Happy Hump Day! Over 60,000 IA members now have a new three-year contract, although some are happier about that than others.
Also, make sure to check out Neil Turitz’s “The Accidental Turitz” today, since he addresses some of the recent news about actors (and football players) rebelling against vaccine mandates on set (or on the field). (This in the week when The View co-host Jedediah Bila got into a fight with her co-hosts about the show’s vaccine mandate, although hosts of The View fighting with each other just means it’s a day ending in “Y.”)
Some of the biggest news from the entertainment biz includes word that Mel Gibson may return to the Lethal Weapon franchise and that he’s in talks to direct Lethal Weapon 5. It would be Gibson’s first time directing the franchise in which he starred with Danny Glover for the first four movies, all directed by the late Richard Donner, who died in July. Gibson won two Oscars for directing and producing the historic epic, Braveheart, back in 1995 and then received another Oscar nomination for directing Hacksaw Ridge in 2016. Oddly, he only made one Lethal Weapon movie in between those movies, as he shifted more towards directing. This film would actually be developed for HBO Max as Warner Media continues to bulk up its original content and feature films in particular. Gibson is currently filming the John Wick prequel series, The Continental, for Starz, so this plan to relaunch Lethal Weapon wouldn’t happen until after that’s completed.
Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is now being sued by his former studio, Miramax, for announcing that he would be releasing exclusive NFTs of the hand-written script for his Oscar-winning 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. Tarantino announced that he was going into the world of digital art at the recent NFT.NYC conference, although no date had been announced for the auctions, which would be for seven scanned digital copies of his script along with audio commentary.
Miramax responded by issuing a 22-page cease-and-desist letter from its lawyers at Proskauer Rose LLP, which states that the studio will be seeking statutory damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in a jury trial for breach-of-contract.
You can read the full letter here, but the letter begins, “Eager to cash in on the non-fungible token (‘NFT’) boom, as widely reported in the media, Quentin Tarantino recently announced plans to auction off seven ‘exclusive scenes’ from the 1994 motion picture Pulp Fiction in the form of NFTs.”
It continues, “Tarantino’s conduct has forced Miramax to bring this lawsuit against a valued collaborator in order to enforce, preserve, and protect its contractual and intellectual property rights relating to one of Miramax’s most iconic and valuable film properties. Left unchecked, Tarantino’s conduct could mislead others into believing Miramax is involved in his venture, and it could also mislead others into believing they have the rights to pursue similar deals or offerings, when in fact Miramax holds the rights needed to develop, market, and sell NFTs relating to its deep film library.”
Jeff Sneider should have more to say about this story in tomorrow’s Above the Line Newsflash.
Incidentally, STX is up for sale, again. You may remember that the studio was sold 16 months ago in the middle of a pandemic and then hasn’t released that many movies in U.S. theaters since then, as its apocalyptic thriller, directed by Ric Roman Waugh, ended up going to VOD instead. (Ironically, STX also released a brand-new trailer for Waugh’s upcoming National Champions sports drama, which you can view below.) Specifically, its parent company, ErosSTX has “entered into an exclusive negotiation period with a third party to monetize the revenue from 46 films in its library” in order to pay off roughly $150 million of debt and bring new cash to the company, as reported by a regulatory filing earlier on Wednesday. The company is exclusively shopping the library revenue stream and will retain derivative and ancillary rights, allowing STX to develop remakes and sequels based on its existing IP.
Harry Potter fans might be excited by the fact that HBO Max has announced a Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts special, which will debut on Jan. 1 at the stroke of midnight (but in which time zone? That’s the question). The special will later air on TBS and Cartoon Network but not until the spring, right before the theatrical release of the third Fantastic Beasts movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Original stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint will be reuniting with original filmmaker Chris Columbus, who directed the first two films in the series. You can watch the minute-long teaser below:
In other movie news, THR scored the scoop that Lionsgate has picked up the rights to filmmaker Shawn Levy’s remake of Anders Thomas Jensen’s Danish action-thriller hit, Riders of Justice, which starred Mads Mikkelsen and was released in the States earlier this year by Magnolia Pictures after a brief festival run. Jensen will co-write the English language version with Nikolaj Arcel, his co-writer on the original movie. Levy will produce with his 21 Laps partners Dan Levine and Dan Cohen. In the original film, Mikkelsen played a soldier back from war to take care of his teen daughter after his wife died in a train accident, thought to be a terrorist action, so he joins together with an odd group of characters to get revenge.
Director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) has set up the cast for his next film, Desert Warrior, a 7th Century period tale that is currently filming. What’s particularly interesting is that it will be the first tentpole film to shoot in the smart city of Neom in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Aiysha Hart (Mogul Mowglii) lead the cast that includes Sharlto Copley, Ghassan Massoud, Sami Bouajila, Lamis Ammar, Géza Röhrig, and Sir Ben Kingsley. Directing from a script by Wyatt with Eric Beeney, David Self, and Gary Ross, the film is a collaboration between MBC Studios, JB Pictures, and AGC Studios, and filming will also take place in Tabuk in KSA. The plot of the film is: “It’s 7th century, when Arabia is made up of rival, feuding tribes, disunited and forever at each other’s throats. Emperor Kisra (Kingsley) has a fearsome reputation for being utterly ruthless. But when the Arabian Princess Hind (Hart) refuses to become the emperor’s concubine, the stage is set for an epic confrontation. It is a battle that, by its conclusion, will have changed the region forever and echo throughout history. Escaping with her father, King Numan (Massoud) into the vast and unforgiving desert, Hind is pursued by Kisra’s seasoned mercenary Jalabzeen and his bloodthirsty troops. Hind and her father are forced to entrust their safety to a mysterious bandit (Mackie), whose fighting prowess is second to none. The bandit harbors his own secrets, which will play a large part in deciding the fate of the battle. Hind inspires the fractious tribes to come together for one last stand and unite against an army that outnumbers them and is far better equipped.”
London and Rome-based Brilliant Pictures has announced that Madalina Ghenea from House of Gucci and the Oscar-winning Youth will play the lead role in the shark survival thriller, Deep Fear, opposite Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick. Principal photography will take place in Malta and the West Indies starting in January with Marcus Adams (The Marksman) directing from a screenplay by Robert Capelli Jr (Mail Order Bride) and Sophia Eptamentis (Invincible Summer). In the film set in the Caribbean, Ghenea plays Naomi, “an accomplished round-the-world yachtswoman, who sets out on a solo trip to meet her boyfriend, Jackson (Westwick), in Grenada. Her tranquil three-day sail aboard 47-foot yacht ‘The Serenity’ takes an unexpectedly dark turn when a storm forces her off the plotted course.” It’s produced by Brilliant Pictures’ Sean O’Kelly and Marc Bikindou, along with Halo Pictures’ Engelbert Grech and Chris Bongirne.
Katherine McNamara from Shadowhunters and Arrow has been cast to star in the Canadian-Mexican co-production thriller, Sugar, which will begin filming this month in Cancun, Mexico, and Montreal, Quebec. (Since it’s winter-time in Canada, I know which crew I’d want to be a part of.) British Columbia’s Sepia Films and Montreal-based Connect3 Media are producing the film from Director/Cinematographer Vic Sarin (Partition). The film is about “two young influencers who find themselves on a glamorous once-in-a-lifetime trip through the Caribbean and South Pacific, relaxing by day, partying by night, finding new love and becoming best friends. But as the mirage of their online personas starts to clash with their real-life ambitions, a battle of wills threatens to tear them apart.” Jasmine Sky Sarin, Eric Bruneau, and Spencer List co-star in the film Sarin developed from a screenplay with writers Annelies Kavan and Ben Johnstone. Sepia’s Tina Pehme and Kim Roberts are producing along with Pablo Salzman of Connect3 Media, and Israel Gonzalez of Kanan Films.
Meanwhile, Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell from Four Weddings and a Funeral has been cast to star in the female ensemble film, My Happy Ending, an Israeli-UK co-production, based on the Israeli play, Sof Tov by Anat Gov. She will play a Hollywood star who finds herself in a British hospital room with three other woman who are helping her with her toughest role, herself. The movie also stars BAFTA winner Miriam Margolyes, Sally Phillips, Rakhee Thakrar, Tamsin Greig, Tom Cullen, Michelle Greenidge, and David Walliams, and it will be directed by Flawless and The Farewell Party’s Israeli filmmakers, Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit. Producing the film are Talia Kleinhendler and Osnat Handelsman-Keren of Pie Films (The Lost Daughter), along with Hannah Leader from BBM (Gosford Park) and Daisy Allsop and Archface Films.
You can keep track of projects like the ones above on Below the Line‘s Production Listings, available at a new low subscription rate.
More exec shuffling at Paramount Pictures, as Marc Weinstock has been promoted to President Worldwide Marketing & Distribution, while Pam Kaufman will lead the studio’s Themed Entertainment Division. Warner Bros. has named Sheila Walcott as its VP Creative Development.
Former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) President Cheryl Boone has scored a new job leading the ASU’s Sidney Poitier New American Film School. An adjunct professor at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Boone will begin on January 1 as Founding Director of the ASU film school, leading from ASU California Center in Los Angeles as well as from Tempe and Mesa, where the state-of-the-art 118,000-square foot campus is located.
Starz has ordered a revival of the popular comedy, Party Down, which launched many a career in the television comedy world, and most of the cast, other than Lizzy Caplan, will be returning. This includes Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, and Megan Mullally. Caplan is unable to return due to a scheduling conflict, Party Down ran for two seasons on Starz in 2009 and 2010, before Lynch went to Fox’s hit series, Glee, and Scott was cast on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Although many of its stars had been doing comedy for years, mostly in different camps like The State for Marino, Christopher Guest’s crew for Lynch, and Judd Apatow’s gang for Starr, the series had a fairly hearty cult following. Starz has ordered six new half-hour episodes following an L.A. catering team of Hollywood wannabes hoping to get their big break. The revival will be exec. produced by Scott, along with other Party Down alumni Rob Thomas, John Enbom, Paul Rudd, and Dan Etheridge. Enbom will be the revival’s showrunner with plans for production to start in 2022.
Starz CEO and President Jeffrey Hirsch released a statement, “After more than 10 years, we’re excited to have the cast, many of whom are now hugely popular award-winning stars, return to don their pink bowties and head back to the party. The fan demand for a ‘Party Down’ revival is clear and we look forward to what Rob, Paul, John, Dan and now Adam will do as they bring this special project and these hilarious characters back to life.”
Speaking of Ms. Caplan, she was set this week to be the female lead in the FX on Hulu limited series, Fleishman Is in Trouble, based on Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s best-selling debut novel. Brodesser-Akner is writing the nine-episode series and executive produces it along with Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Susannah Grant. The series is about 40-something Toby Fleishman, who dives into the brave new world of app-based dating with the kind of success he never had dating in his youth, before he got married at the tail end of medical school. But just at the start of his first summer of sexual freedom, his ex-wife disappears, leaving him with the kids and no hint of where she is or whether she plans to return. FX hasn’t confirmed other casting, but Deadline’s sources believe Caplan will be the series narrator. Little Miss Sunshine’s Oscar-nominated filmmakers, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, will direct multiple episodes. As we reported earlier, Caplan is also playing the female lead, Alex, in Paramount+’s based on the ‘80s erotic thriller, Fatal Attraction, which may be why we won’t see her on the Party Down revival mentioned above.
Fresh off the end of her popular series, The Chi, creator, producer and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe has signed an overall deal with Warner Bros. TV, and is developing a drama series based on the 1994 Oscar-nominated doc, Hoop Dreams, which was directed by Steve James. The multi-year deal for Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions will have her and partner Rishi Rajani producing new television programming for all of WarnerMedia’s platforms, including HBO Max. The Hoop Dreams coming-of-age series is written by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (S.W.A.T., Friday Night Lights), and it would follow two African-American teens in ‘90s Chicago dealing with the world of being high school basketball phenoms in the era of Michael Jordan.
Deadline recently spoke with filmmaker Ava Duvernay, and she told them the trade that her series, Queen Sugar, exec. produced by Oprah Winfrey for her cable network OWN, will be ending its run in 2022 with its seventh season.
Remember a few days ago when we mentioned how podcasts are the newest source material for series? To prove this point the Wolf Entertainment scripted podcast, Dark Woods, from Law and Order creator Dick Wolf, is being adapted into a television series by Universal Television. The podcast, which launched on Nov. 8, stars Corey Stoll, Monica Raymund, and Reid Scott, telling the story of the suspicious death of a young park volunteer in the California Redwood Forest. The podcast is written by David Pergolini, directed by Takashi Doscher, and exec. produced by Dick Wolf and Elliot Wolf, produced by Wolf Entertainment and Endeavor Content in association with Waverunner Studios. Universal Studio Group’s UCP has developed a number of podcasts for television including Dr. Death, starring Joshua Jackson, for Peacock, Sam Esmail’s Homecoming for Amazon, Dirty John for Bravo, and Joe Exotic, also for Peacock. It also has its own podcast division, USG Audio, which has series, Alligator Candy, The Lost Kids, The Followers: Madness of Two, and Close To Death.
As far as TV-related exec news, Angela Jain has been named ITV Studios’ very-first UK Unscripted Director, handling the British network’s reality content. We’ll follow our TV exec news from Britain with news of a new appointee to BAFTA, in this case Neal Street founder, Pippa Harris (1917, Penny Dreadful), who has been appointed as the Britain-based award-giving organization’s Vice President of Television.
Not really that apropos to anything in particular, but if you’re a fan of Star Trek: Discovery, tonight will be your last chance to watch it on Netflix, because it’s leaving that streamer and then won’t be streaming again until previous seasons launch on Paramount+ globally in the new year. (So no holiday binge-watching for the family. Sorry!)
On Tuesday night, Sony Pictures released the final trailer for its third collaboration with Marvel Studios for Spider-Man: Far from Home, Tom Holland’s third foray as the Wallcrawler, at least in his own solo movie, although this one also brings along Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, as well as a slew of villains, including a few from Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s runs. We get to see a bunch of those villains, and we won’t spoil it if you hadn’t heard and want to be surprised when you see the trailer in front of Ghostbusters: Afterlife this weekend.
With Disney Animation’s excellent Encanto opening next week — you can read J. Don Birnam’s review here — it seems like a good time for Disney to release a new trailer for its upcoming Pixar Animation movie, Turning Red, which will open theatrically on March 11, 2022. The new trailer premiered this morning.
A second trailer has been released from filmmaker Adam McKay‘s new star-studded Netflix comedy, Don’t Look Up, which stars no less than Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Tyler Perry, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Ron Perlman with Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep (and many more!) On the below-the-line side of things, the DP is Oscar-winner Linus Sandgren, ASC, FSF (La La Land, No Time to Die); production design is by Clayton Hartley (Almost Famous); it’s edited by Hank Corwin, ACE, who received Oscar nominations for his last two films with McKay (Vice and The Big Short); with costumes by Susan Matheson (Vice) and the score by Nicholas Britell (Succession). Don’t Look Up will debut in select theaters on Friday, Dec. 10 and then stream on Netflix starting Dec. 24.
One movie I’m looking forward to is the new sports drama from Director Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Risen, Greenland), National Champions, which will be released by STXfilms on Dec. 10. It stars Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black.
That’s it for today. Back on Friday for the usual “End of Week Production Notes,” but in the day in-between, please do check out the brilliant work by our Below the Line columnists, Mark London Williams, Neil Turitz, and Jeff Sneider.
All photos courtesy of their respective copyright holders, as listed.