This will be the last “End of Week Production Notes” of the year and probably the last column with this name moving forward. If you read Jeff Sneider‘s “Above the Line Newsflash” yesterday, you know that he has a pretty good handle on covering the news, and a lot of what I might have written about here has already been well covered. Also, Below the Line is going to be going through some other changes in 2022, and I will not be a part of them. More on that to come… but again, probably not from me.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s see if there’s any news worth sharing before everyone heads on their pre-Christmas weekend break.
HBO‘s Sex and the City spin-off sequel, And Just Like That…, has been a huge success with everyone seemingly talking about the series since it debuted last week. Much of the talk has been about the death of a popular character and SPOILERS! if you planned on watching the first episode, in which that character died. The return of the series and the attention the character was getting had an unexpected side effect, as a number of women came forward with serious accusations of sexual assault against Chris Noth, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. The women who came forward stated that seeing Noth on television and in a corresponding Peloton commercial (made in response to the first episode and which has been pulled since) triggered them, bringing back painful memories of the incidents which include rape. Those incidents took place in L.A. in 2004 (so possibly outside the statute of limitations), and in New York in 2015.
Noth released a statement categorically denying the claims, “The accusations against me made by individuals I met years, even decades, ago are categorically false. These stories could’ve been from 30 years ago or 30 days ago — no always means no — that is a line I did not cross. The encounters were consensual. It’s difficult not to question the timing of these stories coming out. I don’t know for certain why they are surfacing now, but I do know this: I did not assault these women.”
As of now, L.A. police are not actively looking into the accusations, because while a report had been filed about the allegations from 2004 and a probe had begun, the woman who came forward about the 2004 incident (under the pseudonym “Zoe”) didn’t actually file a formal report, which would have launched a full-scale investigation.
Since this news broke, actress and filmmaker Zoe Lister-Jones (not the Zoe of the original claims, just to make that clear) came forward on Instagram to say that Noth had been sexually inappropriate with her while the two were on the set of Law & Order. She said, “Last week my friend asked me how I felt about Mr Big’s death and I said honestly I felt relieved. He asked why and I told him I couldn’t separate the actor from the man and the man is a sexual predator. My friend was alarmed at my word choice and to be honest so was I. I hadn’t thought of this man for many years and yet there was a virility to my language that came from somewhere deep and buried.”
Since (spoilers, again!) Noth’s character Mr. Big actually died in the first episode of the new HBO limited series, it shouldn’t cause any issues with the remainder of the series, unless HBO decides to pull the pilot episode completely, which would also be problematic for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet.
Another actor and series hit by similar but far lighter accusations was ABC‘s The Goldbergs, which is coming near to wrapping its ninth season. Jeff Garlin, who has played the patriarchal figure on the show for those nine seasons, is leaving The Goldbergs mid-season after multiple misconduct allegations against him that led to an HR investigation. According to sources, a mutual agreement was reached for Garlin to not return with his exit being effective immediately, although no one from Sony Pictures Television has commented. Garlin only had one more day of shooting left, and no decision has been made by ABC to renew the series for a 10th season, even though it’s one of the network’s strongest-performing comedies.
Surely by now, you’ve heard of the Omicron strain of the COVID-19 virus, but as with everything, New York City has been hit the worst and first, as it’s spreading in that metropolis to the point where 13% of cases are now Omicron vs. Delta, and the infection rate is going up at a rapid pace.
Right now, this seems to only be affecting Broadway shows, a number of them having been hit with positive COVID cases, forcing them to cancel and reschedule performances. Last night, the popular Tony winner Moulin Rouge! canceled its performance AFTER the audience had already been seated. Apparently, a member of the company had tested positive for COVID and the result was only received right before curtain time, so the seated audience was asked to exit in an orderly fashion. Thursday also saw the cancellation of the performance of the Alanis Morisette musical, Jagged Little Pill, also due to a positive COVID test, although that plans on resuming on Friday. The newly-opened Mrs. Doubtfire also announced that performances were canceled through Sunday, as it was on “hiatus” with plans to resume performances Tuesday. (For a musical to be closed on a holiday weekend likely means millions of dollars lost, so it must be for good reason.) The Michael Jackson musical, MJ, canceled both Wednesday performances due to a limited number of positive COVID tests. Tina – The Tina Turner Musical also canceled Thursday’s performance “due to the detection of a limited number of positive covid test results,” and it’s the third cancellation for that show after both Wednesday performances were canceled. Hamilton, which had already been on pause, will return Saturday.
Los Angeles isn’t immune to this current wave with Thursday night’s performance of Bradley Whitford‘s A Christmas Carol being canceled as well as performances through the Saturday matinee, due to a number of breakthrough COVID cases, as announced by the Center Theater Group on Twitter:
Performances of 'A Christmas Carol' are cancelled until the evening of 12/18 due to detection of COVID-19 within the company. Learn more at https://t.co/Zcl0OZTjMw. pic.twitter.com/DvuEhDR463
— Center Theatre Group (@CTGLA) December 17, 2021
Since we don’t normally cover theater and Broadway here on Below the Line, you may be wondering why this news/information is pertinent right now. As mentioned, things are getting bad in New York again, and as with last March and April, once things start shutting down, other things will surely follow. As far as New York production goes, most shows are close to going on holiday break regardless, but city and state officials have been urging people who aren’t vaccinated to get vaccinated, those who are vaccinated to get boosters, the wearing of masks, etc. as testing sites and some hospitals are being flooded by new cases. If things don’t improve over the holidays, some productions may be forced to delay starting back up in early January. Of course, the COVID protocols on film and television production has been ahead of the pack in terms of testing, but one presumes that much of the cast and crew of the shows will be spending time with family and around others, so we’ll have to see whether those who have been careful about catching and spreading COVID might get sucked into the current wave, especially in and around the New York area.
Yesterday, Warner Bros. announced a number of dates for some of their theatrical releases, and while one movie previously planned for HBO Max will be getting a theatrical release, another one set for theatrical will now go to streaming.
The WarnerMedia theatrical division dated three movies, including The Last Train to New York, the New Line remake of the Korean mega-hit, directed by Timo Tjahjanto and produced by James Wan, will be released in theaters on April 21, 2023. The DC movie, Blue Beetle, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and starring Xolo Maridueña, which was thought to be for Warner’s HBO Max streamer, will now get a theatrical release on August 18, 2023. (Presumably, this decision may have been in response to the excitement shown towards the character’s costume — you can see it on the left — which debuted at DC Fandome back in October.) Lastly, the Alex Timbers animated feature, Toto, which tells The Wizard of Oz story from the perspective of Dorothy’s dog, will be released on Feb. 2, 2024. That’s written by John August and produced by Derek Frey.
In an ironic twist, a movie called The Fallout, which was planned for a theatrical release, will now debut on HBO Max on Jan. 27. A high school movie directed by Megan Park, The Fallout stars Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Will Ropp, with John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, and Shailene Woodley. It’s about a higher schooler named Vada (Ortega) who begins to reinvent herself, while re-evaluating her relationships with her family, friends and her view of the world, eventually connecting with Ziegler’s Mia.
Steven Soderbergh‘s KIMI, starring Zoë Kravitz and already slated for the streamer, will be on HBO Max starting Feb. 10. That one was written by David Koepp, and it costars Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Erika Christensen, Derek DelGaudio, Robin Givens, Charles Halford, Devin Ratray, Jacob Vargas, and Rita Wilson.
Lastly, the sci-fi rom-com Moonshot, starring Cole Sprouse, Lana Condor, Mason Gooding, Emily Rudd, and Zach Braff, and directed by Christopher Winterbauer (Wyrm), will hit HBO Max on March 24
In another sudden and surprise move on Thursday, Universal and Blumhouse announced that the Scott Derickson horror-thriller, The Black Phone, which premiered at Fantastic Fest in September and was scheduled for an early Feb. release, will now instead hit theaters on June 24, 2022. Oddly, Universal had already begun planning for the January junket to promote the film, but presumably, that will be pushed back as well.
The financially-beleaguered STXfilms has also delayed two of its movies, the Guy Ritchie–Jason Statham actioneer, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, which JUST released its first trailer ahead of its planned January release. That will now come out on March 18, 2022, while the Chris Pine film, The Contract is pushed back a month to come out on April 1, 2022. Lori Evans Taylor‘s thriller Bed Rest, starring Melissa Barrera, will be released on July 15, 2022.
It seems like most of this week’s casting news is about Netflix projects.
It was pretty obvious and clear that Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action adventures series, based on the beloved Nickelodeon animated series, would require a large cast, and five more actors have been added to the roster, which is currently shooting in Vancouver.
Elizabeth Yu will play Azula, “the intensely driven princess of the Fire Nation. A firebending prodigy and relentless perfectionist, she’ll stop at nothing to secure her position as the heir to the throne.”
Maria Zhang will play Suki, “the intimidating leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, an elite female fighting force dedicated to protecting their community and upholding the ideals of their namesake, Avatar Kyoshi.”
Tamlyn Tomita (Cobra Kai) will play Yukari, Suki’s mother and “the fiercely protective mayor of her small village on Kyoshi Island.”
Yvonne Chapman (Kung Fu) will play Avatar Kyoshi, “a legendary warrior revered for her bravery, fearsome fighting skills, and uncompromising dedication to the cause of justice.”
Casey Camp-Horinek (Reservation Dogs) will play Gran Gran, Katara and Sokka’s grandmother and “the compassionate and wise matriarch of the Southern Water Tribe.”
Deadline reports that the streamer would also be releasing John Ridley‘s Shirley, a feature film about political icon Shirley Chisholm, to be played by Oscar-winner Regina King. They also announced that the cast will include Lance Reddick, Lucas Hedges, André Holland (Passing), Terrence Howard, Christina Jackson (Swagger), Michael Cherrie (Home Again), Dorian Missick (For Life), Amirah Vann (Underground), W. Earl Brown (Deadwood) and newcomer Ethan Jones Romero, although no information about who they’re all playing is known currently.
Chisholm was the first Black Congresswoman and the first Black woman to run for President of the U.S. to great cost to herself, the film drawing on exclusive and extensive conversations with Chisholm’s family and friends, following her amidst her boundary-breaking and historic presidential campaign.
The project was produced by Participant and King’s Royal Ties Productions with Ridley producing the film along with Anikah McLaren and Elizabeth Haggard for Participant, Regina and Reina King for Royal Ties Productions. Jeff Skoll and Ted Gidlow are exec producing.
We can expect a lot more from Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee over at Netflix, following their release of his 2020 film, Da 5 Bloods, and his series based on his early film, She’s Gotta Have It. Lee has now signed a multi-year creative partnership with the streamer that will have him directing and producing narrative features for the company.
Lee said in a statement, “There Is No Better Way For Me And My Company 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks To Begin The New Year Than Renew Our Partnership With Ted, Scott And Tendo-Da Fearless Leaders Of NETFLIX. Besides My Joints, We Together Will Focus On The New Diverse Storytellers. YOUTH MUST BE SERVED. And Dat’s Da Truth, Ruth. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF.”
Netflix Head of Global Film Scott Stuber released a far more conventional statement, saying, “Throughout Spike’s incredible career, his writing and directing have remained searing and insightful about our times, while still being incredibly entertaining. We’re privileged to enter this new partnership with Spike and look forward to bringing the next chapter of films from Brooklyn’s very own to the world.”
As far as trailers, they’re starting to pick up again with the holiday releases coming up and people swarming into movie theaters per usual. Paramount Pictures kicks things off with the first trailer for its fairly high-concept adventure-comedy The Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Brad Pitt. The logline for the film, which will be released in theaters on March 25, is: “Brilliant, but reclusive author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has spent her career writing about exotic places in her popular romance-adventure novels featuring handsome cover model Alan (Channing Tatum), who has dedicated his life to embodying the hero character, “Dash.” While on tour promoting her new book with Alan, Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who hopes that she can lead him to the ancient lost city’s treasure from her latest story. Wanting to prove that he can be a hero in real life and not just on the pages of her books, Alan sets off to rescue her. Thrust into an epic jungle adventure, the unlikely pair will need to work together to survive the elements and find the ancient treasure before it’s lost forever.”
Focus Features released the first trailer for the Macedonian period thriller, You Won’t Be Alone, from Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski, his feature directorial debut after making 9 shorts. “Set in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia, it follows a young girl who is kidnapped and then transformed into a witch by an ancient spirit. Curious about life as a human, the young witch accidentally kills a peasant in the nearby village and then takes her victim’s shape to live life in her skin. Her curiosity ignited, she continues to wield this horrific power in order to understand what it means to be human.” The movie will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, and then will be released only in theaters on April 1, 2022.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back on Monday with “Over the Weekend,” which will include a report on the weekend box office, but so far, Sony Pictures‘ Spider-Man: No Way Home is looking to be the first $200 million opener since Avengers: Endgame, based on the $50 million reported from Thursday previews just this morning.