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Hump Day News Update 8/4/21: Investigation Finds NY Governor Cuomo Guilty, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Sets Premiere, and More News

August 4, 2021 08:15 | By
Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo courtesy MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann)

What a day we had yesterday, at least here in New York, where Mayor Bill DeBlasio called for all indoor entertainment to require vaccination, including restaurants, gyms, bars, and clubs. The Mayor, who is serving his final term, said that concessions will be made for children under 12 who can’t get vaccinated, and the state’s current Excelsior Pass will be joined by a city-specific vaccine passport app, as well as one for those vaccinated visiting from other states.

One hour later, an investigation by Attorney General Letitia James into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo found that the governor had sexually harassed several aides, violating federal and state law.

Many called on Cuomo to resign, including his long-time foil, DeBlasio, President Joe Biden and other top officials, to which Cuomo responded, agaain saying that he didn’t touch anyone inappropriately

Hearing the charges of Cuomo’s infractions got many people angry, but Cuomo’s response was so cringe-worthy, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be finishing his term as New York Governor which ends in 2022.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “But what the heck does this have to do with production, Ed?” I guess we’ll have to see who replaces Cuomo, but New York has always considered itself an important place for the arts and specifically production (considered “essential” during the majority of the pandemic), so we’ll see if Cuomo’s inevitable replacement keeps up those traditions.


Westworld

Westworld (HBO)

Two of the productions halted due to positive COVID cases returned to work as HBO‘s Westworld, and the HBO Max movie, House Party, both got back on track after being paused. Westworld had a two-day shutdown last month, but production began last week, shooting at the Melody Ranch Studio in Newhall, California, where the series has filmed previous seasons.

New Line‘s update of the classic ’90s comedy, House Party, shut down out of an abundance of caution last week but resumed this past Monday night. Although there were nine positive cases of COVID on the production, there were people who never arrived on set and tested positive during “pre-employment.”

Also, Netflix‘s Bridgerton resumed filming of its second season after a number of shutdowns, including an indefinite in mid-July due to several positive COVID cases. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen told Variety“We are back underway. We had to delay because of COVID, but we’re back in it. Right now I’m in post, editing our first couple episodes, which are looking great.”

Continuing our COVID and vaccination coverage, the Sundance Film Festival announced yesterday that the 2022 in-person edition (after going virtual for 2021) will require participants to be fully vaccinated. Considering that doesn’t take place until January, that shouldn’t be a big problem.

Another festival, the Tribeca Festival announced that its 2022 edition would retain its June date rather than moving back to its normal April/May location, which actually might help it get some Cannes movies if that does indeed go back to May next year.


Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings (Amazon Studios)

Some of the biggest television-related news of the week came from Amazon Studios, who announced the premiere date for its The Lord of the Rings television series, as hitting the streamer on Friday, September 2, 2022. The streamer also shared a first-look photo from the series, which recently wrapped production on its first season in New Zealand. Developed by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the series takes place in the “Second Age” of Middle-Earth, thousands of years before J.R.R. Tolkien‘s popular novels. The cast includes Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, and many more.


We have a TON of movie casting announcements from the past few days, so let’s get straight into it…

Nicholas Hoult

Nicholas Hoult (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Universal Pictures is resuming its initiative to revive its classic movie monsters aka Frankenstein, Dracula, and the latest project in this plan, Renfield, is based on the henchman character from Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. It’s moving forward with Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Favourite) in the title role. The Tomorrow War Director Chris McKay is helming the pic based on an original story outline from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and a screenplay by Ryan Ridley. McKay’s production partner Samantha Nisenboim is joining the project as an exec. producer, and it will be produced by Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment’s film team, including David Alpert, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst.

Jeff Goldblum has joined Asa Butterfield in the adaptation of Stephen Fry‘s semi-autobiographical novel, The Liar, an LGBTQ+ coming-of-age spy caper about the reckless life of Adrian Healey as he negotiates school and Cambridge University, where he meets the mysterious English Professor Donald Trefusis, as played by Goldblum. The film will be the directorial debut by Tony Hagger, who also adapted Fry’s book, with Fluidity FilmsGuy de Beaujeu producing and Metro International Entertainment handling world sales. Fry told Deadline“I hiccupped with delight when I heard that Jeff Goldblum had accepted the role of Donald Trefusis. That uniquely perfect mixture of authority, eccentricity, intelligence, humour and charm is just what the character calls for…hurrah.”

Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser in The Affair (Showtime)

Brendan Fraser, who seems to be having some sort of second act Renaissance these days– he’s starring in Daren Aronofsky‘s upcoming film, The Whale, for instance — has joined two high-profile movies, Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon and the Legendary comedy, Brothers, directed by Palm Springs‘ breakout director Max Barbakow.

The latter project is currently filming in Atlanta with the plot being kept under wraps, but Fraser will co-star with Peter Dinklage, Josh Brolin, and Glenn CloseMad Chance’s Andrew Lazar is producing Brothers, along with Brolin and Dinklage with a script by Macon Blair and Etan Cohen.

The Scorsese film for Apple TV+ and Paramount Pictures with a script by Eric Roth is set in 1920s Oklahoma, and it’s based on David Grann‘s novel of the same name that examines a series of murders within the oil-wealthy Osage Nation that became known as the “Reign of Terror.” Fraser will play lawyer WS Hamilton in the film that stars Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as Jesse Plemons. Scorsese is producing the film for Apple Studios and Imperative Entertainment, along with Imperative’s Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas and DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions.

Mere days after the sale of her production company Hello Sunshine, Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoohas been joined by Ashton Kutcher for her Netflix romantic comedy, Your Place or Mine, being co-produced by Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan‘s AggregateCrazy Ex-Girlfriend writer Aline Brosh McKenna is making her directorial debut on the feature about two best friends who live on opposite coasts, who swap homes for a week and see their whole lives change. Bateman and Costigan will produce through their first-look deal with Netflix (that’s already produced the Emmy-winning series, Ozark) along with Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter for Hello Sunshine and McKenna for Lean Machine.

Eisa Gonzalez

Eisa González in Baby Driver (TriStar PIctures)

Actress Eiza González  (Baby Driver) will produce and star in a biopic about the hugely successful Mexican film legend Maria Felix for Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land). González will play Felix and produce through her Linden Entertainment, along with Dana Harris and Nicole KingWalter Rivera will exec. produce on behalf of the Felix estate. They’re currently looking for a Latin-American writer to adapt Felix’s life story to the screen.

In a statement, González said, “Maria’s tenacity and fierce way of living through some of the hardest adversity I’ve witnessed has inspired me and many more. I’m incredibly honored to be playing her and to be bringing her voice and story to the world. Maria constantly pushed boundaries and lived by her own rules, while the world tried to tear her down. I’ve always believed her life needs to be seen around the world, for people to learn more about how society depicts successful and driven women.”

Staying in Eiza González mode, the Mexican superstar is also in talks to join David Benioff and D.B. Weiss‘s Netflix series, Three Body Problem, the first project through the Game of Thrones duo’s new deal with the streamer. The series is based on the popular sci-fi book series, and it will be written and EP’ed by The Terror: Infamy co-creator Alexander Woo with Benioff and Weiss joined as exec. produced by Rian Johnson (currently filming Knives Out 2 for Netflix) and production partner Ram Bergman. Also exec. producing are Plan B, and Rosamund Pike and Robie Uniacke through Primitive Streak.

Deadline also reports that Patricia Clarkson has joined She Said, a film about the New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein from Universal, Annapurna, and Plan B, based on Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s best-selling book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement. Clarkson will play Rebecca Corbett, the New York Times investigations department editor who oversaw the two reporters, played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. The film is directed by Maria Schrader, who won a Primetime Emmy Award for directing the Netflix mini-series, Unorthodox, from the adapted screenplay by Ida‘s Oscar-winning screenwriter, Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Universal has set a release date of November 18, 2022, for the drama.

Amazon Studios has picked up the hot comedy, Ex-Husbands, in a competitive bidding war, developing the comedy that will star Billy Eichner, who came up with the original story and wrote the screenplay with Paul Rudnick. The film will be produced by Eichner with Berlanti/Schechter Films, telling the story of Daniel and Connor, who were madly in love when they became the first gay couple in NYC to get legally married in 2015 with an epic wedding party to boot. Except they’re now going through an epic divorce in a dark comedy that’s being compared to War of the Roses. In a statement, Eichner said, “The concept of a big, gay divorce comedy has been kicking around in my head for years and I cannot think of better collaborators than groundbreaking producers Greg and Sarah, and a true icon whose work I have craved and admired since I was a young gay boy lusting after show business, the brilliant Paul Rudnick who really paved the way for me and many others. And we now have the perfect partners in Amazon, who have already shown enormous passion for this project. This is a dream team. Now, LET’S GET DIVORCED!!!” 

Greta Lee and Teo Yoo will star in the A24 drama, Past Lives from writer and director Celine Song, which will begin filming later this year with John Magaro also cast in a key role. The film is produced by Killer Films‘  Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler, along with David Hinojosa for 2AM. A24 is co-financing and producing the film with Korean company CJ ENM.

Lastly, we have two film projects that rounded out their cast this week, including Paramount Pictures‘ Babylon, the 1920s Hollywood ensemble epic written and directed by Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle (La La Land), which recently added Chloe Fineman from Saturday Night LiveJeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Troy Metcalf (The Middle). They join Chazelle’s impressive cast that already includes Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Katherine Waterston, Max Minghella, Lukas Haas, Flea, Rory Scovel, Samara Weaving, Eric Roberts, P.J. Byrne, Damon Gupton, Olivia Wilde, Spike Jonze, Phoebe Tonkin, Tobey Maguire and Jean Smart. (All the movie needs now is Kevin Bacon in order to make a certain party game much easier to play.)

Elizabeth Banks‘ Cocaine Bear has also rounded out its cast with the addition of Margo Martindale, Kristofer Hivju, Christian Convery, Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project, Kahyun Kim, and newcomer Scott Seiss, as it heads into production in Ireland this month. This will be Banks’ second film as a director for Universal Pictures after directing Pitch Perfect 2, and it’s a “character-driven thriller” inspired by true events that took place in Kentucky in 1895. The script was written by Jimmy Warden with Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Aditya Sood producing for Lord Miller, along with Banks and Max Handelman through their Brownstone Productions, and Brian DuffieldRobin Fisichella will serve as exec producer.

Another incentive to subscribe to our daily-updated Production Listings, besides staying up to date on all upcoming production, is that the price has recently been lowered to the lowest price it has been in many years.


MIghty Ducks

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changer (Disney+)

Shifting into television, Disney+ announced that it has renewed its The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers series for a second season, as the spin-off from the popular hockey comedy trilogy from the ’90s has proven popular among the streamer’s younger audience.

Aubrey Plaza is headlining the pilot for Hulu‘s one-hour drama, Olga Dies Dreamingbased on the novel by Xochitl Gonzalez, who is writing the pilot, which be directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) —  the latter two have been developing the series for 20th Television. It tells the story of “a Nuyorican brother and sister from a gentrifying Sunset Park in Brooklyn who are reckoning with their absent, politically radical mother and their glittering careers among New York City’s elite in the wake of Hurricane Maria.” Plaza will play wedding planner Olga Acevedo, “whose pursuit of perfection has become a compulsive survival mechanism as she tries to climb as far from her past as she can.”

Hulu also placed a straight-to-series order for the drama Tell Me Lies, starring Grace Van Patten (Nine Perfect Strangers), which will be exec. produced by Emma Roberts. That one is based on Carola Lovering’s novel, and it’s the first project set up by Roberts at Hulu from the first-look deal for her Belletrist TV banner.  Lovering’s book is adapted by Meaghan Oppenheimer (Queen America), as it “follows a tumultuous but intoxicating relationship as it unfolds over the course of 8 years. When Lucy Albright (Van Patten) and Stephen DeMarco meet at college, they are at that formative age when seemingly mundane choices lead the way to irrevocable consequences. Although their relationship begins like any typical campus romance, they quickly fall into an addictive entanglement that will permanently alter not only their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.”

There’s also been more casting announced for the Sex and the City spin-off, And Just Like That, as Julie Halston will be reprising her role as Bitsy Von Muffling for the revival show.


Amazon Prime Video released the first trailer for its Kay (BlockersCannon-directed contemporary Cinderella musical, which was supposed to be released by Sony Pictures back in January, but instead, was delayed a number of times before being sold off to Amazon. The movie stars pop singer Camila Cabello in the title role, as well as Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan. It will hit Prime Video exclusively on Sept 3.

We also got the first trailer for a different kind of princess, Magnet Pictures‘  action flick, Yakuza Princess, directed by Vincente Amorim and starring MASUMIJonathan Rhys Meyers, and Tsuyoshi Ihara. It will be released in select theaters and on digital on September 3.

One good kick-ass action trailer deserves another, so we’ll wrap things up with the first trailer for Netflix’s revenge flick Kate, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Birds of Prey) as the title character. That will hit the streamer on September 10.