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HomeIndustry SectorFilmHump Day News Update 11/10/21: Dean Stockwell Dies, Jackson Sells Weta Digital,...

Hump Day News Update 11/10/21: Dean Stockwell Dies, Jackson Sells Weta Digital, Leo May Play Jim Jones, and More


It’s Wednesday, again, and that’s okay. We can get through this week, and in just two weeks, it’s Thanksgiving!

Dean Stockwell
Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group)

Starting off with some sad news that stage, television and film actor Dean Stockwell has died at the age of 85. According to sources, Stockwell died peacefully at home on the morning of Nov. 7 from natural causes. Stockwell had an amazing 70-year career that included 200 credits, but he was best known for playing Admiral Al Calavicci on the hit series, Quantum Leap, opposite Scott Bakula; Stockwell received four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe for that role. He also appeared in the Battlestar Galactica remake in the early 2000s, JAGThe Tony Danza Show, and NCIS: New Orleans. Those shows are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Stockwell’s vast television résumé.

Some of Stockwell’s most beloved film roles included starring in the title role of the 1948 film, The Boy with the Green Hair, as well as a role in David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet in 1986.

Stockwell’s Quantum Leap co-star Bakula released a heartfelt statement about his co-star:

“I met Dean at his audition for Quantum Leap in 1988. He had agreed to ‘read’ for the Network, I was already cast. We connected immediately and my career and my life were changed that day in Brandon Tartikoff’s office. How lucky were we to get him? A few months later he would be nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Married to the Mob, but he was stuck with us. Serendipity? All I know is, he never tried to get out or complain, he loved the role and the show and the rest was history.

He became a dear friend and a mentor and we grew very close over the next five, very intense years. Dean was such a passionate man…about life, his work, his art (he was an amazing artist!), his family, all kinds of causes, people, music, the planet, cigars, golf, and on and on! Having been a famous child actor, he had a soft spot for every young actor who came on our set. He was very protective of their rights and safety and always checked in with them to make sure that they were ok. His big hearted response to the kids made all of us take notice and be better guardians ourselves.

In spite of having a career that came and went several times during his seventy plus years in the business, he was always grateful and delighted to have the chance to keep working. The only time he ever complained was when we called him on the golf course and told him we were ready for him to come to work! He used to announce his presence on the sound stage (if we hadn’t already caught a whiff of cigar smoke trailing in behind him), with a bellowed, “The fun starts now!” Truer words were never spoken.

I loved him dearly and was honored to know him. He made me a better human being…”

Quantum Leap creator Donald Bellisario, who brought Stockwell onto Jag, said,

“Dean and I were both in our mid-fifties when I hired him to play the smart-mouthed hologram Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap. He had just been nominated for an Oscar for his role in Married to the Mob when our series premiered. His friends in the business were all puzzled by why, at the height of his feature career, he chose to do television. Once we started filming, I once asked him the same question. He said, “Work is work and I have a family to support.” And work he did. Along with Scott Bakula, Dean set the work ethic for the rest of the actors on the show.

Television films long hours, much longer than most of the feature films Dean had worked in. Yet he never complained…and if a star like Dean doesn’t complain, who can?

Dean brought a sense of fun to the set that lifted everyone’s spirits. He was constantly asked about the features he starred in and always took time to answer with stories like the one he told me:

As a child actor, he did a film with Errol Flynn. He recalled how they first met. He was walking toward a sound stage hand-in-hand with his mother and his teacher when Errol Flynn approached them. He said Errol ignored his mother, ignored his teacher, and stuck his hand out saying “Hi kid. Had your first f*ck, yet?” Dean said from that moment on, he knew he was in for a great time.

Dean was never that uncouth, but he always gave us a great time.

I shall miss him.”

You can read the New York Times obit for the beloved actor here.

Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit (New Line/MGM)
Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit (New Line/MGM)

Last night, it was announced that Peter Jackson has sold Weta Digital to 3D tech company Unity for a reported $1.62 billion, but if you’re a fan of the VFX done for just about every movie by Weta, never fear. That aspect of the company is going to be rebranding as WetaFX and will continue to exist as a standalone company with Jackson as majority owner and Prem Akkaraju will remain that company’s CEO with roughly 1,700 employees as that’s likely to become “one of Unity’s largest customers in the media and entertainment space.”

That deal might sound a little confusing for those who only know Weta for their VFX, but it’s also a highly-prolific tech development company responsible for all sorts of proprietary graphic and VFX tools, including Manuka, Lumberjack, Loki, Squid, Barbershop, HighDef, Koru and CityBuilder. The Unity deal also includes Weta’s foundational data platform for interoperable 3D art creation and a library of thousands of assets that the WetaFX team will continue to produce. The new company will include the 275 engineers who have developed the data platform and library of assets that are part of the package bought by Unity, and they will be housed in Unity Create and led by new SVP and General Manager, Marc Whitten. Subject to regulatory approvals, the deal is expected to close by year’s end.

As reported by Deadline, Oscar-winning A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio is in final talks to star in and produce Jim Jones, about the cult leader who led his followers to mass suicide on Nov. 18, 1978, in the movie for MGM PicturesScott Rosenberg (Venom) wrote the script, which MGM picked up preemptively for a reported seven-figure deal. Besides starring as the ’70s religious cult leader, DiCaprio will also produce through his Appian Way banner, along with Jennifer Davisson.

Patty Jenkins
Patty Jenkins (L) with Gal Gadot on the set of Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.)

If you had been looking forward to the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron movie that Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins had been developing for Lucasfilm, you may have to wait a little longer, since it has been removed from the studio’s production schedule, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  Jenkins’ movie was supposed to go into production in 2022 as the first Star Wars feature since 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but it looks like Jenkins and writer Matthew Robinson will need to work on development for a while longer. Presumably, Jenkins might also be able to shift her focus to developing and directing a third Wonder Woman movie, starring Gal Gadot, although the actress just signed onto Disney’s Snow White live-action film, directed by Marc Webb. Jenkins has also been developing a Cleopatra feature for Paramount.

Some better news for production is that James Gunn has begun production on the finale to his Marvel Studios trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the filmmaker posting a picture on Twitter of himself with his cast, including Chris Pratt (on the right with the baseball cap), Zoe Saldana (standing back to back with Pratt), Dave Bautista (kneeling with cap on left), as well as brother Sean Gunn (standing to James’ right in colorful shorts), as well as some of the new cast.

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen (Photo: Will Robson-Scott)

Following his Small Axe Anthology with the BBC and AmazonSteve McQueen has set up his next film, Blitz, at New Regency where he made his Oscar-winning Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, and the more recent follow-up, Widows. McQueen will write, direct and produce Blitz from an original idea with plot-specific being kept under wraps. New Regency will produce the film along with McQueen’s own Lammas Park along with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner from Working Title Films.

Universal is developing a remake of the 1988 Robert De Niro/Charles Grodin buddy comedy Midnight Run, and they’ve set Regina Hall from Girls Trip as its star and producer, working from a script by Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Aeysha Carr. Hall will be producing the project with Jesse Collins through his Jesse Collins Entertainment, although details of the new version are being kept under wraps other than it might be considered more a sequel than a remake. Whether that means we’ll see De Niro in some capacity is yet to be revealed, although De Niro is also producing with his Tribeca partner, Jane Rosenthal, while Berry Welsh will exec. produce for Tribeca. In the original movie, De Niro played Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter whose job it is to collect Grodin’s mob accountant, Jonathan Mardukas, and get him to Los Angeles, despite the latter’s fear of flying. Grodin died earlier this year.

Afghanistan-based dramas seem to be in style right now, with a number of projects in development — we’ve reported on one from director Guy Ritchie and Jake Gyllenhaal and another that will star Mark Wahlberg. Universal has bought an Afghanistan evacuation drama, written by George Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Adjustment Bureau), that currently has actors Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy attached to star. This one is based on the true story of three former special forces team members who jump back into the fray alongside their Afghan counterparts, to rescue families and allies left behind amid the rapid fall of Afghanistan last August. Jules Daly, Tatum and Hardy are all producing, along with Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan from Tatum’s Free Association, and Nolfi as exec. producer.

Also from Deadline, Netflix is doing an English-language version of the Korean dystopian thriller, Time to Hunt, the first time the streamer has remade one of its international films into English. It has also set Night Teeth director Adam Randall to helm the remake of the movie which debuted at Berlinale last year, as it follows a group of young people who are committing crimes in a near-future Korea hit by a financial crisis.

TriStar Pictures just set a Sept. 2022 release date for its historical drama, The Woman King, and the movie’s ensemble has now added four-time Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo, as well as Jimmy Odukoya, Thando Dlomo, and Jordan Bolger. The movie stars Oscar winner Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu, along with Lashana Lynch (from No Time to Die), Adrienne Warren, and John BoyegaGina Prince-Bythewood is directing from an original screenplay by Dana Stevens and current draft by Stevens and Prince-Bythewood with Cathy Schulman and her Welle Entertainment producing, as well as Davis and Julius Tennon of JuVee Productions and Maria Bello of Jack Blue Productions.

A few other studio pick-ups, including A24 picking up Nicole Holofcener‘s Beth & Don, which reunites the filmmakers with her Enough Said star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Holofcener is coming off her co-writing the incredible screenplay for Ridley Scott‘s The Last Duel, al0ng with Matt Damon and Ben AffleckBeth and Don will be Holofcener’s first film as a director since 2018’s The Land of Steady Habits.

Open Road has picked up the horror movie, Studio 666, which comes from Dave Grohl and his band, Foo Fighters, and the studio will give the film a wide release into over 2000 theaters on Feb. 25, 2022.

A friendly reminder that you can now subscribe to Production Listings at a new low rate, and it’s a great way to keep up with the projects mentioned here for those looking for their next job.

Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez in Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney+)

We have some wild TV news today, the first one following up from the news earlier this week that actor Emilio Estevez was departing from the Disney+ series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. Estevez released a VERY long statement to Deadline about his exit, saying that the problems didn’t come from his refusal to get a COVID vaccination but has more to do with creative and contractual differences.

His full statement is as follows:

“I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop.

I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution.

I want to address what transpired and clear up some falsehoods which appeared in an article regarding my decision to depart “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.”
In the final analysis, this was nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe an anti-vaccine position.

While I can’t speak for anyone else in regards to this polarizing, sensitive issue, I have my own lived experience.

In late February 2020, at the end of shooting the pilot for the “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” in Vancouver, I wasn’t feeling 100%. I chalked it up to being on a cold set and on an ice rink day after day.

I drove to Vancouver for the pilot, due to news of “an emerging disease,” which would eventually be known as “Covid 19.” My decision to drive there and back was to avoid mass crowds and international airports. I already started wearing face coverings, gloves and using hand sanitizer. I also genuinely love driving across and around America, as anyone who knows me can attest.

En route from Vancouver to Los Angeles I became noticeably ill. Once back in L.A. I begged several doctors to be tested for this new variant of flu. I was assured that “I didn’t meet the criteria,” or “There’s no way you have it.” After multiple efforts, I finally received a car side Covid 19 PCR test on March 13, 2020. I continued to become increasingly sick, suffering from fever, sweats, brain fog and mood swings.

On March 17, 2020, I got word I had indeed contracted Covid 19. Thankfully I refrained from visiting my elderly parents and others until I received my results. I had discussions with doctors and contact tracing personnel from the L.A. County Department of Health.

I suffered the summer and fall of 2020 from what we now know as “Long Haul Syndrome.”

As the show went back into production in August 2020, I reluctantly soldiered on, but was uncertain about how I would be safe on set. I questioned the wisdom of returning to make a tv show in the middle of a pandemic and how actors could be considered “essential workers.”

The show producers tried their best to assuage my fears of coming back to work. “You have natural immunity!” “You’ll be the safest one on set,” I was repeatedly told. Additionally, I was warned by my former reps about possible consequences and legal jeopardy I could face for not reporting to work as ordered.

So, I returned to Vancouver. I followed the Canadian quarantine mandate as well as the strict “Zone A” on set Covid protocols. I did not complain, nor did I release my diagnosis to the public. I wanted to try and preserve the show morale and be a leader, however, while still suffering from Long Haul Syndrome. The legacy of the franchise was more important to me than my own health.

In retrospect, I wrongly chose to protect the show over being transparent about having contracted Covid-19. I may have provided another public example to wit, how we are all vulnerable to this deadly disease.

The quoted “anonymous sources,” producers and show runners all know the truth.

Simply put, I am anti-bully.

My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences – any other narrative is false.

To the fans of the franchise – I am as disappointed as you are.

To my “Ducks” cast and crew – have a wonderful Season 2 on the show and please know that I will miss you all.

It was an honor and a thrill to be able to return as the iconic and beloved character, Gordon Bombay, a character which has been a celebrated benchmark in my 40 year career. And I thank the studio and the producers for creating an opportunity to allow me to visit him again.

Ducks Fly Together!

If you weren’t floored by that, you might be by the next bit of news, and that’s about something we’re dubbing, “Alanis: The Sitcom.” Indeed, the popular pop and rock star, Alanis Morissette, whose multi-platinum ’90s record, Jagged Little Pill has had a 30th-anniversary resurgence with a tour and hit Broadway musical of the same name, is the inspiration for the new ABC comedy series, Relatable, from The Goldbergs Supervising Producer Elizabeth Beckwith and Marlon Co-creator Christopher Moynihan.  Morissette herself is exec producing and writing original music for the series in development at ABC via 20th Television, producing in association with Thruline Entertainment (The GreatPsych) and Morissette’s management Crush Music, which also reps the likes of Miley Cyrus, Green Day, and Weezer. Relatable is a single-camera comedy “about a 40-something woman, married with three kids, who spent her young adult life as an international rock star, famous for her self-penned anthems of female rage and teen angst. Now this ‘voice of her generation,’ although deeply bonded with her family, can’t quite get the next generation living in her house to listen to her.” Although the characters of the series are said to be fictional, Morissette’s life will “loosely inform” the stories and writing.

Kim Cattrall is keeping busy after opting out of HBO’s Sex and the City spin-off reunion, And Just Like That…. Last week, she signed on as a narrator role for Hulu’s How I Met Your Father spin-off, and now she’s joining Peacock‘s reboot of Queer as Folk in a recurring guest starring role. Cattrall joins the cast of Ryan O’Connell, Jesse James Keitel, Candace Grace, Johnny Sibilly, Devin Way, and Fin Argus. She will play a “martini-soaked, high-society Southern debutant with trailer park roots in the series.” The series is a reimagining of the hit British series from Russell T. Davies that the Comcast streamer picked up in April, this one following the lives of a diverse group of friends in New Orleans whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy. Showtime previously aired a Pittsburgh set remake from 2000 to 2005.

Cattrall joins previously announced cast members Netflix also continues to adapt popular anime series and cartoons into live-action series with the Avatar: The Last Airbender series we’ve mentioned a few times, the recently-released Cowboy Bebop series, and also a Gundam series in production. The next anime-based live-action series is for the 10-episode One Piece, and the streamer has found its Monkey D. Luffy in Who Killed Sara?’s Iñaki GodoyOne Piece follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew as they explore a fantastical world of endless oceans and exotic islands in search of the world’s ultimate treasure known as “One Piece” to become the next Pirate King. Joining the cast as Luffy’s pirate crew aboard the Thousand Sunny are Mackenyu (Ruroni Kenshin: Final Chapter), Emily Rudd (Fear Street), Jacob Romero Gibson (All Rise), and Taz Skylar (Boiling Point). The series comes from Tomorrow Studios (Cowboy Bebop) and One Piece publisher Shueisha.

HBO Max has announced the full cast of its lifeguard drama pilot, Ke Nui Road from John WellsAnimal Kingdom writer Matt Kester, and Warner Bros. Television. Written by Kester and directed by Wells, it’s a contemporary drama set on the North Shore of Oahu, focusing on the relationships between an elite crew of heavy-water lifeguards and the teens and young adults they mentor and train in the junior lifeguard program. The junior guards’ program embodies the beauty, the danger, the struggle, and the spirit of aloha — all centered on the ocean — that is modern Hawaii. The cast includes Robbie Magasiva, Andrew Creer, Tessa de Josselin, Kekoa Scott Kekumano (The White Lotus), Koa Tom, Rachel Ogechi Kanu (My Best Friend’s Exorcism), Z’aree Pu’ukani Loganbill, Ethan Rich (Hawaiian Vacation), and George Mason (The Power of the Dog) all set as series regulars if the WarnerMedia streamer decides to greenlight it as a series.

Jeff Wilbusch (OsloBreathe) will lead David E. Kelley‘s new Peacock series, The Missing, an eight-episode crime drama based on Israeli crime writer Dror A. Mishani’s international bestseller, The Missing File. Wilbusch will play Avraham Avraham, an NYPD detective with the 77th precinct on the show, of which Kelley is showrunner and exec. producer. Detective Avraham’s “belief in mankind is his superpower when it comes to uncovering the truth. Guided by a deep sense of spirituality and religious principles, Avraham is left to question his own humanity when a seemingly routine investigation turns upside down.”

Three more actors have joined the Starz John Wick prequel series, The Continental, joining stars Colin Woodell and Mel Gibson, including Peter Greene (Training Day), Ayomide Adegun, and Jeremy Bobb (Russian Doll). The Continental will be presented as a three-night special event TV series, produced for Starz by Lionsgate Television.

Two shows that did very well on premium cable in the past week are Showtime’s Dexter revival, Dexter: New Blood, and the fourth season debut of Paramount Network‘s popular show, Yellowstone. The former premiered with 2.2 million viewers for Showtime, becoming the network’s most-watched debut ever, while the Paramount cable network’s Yellowstone premiered with 8 million viewers, smashing and setting a number of records previously set by the Season 3 debut of the series. For comparison, the 4th season opener for HBO’s Game of Thrones only brought in 6.6 million viewers. It’s also the most-watched telecast since an episode of AMC‘s The Walking Dead in 2018.

Also from Viacom, the recent Star Trek: Prodigy series has been picked up for a second season by Paramount+, while CBS has also unveiled its midseason schedule that will feature the return of the COVID-delayed The Amazing Race with a two-hour premiere on Weds., Jan. 5, and that will be followed by the new hospital drama Good Sam, starring Sophia Bush and Jason Isaacs, the latter claiming the time slot of the 10-episode CSI: Vegas revival. The network has yet to release the dates for its comedy, Smallwood, and new reality competition series, Come Dance With Me, but both are expected to launch midseason, as well.

Just this morning, Amazon Prime Video released the first full-length trailer for Aaron Sorkin‘s Being the Ricardos, starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who appeared on television as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo during its earliest flagship days, most notably on I Love Lucy.

Our other two new trailers today are for movies opening next week on Nov. 19, and they’re both movies from directors whom Below the Line sat down with for interviews recently, so expect those soon. First up is the reboot/sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, directed by Jason Reitman, which we previously reviewed. That stars Finn WolfhardMcKenna GraceCarrie Coon, and Paul Rudd.

Next, we have the new film from Oscar nominee Mike Mills (Beginners20th Century Women), as A24 released the second trailer for his film, C’mon, C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix and newcomer Woody Norman, as well as Gaby Hoffman.

That’s it for now. Back for more news on Friday in the “End of Week Production Notes” but make sure to check out Neil Turitz‘s new “Accidental Turitz” column today and the debut of a brand-new column tomorrow.

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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