Newsbites: Del Toro! Mary! Rambo! Childhood!

Newsbites: Del Toro! Mary! Rambo! Childhood! January 8, 2008

Time for a few more quick news links.

1. Guillermo Del Toro once said that he had declined the opportunity to direct The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) because, as a lapsed Catholic, he did not want to make a movie in which Aslan died and came back to life. But now, he tells the MTV Movies Blog he would like to direct the film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows … and while I won’t get into any spoilers, let’s just say that there are many Christian fans of the book who might find this a tad ironic.

2. Scarlett Johansson can’t get enough of the Tudors. Her turn as one of Henry VIII’s mistresses in The Other Boleyn Girl won’t hit theatres until the end of February, but already, Variety reports that she has signed on for the lead role in Philip Noyce’s Mary Queen of Scots. The character was played by Samantha Morton just a few months ago in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

3. A suite of themes from Rambo IV is now up at composer Brian Tyler’s MySpace page. They sound decent enough.

4. MTV Movies Blog says Kimberly Peirce, director of Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and the upcoming Stop Loss, wants to make a film version of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

First published in 1953, Childhood’s End is partly about the appearance on Earth of benevolent aliens who happen to resemble the traditional folkloric depictions of devils. The idea that we should not be prejudiced against good aliens who happen to look like demons was later picked up by Star Trek (1966-1969), where Mister Spock was occasionally compared to Satan; an entire episode of the animated series (1973-1974) even posited that Lucifer himself was just a misunderstood extra-terrestrial.

Childhood’s End is also one of Clarke’s earlier explorations of the idea that humanity needs to evolve to the next phase of its existence, and that this might be done with help from outer space; the best-known articulation of this theme is, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; my comments), which Clarke co-wrote with Stanley Kubrick. It has been years since I read Childhood’s End, but as I recall, this theme is handled quite poignantly there.

5. Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily is reporting that there has been a major shake-up at Walden Media:

Sources are telling me that Walden Media let go many many staff. I’m told among those exiting are head of production Alex Schwartz and Executive VP Jackie Levine as well as the physical production department, public relations staff, music staff, legal staff, etc. Cary Granat will retain his CEO title but his reign is over and he’s now marginalized to just overseeing Narnia and other Walden franchises and some already “go” movies. CFO David Weil stays and oversees. The speculation is that Walden is bringing in a new head of production to develop a new slate and a new team.

You may recall that, three months ago, Variety ran a story asserting that Walden was poised to challenge Disney’s dominance in the family-movie field. But since then, Disney has had great success with The Game Plan ($89.5 million), Enchanted ($119.8 million so far) and National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($170.9 million so far), while Walden has stalled with The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising ($8.8 million), Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium ($31.4 million) and The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep ($31.2 million so far) — though admittedly, within the next week, The Water Horse should pass Because of Winn-Dixie (2005, $32.6 million) to become Walden’s fifth-highest-grossing film ever.

At any rate, you can’t help wondering if the current “shake-up” at Walden is related to the company’s disappointing performance since that Variety article was published a few months ago.

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