With "Harry Potter" wrapped up, and the final "Twilight" film only nine months away, Hollywood's search for a new teen-friendly franchise is starting to become a matter of urgency. So far attempts to mine other young adult novels have been unsatisfactory both commercially and creatively (see: "I Am Number Four"), and many of the films launched into development, projects like potential Taylor Lautner vehicle "Incarceron," Screen Gems' "The Mortal Instruments," Jonathan Levine's "Legend" and Warner Bros' "The Scorpio Races," have thus far failed to get off the ground.
Still, hopes are high for "The Hunger Games," which hits theaters next month, and Warner Bros have a pair of projects on the way that they hope might be able to take up the mantle, for which they've just landed some key cast members. First up, a press release from Alcon Entertainment reveals that they've found the leads for their hopeful "Twilight" competition, "Beautiful Creatures," an adaptation of the novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which is being written and directed by Richard LaGravanese ("P.S. I Love You"). Imminent Oscar winner Viola Davis signed on to the project last week, and now the film has rising stars Jack O'Connell and Alice Englert as leads Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, two teens in the deep south who are drawn together by a strange connection and supernatural secrets (Davis will play Amma, Ethan's surrogate mother, who may know more than she's letting on about the mysteries).
Neither are household names, but both are firmly on the rise. O'Connell is a British actor who came to prominence, like Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel and Kaya Scodelario, on the TV series "Skins," but he might be the most talented of the bunch: he's got an earthy intensity that's seen him give strong performances in the likes of "Harry Brown" and TV drama "Dive," and he'll next star in the film "Private Peaceful," adapted from a book by "War Horse" author Michael Morpurgo. Alice Englert, meanwhile, is the daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion, who has a role in Roland Joffe's stalled "Singularity," and will soon star alongside Elle Fanning in Sally Potter's "Bomb."
While we can't say we're particularly intrigued by the source material (the log-lines are almost hilariously vague, referring to Others and Supernaturals), it's shaping up to be a more promising cast than most of these teen franchises carry, and while we can't say we love LaGravanese's directorial work, let's not forget that he was the writer behind "The Fisher King" and "The Ref," and hopefully he can turn out something a little more interesting. Alcon will release the film through Warner Bros, presumably some time in 2013.
Meanwhile Warners are also moving ahead on "The Seventh Son," their big-budget adaptation of Joseph Delaney's "The Last Apprentice" series of novels, and just added a new cast member. Directed by Sergei Bodrov ("Mongol"), the film stars Jeff Bridges as a grizzled witch-hunter who recruits a seventh son of a seventh son (Ben Barnes) to battle a particularly evil adversary (Julianne Moore), with rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander also in the cast. And according to Variety, "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington is in talks to join, as Bridges' former apprentice (who presumably either meets an early sticky end, or goes to the dark side).
It's something of a consolation prize for Harington, who plays Jon Snow on the HBO fantasy series. He had been cast late last year as King Arthur in the big-budget "Arthur & Lancelot" at the studio, opposite Joel Kinnaman, but the studio got nervous about a $130 million tentpole led by cable TV actors, and pulled the plug. Filming starts in April, and it will hit theaters on February 15, 2013.