Who: Will Smith to star in Focus for Warner Bros.; Kristen Stewart falls out.
Logline: An inexperienced female con artist teams with a more seasoned male counterpart.
Summer Slate: Smith can be seen in Sony’s After Earth, which bows May 31.
Why it Matters: When Smith comes on to a project, it has a ripple effect, and this film was no exception. In the past few years, the actor has reduced his workload by producing more projects, and taking on roles where he doesn’t carry the whole film. Lately, he has been zeroing in on more adult material, such as thriller The Accountant and Sony’s American Can. Warners has been looking for a star to headline Focus for some time (Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck had all been considered) and most insiders believed that without someone like Smith, the film might not have gotten the greenlight. For Smith, it could be a smart move to take a break from tentpoles and go back to movie-star mode.
PICTURE: Crimson Peak
Who: Benedict Cumberbatch and Jessica Chastain to co-star in Guillermo del Toro’s horror pic Crimson Peak.
Logline: Plot details are being kept under wraps.
Summer Slate: Cumberbatch plays the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, which bows May 16.
Why it Matters: It seemed to take forever for Chastain and Cumberbatch to finally commit after it was reported in January that Emma Stone and Charlie Hunnam would also star. But these are all actors whose stars are on the rise, and are now set for a movie that won’t shoot until January. By the time the pic is released — which could be as late as 2015 — Legendary could benefit from their higher profiles. Chastain has been boosted by back-to-back Oscar noms, while the other thesps are graduating to leading roles. By waiting, Legendary has booked four thesps whose quotes are likely to be higher by the time auds get a glimpse of Crimson Peak.
PICTURE: Fast & Furious 7
Who: James Wan tapped to direct Fast & Furious 7 after Justin Lin passed.
Logline: The picture’s storyline will revolve around the original group, including Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, who come back and get involved in a criminal matter.
Summer slate: Wan’s horror pic The Conjuring bows July 19.
Why it Matters: If Universal planned to hit the July 14, 2014, release date targeted for the sequel, then time was running out to close a director’s deal. It may seem rushed, but it makes sense for Fast 6 and Fast 7 to come out in back-to-back years. To keep the seventh installment fresh, it’s not advisable to deliver a product that has overstayed its welcome. Fast 7 marks Wan’s first crack at a big-budget action pic, after concentrating on lower-budget horror fare such as The Conjuring, which has been testing well for New Line. Wan also has a reputation for bringing in movies on or under budget — always a top consideration.
Who: Luke Evans to star in U’s Dracula.
Logline: The latest take on Dracula follows the tale of Prince Vlad, the inspiration for the character popularized by the Bram Stoker novel.
Summer slate:Evans plays the villain in Fast & Furious 6, bowing May 26.
Why it Matters: U is closely associated with classic horror, and even after blunders like The Wolfman, the studio is still interested in making chillers based on its classic properties. The studio has long wanted to get this hybrid pic off the ground. The original plan was to have Alex Proyas directing and Sam Worthington starring, but that was scrapped for a more fiscally conservative proposal that includes commercial director Gary Shore and rising star Evans. Keeping costs reined in is key to avoiding big-budget disappointments such as The Hulk. Evans’ profile could continue to grow in the meantime with upcoming roles in Fast & Furious 6 and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.