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HomeAwardsOver the Weekend 9/7/21: Michael K. Williams Dies, Marvel's Shang-Chi Scores Big,...

Over the Weekend 9/7/21: Michael K. Williams Dies, Marvel’s Shang-Chi Scores Big, and More News


Happy(ish) Tuesday!

As mentioned last week, we’re going to do just two news columns this week, today’s “Over the Weekend” for the four-day Labor Day weekend and then “End of Week Production Notes” on Friday.

In another rare move, I’m going to start the column with box office, because I just don’t feel like starting the week with this weekend’s most tragic news, because it’s very, very, very sad indeed. (It’s in the title, so you’ve probably figured out what it is.)

Simu Liu in Shang-Chi (Marvel/Disney)

Maybe it was no surprise or a little surprise to some, but Marvel Studios‘ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu and Awkwafina, didn’t just set a Labor Day weekend box office record, but it became the second-highest opening during the pandemic with some absolutely stunning numbers.

Going into the weekend with similar amazing reviews as other Marvel-produced projects — you can read my review here — Shang-Chi took in $8.8 million in Thursday previews — which was second only to Black Widow‘s opening previews during pandemic times. That was already pointing to a four-day weekend of $60 to 65 million, but when the Friday estimates came in at $29.6 million, the weekend estimate was upped to $71 million. By Monday morning, it became obvious that Shang-Chi did better on Sunday that its estimates, so the weekend estimate was upped to $75.5 million. That means the current four-day estimate for Shang-Chi is now $90 million, which is more than twice what some box office analysts thought it could make before the weekend.

Overseas, the Marvel movie grossed another $56.2 million in 41 international territories and $83.5 million including Monday, setting  a new $7.7 million pandemic record for the UK, which led all other markets that also included Japan, Russia, and France.

Michael K. Williams
Michael K. Williams in Lovecraft Country (HBO)

We might as well get to the bad (and truly tragic) news, and it’s that on Monday afternoon, actor Michael K. Williams, who blew people away with his performance as Omar Little on The Wire and other roles, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Monday afternoon at the age of 54.

Williams had already become an icon in the African-American community due to some of his memorable roles on shows and limited series like Boardwalk EmpireBessieThe Night Of, and Vice. He had just been nominated for his fifth Emmy for HBO‘s Lovecraft Country. The news was pretty shocking and heartbreaking to everyone who knew or even had met Williams — I had only interviewed him once myself — and the film and television community quickly took to social media to commemorate the beloved actor, including his The Wire co-star, Isiah WhitlockJr.and Director Travon Free.

Other deaths over the past few days included long-time weatherman Willard Scott, who appeared on The Today Show for 35 years, at the age of 87; and French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, best known for his role in Jean-Luc Godard‘s 1960 film, Breathless, who died at the age of 88.

Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch (L) and Jesse Plemmons in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog (Netflix)

This past weekend was the start of the September film festival season with the Venice International Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival both kicking off last week with many studios bringing their big fall awards movies to show for the first time.

Movies like Denis Villeneuve‘s DuneJane Campion‘s The Power of the DogPablo Larrain‘s SpencerWill Smith‘s King RichardKenneth Branagh‘s Belfast, and Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s The Lost Daughter — which reportedly could bring Olivia Colman back to the Oscars — received mostly rave reviews, putting them all into the awards talk mix for the next few months. Also premiering this past weekend was genre fare like  Edgar Wright‘s anticipated Last Night in Soho.

Just before the weekend, a newsletter was posted on Thursday by former THR editor and entertainment lawyer Matthew Belloni, as part of his popular What I’m Hearing… industry newsletter — which is going to be incorporated into the new media entity Puck very soon.  Thursday’s newsletter included an item about the “big Oscar changes,” which included horrifying rumors that the Academy might start screwing over some of the below-the-line categories by having them being declared during commercial breaks rather than during the actual show.

Belloni wrote,

“The board of governors isn’t meeting until October, but I’m told several award categories—almost certainly the short films and likely several below-the-line crafts—will be jettisoned to the pre-show or commercial breaks, with an “acknowledgement” on the main telecast. And other changes are coming to try to make the Oscars more of a celebration of movies and less about the specific films in contention, which, thanks to the increasingly niche tastes of Academy members, most people haven’t seen.”

One person who vehemently disagreed with Belloni’s take about these changes was Movie City News founder, David Poland, who posted a fairly lengthy Twitter thread with his feelings on the subject, which thankfully, he’s collected on Movie City News.

I can only imagine that Below the Line readers and the Governors of the various below-the-line chapters won’t allow these important categories be edged out of the main televised show, but the Governors won’t meet until October to make any decisions.

Also, over the weekend, director James Wan (whose new horror movie Malignant comes out this Friday) and actor Jason Momoa revealed Aquaman’s new “stealth” costume for the 2022 sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is currently filming. (You need to click on the right arrow in Momoa’s Insta story below, since he decided to post the costume from the end of 2018’s Aquaman for comparison.)


There  wasn’t much in terms of casting or development news this weekend, although Variety reported that Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood star Margaret Qualley is starring in the recently-wrapped dominatrix thriller, Sanctuary, with Christopher Abbott. The movie, directed by Zachary Wigon (The Heart Machine) and written by Micah Bloomberg (Homecoming), is set over the course of a single night, taking place in a hotel room while showing the interaction between Qualley’s dominatrix and her wealthy client, played by Abbott. The film was produced by David Lancaster and Stephanie Wilcox of Rumble Films with Ilya Stewart of Hype Film and Pavel Burian of Mosaic Films co-producing, while Charades is also producing and handling international sales rights. UTA Independent Film Group arranged financing and is handling U.S. sales.

According to Deadlinefilmmaker and actor Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) is writing the high fashion drama feature, Couture, with Sean Glover, and he is in early talks to direct it as well. Couture follows an iconic fashion designer whose empire must take a back seat to her daughter’s mental illness. We understand that the feature will bring to light the toll schizophrenia takes on teenagers and loved ones. Glover produces while Mary Aloe will executive produce on behalf of Aloe Entertainment (Worth, now streaming on Netflix), while Eric Kim, Ashok Reddy, Patrick Longworth, and Carlos J. Ramsey are EP’ing for 33 Degree Films.

It was also reported over the weekend that Emmy winning Fleabag actor/writer/producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge had dropped out of the Amazon series, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which she was also supposed to star in opposite Donald Glover, due to those far-too-frequent “creative differences.”  The series, which is currently being written, will start the recasting process for a new female lead for the series based on Doug Liman‘s 2005 action-thriller hit that starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as married assassins hired to kill the other.  Francesca Sloane is the co-creator and showrunner of the series that was meant to go into production next year. Both Waller-Bridge and Glover have overall deals with Amazon, and this series would have brought together the two hugely successful Emmy-winning creatives behind  BBC/Amazon’s Fleabag and FX‘s Atlanta, respectively.

Lastly, comedian and actor Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians) and Mexican actor Luis Gerardo Méndez  (Half Brothers) have joined the Kevin Hart Netflix comedy, Me Time.

You can keep tabs on all the projects above via our Production Listings, now available at a new low price.

Not so many trailers this weekend, but National Geographic did release the first trailer for The Rescue, the new doc from Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo) about the Thailand youth soccer team that got trapped in the Tham Luang cavern system in 2018 after a portion of the caves became flooded by a sudden heavy rain. Or rather, it’s about the brave heroes that rescued them. The doc debuted at the Telluride Film Festival over the weekend, as well, and will hit select theaters in October before being broadcast on NatGeo.

That’s it for today. No need for a “Hump Day News Update” tomorrow, so we’ll be back on Friday for the next news wrap-up.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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