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End of Week Production Notes 12/3/21: Alec Baldwin Speaks out on Rust Shooting, Early Awards Given, and More News

December 3, 2021 08:15 | By

Happy Friday!

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin (ABC News)

Last night, actor Alec Baldwin appeared on an ABC special, dubbed Alec Baldwin Unscripted, talking to long-time reporter George Stephanopoulos. On the taped special, Baldwin described a play-by-play for what happened on the fateful day when Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the set of the Baldwin-produced indie WesternRust, back in October. Baldwin said that the DP was guiding the actor to rehearse the scene while figuring out and “marking” her shooting angles. During the rehearsal, Baldwin said that the gun was aimed directly at the DP’s armpit. He had no knowledge of how live ammunition got into the gun and after the gun went off, there was a lot of confusion on set about what exactly had happened.

“I have been told by people who are in the know, in terms of even inside the state, that it’s highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally,” the actor said, although Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has not ruled out criminal charges as the investigation continues.

In case you missed it a few weeks ago, DP Dariusz Wolski, who was filming the 1994 film, The Crow, when Brandon Lee was fatally shot, gave Below the Line some insights about how he viewed the Rust shooting vis-à-vis his own experience. You can read that here if you did miss it.


Another thing that started this week is that various groups began handing out their annual film awards, which is often a good place for everyone else, either in the Academy or other guilds/societies, to get some idea of what they should watch before their own nominations voting begins later in December and then more in January.

LIcorice Pizza

A scene from Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA Releasing)

Normally, one of the first groups to vote following the Gotham Awards, the National Board of Review (NBR) (established in 1909!) gave its top two awards to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Licorice Pizza, which won for Best Picture and Director. Will Smith and Rachel Zegler won Best Actor and Actress for King Richard and West Side Story, respectively. The NBR did have one below-the-line award for cinematography, which went to Bruno Delbonnel for shooting Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth. The group’s top films were: BelfastDon’t Look UpDuneKing Richard, The Last Duel, Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and West Side Story. It’s an odd list with a few noticeable absences like The Power of the Dog and CODA, and five of the movies on the list have not been released yet and were probably screened for NBR on the later side (thus being fresher in mind).

A much newer and smaller (just 7 members!) group, the Sunset Circle gave out its own annual awards, which mainly went to Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune, which was deemed the Top Film by the group, as well as getting awarded for Villeneuve’s direction, the ensemble cast, the film’s cinematography (by Greg Fraser) and score (by Hans Zimmer) as well as a “Scene Stealer” award for Sharon Duncan-BrewsterAndrew Garfield won for Best Actor for his performance in the musical, Tick Tick… boom!, and Kristen Stewart won the corresponding actress award for SpencerJamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe received awards in the supporting categories for their performances in Kenneth Branagh‘s Belfast.

Two other groups released their film nominations this week, the Satellite awards from the International Press Academy (IPA), and the Hollywood Critics Association‘s (HCA) annual film nominations. Belfast (again) and Jane Campion‘s The Power of the Dog were among the nominees for the Satellites, although the group has the benefits of separate drama and comedy/musical categories (ala the Golden Globes), which allows far more actors and actresses to get nominations. Visual Effects Supervisor Joan Collins Carey became the first woman nominated for the group’s Tesla Award for Achievement in Filmmaking Technology.

The relatively new HCA included multiple nominations for DuneCODA, and Belfast with its top 10 films being (in alphabetical order):

Being the Ricardos
Belfast
CODA
Dune
King Richard
Last Night in Soho
Licorice Pizza
Spencer
The Power of The Dog
tick, tick…Boom!

The HCA will hand out their awards in a live ceremony at the Hollywood Avalon on Jan. 8, 2022.

It’s hard to determine how much any of the awards or nominations given out so far might affect the impending Oscar race, especially because it’s so, so early. Today, the New York Film Critics Circle will vote on their own awards, which are far more influential and prestigious, but they also can go off on their own tangent since this doesn’t seem like a year where we’ll have a consensus between critic groups. (We’ll report on the NYFCC and any other critic awards that come in over the weekend on Monday.)


Neil Phillips

Neil Phillips (HFPA)

Another person who spoke out this week (speaking of awards) was the Hollywood Foreign Press Association‘s (HFPA) new Chief Diversity Officer, Neal Phillips, who has found himself under great scrutiny since taking on that role for the group that hands out the annual Golden Globes but was slammed for its lack of diversity shortly after this year’s awards.  “Honestly, when I look across our country and see what diversity, equity and inclusion is demanding of organizations across the country, there’s so much of how the HFPA has been approaching this that I think is really wonderful,” Phillips said. “I mean, this is an organization that got called out because of missteps, transgression, and deservedly so. They should have been, and then they have responded.” That’s just part of the interview between the newly-appointed former pro basketball player said in an interview with Deadlinebut there are a lot of eyes on the group’s proposed change as it still plans on giving out its annual Golden Globes, even if it’s not aired on television.


Greenland

Gerard Butler in Greenland (STXfilms)

Actor Gerard Butler has begun filming his new action movie, Kandahar, in Saudi Arabia with director Ric Roman Waugh, and it will be the first major U.S. feature to shoot in that country’s Al Ula region. Regular readers might remember that we spoke with Waugh over a year ago about starting production up in Saudi Arabia, a feature you can read here.

The cast is being joined by Victoria & Abdul and Death On The Nile star Ali Fazal, and Navid Negahban from Homeland and 24. In the film produced by Thunder Road Films (John Wick) and Capstone, Butler stars as Tom Harris, an undercover CIA operative, stuck deep in hostile territory in Afghanistan who must fight his way out, alongside his Afghan translator, while avoiding the elite special forces tasked with hunting them down. It will be the third movie Butler has made with Waugh (following Angel Has Fallen and last year’s Greenland), whose next film, National Champions, will be released nationwide next Friday, Dec. 10.

Shortly after the casting of Nicolas Cage as Dracula in Universal Pictures‘ horror-comedy, Renfield, that movie’s cast is being joined by Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Awkwafina, although there’s no word on what her role might be. The Tomorrow War director Chris McKay is directing the spin-off from the classic Universal Monsters franchise, working from a story by producer Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), written by Ryan Ridley.

Kal Penn is going to produce and star in Superfan, a biopic of Nav Bhatia for Stampede Ventures, which will tell the story of the long-time fan of the Toronto Raptors basketball team who last year became the first fan to be included in the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame. Penn will play the Toronto-based Sikh immigrant Bhatia, whose loyalty to his local team saw him honored with a championship ring, as well as leading the team’s championship parade in 2019. Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jon Berg won the rights to Bhatia’s life story in a competitive situation, and they will produce Superfan alongside Penn and Dan Spilo of Industry Entertainment, with Rinku Ghei of Yellow Mango Films exec producing. The team is currently looking for a writer and director to tell Bhatia’s story.

“I’ve been researching and following Nav’s incredible story ever since I saw him at a Raptor’s game the year we started filming Designated Survivor in Toronto,” Penn said in a statement. “The crowd loves him – to see what a source of pride he is for Canadians – and all basketball fans, really – makes me smile. His story is one of unity, which I’m especially excited and proud to bring to life.”

Bhatia added, “I’m speechless. To have the opportunity to continue to tell my story with such esteemed producers is a dream. Then to find out Kal Penn has been brought on to play me is even more surreal. This is not something I can even dream of. He is one of my favorite actors and to know he also loves basketball is an added bonus. I’ll be teaching him all my tricks of the trade when distracting opposing players!”

Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor from Bridgerton will star in the film Fair Play, according to Deadline. The drama is the feature directorial debut of Ballers‘ Chloe Domont, who also wrote the script about a woman’s promotion at a cut-throat hedge fund, which sends her relationship with her male partner on a downward spiral that threatens to unravel far more than just their recent engagement. Star Thrower and T-Street are producing the film with the latter financing and production scheduled to begin filming in Serbia with Domont also acting as exec producer.

Jordana Brewster from the Fast and Furious movies and Sam Worthington (Avatar) are joining Luke Grimes in the sci-fi thriller, Hello Stranger, directed by April Mullen (Wander) from a screenplay from Ryan Christopher Churchill. Brewster will play Faye, who attempts to replace her recently dead husband, Evan (played by Grimes), with an android simulant (SIM). According to the tagline, “although SIM Evan appears like human Evan in every way, Faye does not feel the same love for SIM Evan as it does for her. SIM Evan tries to win Faye back, while at the same time, on-the-run from a government agent (played by Worthington) chasing down SIMS who have become “conscious,” and could potentially be a threat to humankind.” Hello Stranger is produced by Tim Doiron and James van der Woerd, who also produced Wander, in association with their production company Wango Films and Myriad’s Kirk D’Amico acting as executive producer.

Two-time SAG Award winner Laverne Cox is joining MCG‘s dystopian fantasy film, Uglies, being produced for Netflix and based on Scott Westerfeld’s bestseller. The cast currently includes star Joey King, and previously-announced Keith Powers, Brianne Tju, and Chase Stokes, and its story is set in “a world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty.” Cox’s role hasn’t been disclosed, but King is reported to play the novel’s lead, Tally Youngblood. The book was adapted by Krista Vernoff with John Davis and Jordan Davis (Jungle Cruise) producing for Davis Entertainment Company, along with Robyn Meisinger for Anonymous Content, Dan Spilo for Industry Entertainment, and McG and Mary Viola for Wonderland. King is exec producing alongside Jamie King, Westerfeld, and John Fox.

Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall in Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart (Searchlight)

Staying at Netflix, Scott Cooper‘s The Pale Blue Eye has added a fairly large cast, which includes Emmy winner Gillian AndersonLucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody), Timothy Spall, Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus), Robert DuvallCharlotte GainsbourgToby JonesHarry Lawtey (Industry), Simon McBurney (Carnival Row), Hadley Robinson (Moxie), Joey Brooks (Molly’s Game), Brennan Keel Cook (Encounter), Gideon Glick (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Matt Helm (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Steven Maier (The Plot Against America), and Charlie Tahan (Ozark). They join the previously announced Harry Melling and Christian Bale, the latter who has worked with Cooper in a number of films, similarly to Oscar-winner DuvallWritten and directed by Cooper, the film is based on Louis Bayard’s 2006 novel, a Gothic thriller that centers on a young cadet who would one day become known as Edgar Allan Poe (as played by Melling) and his investigation of a series of murders at Military Academy, West Point, in 1830. Bale will play the detective investigating the murders but no other information has been disclosed, including when or where the film might shoot.

Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), his production company Bazelevs, and Ara Keshishian‘s ZQ Entertainment are teaming up with the late Stan Lee‘s comic company POW! in order to bring Lee’s horror creations to the screen. The two projects called Sawbones and Carnival of Killers show the darker side of the creator of the likes of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four.

Sawbones “follows a frail 12-year old, Alex Covin, who reads a mysterious comic book and is transported into the comic’s terrifying world: a haunted Juvenile Detention Center overrun by demonic forces led by Sawbones, a homicidal entity who preys upon the troubled inmates. Has Alex gone insane? Or is this nightmarish world his new reality? If he is to escape, Alex must find a way to defeat Sawbones, but he quickly comes to realize that Sawbones is the keeper of his darkness and the personification of all his fears.”

Carnival of Killers is set amid the Dust Bowl storms that ravaged the American Great Plains in the 1930s, centering around a young girl with psychic abilities who senses that the traveling carnival she and her mother sought refuge in is ground zero for a looming alien invasion.

The writers for this “Stan Lee horror cinematic universe” are Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, directors of the recent remake of Stephen King‘s Pet Sematary and the indie Starry Eyes, who will write Carnival of Killers, while Matt Greenberg (1408) will write Sawbones. Majd Nassif of Bazelevs is also producing, along with ZQ Entertainment partners Keshishian and Petr Jakl, and Martin J Barab. Chaz Rainey will executive produce along with POW! Entertainment.

Remember that subscribing to Production Listings is a great way to keep abreast of your next potential job.


Cobie Smulders

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill (Photo: Marvel Studios)

It’s been confirmed by Deadline that Cobie Smulders will be reprising her role as former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill for Marvel Studios‘ upcoming Disney+ series, Secret Invasion, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn reprising his role as the Skrull Talos. The cast also includes Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Christopher McDonald, and Killian Scott.

Hulu‘s Only Murders in the Building has been one of the big streaming hits of this past summer, and the second season will be joined by actress Cara Delevingne from Carnival Rowe, playing Alice, a sophisticated art world insider who becomes enmeshed in the mystery.

Talk show host and filmmaker Jon Stewart is joining the cast of ABC’s next Live in front of a Studio Audience special, joining Jennifer Aniston, Gabrielle Union, Kathryn Hahn, and Allison Tolman for a “surprise role” in the reimagining of an episode of The Facts of Life. That will be paired with a live staging of its parent show, Diff’rent Strokes, which stars Kevin Hart, John Lithgow, and Damon Wayans, while Ann Dowd will appear in both episodes as Mrs. Garrett, the role originated by Charlotte Rae.

Cate Blanchett (who has been receiving raves for her performance in Guillermo del Toro‘s upcoming Nightmare Alley) and Oscar-winning actor Kevin Kline have been tapped to star in Alfonso Cuarón‘s Apple thriller series, Disclaimer, based on Renee Knight‘s novel. The project is the first series from the two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker of Roma and Gravity after signing an overall deal with Apple in 2019. Cuarón will write, direct and executive produce all episodes of the series, another first for him. Blanchett, who will also exec produce, will play Catherine Ravenscroft, “a successful and respected television documentary journalist whose work has been built on revealing the concealed transgressions of long-respected institutions. When an intriguing novel written by a widower, played by Kline, appears on her bedside table, she is horrified to realize she is a key character in a story that she had hoped was long buried in the past. A story that reveals her darkest secret. A secret she thought was hers alone.”

Disclaimer is produced by Cuarón’s Esperanto Filmoj and Anonymous Content, and it will be shot by Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) and Academy Award nominee Bruno Delbonnel. Cuarón serves as executive producer along with Esperanto Filmoj’s Gabriela Rodriguez and Anonymous Content’s David Levine, Dawn Olmstead, and the late Steve Golin. Renee Knight also serves as co-executive producer.

A couple new projects moving forward include Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches, which has received a series order and will be joining Interview with a Vampire on AMC and its streamer AMC+. Written and executive produced by Esta Spalding and Michelle Ashford and executive produced by Mark Johnson through his Gran Via Prods., the series comes out of AMC’s scripts-to-series model, a writers room that has produced the hour-long Invitation to a Bonfire and half-hour Demascus. Mayfair Witches is being developed for a late 2022 premiere.

Also, an Agatha Christie limited series based on Nina de Gramont‘s upcoming novel, The Christie Affair, is in the works at Miramax TV, exploring Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926 after her husband’s infidelity came to light.  British writer Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) is writing the adaptation. This “reimagining” of what happened is told through the eyes of her husband’s mistress, Nan O’Dea (a fictionalized version of the real Nancy Neele), who ends up becoming an unlikely ally with the award-winning mystery writer Agatha as the two hole up in the British spa town of Harrogate. Miramax will produce with The Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Rich Green, and DJ Goldberg. Miramax TV Head of Worldwide Television Marc Helwig said in a statement, “Nina de Gramont has written an astonishingly smart, layered and immersive novel, delivering a fascinating glimpse into history, with the astounding and peculiar disappearance of Agatha Christie. This story is reminiscent of one of Christie’s enigmatic works, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with Juliette Towhidi and our partners at The Gotham Group in bringing this truly captivating murder mystery to the screen.”


It’s another week without a ton of new trailers, although IFC Midnight did release the first look at its Jan. 7 horror release, See for Me, which will hit select theaters and VOD on that date.

That’s it for this week. Back on Monday with “Over the Weekend” although don’t expect too much excitement as we’re already starting to wind down for the holidays.