Happy Hump Day!
We were a little glum on Monday about the lack of news as the entire industry shifts into its annual holiday break, but today will mostly make up for it, as there’s been some decent news in the past couple days.
First up, Walt Disney Pictures announced that a sequel to Marvel Studios‘ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu — currently the highest grossing movie of 2021, at least domestically — is a go. This comes as part of an exclusive overall deal that filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed the hit film, has signed with Marvel and Hulu‘s Onyx Collective. Cretton is already developing a new MCU series for streamer Disney+ on top of signing on to write and direct Shang-Chi 2. Under his new deal, Cretton will continue developing television projects both for Disney+ and for Onyx Collective for all platforms, including Hulu, through his new production company, Family Owned, with partner Asher Goldstein. They will focus on “building a slate of projects in film and TV that highlight the experiences of communities that have traditionally been overlooked by pop culture.”
There’s a very good chance that Jeff Sneider will be sharing more thoughts about this in tomorrow’s Above the Line Newsflash, so look out for that.
We’re just days away from Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg‘s first movie in three years with the musical, West Side Story, although we won’t be waiting as long for his next one, as it’s been announced that The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical film based on Spielberg’s own childhoood, will get its theatrical release via Universal Pictures on Weds. Nov 23, 2022. It’s a movie about family that’s being released the weekend of the annual family holiday of Thanksgiving, which sounds perfect. Spielberg co-wrote the screenplay with his West Side Story scribe, Tony Kushner, the two of them producing with Kristie Macosko Krieger. The cast includes Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, playing characters based on Spielberg’s parents, while Seth Rogen will play a version of Spielberg’s uncle. Newcomer Gabriel LaBelle plays a younger version of Spielberg himself.
A bit of movie casting news as Dave Bautista — fresh off his recent appearances in Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune and Zack Snyder‘s Army of the Dead — has been cast in M. Night Shyamalan‘s next film, Knock at the Cabin, which Universal has already dated for a Feb. 3, 2023 release. Shyamalan writes and directs, as usual, and also as usual, not a lot has been revealed about the film other than the title. Shyamalan produces with Ashwin Rajan via Shyamalan’s Blinding Edge Pictures along with Marc Bienstock and Steven Schneider.
It’s always nice to hear when production has wrapped, especially from friends of Below the Line like filmmaker Tim Story, and he has indeed wrapped on the horror-comedy The Blackening, his film for MRC Film, according to Deadline. The film stars Dewayne Perkins (The Upshaws), Grace Byers (Amazon’s Harlem), Jermaine Fowler (Coming 2 America), Melvin Gregg (Nine Perfect Strangers), Jay Pharoah (SNL), Yvonne Orji (Insecure), Antoinette Robertson (Dear White People), X Mayo (The Farewell), and Sinqua Walls (Resort to Love), and it’s about seven Black friends who go away for the weekend, only to find themselves trapped in a cabin with a killer. It’s based on the 2018 Comedy Central digital short written by Perkins for his Chicago improv group, 3-PEAT, and it plays on the idea of “The Black cast member is always the first to die in a horror movie, but what happens when everyone is Black?”
The reviews for Adam McKay‘s new Netflix comedy, Don’t Look Up, just dropped last night — you can read our review here — and apparently, things went well between the Oscar-winning filmmaker and that film’s Oscar-winning star, Jennifer Lawrence, as the two are reuniting for Bad Blood, the film about the rise and fall of Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Lawrence will play Holmes in the film that has just been backed by Apple to get things moving on a project that’s been long in development. McKay will write and direct the project that was originally set up at Legendary, but McKay has moved it over to Apple through the multi-year first look deal his company, Hyperobject Industries, has with Apple.
Fresh off her breathtaking performance in Joe Wright‘s musical Cyrano, which will hit select theaters on Jan. 21 after a one-week L.A. run starting Dec. 17, Haley Bennett has signed on to star in and produce an adaptation of Jackie Polzin’s bestseller Brood for Topic Studios. Bennett will produce the film with her Cyrano director Wright as well as Mollye Asher, who produced Bennett’s indie film Swallow, as they look for a director. Brood was published by Doubleday in March and was long-listed for the Center for Fiction‘s 2021 First Novel Prize. It follows a woman, “as she heroically tries to keep her brood of four chickens alive against a fierce Minnesota environment that includes everything from a brutal winter to a sweltering summer that brings a surprise tornado. She battles predators, bad luck and the uncertainty of a future that might not look anything like the one she always imagined.”
Sony‘s TriStar Pictures has acquired the feature rights to Michiel Blanchart‘s short supernatural rom-com, You’re Dead Helene, in a competitive situation. Blanchart, who wrote and directed the short film, will also direct the feature, which is being produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert at Ghost House, and Michaël Goldberg and Boris Van Gils at Playbox Pictures. It’s being overseen by TriStar’s Caellum Allan and Ghost House’s Romel Adam. Blanchart’s short has qualified for the Oscars through a number of festival wins.
As far as studio news, Robert Simonds‘ STX Entertainment is separating from parent company Eros Intl. just two years after its 2020 merger with the Mumbai-based company. Eros has entered into an agreement with The Najafi Companies for a deal reportedly worth $173 million, which could merely be an interim step to a much larger transaction later. A key element of the deal is a “go-shop period,” a 45-day span during which the board of directors of ErosSTX, with the assistance of its financial advisor, Lazard, can solicit alternative proposals from third parties. The acquisition price does not include customary adjustments for transaction expenses and debt, including repayment of STX Entertainment debt of about $148 million. If ErosSTX terminates the Najafi purchase agreement because it accepts a better offer, it will pay a termination fee of $4.5 million (plus the return of $2 million that Najafi has funded as a deposit) to Najafi. Likewise, Najafi will be required to pay ESGC a termination fee of $4.5 million (less the $2 million deposit) if Najafi fails to close the transaction. The transaction is expected to close by the end of January 2022. The only thing odd about this news is that STXfilms actually has a new movie in theaters this week, National Champions, directed by another friend of Below the Line, director Ric Roman Waugh. It’s the company’s first theatrical release since the pandemic began, having sent Waugh’s Greenland, starring Gerard Butler, directly to VOD.
We’ll start today’s TV coverage with a few renewals, and one sad cancellation. First up, STARZ has renewed Power Book II: Ghost for a third season with Brett Mahoney taking over as showrunner. This announcement comes just a few weeks after the launch of the second season of the spin-off series on Nov. 21. The Season 2 premiere of the series launched with much higher ratings than the Season 1 premiere, being the #1 ranked cable series among Black households, according to the cable network. Mahoney was previously the showrunner on Fox‘s Empire, and he takes over from previous showrunner, Courtney A. Kemp.
Apple TV+ has also renewed its mystery anthology series, Truth Be Told, for a third season, and that, too, is getting a new showrunner and EP in Maisha Closson from Claws and How to Get Away with Murder. Truth be Told stars and is exec. produced by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. The show’s creator and former showrunner, Nichelle Tramble Spellman, will remain on board an exec. producer for the series produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Chernin Entertainment, and Endeavor Content. Based on the novel by Kathleen Barber, the series stars Spencer as podcaster Poppy Scoville, who pursues truth and justice as she explores a different true crime each season. The series also stars Kate Hudson as Poppy’s childhood friend and media mogul, Micah Keith.
Netflix has also renewed its series, Outer Banks, the popular coming-of-age series created by Jonas Pate, Josh Pate, and Shannon Burke for a third season, while HBO has renewed its latest series, Sex Lives of College Girls, for a second season.
Meanwhile, AMC+ has set a Jan. 20 premiere date for its new series, La Fortuna, starring Stanley Tucci and Clarke Peters.
Unfortunately, Peacock has decided not to renew the popular comedy A.P. Bio after four seasons. Creator Mike O’Brien announced the end of his show, starring Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), on social media after the final two seasons were shifted to the NBCU streamer after being cancelled by NBC. Peacock confirmed the cancellation, saying, “We were honored to be able to give fans two more seasons of this beloved, quirky comedy. We’re grateful to creator Mike O’Brien for his out-of-the-box storytelling and for taking us on this journey with these characters at Whitlock High.” You can read O’Brien’s statement below:
I’m sad to announce that AP Bio will not be renewed for a 5th season. But mostly I’m feeling grateful right now. To all the fans who watched the show and fought for it to come back after the cancellation! And to Peacock & UTV for giving us two more seasons after that! (all 42 eps
— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienXOXO) December 6, 2021
That brings us to new series in development with ABC developing a PI drama called Only to Deceive, based on Tasha Alexander‘s novel, which comes from Paul Sciarrotta (BH90210, The Origin), who has once again partnered with Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), Russ Cundiff and their DiVide Pictures, who has a deal under 20th TV. Only to Deceive is the first in Alexander’s Lady Emily Mysteries set in Victorian England, although Sciarotta’s adaptation will take place in modern-day America. Sciarrotta executive produces with Ventimiglia and Cundiff, while Deanna Harris, Director of Development at DiVide, serves as producer. In the series, Lady Emily Ashton, “the toast of New York City’s high society, tries to make sense of her late husband’s mysterious death by starting a secret career as a private investigator alongside her polar opposite, Long Island ex-cop Colin Hargreaves.” This is the second project Sciarrotta has sold with DiVide Pictures and 20th TV following the drama, The Farm, which was set up at Fox last year.
HBO and UK’s Channel 4 has given a series order to Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James‘ Jamaica detective series, Get Millie Black, a six-part series being co-produced between the WarnerMedia premium network and British broadcaster. James is best known as the author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and The Book of Night Women, and this will be his first television series that he both write and exec. produces. The limited series follows ex-Scotland Yard detective Millie-Jean Black, “who returns to Kingston to work missing persons and soon finds herself on a quest to save a sister who won’t be saved, to find a boy who can’t be found, to solve a case that will blow her world apart and prove almost as tough to crack as Millie Black.” The series comes from Motive Pictures, which is backed by Simon Maxwell‘s Endeavor Content, Maxwell being the former Channel 4 head of international drama and co-creator of Fox’s Deep State. (Note: That’s two female-led detective series announced in a row, so that’s clearly something networks are currently looking for if you’re thinking of creating a new television series.)
In an “aggressive pre-emptive deal,” Alcon Television Group has acquired the Joe Madureira comic book series, Battle Chasers, which is returning to print after a 20-year hiatus, for John Wick creator Derek Kolstad to write and exec. produce. The comic series set in an “arcane punk world” follows a “ragtag group of heroes: a disgraced, heartbroken swordsman, a cynical thief, a cranky wizard, a war machine with a kind heart, and a young girl whose missing father left her a pair of powerful magic gloves well beyond her capabilities, who must come together, despite their many, many differences, to stop a dark force rising in the land.” Madureira first published the creator-owned comic through Wildstorm‘s Cliffhanger imprint, but only nine issues were published between 1998 and 2001 as the book was plagued by scheduling delays.
India’s top comedian and Bollywood star, Vir Das, is writing a single-camera comedy to potentially star in (as his second U.S. role) called Country Eastern, for which Fox has given a script commitment. It comes from production company Party Over Here, founded by the Lonely Island‘s Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, with CBS Studios producing along with Fox Entertainment. Sam Laybourne (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) will co-write with Das and serve as showrunner of the comedy about a young wealthy man from India (Das’ role, presumably) “who restarts his life in America with his family. While attempting to rebuild their lives in Memphis, Tennessee, he decides to pursue his passion and become a country music singer. Only problem, he’s sh*t. Total sh*t. He’s going to have to gain some life experience in the States if he wants to have something ‘real’ to sing about.” Das and Laybourne executive produce with Samberg, Taccone, Schaffer and Ali Bell for Party Over Here, along with Reg Tigerman.
Over the past few seasons of Saturday Night Live, many have wondered when Kenan Thompson, who holds the record for longest-running cast member of the venerable sketch comedy show, might leave the show. This especially became true after the launch of Thompson’s NBC comedy Kenan, which forced him to divide his time between two work-intensive shows. We might have an answer now as Thompson has launched a production company and talent incubator called Artists for Artists, along with former Film Engine COO John Ryan Jr., the exec producer of Bill & Ted Face The Music. This is a joint venture with management firm McKeon/Myones Entertainment, and the company’s first project is with boxing champ Mike Tyson, who Ryan brought out of retirement. Ryan will serve as the company’s CEO, and according to the press release, Artists For Artists “is a full-service artist incubator for content creation, production, commerce and management venture. The company is designed to help talent create and produce their own content and will help stars and creatives build their own content brands while partnering with distributors.”
Keep track of when all the projects above begin production by subscribing to Below the Line‘s Production Listings. Who knows? Maybe working one of those shows will be your next gig!
Another day without a ton of new trailers although TNT has released the trailer for the third season of its sci-fi series, Snowpiercer, which will premiere on Jan. 24, 2022 at 9pm ET/PT.
That’s it for today. Back on Friday for “End of Week Production Notes” but do check out the work of our columnists in the meantime.