HOLLYWOOD – Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly today confirmed that his next project will be a live action version of the Richard Adams children’s classic Watership Down.

Although an animated feature of Watership Down was made in 1978, this will be the first non-animation attempt to tell the story of Blackberry, Bigwig, Fiver and Hazel and their attempt to escape the murderous ravages of Man. The Southland Tales director spoke exclusively to Studio Exec:

I’ve been a fan of Richard Adams’ book since I read it when I was eleven. And I really like the cartoon, but I wanted to see what this would really look like. Plus I do have a thing about rabbits.   

So will you be using CGI, or real rabbits?

No, no CGI at all. And using real rabbits would be tricky. So I’m going old school. I’m going to have all the rabbits played by actors dressed in rabbit suits.

Erm. Wow!?

Yeah, I know. Fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hazel and Andy Serkis will play Bigwig. I didn’t actually want him, but there’s something in his contract that he gets first refusal for anything stupid. 

(Since the original publication of this story in 2013 it has come to our attention that BBC and Netflix are collaborating on a remake of Richard Adams’ book starring John Boyega, James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton. Whether or not Richard Kelly is involved in this project is unclear.)

Watership Down is slated for release in 2018. 


SOUTHPAW – REVIEW: Rocky 5 without the intellectual heft: Donnie Darko punches people, but when his True Detective Season 2 wife is killed Donnie feels like the Prince of Persia and needs the Ghost Dog Butler to help him buck his ideas up.

Boxing movies are weird because essentially boxing is one of those things which is chronically dull and violent, outside of the movie theater. With the one exception that proves the rule – Muhammad Ali – boxers are generally nasty pieces of work without the wit or will to say anything interesting. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy (The Great White) Hope, a light heavy weight fighter who is at the top of his game but with the encouragement of his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) has one eye on the door before he gets his ticket to Palookaville. They have a little daughter who is just lovely.

When his wife gets killed in a confusing and weird scene, Billy goes to pieces, loses everything including his mansion and daughter and must start once more from the bottom. He goes to an old gym where he finds old trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) and begins his arduous climb back to the big time.

Gyllenhaal, it has to be said, is excellent, but one wishes that Antoine Fuqua (nominative determinism anyone?) had put as much dedication into the picture as his lead. Fuqua loves his aerial shots of a city at night and he uses them with televisual regularity. The fights are well done but the story is so predictable as to be almost infuriating. The manager played by 50 Cent is so worthless that one of the other characters predicts his worthlessness a good twenty minutes before it proves to be so. The villainous fighter is an actual villain. Even Rocky had the good sense to see that Apollo Creed’s villainy was pantomime and to deconstruct it into a gay love affair by Rocky III. Nope, Billy’s Columbian rival Escobar (Jesus!) is as slimy as his namesake, with a skanky missus (Rita Ora) to boot and everything is strictly by the numbers. We have the training session, the inspired youngster, the trainer’s grumpiness acceding to respect and a seriousness of tone, totally out of keeping with the thin fare on offer.

There are more good boxing movies than there are good boxing matches – check out John Huston’s Fat City – but rather than light heavy weight, Southpaw is more bantam.

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HOLLYWOOD – ‘Actor’ Jake Gyllenhaal was arrested today following accusations that he had stolen Ben Affleck’s best acting beard.

The beard – which was thought by many to be responsible for Affleck’s Oscar triumph in Argo some years ago – had gone missing from the night stand by Affleck’s bed nine months ago. Fingers had immediately pointed at Jennifer Garner who many believed had been wearing it somewhere on her person in an attempt for Oscar recognition in her supporting role in Dallas Buyers Club, something she has vehemently denied. 

Suspicion then alighted on Gyllenhaal after Hugh Jackman told the press that ‘blinky’ [as he prefers to call Gyllenhaal] had loaned him a beard while they were filming Prisoners, but wouldn’t tell him from whence it came. Police were finally alerted on seeing Enemy in which Gyllenhaal wears not one but two beards! Gyllenhaal’s lawyers have denied he stole the chin herbage and has never even been to Hawaii. 

The case looks set to go to trial in August.