It’s The China Syndrome meets Three Mile Island. It’s Wall Street meets the Crash of ’87.

“On film and in real life, two pregnant 16-year-olds spark moral debate.” So reads a headline on a recent story by the Associated Press — referring, of course, to the revelation two days ago that Britney Spears’s sister Jamie Lynn is pregnant, and also to the movie Juno, which goes into wide release on Christmas Day after an enormously successful three weeks in limited release. Both of them were beaten to the punch, though, by Keisha Castle-Hughes, who also became pregnant at the age of 16 last year shortly after finishing work on The Nativity Story — in which she played perhaps the most famous pregnant teenager of them all.

Indiana Jones, Abner Ravenwood, John Hurt.

A week or two ago, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull producer Frank Marshall gave a couple of interviews in which he confirmed the identities of certain new characters, but as I mentioned at the time, he neglected to say anything about the character played by John Hurt — an actor who knows a thing or two about sci-fi and fantasy films, having worked on the original Alien, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, among others. (In that last case, I refer to the 1978 animated film, of course.)

It has long been speculated that Hurt is playing Abner Ravenwood, the father of Indy’s sometimes girlfriend Marion. Abner, an archaeologist who was obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant, was a friend of Indy’s until Indy had an affair with Marion, who was in her teens at the time. Ten years later, during the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indy came into contact with Marion again — and she told him Abner was dead.

But as they say, no character is really dead if you don’t see the body. And the interesting thing is, an early draft of the screenplay for Raiders apparently established that Abner’s body had not been found, not even by Marion:

She is almost on him when Indy looks up smiling. Marion stops, stares, shocked.
Hello, Marion.

She hits him with a solid right to the jaw, knocking him off the barstool on the floor. He rubs his jaw and smiles up at her.

Nice to see you, too.

Get up and get out.

(getting up)
Take it easy. I’m looking for your father.

Well you’re two years too late.

Indy’s attitude changes instantly. This is sad news. He is silent for a long time. Mahdlo comes in the front door and hurries forward when he sees Indy with Marion. He looks to her for guidance, but she stays him with a gesture.

Go home, Mahdlo. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Mahdlo is hesitant, but lays the axe handle on the bar and goes out. Indy has been barely aware of him. Now he settles again on the barstool. Marion has a vindictive look. She’ll let him stay, but she wants to inflict as much pain as possible.

What happened?

Avalanche. Up there. He was digging. What else? He spent his whole life digging. Dragging me all over this rotten earth. For what?

Do you find him?

Hell no. He’s buried where he was working. Probably preserved real good, too. In the snow.

So it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Abner could still be alive, in keeping with the spirit of the original film.

I bring that all up because Hurt just gave an interview to in which the possibility that he might be playing Abner Ravenwood came up, and … he didn’t confirm it, but didn’t deny it either. He did grin, though, apparently. And when they asked Hurt how much action his character sees in the new film, he replied, “Well, I’m all in the second half. I’m one of what I called the Famous Five. . . . It was Karen [Allen], me, Harrison [Ford], Shia [LaBeouf], and Ray Winstone, who is one of the Famous Five but dodgy.” So make of all that what you will.

Oh, and get this. While double-checking a couple of my references, I came across this site and others which allege that the character who gave Indy his first fedora hat — the mercenary who finds the Cross of Coronado and chases young Indy in the prologue to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) — was named Abner Ravenwood in early drafts of the script. Fascinating, if true.

More alleged details re: Terminator 4

Three months ago, producer James Middleton said the next Terminator movie would feature a new main character, and John Connor would be somewhere off to the side, “influencing” the new main character in much the same way that Jesus “influenced” the title character in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Then, two weeks ago, producers Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek seemed to scuttle that idea when they said that John Connor is a “very central character throughout the next trilogy” who will “lead our franchise forward.”

Today, however, Devin Faraci at says it looks like John Connor, despite being played by Christian Bale, really will be a minor character — at least in this particular film, which is titled Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.

Faraci says the main character in this next film will be a character named Marcus … and he passes on a lot of other details, too, so if you don’t want to know any potential spoilers, do not go to and do not read what Faraci has to say.

I will say, however, that the movie is reportedly set circa 2015 — which fits, since Bale is in his early 30s, and John Connor was born in 1985 — and since the movie deals with an earlier stage of the war against the machines, it looks like the humans might be fighting some of those earlier Terminator models that we heard about in the first film, i.e. the rubber-skinned ones.

Another movie based on real-life exorcisms.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

New Line Cinema has taken possession of “The Rite,” the true story of an American priest who studied at an exorcism school in Italy.

Contrafilm’s Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce a feature film based on the upcoming nonfiction book by Rome-based journalist Matt Baglio. Michael Petroni signed on to write the adapted screenplay before the writers strike. Fletcher & Parry Films will co-produce with Contrafilm.

Baglio was allowed to follow a young priest during months of training with a senior exorcist at a school affiliated with the Vatican. “Rite,” now subtitled “The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist,” is set for publication by Doubleday in early 2009.

Although the book is not finished and the screenplay won’t be completed until after the strike, the film is expected to include scenes of exorcisms based on the priest’s experiences.

Petroni is a natural fit for the material, having written screenplays involving the Catholic Church (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) and the supernatural (Yari Film Group’s upcoming “Possession”). . . .

I wonder how it will compare to films like The Exorcist (1973), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) or even Requiem (2006).

UPDATE: Carmen Andres at In the Open Space has rounded up some links on Baglio and on real-life exorcists in general.

Update on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

Two months ago, there was talk that Sean Penn and Heath Ledger might star in Terrence Malick‘s long-in-development “complex drama” Tree of Life. Now, Variety says Sean Penn and Brad Pitt are in talks to do the film — which is interesting, since some descriptions of the film have made it sound a little like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), which Pitt was once supposed to star in, until he dropped out shortly before production.

Peter Jackson to produce The Hobbit!

I slept in this morning — as much as the children climbing all over me would allow, that is — and haven’t checked my news feeds yet, but thanks to an e-mail from my friend Bruce, I now know that, according to the Associated Press, Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have patched things up and will work together on The Hobbit after all:

Jackson, who directed the “Rings” trilogy, will serve as executive producer for “The Hobbit.” A director for the prequel films has yet to be named. . . .

Two “Hobbit” films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, similar to how the three “Lord of the Rings” films were made. Production is set to begin in 2009 with a released planned for 2010, with the sequel scheduled for a 2011 release. . . .

And, hmmm, that last film would be arriving just in time for the 10th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the movie that started it all. Expect to see even more special editions on DVD, or Blu-Ray, or whatever format we’re all working with by then.

What I would like to know is where Saul Zaentz figures into all this. Zaentz got the film rights to Middle-Earth back in the 1970s, and has basically been leasing them to New Line all along. In 2006, he reportedly said that the film rights would revert to him “next year”, and thus Peter Jackson’s squabble with New Line wouldn’t matter any more. And just last week, he launched a new lawsuit against New Line over the profits from the existing trilogy. So … is Zaentz allowing these new movies to go ahead anyway? Or have the rights not reverted back to him yet, for whatever reason?

Oh, and can it be a coincidence that this development was announced less than two weeks after The Golden Compass became one of the biggest flops in New Line’s history?

As I was finishing this post, I got another e-mail, this time from the local New Line rep. It included a link to The Hobbit: The Official Movie Blog, which so far just has a copy of the press release announcing the two movies. If I see any other interesting details in my news feeds in the next day or so, I will update this post.

UPDATE: Reuters quotes MGM chairman Harry Sloane, whose studio is co-financing the Hobbit films, to the effect that Peter Jackson is “too busy” to direct The Hobbit himself, given that he is currently directing The Lovely Bones and he is also attached to Steven Spielberg’s Tintin trilogy — but Sloane says Jackson “doesn’t want the fans to have to wait for the next two movies”.

Elsewhere, David Poland at The Hot Blog says New Line is in a rush to get these movies made because “the end of rights” comes in 2010, which is a few years later than Zaentz seemed to indicate in that interview last year.

Poland also says the deal with Jackson can’t necessarily be construed as a reaction to the box-office failure of The Golden Compass, because New Line has been trying to patch things up with Jackson since the summer. But was not The Golden Compass well into post-production by then? And did not New Line seem to be panicking when, a few months ago, they began replacing actors and cutting off the film’s ending, etc.? Would it not be reasonable to assume, then, that New Line’s side of the negotiations was motivated to some degree by their dawning awareness that The Golden Compass would be a box-office disappointment?

And for what it’s worth, the New York Times says New Line paid Jackson nearly $40 million as part of the settlement.

Incidentally, I just realized that it was exactly six years ago tomorrow that The Fellowship of the Ring came out. Coincidence?

And a part of me really likes the fact that the first Hobbit film is slated to come out when my twins will be almost 5 years old — which, hopefully, will mean that the twins will be old enough to see these films in the theatre with the wife and me.