Access 'Week In Geek' (April 17, 2010)

Paramount Pictures' 'Iron Man 2' Paramount Pictures' 'Iron Man 2'

JOSS WHEDON CLOSE TO HELMING “THE AVENGERS”

Perhaps the biggest scream heard across the Web this week wasn’t that Conan was heading to TBS and not FOX as expected, but rather that Fanboy God Joss Whedon has been all but officially announced to direct the mother of all Marvel’s movies, “The Avengers.”

While it had been widely reported earlier this month that he was on Marvel Studios’ short list to helm the team-up film, featuring the confirmed big screen heroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Nick Fury, this week, the trades suggested it was nearly a done deal.

Whedon’s TV geek card includes creating cult shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.” His Marvel geek card includes prior work on the “Astonishing X-Men” and also, an ultimately unfulfilled attempt at bringing DC Comics’ “Wonder Woman” to the big screen with producer Joel Silver.

It is likely that Joss will also do a script rewrite for the film.

With “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau possibly tapped to sit in “The Avengers” executive producer’s chair and all of the forthcoming Marvel films to set up the film’s main players before the ensemble project’s planned 2012 release, “The Avengers” looks like a solid score for fans’ growing expectations.

I guess it’s only a matter of time before Joss Whedon’s self-professed muse, Eliza Dushku (“Dollhouse” and “Buffy…”), finds her way into a still uncast major role in the expanding Marvel Universe. Maybe we can get past those rumors of Eva Longoria possibly playing The Wasp and focus on Eliza hopefully and eventually zeroing in on the role.

“THE HOBBIT” IS STILL NOT GREENLIT SAYS PETER JACKSON

While fans anxiously await a big screen return to the Middle Earth with JRR Tolkien’s earlier book, “The Hobbit,” they may be shocked to learn that Jackson revealed to Moviefone that the project still hasn’t been officially greenlit by MGM.

“I mean it’s sort of interesting because the studio [MGM] has never greenlit ‘The Hobbit,’ so therefore ‘The Hobbit’ has never been officially announced as a ‘go’ project, nor have we ever announced a date,” he said.

It is no secret that the earliest stages of pre-production are under way. Jackson previously said his intense work on the screenplays for the planned two-film adaptation of the prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” is what has slowed down the process in getting the project fully off the ground and running.

There is also some legal red tape to overcome on MGM’s part concerning their current financial woes.

While we all know the films will be hitting theatres in the eventual future, Jackson will be producing and handing the director’s chair over to Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). Once the films are released, it will then be about counting the box office receipts.

CAPTAIN AMERICA FINDS HIS LEADING LADY

British actress Hayley Atwell is the latest addition to the cast of “The First Avenger: Captain America.” She will be playing Peggy Carter and joining Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, and (reportedly) Hugo Weaving in the Joe Johnson directed film. Johnson, in an interview with EarthsMightiest.com, revealed that Chris Evans will be playing the title character Steve Rogers 100% both before and after he bulks up and transforms into the ultimate super soldier.

“Casting Captain America is really casting two roles… Steve Rogers before and after the transformation from 98-pound weakling to perfect physical specimen. I can’t divulge how we’re going to do it, but the performance will be Chris Evans from beginning to end,” he said.

CGI was used to make Sam Worthington’s real legs look frail for his wheelchair bound character in “Avatar” and both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were radically de-aged in flashback scenes in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” It should therefore come as no surprise that something big is being planned to allow Evans to go from the ultimate runt to the ultimate grunt in the span of a few movie scenes.

Johnson also told the Web site that Evans didn’t even need to read for the role.

“Chris didn’t audition at all. I was already familiar with everything he’d done and was championing his cause, not that I had a fight from the Marvel team,” he said. “They were fans of his as well.”

In the weeks prior to Evans’ (confirmed) casting, many of the possible final candidates on the list were met with mixed reviews amongst the fans. Chris, however, has been met with wide fan approval.

“MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE” PLOTS A TO RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN

The Hollywood Reporter broke news that “Predators” screenwriters Mike Finch and Alex Litvak have been tapped by Columbia to pen the script to the movie based on Mattel’s “Masters Of The Universe” franchise. You may recall Dolph Lundgren starred as He-Man in a disappointing 1987 theatrical version of the popular 80’s toy line and cartoon that also featured Frank Langella and a young, pre-“Friends” Courtney Cox. No word yet on which characters will return in this version, but it’s safe to assume He-Man and Skeletor will be back battling over control of the magical Castle Grayskull in a special effects heavy “300”-inspired update.

WWE MAY MAKE SY-FRIDAYS LESS (GENRE) COMPETITIVE

SyFy announced a changeup in its genre competitive Friday night programming. In October, WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” will move into the slot usually held by some of SyFy’s signature shows like “Stargate Atlantis,” and “Sanctuary.” The second half of “Caprica’s” first season will also not return to Friday and take its new home in the slot earlier in the week. The 2009 season so far on Friday night has been a brutal battleground for genre shows, with The CW’s “Smallville” also airing that night and FOX casualties “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” and “Dollhouse” seeing their second seasons as their last in their Friday timeslots.

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