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End of Week Production Notes 2/5/21: Sundance Sales, Fantastic Beasts Pause, A New Franken-Vision, and More News


Summer of Soul
Summer of Soul (Courtesy: Searchlight/Sundance)

This was a week for festivals and awards as the Sundance Film Festival wound down with some of the big jury and audience prizes going to Sian Heder‘s amazing dramedy Coda — short for “Child of Deaf Adult,” and Ahmir “QuestLove” Thompson‘s directorial debut, Summer of Love (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), an amazing doc about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. In fact, Searchlight Studios and Hulu just teamed up to buy Summer of Soul for some kind of hybrid of theatrical and streaming. Personally, I think it’s going to be a huge hit for the studios — heck, I even think it might win the Oscar for documentary in 2022, but it’s still very early, obviously. In the meantime, Coda was picked up by Apple TV+ for a whopping $25 million. That’s a lot of iPhone sales.

As far as other awards this week, the Golden Globe nominations were announced, as were the Screen Actors Guild nominations, the Writers Guild TV and radio nominations, and one of the newer critics groups, the Hollywood Critics Association and this year’s Academy Sci-Tech Awards. At times, it felt like the industry was barreling like a freight train in a way we haven’t seen in almost a year. But it’s Friday now and as we all prepare for the weekend, things settle down with only a few news items.

Fantastic Beasts
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had a production being shut down or put on pause due to COVID-19, but that was the case with Warner Bros‘ Fantastic Beasts 3, which had been filming just outside London at Warner Bros. Leavesden for the past few months. Warner Bros. sent out the statement earlier in the week that someone in the cast or crew had tested positive without being specific:

“A team member from Fantastic Beasts 3 has tested positive for COVID-19. The diagnosis was confirmed as a result of required and ongoing testing that all production employees receive, and the team member is currently in isolation. Out of an abundance of caution, Fantastic Beasts 3 paused production and will be back up in accordance with safety guidelines.”

On the other end of things, word is out that Marvel Studios has begun location filming for the oddly-titled Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania (aka Ant-Man 3), once again starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly and directed by Peyton Reed. They’ve begun filming in Turkey of all places, specifically in a place called Cappadocia, which sounds like a Marvel Universe locale.

Emma Stone
Photo courtesy Searchlight

Although last week was all about the reunions, there was one more announced this week as Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos will reteam with his Oscar-nominated The Favourite star, Emma Stone, for a female-centric reimagining of the Frankenstein mythos called Poor Things. Presumably a comedy, the project is being produced by London’s Element Pictures with Searchlight Pictures (who released the duo’s previous film) with Lanthimos directing from a script he co-wrote with Tony McNamara (who co-wrote The Favourite). It’s gearing up to begin filming in the fall, and the synopsis from Production Listings is:

Ostensibly the memoirs of late-19th-century Glasgow physician Archibald McCandless, the narrative follows the bizarre life of oversexed, volatile Bella Baxter, an emancipated woman and a female Frankenstein. Bella is not her real name; as Victorian Blessington, she drowned herself to escape her abusive husband, but a surgeon removed the brain from the fetus she was carrying and placed it in her skull, resucitating her. The revived Bella has the mental age of a child. Engaged to marry McCandless, she chloroforms him and runs off with a shady lawyer who takes her on a whirlwind adventure, hopping from Alexandria to Odessa to a Parisian brothel. As her brain matures, Bella develops a social conscience, but her rescheduled nuptials to Archie are cut short when she is recognized as Victoria by her lawful husband, Gen. Sir Aubrey Blessington.

Fresh off his thriller Fatale and with his horror film Don’t Fear, made during the COVID pandemic, on the way, Director Deon Taylor has stepped up to direct Freedom Ride, a movie centered around the late U.S. Congressman and activist John Lewis’s movement to desegregate the Deep South in 1961. Taylor co-wrote the film with Steven Vosburgh and Dusdi Fissette based on first-person accounts from a dozen of the original Freedom Riders, including Lewis. The film will be produced by Matthew Rhodes from The Hideaway EntertainmentINDE Companies‘ Kim LeadfordMark R. Harris and Taylor’s Hidden Empire Film Group partner and wife, Roxanne Avent Taylor. Taylor and his other partner, Robert F. Smith, will be executive producers, along with Civil Rights lawyer Benjamin Crump and Brooklyn Media. The package is going out to distributors with hopes to begin filming in summer.

Although Jon M. Chu stepped away from directing the pilot of Disney+’s planned Willow sequel/spin-off, he signed on to direct his next movie musical, one based on the hugely successful Broadway musical Wicked, which producers and studios have been trying to make into a movie for over a decade. Chu’s film has been set up at Universal Studios with the Step Up 3D director taking over for Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot).

Chu went onto social media, specifically Twitter, to celebrate taking on the musical Wizard of Oz prequel and asking for suggestions on the casting. Of course, original Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth should play a role, right?

He also shared his love for the original musical: “Most of my life I have felt out of place, weird and different. I hid behind my camera because people liked to be filmed and I could disappear. When I saw Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s ‘Wicked’ over 15 years ago as it was being workshopped in San Francisco I couldn’t un-see it. So to think that I have been invited to bring this timeless story to the biggest screens all around the world for people to experience with their family, best friends and total strangers… of all walks of life, ages, shapes and colors is like I’ve been invited to Oz by the Wizard himself.”

Incidentally, if you want to keep up with those and other projects in development and production, make sure to subscribe to our Production Listings.

For this week’s trailer, we have a second look at the comedy sequel Coming 2 America, once again starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow). The sequel to the 1988 comedy hit was produced by Paramount Pictures but then sold to Amazon Prime Video for a reported $200 million. It will debut on the streamer on March 5, and you can watch the new trailer to see if they made a good deal.

Enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday!

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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