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End of Week Production Notes 10/29/21: Jeff Nichols Quits A Quiet Place 3, de Armas May Play Ballerina, and More “Meta” News


Well, it’s the last weekend of October, and then we’re into November and December and the holidays, and the next thing you know, this crazy year is over.

Meta logo

In the meantime, you won’t have Mark Zuckerberg‘s Facebook to kick around anymore, but that’s only because he changed the name of the company to… get this… “Meta.” If you don’t know what the term means, then look it up, but it’s kind of perfect. But also, who could blame him with Facebook being dragged through the mud in recent weeks with whistleblowers coming out of the woodwork to confirm that the company cared more about money than the welfare of its social media users. It certainly looks like the sequel to David Fincher‘s The Social Network is writing itself.

Before we get to the other news around the industry, a quick update on the Rust shooting of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins: the indie film’s First Assistant Director David Halls and Armorer Hannah Guttierez have both hired lawyers, even though no charges have been filed as of yet. Halls has put Albuquerque attorney and former Assistant D.A. Lisa Torraco on retainer, while Guttierrez is now being represented by ex-Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, according to Deadline. The lawyers for Guttierez, who was only working on her second film with Rust, have released a statement,

“Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on set. Ultimately, this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from. Hannah still, to this day, has never had an accidental discharge. The first one on this set was the prop master and the second one was a stunt man after Hannah informed him his gun was hot with blanks.”

That last sentence refers to the two previous misfires on set that led to several members Hutchins’ camera crew leaving the set in protest due to safety concerns i.e. the two misfires mentioned and financial concerns, as well.

Two of the film’s exec. producers have already wiped their hands of any responsibility for the incident, as Executive Producer Allen Cheney released a statement to the press that he and Emily Salveson of Streamline Global financing “received Executive Producer credit on the film Rust having no involvement with the physical and day to day production, consistent with financing partners across productions of all sizes.”

Let’s get to some other news, including the sad news that comedian Mort Sahl died on Tuesday at his Mill Valley, CA home at the age of 96, confirmed by a friend to the New York Times. Sahl was a groundbreaking comedian who hosted the Oscars in 1959, and his topical social commentary was said to lead the way for other pioneering and influential comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin. Honestly, we don’t think we can write a better obit than the New York Times, so you can learn more about Sahl’s life and career by clicking on the link above.

Quiet Place
A scene from A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount)

We begin today’s movie news coverage with the report that Director Jeff Nichols has decided not to direct Paramount Pictures‘ planned sequel, A Quiet Place Part III, but that’s because he’s pivoting to a science fiction project he’s directing at Paramount. Top agencies are already submitting possibilities for a replacement on the third part of Paramount’s highly-profitable sci-fi-horror franchise, which John Krasinski wasn’t planning on directing, so he can also focus on other projects… including one mentioned below.

Fans of movie musicals will have to wait a little longer for Jon M. Chu‘s movie version of the hit Broadway musical, Wicked, because it’s shifting production from Atlanta to the UK, delaying the production start from March 2022 to June 2022. The movie being made for Universal Pictures by Chu and Producer Marc Platt (Into the Woods) hasn’t “officially” been greenlit by the studio, and no one has been cast as of yet, so the three-month delay to begin filming will give the In the Heights director a little more prep time. (We’ve been informed that his previous musical, In the Heights, is back on HBO Max, so if you missed it in theaters or its previous streaming run, now’s your chance to check out a great adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda‘s Broadway debut musical, in which he plays a small role.)

Ana De Armas
Ana de Armas in No Time to Die (Photo: MGM/EON)

One of the bigger casting notes of the week was that Cuba-born actress Ana de Armas — who many thought stole the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, from the departing Daniel Craig — is in talks to lead the John Wick spin-off, Ballerina, for Lionsgate, which Len Wiseman (Underworld) is directing from a script by Shay Hatten (John Wick: Chapter 3). Ballerina is about a young female assassin who seeks revenge against the people who killed her family. This spin-off film is on top of the fourth chapter of the Keanu Reeves franchise, John Wick Part 4, currently in production, and the STARZ spin-off event limited series, The Continental, which also cast up recently with the likes of Mel Gibson and Colin Woodell (The Purge), playing the younger version of Ian McShane‘s character from the movies. Ballerina will be produced by John Wick‘s Basil Iwanyk with Erica Lee and John Wick director, Chad Stahelski with a budget reportedly between $50 and $80 million.

Speaking of John Krasinski, as we were above, the untitled fantasy-comedy that he has written and will direct for Paramount has cast two women’s roles, one more high profile than the other, as Fleabag‘s writer/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and acting vet Fiona Shaw have joined the movie that will star Krasinski and Ryan Reynolds, according to THRAlthough the film’s plot is being kept under wraps, it’s based on Krasinski’s original idea about a “child’s journey to rediscover their imagination.” Production is set to begin next summer for a theatrical release of Nov. 17, 2023.

It was also announced that Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag co-star, Brett Gelman, is joining the cast of the Sony Pictures adaptation of the children’s book, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, which has already cast Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, and Winslow Fegley.

Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex (Focus Features)

Also reported by DeadlineOscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of EverythingOn the Basis of Sex) will star in and produce New Regency‘s Blood Mother, along with producers Kelly MarcelSteve Zissis, and Jones’ brother, Alex Jones, will also produce the project alongside Jones’ brother, Alex Jones. It’s written by Zissis (Cruella) based on a story by him and Marcel, who also wrote the screenplay for Sony’s hit Venom: Let There Be Carnage. It follows an Oxford professor who discovers her baby is inhuman and finds herself doing the unimaginable to keep him alive.

The Princess Bride and Saw star Cary Elwes is joining the Sky Original film, Last Train to Christmas, opposite Michael Sheen and Nathalie Emmanuel (who stars in Netflix’s Army of Thieves, which hits the streamer today). Written and directed by Julian Kemp, the film stars Sheen as Tony Towers, a successful nightclub manager and local celebrity who is about to take the “trip of a lifetime.” He’s also engaged to a much younger woman in Sue (Emmanuel). When he takes the 3:17 train to Nottingham for a Christmas family reunion, things get a little strange with Elwes playing Tony’s brother, Roger, who is always in his brother’s shadow after the two created a nightclub empire.

As you will know from reading these news updates, black-ish creator Kenya Barris is filming his directorial debut comedy feature with Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, which is being shot by Cinematographer Paula Huidobro (CODA), and it’s added significantly to its cast with Travis Bennett, Andrea Savage, Rhea Perlman, La La Anthony, and Deon Cole all joining. That should round out a cast that also includes Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sam Jay, Molly Gordon, David Duchovny, and Nia Long. Hill and London play a young couple, “who find themselves examining modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations and generational differences” with their families. It sounds more like a TV show, but Barris is producing through his Khalabo Ink Society, along with Hill’s Strong Baby, and Kevin Misher‘s Misher Films. EPs are Mychelle Deschamps and Hale Rothstein for Khalabo; Matt Dines and Ali Goodwin for Strong Baby; Andy Berman for Misher Films; David Hyman, and Charisse Hewitt Webster.

Did you know that streamer Netflix is making a Spanish language spin-off of its hit Sandra Bullock thriller, Bird Box?  Well, you do now, and it’s going into production next month with Alex and David Pastor (The OccupantThe Head) writing and directing the film set in Barcelona. The cast for the film, which looks to expand on the hit thriller are Mario Casas, Georgina Campbell, Diego Calva, Alejandra Howard, Naila Schuberth, Patrick Criado, Celia Freijeiro, with Lola Dueñas, Gonzalo de Castro, Michelle Jenner, and Leonardo Sbaraglia.

Bird Box producers Dylan Clark and Chris Morgan are back on board with Adrián Guerra and Núria Valls for Nostromo Pictures with EPs Susanne Bier, Josh Malerman, Ryan Lewis, Ainsley Davies for Chris Morgan Productions, and Brian Williams for Dylan Clark Productions. The tagline is: “After a mysterious force decimates the world’s population by causing all who see it to take their lives, Sebastian and his young daughter Anna must navigate their own journey of survival through the desolate streets of Barcelona. But as they form an uneasy alliance with other survivors and make their way toward a safe haven, a threat more sinister than the unseen creatures grows.”

Netflix has also added cast to its action-comedy, The Out-Laws, directed by Tyler Spindel (The Wrong Missy) from a screenplay by Evan Turner and Ben Zazove. Previously cast Adam Devine and Pierce Brosnan are joined by Ellen BarkinNina DobrevMichael RookerPoorna Jagannathan (Never Have I Ever), Julie Hagerty, Richard KindLil Rel Howery, and Blake Anderson (Workaholics). Produced by Devine with Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison, the movie follows Devine’s Owen Browning, “a straight-laced bank manager about to marry the love of his life, Parker. When his bank is held up by the infamous Ghost Bandits during his wedding week, he believes his future in-laws* who just arrived in town, are the infamous Out-Laws.” (*presumably played by Brosnan and Barkin?)

Oscar nominee and acting legend, Laurence Fishburne, is providing his voice and producing the animated feature, Sneaks, along with Grammy-winning multi-platinum artist Mustard, and a number of big music and even a sports star have joined the voice cast. Grammy winners Roddy Ricch, Ella Mai, and Macy Gray have signed on, as have five-time Grammy nominee Swae Lee (“Sunflower”) and NBA superstar Chris Paul. The feature comes from Lengi Studios and Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions, centering on a pair of misplaced sneakers that end up lost in New York City and must find a way to get back to their “sole mates.” Mai voices a “charming oxford” while Gray voices “an elegant stiletto” while Lee voices a young athlete, all of whom must band together to thwart the evil Collector (Fishburne) and the mysterious Forger (Ricch). Paul will play himself, as he hosts “a Met Gala-like event for avid sneakerheads.” The feature is written and directed by Rob Edwards with Helen Sugland and Fishburne producing for Cinema Gypsy; as well as Len Hartman and Gil Cloyd of Lengi Studios. Pre-production, design and storyboard work is underway with House of Cool (Ferdinand) and Assemblage (Arctic Dogs) handling animation. EPS are 10 Summers Co-Founder and President Meko Yohannes, as well as Robyn Klein and Jeremy Ross — producers of the Oscar-winning animated short, If Anything Happens I Love You — and legendary sneaker personality Bobbito Garcia serving as cultural advisor.

As you’ll know if you read these columns, the American Film Market (AFM) takes place next week in L.A., and Deadline has gotten its hands on a slew of early press releases about what is hitting the market, including Firebrand, the Karim Aïnouz-directed drama about the final wife of King Henry VIII, which will star Michelle Williams and Jude LawFilmNation and CAA Media Finance are introducing the package, which Aïnouz (The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão) will direct from a script by Jessica Ashworth and Henrietta Ashworth from Killing EveBrouhaha Entertainment will produce the film with the extended tagline of: “By the time young Catherine Parr (Williams) married the deteriorating, increasingly despotic King Henry VIII (Law), she had no assurances of a happy marriage; in fact, she had no assurances of surviving this marriage at all. Of her predecessors, two were thrown out, one died in childbirth and two were beheaded. While Catherine tried to keep her head about her to navigate the politics of her position, she brought a secret agenda. She was Protestant, believed it her duty to marry Henry, for it would be the only position in which she could convert him – and the kingdom – from his pro-Catholic position. That faith was tested when the church resisted granting his divorce from his first wife so he could marry Anne Boleyn, who would later be beheaded. With arrests, torture, and executions of Protestants on the rise, Catherine invited a dangerous game that would leave one of them dead before long. The thriller is told through Catherine’s singular point-of-view of the psychological horror of living with a monster—and the remarkable will to not only survive, but thrive.”

Also from AFM, Viggo Mortensen and Caleb Landry Jones (The Outpost) will star in Alex Gibney‘s Vietnam War thriller, Two Wolves, which will mark a return to narrative features from the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, working from a script by The Theory of Everything scribe, Anthony McCarten, and Matt Cook (The Informer). The film tells the story of helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson (played by Landry Jones) who, during the war, turned against his fellow soldiers to halt the massacre of unarmed civilians in the village of My Lai, and rescued survivors of the atrocities. Instead of being treated as a hero, Thompson was branded a traitor and threatened with court-martial. It came down to General William “Ray” Peers (presumably Mortensen) to investigate what really happened at My Lai and to corroborate the truth of Hugh Thompson’s story. The film will be produced by Paul Higgins for Fields Park, Peter Saraf, Will Clarke for Altitude Film Entertainment, Gibney through his Jigsaw Pictures, and Big Beach.

Oscar-winner Melissa Leo and Emma Roberts are in talks to lead the thriller, Returns, a package which Sierra/Affinity is launching sales for ahead of the virtual AFM with Gersh handling North American sales. Directed by George Ratliff (Joshua) and written by Matthew A. Gossett from a story concept by the duo, it follows a young woman, who returns to a fractured home 12 years after her mysterious disappearance, her homecoming haunted by family secrets and old grudges. The film is being financed by Contentious Media and produced by Trevor White, Tim White, and Allan Mandelbaum of Star Thrower Entertainment, and Gia Walsh of Gigi Films. Cameras are expected to roll on the film next April in New Jersey.

Robert Lorenz (R) on set with Liam Neeson (L) and Jacob Perez (Photo: Open Road)

Liam Neeson will play a retired assassin in the Irish thriller, In The Land Of Saints And Sinners, co-starring fellow Irish actor,  Ciaran Hinds, who is pretty amazing in Kenneth Branagh‘s upcoming autobiographical drama, Belfast. It will reteam Neeson with The Marksman Director Robert Lorenz with plans to start principal photography in Ireland in March.  Set in a remote Irish village, Neeson’s retired assassin character finds himself drawn into a lethal game of cat and mouse with a trio of vengeful terrorists. Bleiberg/Dimbort is launching international sales at AFM with CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film Group co-representing domestic sales.

Also from AFM, action star Dolph Lundgren will direct and star in the Millennium Media action flick, Wanted Man, for which he also co-wrote the script with Michael Worth (Killing Cupid). The movie, looking to start production in February, will star Lundgren as an aging police officer, who must retrieve an eyewitness and escort her across the border after a cartel shooting leaves several DEA agents dead. He then learns that the attacks may have instead been executed by American forces. Jeffrey Greenstein and Jonathan Yunger will produce for Millennium with executive producers Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, and Trevor Short.

In exec news, Searchlight Pictures vet Nancy Utley is launching her new production company, Lake Ellyn Entertainment, to produce film and television through its first-look deal with Chernin Entertainment, who in turn, has had a first-look deal with Netflix since April. It was announced by Chernin’s President of Film and Television, Jenno Topping with Chernin CEO Peter Chernin saying, “Nancy is the ultimate executive—smart, savvy, experienced, and kind. She built Searchlight Pictures into one of the jewels of the film business; a company with an unparalleled record of achievement and a reputation for nurturing the finest filmmakers. I’m delighted to have her join Jenno and me and the rest of our team.”

Also, 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns — who Below the Line just interviewed with Edgar Wright about their movie, Last Night in Soho —  and her production partner Jack Ivins and their production banner, Great Company, has just signed a first-look deal with Universal Pictures, so congrats to them!

You might notice there’s a lot of new projects in development, and if you’re reading this and thinking, “I’d like to work on the crew for that movie,” now is the time to subscribe to Below the Line‘s Production Listings, updated daily, which lists tons of productions gearing up, so you get involved earlier than those who don’t read them.

Lisette Alexis
Lisette Alexis in We Need to Do Something (Photo: IFC Midnight)

We don’t have nearly as much television news today, but another popular IP returning, this time as a Disney+ streaming series, is Jon Turteltaub‘s National Treasure, which starred Nicolas Cage. The premise is now transforming into a series from Disney Branded Television and ABC Signature with Lisette Alexis (Total EclipseWe Need to Do Something) being cast in the lead role. Exec. produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the two Disney blockbusters, along with Turteltaub and writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley, the series will expand on the National Treasure movies with its point of view being from Alexis’ Jess, a young Latina DREAMer in search of answers about her family, “who embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to uncover the truth about the past and save a lost Pan-American treasure.”  The pilot episode is written by the Wibberleys with Mira Nair directing, and Alexis’ character is described as a “brilliant and resourceful mind loves a good mystery, and she has a natural talent for solving puzzles.” The tagline continues: “Over the course of the show, Jess will uncover her own buried history, as well as the truth about her parents and her connection to a long-lost treasure.”

Emmy-winning actor Jon Hamm seems to have done everything possible in television and film, but he’ll be making the foray into animation by heading the voice cast for the Fox animated detective comedy series, Grimsburg. In the series that will launch in 2023, Hamm will voice the misanthropic detective Marvin Flute, who according to the tagline, “might be the greatest detective ever to catch a cannibal clown or correctly identify a mid-century modern armoire. But there’s one mystery he still can’t crack: his family. Now that he’s back in Grimsburg, a town where everyone has a secret or three, Flute will follow every lead he’s got to redeem himself with the ex-wife he never stopped loving, even if it means hanging out with the son he never bothered to get to know.

Scott Z. Burns‘ climate change anthology limited series, Extrapolations, for Apple TV+, already has an impressive cast that includes Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller, Kit Harrington, Tahar Rahim, and many more. It’s now being joined by two more Oscar winners in Forest Whitaker and Marion Cotillard, as well as Tobey Maguire (The Lord of the Rings) and Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver). Currently filming, the series “tells stories of how the upcoming changes to the planet will affect love, faith, work and family on a personal and human scale. Told over a season of eight interconnected episodes, each story in the scripted series will track the worldwide battle for our mutual survival spanning the 21st century.”

There isn’t as much TV coverage today, so we’ll wrap it up with word that the family comedy, Mexican Beverly Hills, is in the works at CBS, being developed by five-time Telly Award-winning writer, director and producer Erick Galindo, with comedy writer and director Aaron Izek and Wilmer Valderrama, star of That ’70s Show. The single-camera project is based on Galindo’s New York Times essay of the same name with Galindo and Izek writing and exec. producing, as well as Valderrama and Kaitlin Saltzman EP’ing through the former’s WV Entertainment.

We kick off our “trailers section” today with the first look at the Iranian drama A Hero, the latest movie from two-time Oscar winner, Asghar Farhadi (A SeparationThe Salesman), which will be streamed by Amazon Prime Video on Jan. 21, 2022, after a small theatrical release in U.S. theaters on Jan. 7. (Although we have to assume it will get some sort of Oscar-qualifying release in 2021 to be eligible for early December critics awards, as well.)  If word from this year’s Cannes Film Festival and others since its premiere, Farhadi and his home country of Iran might be getting another nomination in the International Film category at next year’s Oscars.

Another potential Oscar contender is Sir Ridley Scott‘s second movie of 2021, House of Gucci, and MGM Pictures released the second trailer for that biopic that stars Adam DriverLady GagaJared LetoJeremy IronsAl PacinoSalma Hayek, and many more.

For those looking forward to a few returning genre television series, we have a couple of late-breaking trailers in that regard, starting with the first teaser trailer for Season 3 of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Servant — honestly, one of my favorite things on Apple TV+ or rather, it’s tied with Mythic Quest — which will premiere on the streamer on Jan. 21, 2022.

I haven’t been keeping up with the hit series, The Witcher (sorry, Netflix!), but it did get a second season, and that streamer has released the first trailer for Season 2, which will debut on Dec. 17, once again starring Henry Cavill in the title role. (Honestly, it really looks like my kind of thing.)

Another upcoming fantasy series that’s bound to be a hit for Amazon Prime Video is the series based on Robert Jordan‘s The Wheel of Time fantasy novels, and the streamer released a “360 Experience” trailer for that fantasy series, which hits Prime Video on Nov. 19. You can experience the 360-degree effect by scrolling left and right while watching.

That’s it for today. Some cool horror movies hitting theaters (and only theaters) this weekend, including Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho and Scott Cooper‘s Antlers (produced by Guillermo del Toro!) We spoke to both directors about making their respective movies and reviewed Antlers here, so if really frightening and more character-based horror is your type of thing, get out to theaters and see them before Marvel Studios‘ Eternals obliterates everything next week.

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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