The biggest news that’s been shaking up the industry over the past 24 hours is that Scarlett Johansson is suing Walt Disney Studios over its decision to release Black Widow concurrently on Disney+ with Premier Access (for $29.99) on the same day as its theatrical release, back on July 9. This decision was announced months prior, but Disney decided to double down by announcing that the movie pulled in $60 million through the Disney+ initiative on Sunday morning. In the lawsuit filed on Thursday, Johansson claims that Disney’s day-and-date approach to the movie was a “breach of contract” since the streaming release took away from the theatrical box office, on which Johansson’s initial contract (probably signed long before even the announcement of Disney+) was based. According to the suit, Marvel had promised Ms. Johansson that the movie would be a theatrical release and that her compensation would “largely be based on box office receipts.” After delaying the movie more than a year, Disney announced the planned dual release a few months back.
It didn’t take too long for Disney to respond to Ms. Johansson’s claims with the statement, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
Below the Line‘s own columnist Neil Turitz explored this very subject over a month ago in his The Accidental Turitz column, which ended with the prescient conclusion: “I’m not sure, ultimately, where this leads, but I know that the landscape is going to continue to change. I also know that there’s no way everyone is going to be happy about it.”
Jeff Sneider at Collider reports that Dan Trachtenberg is attached to direct a new streaming series based on Kevin Costner‘s 1995 post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, Waterworld. Original Producer John Davis is behind the planned series that is expected to follow some of the characters from the original movie, but would take place 20 years after the events in that movie.
Davis’ long-time Davis Entertainment partner, John Fox, said, “We’re not 100% sure on the approach to the show. But definitely, we’re in the building stages right now.”
So far, there’s no showrunner, and they’re still seeking out writers, but it’s probably safe to assume that this streaming series will be for the Comcast streamer Peacock, since it’s being developed with Universal Television.
Fox added, “We’re talking to folks, but nobody locked in yet. Dan’s attached, we’re breaking the story now, and we’re talking to a few different writers. And we should have a writer locked in, I would think, over the next couple of weeks.”
Davis concluded that rewatching the original movie led to his decision to try to develop the streaming series, saying, “For many, many years I didn’t really want to see it because I thought the movie didn’t work, it wasn’t what the script was, it was not as good as the script, it had its production problems. And then I went back and saw it again, and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, this movie ages great with time.'”
Just because we started off with a couple other news stories today, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19, and California seems to be heading straight into a fourth wave as the Delta variant is running fairly rampant. Just to show that not all the production shutdowns were taking place overseas, the Paramount+ limited series, The Offer, about the making of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Oscar-winning The Godfather, which was shooting in Hollywood, had to pause production on Wednesday, as a test came back positive in the central Zone A, which includes the actors and those that work closely with them.
Paramount Television Studios told Deadline, “Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily halted production on The Offer due to the return of a positive coronavirus test result during routine testing. We will continue to follow all safety protocols and monitor the situation closely.”
In California, COVID cases surged to the highest in five months as the Delta variant spread among the unvaccinated, which makes up 18 million of the state’s massive population. Case rates among the unvaccinated is 600% higher than the vaccinated, while 90% of the patients that are hospitalized were unvaccinated. According to the state’s COVID dashboard, the average number of cases per 100,000 people went from 4.6 on the 4th of July to 12.7 on Wednesday and then up to 14.2 on Thursday. Governor Gavin Newsom had already reissued an indoor mask mandate before the CDC confirmed (or rather, reversed their earlier statement) that even the vaccinated should wear mask indoors in areas with “substantial” thread. Both Los Angeles and New York City fall under that “substantial” category.
According to Deadline, Netflix has been exploring the possibility of issuing a vaccination mandate for cast and crew taking part in its UK production, since the United Kingdom has been particularly badly hit by the recent spike with numerous production having to shut down. Netflix’s U.S. shoots had already followed the new industry protocols agreed upon regarding those working in “Zone A” being vaccinated, but that only applies to the United States. Netflix has been considering “rare” exceptions to the U.S. vaccine rule, but they will be limited to “medical, religious or age reasons” and possibly in a few cases for series and films that are already in production. Netflix will likely have to negotiate with the non-U.S. unions to take this action overseas.
Before we get to this week’s casting and development news, MGM released the first official picture of Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, and Jared Leto as their characters in Ridley Scott‘s upcoming drama, House of Gucci, about the legacy behind the family’s fashion empire. While the former two are generally recognizable while dressed up as Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci, respectively, Leto, who plays Paolo Gucci, well, he’s in there somewhere. Many already feel that the makeup job on Leto might lead to Make-Up and Prosthetics Designer Jana Carboni, and her whole team getting an Oscar nomination. (You can watch the first teaser trailer for House of Gucci below in our trailer section.)
Jacob Latimore from Showtime‘s The Chi will be one of the co-stars of the New Line and SpringHill Company reboot of the ’90s musical comedy, House Party, which starred rappers Kid ‘n’ Play. Latimore is replacing Jorge Lendeborg Jr, who recently left the project, so that Latimore will co-star with Tosin Cole in the feature directed by award-winning music video director, Calmatic. The movie is being made specifically for streaming on HBO Max with SpringHill’s LeBron James and Maverick Carter producing, Reginald and Warrington Hudlin exec. producing along with SpringHill’s Spencer Beighley and Jamal Henderson.
Also, this week, it was announced that recent Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield and Tiffany Haddish are in talks to star in Disney’s next movie based on its theme park ride, Haunted Mansion — that announcement coming out just before the release of Disney’s Jungle Cruise into over 4,000 theaters this weekend. Justin Simien of Dear White People is directing the feature based on Kattie Dippold‘s script, that is being produced by Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich (Aladdin), via their Rideback banner with Nick Reynolds of Rideback exec. producing.
Searchlight Pictures announced the full cast and crew, as well as the title for the upcoming film from BAFTA-winning director Tom (This Country) George, See How They Run, which filmed in historic London locations earlier this year, including the Dominion Theatre, the St. Martin’s Theatre, and the Old Vic Theatre. The movie stars Oscar winners Sam Rockwell and Adrien Brody, as well as Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, and David Oyelowo, as well as an ensembe cast that includes Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Sian Clifford, Shirley Henderson, and many more. Below-the-line talent for the film produced by Damian Jones, includes Editor Peter Lambert, Director of Photography Jamie Ramsay, Production Designer Amanda McArthur, Costume Designer Odile Dicks-Mireau, Hair and Makeup Designer Nadia Stacey, and Production Sound Mixer Martin Beresford. The film is based on an original screenplay from Mark Chappell.
The synopsis for the film is: “In the West End of 1950s London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after a pivotal member of the crew is murdered. When world-weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and eager rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) take on the case, the two find themselves thrown into a puzzling whodunit within the glamorously sordid theater underground, investigating the mysterious homicide at their own peril.
Sebastian Stan (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) is joining Julianne Moore in Emmy and BAFTA-nominated director Benjamin Caron‘s con artist film, Sharper, for A24 and Apple Studios. Caron was nominated for directing episodes of Netflix’s The Crown and the popular BBC show, Sherlock, and he’ll be directing Sharper from the Black List spec screenplay by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka. Both Moore and Stan will play con artists in the film that Moore is producing along with Bart Freundlich, Gatewood, Tanaka and Erik Feig and Jessica Switch from Picturestart with the latter’s Julia Hammer exec. producing.
Kyra Sedgwick‘s movie, Space Oddity, her second feature as director, has added more names to its cast, including hubby Kevin Bacon, Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory), and Carrie Preston. The 2016 Black List script, written by Rebecca Banner, tells the story of Alex (played by Kyle Allen), who has planned a one-way mission to Mars before beginning a romance with Daisy, a newcomer to his town, played by Alexandra Shipp. Bacon plays Alex’s father with Preston playing his mother, and Helberg is playing Dimitri, the love interest of Alex’s sister Liz (Madeline Brewer). REI Co-op Studios recently joined Sedgwick and Valerie Stadler‘s Big Swing Productions to produce the film, which is currently shooting in Rhode Island.
The fantasy film, Man & Witch, which just finished shooting in Los Angeles and Scotland has added a number of talented actors, including Jennifer Saunders, Eddie Izzard, Daniel Portman, and Bill Bailey, in a voice cast that also includes Sean Astin and screenwriter/star Greg Steinbruner. The film marks the return of The NeverEnding Story star Tami Stronach to the screen with Jim Henson‘s Creature Shop providing the photo-realistic animals voiced by the above. Also in the human cast are Shohreh Aghdashloo from The Expanse, Christopher Lloyd, Pauline McLynn, and Reginald D. Hunter.
If you don’t want to miss out on being able to work on the crew of some of the above productions, subscribe to Below the Line‘s Production Listings, which are updated daily.
First up in television news is the semi-shocker that actor Jodie Whitaker, who just became the 13th Doctor Who (and the first woman to play the character) in 2017, will be leaving the series, as will Showrunner Chris Chibnall, according to the BBC. Whitaker was hired for the role by Chibnall, who replaced long-time showrunner Stephen Moffatt.
Disney+ announced this week that its next Marvel Studios series, Hawkeye, starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Stanfield, will debut on November 24, following the upcoming What If animated series, and theatrical releases, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Chloé Zhao‘s Eternals. (Better check those contracts, everyone!)
TNT has renewed its sci-fi series Snowpiercer for a fourth season, just as Season 3 wraps filming, while Netflix has renewed the comic book-based Sweet Tooth for a second season.
I think it’s time for a bit of “lightning round” casting news…
Isaac Powell (Dear Evan Hansen) has joined the HBO Max Sex and the City spin-off series, And Just Like That… as a series regular. The cast has also been joined by Sara Ramirez, Nicole Ari Parker, Sarita Choudhury, Karen Pittman, Alexa Swinton, Cree Cicchino, Niall Cunningham, and Cathy Ang.
Showtime announced that DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It) has joined Shailene Woodley in the hour-long drama, Three Women, based on the bestseller by Lisa Taddeo.
Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) will star in the AMC series, Moonhaven, and yet another Magic Mike vet, Matt Bomer, will star in the Netflix limited series, Echoes, opposite Michelle Monaghan.
Dylan McDermott will be returning to Law & Order: Organized Crime for a recurring role in its second season, while Brittany Daniel will be returning for Paramount+’s The Game reboot, making a “special appearance.”
As promised, we’re kicking off our trailer section with the first official trailer for Ridley Scott‘s MGM drama feature, House of Gucci, starring Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, and an unrecognizable Jared Leto as members of the affluent Gucci fashion family at the center of the film. It will be released in theaters on November 24. It also stars Academy Award winners Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino, and Oscar nominee Salma Hayek. The trailer, which uses Blondie’s disco classic “Heart of Glass” quite effectively, does a good job remininding you of the cast’s amazing awards pedigree.
Another movie that’s likely to be in the awards conversation this fall is King Richard, starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, father to tennis greats, Venus and Serena Williams. Warner Bros. Pictures will release the movie on November 19 in theaters and on HBO Max.
Lastly, Netflix released the first trailer for its animated feature, Vivo, which was recently picked up from Sony Pictures Animation and will debut on the streamer next Friday, August 6. It features the voices of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan, and Juan De Marcos from The Buena Vista Social Club.
It’s the weekend, and while I’m hesitant to recommend people in certain COVID-stricken areas to rush out and see a movie in theaters, this weekend sees the release of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, David Lowery‘s The Green Knight, and Thomas McCarthy‘s Stillwater, starring Matt Damon, all pretty good movies, if you ask me.