It’s officially November and besides kicking off the second-to-last month of November, it’s also the first day of the virtual American Film Market (AFM), which we’ll discuss more below.
Meanwhile, the political arguments about the COVID vaccination continue, and they’ve started to drift into the movie biz with a number of actors refusing to get vaccinated despite the demands by COVID protocols on film and television production… and the science proving that the various vaccines available DO work to prevent death and hospitalization. In July, an agreement was made between the guilds, including SAG-AFTRA and the studios, stating that producers have the option “to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” Zone A being the one where cast and crew are working in close proximity, since actors aren’t able to wear masks while filming.
The latest person to make waves about getting vaccinated is rapper/actor Ice Cube who quit the Sony Pictures comedy Oh Hell No, in which he would have co-starred with Jack Black, after declining a request from the film’s producers to get vaccinated, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The duo signed onto the project, produced by Matt Tolmach and Black, in June, with plans to shoot in Hawaii this winter, although the production start was already being pushed back due to Black injuring himself while filming a gag for the last episode of Conan O’Brien‘s Conan. The project is directed by Bad Trip helmer Kitao Sakurai, and the production is already looking for a replacement for Ice Cube, who is walking away from a $9 million payday for the film. It’s actually the second project Ice Cube has left in recent months, because he’s no longer attached to co-star in the boxing drama, Flint Strong. Neither the producers, nor Sony, nor Cube’s agency, WME, would comment on the story.
We don’t normally report on other above-the-line guilds like the Writers Guild of America (WGA), but on Friday, the WGA told its members to stop working for German production company Constantin Film Development “effective immediately.” Constantin is best known for producing the Resident Evil movie franchise, of which a new reboot/prequel movie comes out in just a few weeks. (In fact, Below the Line spoke with the film’s writer/director Johannes Roberts before this announcement.) WGA West President Meredith Stiehm, Vice President Michele Mulroney, and Secretary-Treasurer Betsy Thomas released a statement to members on Friday, saying,
“The Guild has an ongoing serious dispute with Constantin because of its refusal to pay residuals for most foreign reuse. Constantin has also failed to pay pension and health contributions for some writers. It is crucial that Constantin be prevented from undercutting writers’ standards and conditions. While the Guild is working to resolve this situation as soon as possible, until then Constantin cannot be allowed to benefit from writing services provided by WGA members. Effective immediately, WGA members are prohibited under Working Rule 8 from working for Constantin Film Development, Inc. which is not signatory to the 2020 MBA.” Rule 8 states that “No member shall accept employment with, nor option or sell literary material to, any person, firm or corporation who is not signatory to the applicable Minimum Basic Agreements.”
It will be interesting to see if Constantin can resolve this situation with the WGA, but they could also decide to start using non-WGA writers (of which there are plenty). At this point, this is not likely to affect production or below-the-line crafts or crew, but it’s good to know that Constantin isn’t supporting one branch of union workers.
We also have a few sad deaths from the world of entertainment, including the news that Pumping Iron director George Butler has died at the age of 78. According to the LA Times, Butler’s son, Washington Post reporter Desmond Butler reported that his father was battling pneumonia before his death on his farm in Holderness, New Hampshire on Oct. 21. The bodybuilding doc, Pumping Iron, famously introduced the world to future action star and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Also, Broadway actor Camille Saviola, who appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and on the HBO series Entourage, has died at 71 years old, as reported on the Star Trek website WarpFactorTrek.com. Deadline later learned that Savola died from heart failure following a brief illness. Besides her television work, Saviola also played characters in Nine and Chicago on Broadway, and there was an outpouring of love and grief from many of her television and Broadway co-stars over the weekend.
You may have noticed mention over the past few weeks of the American Film Market (AFM) when it comes to projects and “packages” that have been put together and are going to the market in order to find financing, or in some cases, international and/or domestic distribution. On top of that, there are also a number of virtual sessions each day, some directly involving below-the-line, but others that look at the current state of production. For instance, there are virtual sessions on filming in certain regions, such as this morning’s panel “It’s More Fun Filming in the Philippines,” and others like “Entertainment Partners Explore the Future of Production,” “The Director/Producer Relationship,” and specific crafts, such as “Navigating Equity and Inclusion in Hair and Makeup” (although that last one only has actors on the panel, but no hair and makeup stylists?)
But more importantly, there are a bunch of new projects that are being brought to AFM, many of them that haven’t started filming yet, and we’ll get into a few of those right now. (Many of these come from Deadline, presumably from getting the press releases before anyone else.)
Director John Woo has mainly been making movies in Hong Kong over the past few years with his last American movie being 2003’s Paycheck. His latest project, Silent Night, will actually be a “no-dialogue” action film, starring Swedish-American actor Joel Kinnaman, who was last seen in James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad. The story is about a father who heads into the underworld to avenge his young son’s death with Capstone in negotiations to finance the film. John Wick Producers Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Christian Mercuri, and Lori Tilkin are producing with Capstone’s Ruzanna Kegeyan overseeing the project with Joe Gatta.
STXInternational is using the AFM to launch sales on Guy Ritchie‘s next action-thriller, The Interpreter, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who returns to a warzone to repay a debt to the interpreter who saved his life, a story Ritchie wanted to tell, inspired by conversations he had with soldiers and their interpreters. According to the tagline, Gyllenhaal plays Sgt. John Kinley, “who on his last tour of duty in Afghanistan is teamed with local interpreter Ahmed to survey the region. When their unit is ambushed on patrol, Kinley and Ahmed are the only survivors. With enemy combatants in pursuit, Ahmed risks his own life to carry an injured Kinley across miles of grueling terrain to safety. Back on U.S. soil, Kinley learns that Ahmed and his family were not given passage to America as promised. Determined to protect his friend and repay his debt, Kinley returns to the warzone to retrieve Ahmed and his family before the local militias reach them first.”
Filming for the movie will begin in Spain on January 10, 2022, a little over a week before Ritchie’s next movie, the spy action-thriller Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, starring Jason Statham, hits theaters. STX previously released Ritchie’s The Gentlemen in Jan. 2020, and he’s reteamed with his co-writers to write the screenplay for The Interpreter, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, with Ritchie and Atkinson producing and STXfilms exec. producing.
A new untitled script from Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards…) is also being presented at AFM with some big names attached as Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, who starred in McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, will reunite with the filmmaker, joined by hot actor, Oscar Isaac. CAA Media Finance’s Roeg Sutherland and Range Media Partners are repping the rights for McDonagh’s new project.
Also from AFM comes word that Star Wars‘ Daisy Ridley is joining Mathieu Kassovitz‘s Mind Fall, a futuristic thriller based on a Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) script. Wild Bunch International‘s Vincent Maraval and Kim Fox are launching sales on the project at AFM, which comes from Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8, which just began production on the Robert Rodriguez–Ben Affleck thriller, Hypnotic.
Mind Fall takes place in a near-future London, “where the most sought-after drug on the black market is memories, physically removed from one person’s brain and implanted into another’s using a new illegal technology. Top trafficker, Ardis Varnado (Ridley) removes reminiscences from those looking for a quick buck, and then resells them to “clients,” who pay top dollar for these “mems” that bind to their subconscious, effectively becoming indistinguishable from their natural memories. Meanwhile, she battles her own addiction to the mems, often struggling to distinguish between the life she’s lived and the memories she’s implanted. So, when she’s accused of murdering one of her clients, Ardis’ instinct is to doubt her own mind. She decides to solve the crime herself, hoping to clear her name but questioning everything she’s ever thought to be real. And as she pulls back the layers, she realizes that she has every reason to do so.” (I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like the recent Hugh Jackman movie, Reminiscence, which bombed when it was released by Warner Bros. a few months back.) The movie was previously set up at the defunct Solstice.
Kaley Cuoco‘s action-thriller Role Play, which feels like we’ve written about before, has found a director in French filmmaker Thomas Vincent, who was the primary director on the World Productions/BBC One series, Bodyguard, starring Richard Madden, as well as the historical drama, Versailles. The project is being produced by Studiocanal and The Picture Company with plans to start rolling cameras on May 2022. The film is about a young married couple whose life is turned upside down after secrets are revealed about each other’s past, and it’s based on an original idea of George Heller, who will serve as EP, with a screenplay by Seth Owen (Morgan). Cuoco is also producing the film along with Picture Company partners Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman under their deal through Studiocanal.
One last AFM project is The History of Sound, a WWI love story that will star The Crown‘s Emmy-winning Josh O’Connor and Normal People star Paul Mescal, adapted from Ben Shattuck’s Pushcart Prize-winning short story. Beauty director Oliver Hermanus is directing the film that comes from Cop Car producer End Cue with production to begin in the U.S. with locations in the UK and Italy next summer. The short story revolves around two young men, Lionel (Mescal) and David (O’Connor), who, during World War I set out to record the lives, voices and music of their American countrymen. In this snatched, short-lived moment in their young lives, and while discovering the epic sweep of the U.S., both men are deeply changed. CAA Media Finance is handling U.S. sales and Embankment will rep international sales at AFM.
As far as other non-AFM film casting, Emmy winners Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) and Tony Hale (Veep) are both joining the Disney+ sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, which has already brought back Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Doug Jones fron the original movie. The casting was announced by Walt Disney Studios on Halloween via Twitter, with Whitney Peak (Gossip Girl), Lilia Buckingham, Belissa Escobedo, Sam Richardson, Juju Brener, Froy Guttierez, Taylor Henderson, and Nina Kitchen also joining the cast. Anne Fletcher is directing the sequel for the streamer.
Joining the cast are Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, Belissa Escobedo, Doug Jones, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, Hannah Waddingham, Juju Brener, Froy Gutierrez, Taylor Henderson, and Nina Kitchen.
— Walt Disney Studios (@DisneyStudios) October 31, 2021
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Another day with not nearly as much television news, but we do have a few items to share.
Lindsey Morgan is leaving the CW series, Walker: Texas Ranger, on which she’s been playing the female lead, Micki Ramirez, opposite Jared Padalecki since the show debuted last year. She will appear in a few episodes of Season 2, which premiered on Friday and might return in a guest role, but it’s unknown when her final episode will be.
Kiernan Shipka from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will headline the hour-long Wall Street drama, The Golden Cage, in development at Hulu, with BAFTA-winning British director Susanna White (Woman Walks Ahead) directing and EPing the potential pilot. The project comes from Darryl Taja (The Perfect Guy) and Adam Rodin (Extant) and created/written by first-timer Oskar Nordmark, a forensic accountant by trade. Described as Suits meets Wall Street, the series will explore “the lengths one woman (Shipka) will go to camouflage her past while climbing the dizzying heights of Wall Street.” Nordmark will also EP along with Taja through his Epidemic Pictures, Rodin, White, and Roadside Attractions. Rodin originally brought the project to Taja to develop, and the duo signed on to co-manage Nordmark before the project was then taken to Roadside’s Jennifer Berman, another exec. producer along with the studio’s Eric D’Arbeloff and Howard Cohen. The package was then taken out, gaining the interest of Hulu. They are currently looking for a showrunner.
Wyatt Oleff from the horror hit It will star in the Apple TV+ drama series, City on Fire, with Jesse Peretz (New Girl) directing. Inspired by Garth Risk Hallberg‘s novel, the series comes from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (Nancy Drew, Gossip Girl, Runaways), and it tells the story of NYU student Samantha Cicciaro, who was shot in Central Park on the 4th of July in 2003. Oleff will play one of Cicciaro’s friends who is struggling to cope with the death of his father on 9/11, and he decides to investigate the case and find out what happened to write. Schwartz and Savage are writing all eight episodes and serve as showrunners and executive producers via their Fake Empire banner with Fake Empire’s Lis Rowinski c0-executive producing.
This Country creator Daisy May Cooper and Deadwater Fell‘s Selin Hizli, are teaming with exec. producer Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) and former BBC comedy bosses, Shane Allen and Kate Daughton’s new imprint, Boffola Pictures, for an untitled 6-episode comedy-thriller for the Beeb. Cooper and Hizli will play the leads of the show, portraying two friends who love fun, laughter and booze until everything unravels. Thorne is on board as EP on the project which was ordered by Acting Director of BBC Comedy Kate Phillips, who took the post temporarily before Jon Petrie took over the role. BBC Studios is distributing internationally with Allen, Cooper, Hizli, and Daughton all exec. producers along with Director Jonny Campbell. Allen and Daughton were director and head of BBC Comedy, respectively, until they left to launch Boffola earlier this year after overseeing the network’s comedy branch for a number of years.
Let’s get into the box office, and though October saw the biggest domestic box office during the pandemic with $638 million, things ended on a down note, as none of the three new wide releases were able to make more than $7 million. That meant that Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune remained #1 for a second weekend in a row with $15.5 million, down 62% from its opening. It has grossed $69.4 million so far, but will have to take on Marvel Studios‘ Eternals next weekend.
Second place went to Halloween Kills with $8.5 million, down 41% on Halloween weekend, with $85.6 million grossed so far, and then James Bond’s No Time to Kill remained in third place with $7.8 million and a domestic total of $133.3 million.
The shocker to some might be the fact that FUNimation‘s anime sequel, My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission was able to open in fourth place with $6.4 million in just 1,581 theaters, giving it the best per-theater average in the top 10 of $4,000 per venue.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage held well, despite dropping to fifth place with $5.8 million, down 38%, as it edges closer to the $200 million mark with $190.4 million in five weeks. A month ago, the Venom sequel became the highest-opening movie during the pandemic by making $90 million over a three-day non-holiday weekend.
The other two films opening nationwide this week were prestigious horror films, as Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho and Scott Cooper‘s Antlers were vying for the same general audience, and according to estimates, they made the exact same amount. Both Focus Features, distributor of Last Night, and Antlers’ Searchlight Studios reported exactly $4.16 million for their Halloween weekend offerings. That’s generally worse for Last Night, starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, which opened in 200 more theaters with a lot of marketing and promotion, since it was thought that Wright’s fans from Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim, and his other comedies would come out to theaters for it. Instead, the movies are tied for sixth place, and we’ll have to wait for actual numbers to see which did better.
The international box office seems to be doing much better with No Time to Die crossing the $600 million mark globally this weekend with $472 million from overseas. That included $28.2 million from China, which is the third best showing for a Hollywood movie in the Middle Kingdom. The Venom movie added $21.4 million in 53 overseas markets to take its own international total over $200 million, while Dune added another $21.4 million this weekend in 75 markets, as its global total nears $300 million. (China is the leading offshore market with $33 million.)
I wasn’t sure if we would have any new trailers today, but just this morning, Disney and Lucasfilm released the first trailer for The Book of Boba Fett, the Mandalorian spin-off that will hit the Disney+ streamer on Dec. 29. The new series stars Temuera Morrison, who played Fett in the George Lucas prequels, and Ming-Na Wen with Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez, Kathleen Kennedy, and Colin Wilson as exec. producers, Karen Gilchrist and Carrie Beck serving as co-executive producers. John Bartnicki produces the limited series with John Hampian as co-producer.