Monday, 24 May 2010

Tobey, Who?

James Franco has been cast as the lead in 20th Century Fox's tentpole feature RISE OF THE APES which will be directed by British filmmaker Rupert Wyatt who made 2008's acclaimed film THE ESCAPIST, and will follow APES with Working Title's prestige adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' BIRDSONG. Despite receiving numerous invites to press screenings of THE ESCAPIST, I never partook in watching it therefore cannot comment on its quality. I did however see Wyatt's 2004 short film GET THE PICTURE, which was well shot but not as compelling as it thought it was. However, he's now destined for very big things and for the studios to give him the honour of directing RISE OF THE APES validates their conviction in his talents as a filmmaker. RISE OF THE APES is a movie idea that is at once beguiling yet seems somewhat naff. The original screenplay is by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver who've written some decent scripts in the 90s but have been out of action for some time, was previously titled Cesar. It seems to be more of a reboot of Battle of the Planet of the Apes than a continuation of Tim Burton's vile remake; instead showcasing how the monkeys got all smart through genetic tinkering. The movie will start shooting within weeks as it has to make its allocated 24th June 2011 release date. Furthermore, unlike previous incarnations, this Apes movie will feature entirely CGI primates designed by New Zealand's WETA studios who'll go about constructing the monkeys with the same technology they used to create the Na'vi species in James Cameron's AVATAR. There's still no word from Fox as to whether the movie will be in 3D, but methinks that's probably a given considering the financial dividends to be reaped from the use of such technology.

Interestingly, James Franco was the studios second choice for the lead role as Tobey Maguire was eager to meet with Wyatt and the studio in order to see if this could be another franchise he could jump on board now that his SPIDERMAN commitments are over. Despite Tobey Maguire having starred in the SPIDERMAN movies, that series never seemed to have been successful solely because of Maguire's involvement. Tobey Maguire had been Sam Rami's favourite choice rather than Columbia Pictures', but when the movies struck platinum they just seemed to go along with whatever Sami Rami wanted, and in doing that allowed him to have too much creative control which resulted in the shitness of SPIDERMAN 3. Now Columbia Pictures will reboot the Spiderman series without the involvement of former key cast and crew. As a result, Tobey Maguire entered into talks with 20th Century Fox to star in RISE OF THE APES. The studio baulked when Maguire came back to the table with script notes. The conversations abruptly stopped and Fox moved quickly to close a deal with Franco. Had Tobey Maguire potent cinematic currency then I don't reckon that would have happened. Movie stars have real weight when it comes to getting script changes made.  The less pull you have, the less of a movie star you are.  When the mere mention of script notes gets a studio to flip a switch on you then they're looking at you as a replaceable part of the equation. I can't imagine the same thing happening to Will Smith, Brad Pitt or even Maguire's best mate Leonardo DiCaprio.

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