A lot happened in 2013, even leaving aside the Edward Snowden revelations, the birth of a royal heir and that scary clown who popped up all over Northampton. We had announcements, surprises, the usual slew of big, exciting trailers and, of course, awards. Here, continuing our review of the year, we boil down the biggest stories in film…
J.J. ABRAMS TO DIRECT STAR WARS
The biggest announcement of the year was also one of the first, following the news a few months earlier that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and announced Star Wars: Episode VII. 2013 kicked off with word that after months of speculation (we kept track of the progress here) J.J. Abrams had been anointed director of the new movie. Despite telling Empire’s own editor Mark Dinning last year that he didn’t want the gig, lifelong Wars fan Abrams had been back and forth on the idea and was finally won over by Kathleen Kennedy. Begun, the torrent of tired lens flare jokes has.
What’s next? Though Michael Arndt wrote the first script, Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams himself took over that job late in 2013. It was revealed that the film will primarily shoot in the UK (apparently against the director’s wishes, who prefers to stay in LA near his family) and Abrams began a massive casting trawl to find new talent, while rumours kept flaring about Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprising their iconic roles. Names like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Saoirse Ronan have all been linked to new roles, but no official casting has been announced as yet.
CHRIS NOLAN GOES INTERSTELLAR
With his Batman trilogy complete, Chris Nolan was free to make whatever he wanted. In January, it was reported that he’d chosen to take up a project developed and considered by Steven Spielberg: sci-fi pic Interstellar. Written by Chris’s brother Jonah (the screenplay has since been modified with original ideas from the elder Nolan sibling), the film sees space scientists investigating wormholes and potentially other worlds. Nolan proceeded to wrap a shroud of silence around the project, but casting details still leaked, with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Nolan veteran Michael Caine all aboard.
What’s next? Nolan and his team are still hard at work on the movie, which is set to arrive on November 7, 2014. That’s right folks: We have less than a year to wait for this one. The trailer debuted before The Hobbit, so check it out here.
DUNCAN JONES IS DIRECTING WARCRAFT
Though he’d been dropping veiled hints via Twitter for a while before it was made official, news in January that Moon man Duncan Jones had nabbed the job of directing Warcraft was still a welcome 'surprise'. Originally developed by Sam Raimi (before he headed off to make Oz The Great And Powerful), the game adaptation had been waiting for a new director to come along, and Jones seems like just the man to do the sprawling fantasy epic justice. It also offers him a big step up from Source Code and supplies him with all the toys a director could want, and we can’t wait to see what he does with them.
What’s next? Jones surprised fans at Comic-Con with a “mood piece” that showed the feel he’s going for – think blasted desert, creeping dread and full-on combat – then concept art emerged online and it’s just been announced that the movie will shift from its planned December 18, 2015 release date to March 2016 after a certain space opera featuring an Empire landed in the original slot.
ARGO IS OSCAR'S BEST PICTURE
2013 at the Academy Awards was the year of Argo, Life Of Pi, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Les Misérables and Jennifer Lawrence as her typically adorable self (tripping up the stage on her way to collect Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook but styled it out impeccably). Though Ben Affleck’s latest directorial gig had been tipped to win awards, even he seemed surprised when it took Best Picture, while Daniel Day-Lewis picked up an inevitable Best Actor for Lincoln and Ang Li landed Best Director. We stayed up all night to watch the ceremony, hosted this year by Family Guy creator / Ted director Seth MacFarlane to some very mixed reviews.
What’s next? We’re now looking ahead to the 2014 ceremony, which Ellen DeGeneres will host on March 2 (nominations are announced January 16). Films that look likely to compete include 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club.
DISNEY PLAN NEW STAR WARS FILMS EVERY YEAR
In a move that seemed both surprising and somehow inevitable, Disney studio boss Alan Horn took to the stage at this year’s CinemaCon to announce that they would be producing a Star Wars film every year, with standalone adventures between each instalment of the planned main trilogy. Star Wars: Episode VII kicks off on December 18, 2015, and we know J.J. Abrams is in charge of that. Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan are the duo working on other ideas for spin-off movies to fill the gaps.
What’s next? Almost nothing has been said about the films since (you’d need the Bothan equivalent of James Bond to ferret out anything), but speculation has suggested that we can expect movies focusing on supporting characters like Boba Fett and, perhaps, a Han Solo prequel. The fact that Kasdan has moved to help Abrams write Episode VII may also have an impact.
DUMB & DUMBER TO IS BACK TO BUSINESS
It’s been 19 years since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels landed firmly on the silly side of that fine line between stupid and clever for Dumb & Dumber, and directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been promising a sequel for almost as long. After many false starts, things finally started moving in April as Universal struck a deal with production company Red Granite to fund the thing, and Carrey and Daniels were locked in. That title, a fingernail down the blackboard of the eye to grammar fans everywhere, was also set and appears immovable, despite tearful appeals from the entire Empire office.
What’s next? Carrey tweeted pics of himself and Daniels as dumbbells Lloyd and Harry, and we learned that Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Kathleen Turner and more will show up when the film arrives next November.
SAM MENDES CONFIRMED FOR BOND 24
Though he told us to our faces back in March that he wouldn’t return for the next Bond film, Sam Mendes was apparently able to juggle his schedule and changed his mind in the following months, with Sony officially confirming his return to the director’s chair in early July. "I am very pleased that by giving me the time I need to honour all my theatre commitments", Mendes said in a statement, "the producers have made it possible for me to direct Bond 24. I very much look forward to taking up the reins again, and to working with Daniel Craig, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a second time.” Skyfall fans everywhere echoed the sentiment and threw henchmen to the komodo dragons in celebration.
What’s next? The film will be out on October 23, 2015, but little else is known about it right now, beyond the likelihood that John Logan will be back on script duties and, of course, that Daniel Craig is still in the lead. That’s Bond for you...
ZACK SNYDER OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES SUPERMAN / BATMAN
Looking to regain some momentum (and attention) in the wake of Marvel’s super heroic team-up success, DC Comics and Warner Bros. went big at Comic-Con this year. Zack Snyder took the stage as the finale of the Warner panel to announce that the Man Of Steel sequel would feature the Caped Crusader as well as Henry Cavill’s Big Blue Boy Scout. With actor Harry Lennix on hand to read a quote from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns to set the mood – Snyder emphasised that it will not be an adaptation of that book – the stage is set for the two most iconic comic-book heroes out there to meet. DC fanboys have been on anti-hyperventilation medication ever since.
What’s next? As you’ll see shortly, the studio soon announced that they had found the new Dark Knight. Snyder also snuck in a couple of days of early shooting, but will film the lion’s share of the movie in Detroit in 2014.
AVENGERS SEQUEL SUBTITLE REVEALED
Marvel has a gift for playing to the crowd at Comic-Con, and 2013 was no exception. The casts of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy showed up en masse, and Tom Hiddleston went full Loki, blasting the roof off the place by appearing in character and demanding the fealty of all. But the second biggest cheer came when Joss Whedon arrived on stage to show a tiny teaser clip announcing that the Avengers sequel would be subtitled Age Of Ultron. Yes, next time the Avengers face a cyborg villain who is the creation of one of their own, but we’re expecting him to (nearly) prove a match for all of them.
What’s next? James Spader was thereafter announced to play the titular villain, while Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson will portray conflicted characters Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Oh, and Whedon will shoot the movie in the UK next year.
CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE IS ON FOR MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5
A fifth Mission: Impossible film was announced in May, with star/producer Tom Cruise set to return, and probably already dreaming of the giant buildings or other structures he was going to climb up, or jump off, or both. Shortly after that, Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce was confirmed as his screenwriter and, after a period of Twitter teasing, Christopher McQuarrie, who directed Cruise in Valkyrie and Jack Reacher, finally stripped off the lifelike mask he was wearing and revealed himself as the director (or something like that).
What’s next? It’s still early days, with McQuarrie scouting (high) locations and Pearce beavering away on the screenplay (Oi! Drew! Back to work!). Shooting is scheduled for next year, Simon Pegg will return as Benji and the film is pencilled in for release on Christmas Day, 2015, just one week after Star Wars: Episode VII.
BEN AFFLECK IS BATMAN
Talk about a reaction… When the news broke in August that Warner Bros. had chosen the next incumbent for the Dark Knight’s suit, the Internet lit up like a Christmas tree – and not always in a positive way: Ben Affleck’s anointing as the new Caped Crusader was met with a torrent of strong feelings, with many outrage-merchants protesting the decision (and several OTT petitions launched to “force” Warners to re-think the idea) while others shrugged and said that it seemed like a good idea. Since not a frame of Affleck as Bruce Wayne or Batman has been seen, it’s far too early to judge, and Daredevil is an unfair comparison, but we’re intrigued to see what he does with it.
What’s next? Zack Snyder starts shooting next year, while Affleck is also busy developing his next directorial project, Live By Night. 2014 is going to be a hectic year for him.
JURASSIC WORLD ROARS IN FOR 2015
The fourth Jurassic Park instalment has suffered through a thorny development process that saw it shoved back from a planned 2014 release into 2015. But in September, it all appeared that all is back on track, with the announcement not only of a solid release date (June 12, 2015 in the US), but what it was going to be called: Jurassic World. Sounds like director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow is aiming for something seriously large-scale – and this time we don’t just mean the T-Rexes.
What’s next? Trevorrow and his producers have begun casting the film, with news arriving that Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are all aboard, while Chris Pratt is still in negotiations to co-star.
J.K. ROWLING TO SCRIPT NEW MOVIE SET IN THE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
There was a surprise for Potter fans who were probably anticipating that the next time we saw the world of Harry and his magic mates would be in a reboot 30 years from now. J.K. Rowling announced in September that she’s working on a new film, based on Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, “written” by creature specialist Newt Scamander. "It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning Fantastic Beasts into a film," Rowling explained in a statement. "I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of Fantastic Beasts, realised by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt.”
What’s next? Little has been said since about the film, which is still in the development stage. We figure Warners will want to get moving on this as soon as Rowling is happy with the script, but for the moment we have only wild speculation as to its plot.
WONDER WOMAN WILL APPEAR IN BATMAN / SUPERMAN
As if our tiny geek minds weren’t already threatening to blow at the prospect of Batman and Superman in the same movie, Zack Snyder melted our skulls when he announced in December that Gal Gadot would be appearing in the still-untitled movie as Wonder Woman. Gadot, said the director, has “that magical quality” that makes her perfect for the role. She’s certainly gorgeous and exotic-looking, but beyond that we know little about the Fast 6 star’s approach to the character.
What’s next? We still don’t know whether Wonder Woman will play a major part in the plot or essentially have a glorified cameo, perhaps setting up a stand-alone tale or Justice League movie. We’re comforted by the fact that Snyder talked about “Wonder Woman” and not just “Diana Prince”, but that’s as much as our lasso of truth has revealed.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE IS COMING IN 2016
It began with a tweet from Bryan Singer, simply reading “#XMen #Apocalypse 2016!”. Soon confirmation followed that the sequel to 2014’s Days Of Future Past will be Apocalypse, and will feature the titular Big Bad, Apocalypse, who will not be an alien. The story will focus, Singer confirmed, on the First Class prequel team rather than the modern mutants of the original trilogy and the upcoming time-travel mash – but beyond that, it’s all still to play for.
What’s next? We probably won’t be able to guess too much about Apocalypse’s plot until we see how Days Of Future Past finishes next year: will there be a tie-in of some sort or, worse, a cliffhanger ending that builds to this? In the meantime, we’ll have eyes peeled for casting rumours and more info.