Hollywood Brief: Vin Diesel Wants The Rock Back; Leo DiCaprio Goes Mad! Jake Gyllenhaal Reboot?

Also, guest columnist Jeff Sneider asks: Did ”Eternals” director Chloe Zhao have target on her back

Here’s the stories that the industry is buzzing about this week and ones that they will be after reading this column.

Little Brother Dwayne

One of the best things Beck Bennett did before leaving Saturday Night Live was his impression of Vin Diesel as he welcomed audiences back to movie theaters for F9. It was absolutely genius, if only because it seemed to capture the very essence of Diesel, who dropped one of the all-time great Instagram posts this week in which he made an impassioned plea to his “little brother” Dwayne Johnson to return for Fast & Furious 10. Talk about putting someone on the spot! With his 76.2 million followers watching, Diesel reminded me of the kind of guy who would propose marriage on the Jumbotron at a baseball game.

“I say this out of love… but you must show up, do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can’t be played by no other. I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny,” wrote Diesel, who had to have known what he was doing here. Diesel will be 55 when Fast 10 sputters into theaters in April 2023, so when he says “the time has come,” it sure does sound like he’s ready to turn over the keys to the franchise.

What’s hilarious is the idea that Dwayne Johnson’s destiny is to reprise the role of Hobbs in a tenth Fast & Furious movie. After all, “Hobbs can’t be played by no other.” Is that some kind of subtle threat that the franchise could recast the role of Hobbs? The very idea is preposterous. But it does sound as though the story for Fast 10 calls for Hobbs to return. In which case, Johnson could command top dollar if he’s not already under contract.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room, which is the beef that went down between both beefcakes on the set of F8, after which Johnson vowed never to work with Diesel again. That’s why Johnson and Jason Statham wound up in the Hobbs & Shaw spinoff. The thing is, if I know DJ the way I think I do — and I call him DJ, so we must be close — he’s a true professional, and I do think he’d be willing to return for the sake of the franchise, especially if he uses it as leverage for a Hobbs & Shaw sequel, which seems unlikely at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Diesel’s own kids allegedly refer to Johnson as “Uncle Dwayne” — or that Uncle Dwayne could use a hit in the wake of disappointing box office for Jungle Cruise and poor reviews for Red Notice, which hits Netflix today.

Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Leonardo DiCaprio Wants You to Drink the Kool-Aid

Leonardo DiCaprio loves playing crazy people. The evidence is strewn about his filmography, from his turn as the sadistic Calvin Candie in Django Unchained to the real-life figures he has played, such as Howard HughesJ. Edgar HooverJordan Belfort and Frank Abagnale Jr. — each of them a little crazy in their own special way. And now it seems that DiCaprio has found his craziest role yet, as he’s set to play Jim Jones in a biopic about the charismatic cult leader, who led more than 900 followers to their deaths by encouraging them to drink cyanide as part of a mass murder-suicide in 1978. For the record, it was Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, so please pardon the headline.

It’s funny, the story that got me into movie news back in the late ’90s involved the tantalizing possibility that DiCaprio would star in American Psycho shortly after Titanic made him a mega-star. He ultimately backed out, leaving Christian Bale to benefit from the plum part, but the point is that Leo has long been drawn to the dark side. And it doesn’t get much darker than Jones, whose master plan for his Peoples Temple congregation resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilians in a deliberate act until 9/11.

MGM reportedly paid Venom scribe Scott Rosenberg seven figures for the script, and I can’t wait to see who DiCaprio taps to direct this one. Personally, I think he should be courting Cary Fukunaga, who is coming off of No Time to Die and Steven Spielberg‘s upcoming Apple series Masters of the Air. Whoever gets the gig should take a look at Ti West‘s The Sacrament for inspiration, as that was also based on the Jonestown Massacre, and it features a great performance from Gene Jones as “Father.” Jim Jones is another promising package for Amazon-bound MGM, and that wasn’t the only move the studio made this week…

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 06: Jake Gyllenhaal arrives at the 10th Annual LACMA ART+FILM GALA Presented By GucciLos Angeles County Museum of Art on November 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/FilmMagic)

The ’80s Are Back, Baby!

As they say in journalism, one is a story, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend. And the ’80s are trending hard these days. Within a span of 72 hours this week, we learned that Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to star in a remake of Road HouseRegina Hall would lead the long-gestating remake of Midnight Run, and Lizzy Caplan would play the terrifying Alex Forrest in a series reboot of Fatal Attraction. Those are three ’80s classics that some may consider untouchable, though I’d argue that each of these remakes was inevitable at some point.

Let’s start with Road House, which is a library title that MGM has long been eager to exploit, even attaching UFC fighter Ronda Rousey to star in a gender-flipped remake at one point. As one of the finest actors of his generation, Gyllenhaal would obviously represent a major upgrade, but the problem is that neither one of them is Patrick Swayze, who starred in the original film as Dalton, a bouncer at Missouri bar the Double Deuce. It’s unclear whether Gyllenhaal will play Dalton or a new character altogether, but either way, Swayze leaves big shoes to fill, though I certainly know better than to doubt Gyllenhaal. I’m just surprised to see him embracing action movie stardom between this remake and the upcoming Michael Bay movie Ambulance. Still, his casting is a coup for MGM, which will try to convince Doug Liman to shoot this movie before he heads off to outer space with Tom Cruise.

Next up is Midnight Run, which Universal has been trying to either sequel-ize or reboot for more than a decade. The original starred Robert De Niro as a bounty hunter who’s forced to take the long way in escorting an aerophobic white-collar criminal known as The Duke (Charles Grodin) across the country. At one point, De Niro was going to reprise his role opposite a hot comedy star of the moment (I remember a rumor about Jonah Hill), but De Niro is a bit too old to play a convincing bounty hunter these days, so he has agreed to take a backseat and simply produce the film — though a cameo wouldn’t be out of the question. Hall is a strong comedic actress (Girls TripBlack Monday, Scary Movie) and I imagine she’ll be playing the bounty hunter rather than the criminal.  Universal could always pair her back up with Tiffany Haddish. I guarantee that movie would turn out better than, say, Hot Pursuit. I’m just eager to see who the studio taps to direct this remake, though whoever lands the gig will surely be an upgrade over the last director on this project — Brett Ratner.

Which finally brings us to Fatal Attraction, which is being rebooted as a series for Paramount Plus. The original starred Michael Douglas as a man who has an affair with Glenn Close, who subsequently becomes obsessed with him. It’s one of the most terrifying films of the ’80s thanks to Close, whose iconic turn as jilted lover Alex Forrest was every bit as scary as the decade’s other boogeyman, Freddy Krueger. I shudder to think how many married men ended affairs after seeing that movie. A feature remake likely would’ve called for a bigger star, but Caplan strikes me as a good fit for this streaming series, and fans seemed to enjoy her take on another iconic female villain, Annie Wilkes from Misery, on Hulu’s Castle Rock. This is the kind of eye-grabbing project that will have a hard time being ignored in the streaming ecosphere, even on Paramount Plus.

 Did Eternals Director Chloe Zhao Have a Target On Her Back?

The new Marvel movie Eternals opened to a pretty solid $71 million last weekend but you wouldn’t know it from most of the media coverage I read, which focused on the film’s disappointing CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes rating — the lowest ever among MCU movies, in case you’ve managed to avoid that headline this week. It wasn’t long ago that the media was giving Dune props for eking out a $41 million opening at the domestic box office, but because this Marvel movie opened $9 million lower than Black Widow and $4 million lower than Shang-Chi, the sky is falling and Kevin Feige needs to start reevaluating his entire strategy? I don’t think so. Eternals performed exactly as it should have considering the fact that it didn’t boast an Avenger, nor did it have a proper villain, both of which seem to go a long way with audiences.

So why is there so much vitriol online, besides the fact that it’s a day ending with “y”? Is it because it hails from Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao, who stepped outside of her comfort zone to direct this CG-heavy superhero movie, though her critics framed that decision as selling out? Zhao was faced with a tall order, as she had to introduce 10 different protagonists from a relatively obscure Marvel comic book teeming with existential themes, all while making this story her own. Ultimately, I think Zhao bit off more than she could chew, though my personal opinion regarding the movie is irrelevant to my argument here.

It just seems like Zhao had a target on her back after winning a handful of Oscars for Nomadland. After all, how many directors collect that kind of hardware for a low-budget indie movie shot with a largely non-professional cast and then decide to follow such an artistic triumph with a big-budget studio assignment? It was an unexpected choice for Zhao, based on her past work, but it should open even more doors for Zhao, who I would’ve guessed would be eager to return to a smaller, more intimate project.

Alas, there are now rumors linking Zhao to the Star Wars movie that Feige is producing for Lucasfilm. It’s unclear whether there’s any truth to those rumors, though she strikes me as a better fit for that franchise than she proved to be with the MCU. Still, give her credit for delivering the year’s second-biggest global opening ($161.7 million), behind only F9 ($163 million). Notably, both of those films debuted exclusively in theaters. If Feige’s Star Wars movie is closer to the starting line than we think, perhaps it’ll take the place of Rogue Squadron, the Star Wars movie Patty Jenkins planned to direct for release in December 2023. Though the film remains scheduled for that date, production is being delayed, as Jenkins has other commitments. 

Could one of those commitments be Wonder Woman 3? Or is this all a cover? Did Lucasfilm get cold feet after Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t go over so well with fans, or is the company just stalling for time as it figures out to do with the Star Wars franchise on the big screen, which is at a very sensitive point right now, especially given how many name-brand characters are getting their own Star Wars shows on Disney Plus. Or perhaps Warner Bros. simply played the option card and asked Jenkins to focus on her Wonder Woman 3 duties? If only I had Diana’s Lasso of Truth to help me get to the bottom of these pressing questions.