Adaptation: Rolls-Royce, Steve Jobs and Red Bull’s ‘Oliver Twist’ Go Hollywood


Will the product placements in this weekend’s Battleship sink the product placements ruling the box office in The Avengers? Check back here for the full Battleship product placement scorecard on Monday.

In the meantime, a slew of recent movie news confirms that Hollywood is cozying up to products, and finding compelling content in brand stories themselves, including competing Steve Jobs projects.[more]

It did not take long for a number of studios to move to cash in on the story of Steve Jobs and Apple’s early years. First, there was the announcement of Jobs: Get Inspired, a film whose producer says will focus “on the early years of Apple, its founding and the up and down years: 1971-2000.” So, expect a lot of Macintosh, not a lot of iPhone.

Some have questioned how much producers “thought different” when they cast Ashton Kutcher as the late Steve Jobs. In defense of the casting choice, producer Mark Hulme told

“Since our film covers the early years of Apple, when Jobs was in his 20’s, we needed an actor who could carry not only the youthfulness of Jobs at the time but also the psychological complexity.”

“Psychological complexity.” That 70s Show, Punked and Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher? “Psychological complexity?” Anyway, Hulme added that Kutcher agreed to the part in part because he is “a Steve Jobs and Apple fan.” Kutcher is also a tech investor and marketing master, showing no shame in using one job to promote his other interests. Last year, when Kutcher began his new role on Two and a Half Men, the star brought his own prop MacBook plastered with stickers for tech brands in which he just happened to have invested.

Even as it’s still shooting, the Kutcher-as-Jobs project is already as sad as a Mountain Dew Batman and as dated as an iPhone 3G. This week, famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin announced that he will be adapting the Jobs story for the screen for Sony Pictures. The last time Sorkin teamed with Sony to tell the story of a brand, the world got The Social Network, an Oscar nominee and the definitive Facebook movie. Sorkin will use Amazon’s best-selling book of 2011, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, as his source material. (The Social Network used bestseller The Accidental Billionaires as its basis.)

Apple, by way of the Steve Jobs story, isn’t the only brand to getting the high end Hollywood adaptation. This week it was also announced that directing icon Martin Scorsese would team with Lord Richard Attenborough to make Silver Ghost, a film retelling of the founding of Rolls-Royce.

Who knows where Scorsese will go with the story, but Rolls-Royce certainly must be pleased with such royal treatment. And if Scorsese plays his story right, he could even incorporate Hollywood’s hottest new product placement: China. In a development Charles Rolls and Henry Royce certainly never could have imagined, China is now the uber-luxury automaker’s largest market.

The last word on the subject of historical adaptations and brands is news that Red Bull is underwriting a retelling of the classic Dickens tale, Oliver Twist — using parkour, the sport of urban gymnastic running.

Indeed, what did Dickens mean when he wrote, “Noah writhed and twisted his body into an extensive variety of eel-like positions; thereby giving Mr. Bumble to understand that, from the violent and sanguinary onset of Oliver Twist, he had sustained severe internal injury and damage, from which he was at that moment suffering the acutest torture?”

“Please, sir, I want some more… Red Bull.”

Before any of these brand-friendly pictures hit a screen, audiences will be treated to Moscow 2017 ( a.k.a. “Branded”). The film describes itself as “a dark and mind-bending journey into a surreal, dystopian society where corporate brands have unleashed a monstrous global conspiracy to get inside our minds and keep the population disillusioned, dependent and passive.” Take a peek below.