THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Michael Pitt, perhaps best known for playing a gangster on Boardwalk Empire, has nabbed the villain role in Ghost in the Shell, the adaptation of the manga series by DreamWorks.

Rupert Sanders is directing the long-in-the-works sci-fi movie, which is eyeing a late February start in New Zealand.

Scarlett Johansson is a special-ops cyborg in a task force named Section 9 that deals in the most dangerous criminals and extremists.

Pitt will play a character known as the Laughing Man in the manga. The antagonist is a bitter and vengeful man with a body that is part robot. He has a unique sense of style and has been described as a bad guy filtered through the lens of a street artist.

Pilou Asbæk is also in the cast.

Ari Arad, Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing the pic. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are executive producing. Jonathan Herman wrote the script.

Ghost in the Shell has a release date of March 31, 2017, with Paramount distributing worldwide.

Pitt also just signed on to star with Imogen Poots in indie art thriller The Sleeping Shepherd and is part of the ensemble cast of Criminal, a thriller which also features Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot and Gary Oldman.

Pitt is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Schreck Rose.

Labels: Ghost in the Shell, Projects

DEADLINE – Sam Riley is in early talks to star in DreamWorks’ Ghost In The Shell opposite Scarlett Johansson. No deal has been set yet and the situation is still fluid, but there is a desire from both sides for one to get made. Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) is directing with Paramount on board to co-finance the film, which is based on the bestselling Japanese sci-fi franchise.

The story follows a female special ops cyborg (Johansson) who leads a fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 for Hanka Robotics. The unit is devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, led by The Laughing Man (Riley) who will stop at nothing to destroy Hanka’s advancements in cyber technology. Johansson’s Lucy co-star Pilou Asbæk is also on-board to co-star.

Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing from a script by Jonathan Herman. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are exec producing.

Riley is currently set to star in SS:GB, the Len Deighton adaptation that James Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade have written. German director Philipp Kadelbach, who won plaudits and awards including the International Emmy for German World War II miniseries Generation War, is set to direct. The project, which is being exec produced by Sid Gentle’s Sally Woodward Gentle and produced by Patrick Schweitzer (Doctor Who), is set up at the BBC.

Riley is repped by Tavistock Wood Management and WME. He next stars in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which Martin Scorsese is exec producing and stars Brie Larson; and Burr Steers’ Pride And Prejudice And Zombies opposite Lily James.

Labels: Ghost in the Shell, Projects

EMPIRE – News about the controversial plans for a live-action remake of anime classic Ghost In The Shell has been thin on the ground of late. But with Scarlett Johansson does the press rounds for a little movie called Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the star of the planned project told Collider when the film will start shooting.

“It’s happening. It will be shooting the beginning of next year, so I think we start production January or February and it’s me and Rupert [Sanders]; and that’s all I know.”

Rupert Sanders is the director of Snow White And The Huntsman, and he’s working with producers Avi Arad and Steven Paul on the film which no doubt hopes to match the financial success of 2014’s Scarlett Johannsson action movie Lucy ($458 million worldwide).

The production rumbles on despite the understandable concerns of those who love Masamune Shirow’s original 1989 work, which spawned three manga editions, three films a TV series and several video games. Still, Ghost boasts a compelling story angle for the big screen: the focus is on Motoko Kusanagi (Johansson), a cyborg law enforcer and part of the member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission, which specialises in tackling technology-related crimes.

Live-action will be a tougher medium to work in than either the printed page or animation, but if James Cameron can find a way to shoot Avatar, it should be possible to make a good Ghost film. Assuming you can crack the story properly… And for more on that, and more on the original generally, be sure to read through our Ghost In The Shell crash course guide.

Labels: Ghost in the Shell, Projects

INDIEWIRE – You want to make an anime superfan upset? Tell them the live-action remake stars Scarlett Johansson, is coming from Disney, and will be directed by Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders. Now you can bug them for a couple more years about it.

The studio has slated the already semi-controversial Ghost in the Shell do-over for an April 14, 2017 release date. It parks the movie right between Pacific Rim 2 and Universal’s mystery monster movie project. Summer no longer stands alone as blockbuster season, in case you had any doubt.

Meanwhile, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book has been pushed back six months, to April 15, 2016, where it’ll square off against Goosebumps and The Best Man Wedding. Taking its place this year is the true story story drama, “The Finest Hours,” with Casey Affleck and Chris Pine. Now arriving on October 9th, does Disney smell Oscar for this one?

Lastly, David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon will breathe fire on August 12, 2016, where it will face stiff competition from raunchy comedy Bad Grandpa, raunchy animated movie Sausage Party, and Universal’s Spectral.

Labels: Ghost in the Shell, Projects, The Jungle Book

VARIETY – Following the success of Lucy, Scarlett Johansson looks ready to take on another action pic, this one coming from the world of Japanese anime.

Johansson is set to star in DreamWorks’ adaptation of the popular anime pic Ghost in the Shell. Deadline Hollywood had reported that the actress had the offer to star but at the time she was still undecided about taking the role. Sources now say she has agreed to star in the pic.

The story follows the exploits of a member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission that specializes in fighting technology-related crime.

Rupert Sanders is on board to direct. Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing the film from a script by Bill Wheeler. Mark Sourian is exec producing.

Insiders also tell Variety that Paramount has the option to come on as co-producer and financier and that decision is expected in the coming weeks.

DreamWorks principal Steven Spielberg is a huge fan of the original and has long wanted to get this film off the ground. A commitment from a star like Johansson should help in getting the pic greenlit for production.

Besides Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence, Johansson is becoming one of the few actresses in town with the clout to get a project greenlit on her name alone.

Lucy made $394 million worldwide and Johansson can be seen next in Avengers: Age of Ultron, bowing in May. Johansson has also done a nice job of balancing action-heavy tentpoles with serious dramas and comedies.

She received rave reviews for Spike Jonze’s Her and is a part of the ensemble of the Coen brothers’ next pic Hail, Caesar! She is repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment.

Labels: Ghost in the Shell, News, Projects
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