humanistic approach to the Biblical figure, who was one of the most loyal followers of Jesus Christ. The character has most memorably been played by actresses such as Barbara Hershey and Monica Bellucci in The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ, respectively.
Davis and Mara previously worked together on Davis' feature-length directorial debut, Lion, which is set to hit theaters by the end of this year. Mara is currently nominated for an Academy Award -- her second nomination -- for her performance in Todd Haynes' Carol. Her recent credits include Pan, Trash and Her.
Keira Knightley may join Colette biopic
Keira Knightley -- most recently seen in Everest -- is in talks to star as the French novelist who wrote Gigi and Cheri in the self-titled Colette. Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice) is attached to direct the film based on a script he co-wrote with Richard Glatzer. No word just yet on which other actors may be in line to join the project.
During her lifetime, Colette survived both World Wars and experienced the Nazi occupation of Paris firsthand. Her 1944 book "Gigi" became her most popular work and was adapted into a French film in 1949, followed by a Oscar-winning production a decade later. She has since become recognized as a major fixture in French literature.
Finding Dory voice cast includes Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen will lend his voice to Disney and Pixar's upcoming sequel, Finding Dory. The Masters of Sex actor recently revealed his involvement, though he did not offer any details regarding the character he will play in the film. Sheen will also return to the role of the White Rabbit in another Disney sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Finding Dory picks up the story a year after the events of 2003 hit Finding Nemo. As its title suggests, the film centers on fan-favorite Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) as she sets out to reunite with her family. The cast also includes returning stars Albert Brooks and Willem Dafoe as well as new additions Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy.
Source: Doug Loves Movies
Family Guy creators sell new film
Universal Pictures has acquired an untitled new comedy from Family Guy writers Wellesley Wild, Kevin Biggins and Mike Desilets. The film centers on a group of overweight fathers who re-evaluate their lifestyle when one of them suffers a heart attack. Universal previously released both Ted and Ted 2, directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and co-written by Wild.
In addition, Wild serves as an executive producer, writer and voice actor on Family Guy. Meanwhile, Biggins -- who has written for Tosh.0 and The Cleveland Show -- is a co-executive producer on the Fox animated series, for which Desilets is also a producer. The untitled new film will be produced by Bluegrass Films, the same company behind Matthew McConaughey's upcoming Civil War drama, Free State of Jones.
Source: Universal Pictures
Inside Out wins 10 Annie Awards
Disney and Pixar's critically acclaimed blockbuster Inside Out won 10 statuettes at this year's Annie Awards, which celebrate the best work done in animation. Directed by Pete Docter (Up), the film picked up awards for best animated feature, character animation, character design, music, production design, storyboarding, voice acting, writing and directing for Docter himself.
By contrast, Pixar's other 2015 release, The Good Dinosaur, earned only one award for its animated effects. Inside Out proved to be one of the highest-grossing films of 2015, with a worldwide box office gross of $856 million against a production budget of $175 million. Pixar's next film is this summer's Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory.