The colossal failure of motion-capture animation “Mars Needs Moms,” and the subsequent cancellation by Disney on the planned performance capture remake of “Yellow Submarine,” seems to have given Robert Zemeckis, something of a pioneer of the format, pause for thought. The director of mega-hits like “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump” hasn’t made a live action picture since 2000’s double bill of “What Lies Beneath” and “Cast Away,” but recent months have seen him linked to any number of potential projects starring real people, rather than dead-eyed facsimiles, including a remake of “The Wizard of Oz” (not happening, thank God), “The Man of Steel,” a sequel to “Roger Rabbit,” and long-gestating time travel romance “Replay.”
Zemeckis looks to have finally picked his next project, airline pilot drama “Flight,” with Denzel Washington, which will start shooting this fall, but it seems like he might be lining something up for after that: The Hollywood Reporter talked to Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks‘ partner in Playtone Productions, at the ScreenSingapore festival, where he revealed that Hanks may be reteaming with his director on “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away” for a big-budget 3D adaptation of the retro toy “Major Matt Mason“.
Mason was a Mattel astronaut toy, popular for about a decade in the golden age of the space race, a childhood favorite of Hanks’s, and arguably a major influence on Buzz Lightyear in the “Toy Story” franchise. Mason and his companions could be pitched against a series of bizarre aliens including Captain Lazer, Callisto and Or. Playtone have had the rights to the character for a couple of years, but the reports of Zemeckis’ involvement is the first concrete movement on the film. The script is by Hanks himself, and “Speed” and “Justified” writer Graham Yost — should Zemeckis sign on, the plan is that the film will be a $100 million dollar space adventure, shot in 3D. While the idea of yet another movie based on a toy makes us sigh a little (and we’re doubtful that the property means much to anyone but nostalgic baby boomers), a retro space flick could be kind of fun, if Zemeckis can get his mojo back.
Playtone are fairly busy at the moment: Hanks’ sophomore directorial feature “Larry Crowne” opens July 1st, and, as previously reported, the company are also prepping a movie version of “Green Day” musical “American Idiot” with original director Michael Mayer, as script from “Milk” Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black, and the band’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong taking one of the roles, as he did on Broadway. But perhaps the most intriguing prospect they have on the slate is the HBO adaptation of the Neil Gaiman fantasy novel “American Gods.”
That was announced a few months back, with veteran DoP Robert Richardson (“The Aviator,” “Inglourious Basterds“) writing and executive producing alongside Gaiman himself. Some more concrete details on the project, which involves a ex-convict who becomes embroiled in a brewing war between traditional mythological Gods, and newer deities, have emerged, with Goetzman confirming that, rather than a “Mildred Pierce“-style miniseries, the intention is that “American Gods” will be an ongoing series, lasting six seasons of 10-12 hour long episodes, with a hefty $35-40 million budget.
Unsurprisingly considering its subject matter, the series will be effects-heavy, with Goetzman telling THR that “There are some crazy things in there. We’ll probably be doing more effects in there than it’s been done on a television series.” Gaiman fans shouldn’t hold their breath, however: the show won’t debut on HBO until 2013 at the very earliest.