It’s Friday again, and here’s some of the news that’s been circulating through the industry over the past couple days.
We’re just going to wade into the massive amount of news with some GOOD news, because there’s been so much bad news over the past few weeks. Earlier this week, actor Bob Odenkirk returned to work on Better Call Saul after suffering heart attack on set roughly two months ago. The 58-year-old Emmy winner tweeted a picture of himself back in the makeup chair with a shout out to “makeup pro Cheri Montesanto” on Wednesday morning after collapsing on set July 27. Apparently, Odenkirk had a blockage that was resolved without surgery.
Back to work on Better Call Saul! So happy to be here and living this specific life surrounded by such good people. BTW this is makeup pro Cheri Montesanto making me not ugly for shooting! pic.twitter.com/lTAfPg7dDp
— Mr. Bob Odenkirk (@mrbobodenkirk) September 8, 2021
Also back on the beat is Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who has been out and about pitching his next film project to a number of major film studios, excluding his previous home at Warner Bros. or any of the streamers.
Nolan may still be licking his wounds after his 2020 sci-fi action film, Tenet, was delayed a number of times before being released theatrically — one of the first movies to hit movie theaters after the shutdown — where it didn’t fare particularly well. Unlike Warners’ 2021 releases, Tenet wasn’t given a concurrent HBO Max release, but it also was released far earlier into the pandemic with movie theaters in New York City and L.A. still remaining closed.
According to Deadline, Nolan’s latest project will return him to the WWII era of his hit, Dunkirk, with a movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer’s role in the creation of the atom bomb during World War II, and several of the studios in town have been given the script to read. Nolan and WarnerMedia had words for each other when the latter decided to release its entire 2021 slate day-and-date, which goes against Nolan’s long-time edict about the theatrical experience being the only proper way to view movies.
More good news for fans of the former NBC series, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, as The Roku Channel has confirmed that it has inked a deal with Lionsgate Television for a Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist holiday special, which will debut on the streamer this holiday season.
The special will pick up where Season 2 left off (and the last episode that aired on NBC before the series was cancelled), and the entire cast is returning, including Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, Andrew Leeds, Alice Lee, Michael Thomas Grant, Kapil Talwalkar, David St. Louis, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Gallagher, and Emmy nominee Bernadette Peters.
The show’s creator Austin Winsberg said in a statement, “I am so extremely grateful to The Roku Channel for helping us get Zoey to sing again. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to hear someone’s heart song than the holidays. And Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas will be an opportunity to provide the fans and new viewers alike a chance to all tap their toes and get in the holiday mood. This show has always been about empathy, compassion and the triumph of the human spirit. The Roku Channel has sure lifted mine and I hope that our film can have the same effect on viewers everywhere…”
“‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ is the kind of show that doesn’t just entertain people, it speaks to them,” added Colin Davis, Roku’s Head of Original Scripted Programming. “The show has a healing power about it, which is brought to life by the incredibly talented cast through music and dance. That connection with the audience is what makes bringing a holiday-themed film like Zoey to life with the original cast so special. We are absolutely thrilled to call ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ our first Roku Original film and make it available to both longtime fans and new ones on The Roku Channel this holiday.”
Presumably, this will begin filming soon to be ready for its holiday release.
Up in Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival (aka TIFF) has begun, and unlike some of the other fall festivals, TIFF offers an enormous market for movie sales, new projects and packages being put together. That market is back, just as are in-person screenings, although this year’s TIFF also offers a virtual component.
AMC and RLJEfilms have already teamed to buy the Keira Knightley holiday dramedy, Silent Night, the directorial debut by Camille Griffin, which will premiere at TIFF on Thursday, September 16. (We hope to see it later this week as Below the Line covers TIFF virtually.)
Other film projects that have been announced out of TIFF (all from Deadline), include the Taylor (Ray) Hackford-directed noir film Sniff, which will star Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, and Danny DeVito. The film’s title is an acronym for Senior Nursing Institute & Family Foundation, and the script, written by Tom Grey, explores the death of two residents at such a facility under suspicious circumstances. Freeman plays retired detective Joe Mulwray who is forced to unretire by his former partner William Keys (played by DeVito). Pacino plays crime kingpin Harvey Stride with Mirren playing his femme fatale enforcer, “The Spider.” Adam Goodman and Matt Skiena are producing through their Dichotomy Creative Group, along with Hackford and his Anvil Films banner and Grey as exec. producer. Endeavor Content is handling worldwide sales with CAA Media Finance co-repping the U.S. rights.
Another project looking for buyers is the Golden Age comedy, Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood, which stars Dustin Hoffman, Sam Neill, Eileen Atkins, Derek Jacobi, Aidan Turner, Roger Allam, and Brittany Snow. Set in 1933, the movie charts how celebrated playwright, George Bernard Shaw (Jacobi), visited Hollywood with his formidable wife, Charlotte (Atkins) with the idea of turning Shaw’s play Pygmalion into a film, which eventually became the musical, My Fair Lady. Hoffman will play legendary studio boss Louis B Mayer, co-founder of MGM, while Turner will play Clark Gable and Sam Neill will be William Randolph Hearst. Four Weddings and a Funeral Director Simon Callow will helm from the script by Emmy-winning screenwriter Mark Saltzman, based on the latter’s play. Cameras should start rolling later this year in the UK with Bankside handling worldwide sales.
Another project being pitched at the TIFF market is the French thriller, Interstate, which will star Asia Argento, French rapper JoeyStarr, and Riccardo Scamarcio. The supernatural has JoeyStarr playing a hitman who wants to leave that world with the woman he leaves, but those plans are disrupted by a mysterious young man and his former boss. Jean Luc Herbulot is directing, his Senegalese film, Saloum, also playing as part of TIFF’s Midnight Madness. XYZ handles world sales outside France and Belgium.
In advance of its planned TIFF premiere, Universal Pictures decided to give David Gordon Green‘s horror sequel, Halloween Kills, an even earlier premiere at the Venice Film Festival, but after tepid reviews, the studio decided that the movie won’t just be released in theaters on October 15, but it will also be available for no extra charge to Peacock premium subscribers. This is the second planned theatrical release to get the day-and-date streaming treatment by Universal after The Boss Baby: Family Business, which still did fairly well in theaters despite being free for Peacock subscribers. What’s odd and interesting is that Green has already committed to a three-movie reboot of The Exorcist, of which the first movie would get a theatrical release and then the sequels would stream on Peacock.
This is another example of a company being far too invested in getting streaming subscribers rather than honoring its theatrical obligations to its creative cast and crew, as well as to the exhibitors who have played their movies for decades. Remember that Scarlett Johansson was against Disney for putting Black Widow on Disney+ VOD the same day as its theatrical release? We should probably expect more of these lawsuits to come.
The Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark won’t be released theatrically (and on HBO Max) until October 1, following a high-profile New York City premiere via the Tribeca Festival on Sept. 22. According to Deadline, both creator/director David Chase and screenwriter Terence Winter are interested in doing a second movie that will cover the formative years of Tony Soprano, as played by Michael Gandolfini (son of the late James Gandolfini). Of course, that will mainly depend on how well Many Saints does, and presumably, it could do particularly well on HBO Max, it being the streamer for all six seasons of the popular HBO series.
The Fox-owned Tubi is also getting into the original movie game, announcing the sci-fi feature, Corrective Measures, which will star Bruce Willis and Michael Rooker (the latter recently seen in James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad) and be directed by Sean O’Reilly. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Willis plays Julius “The Lobe” Loeb, a genius incarcerated at the maximum-security penitentiary San Tiburon that’s populated by monsters, cyborgs and supervillains, all equipped with power inhibitors and shock collars. Dan Payne and Brennan Mejia play new arrivals at San Tiburon who starts causing trouble, and it also stars Tom Cavanagh, Kat Ruston, Kevin Zegers, and Hayley Sales. Todd Masters of MastersFX (Predator) will handle the character and creature design for the film produced by Arcana Productions and executive produced by The Exchange, which is set to hit Tubi next spring.
Disney’s upcoming movie based on its theme park attraction, Haunted Mansion, continues to add cast, as both Owen Wilson (who starred in the hit Marvel Studios/Disney+ show Loki) and Rosario Dawson have joined the remake (according to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, respectively), joining the previously announced Oscar nominee Lakeith Stanfield and Tiffany Haddish. Directed by Justin Simien (Dear White People) from a script by Katie Dippold, it’s scheduled to start filming next month.
Juno Temple — who has been finding many new fans thanks to her role on Apple TV+’s Emmy-nominated series, Ted Lasso — is joining Doug Liman‘s movie, Everest, which currently stars Ewan McGregor as mountainer George Mallory. The movie should move into production soon with Sam Heughan and Mark Strong also in the cast.
Sir Ben Kingsley (who co-stars in the current Marvel Studios theatrical hit, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) will star with Jane Curtin, Harriet Harris, and Zoë Winters in Big Beach head Marc Turtletaub‘s Jules, which Turtletaub (Puzzle) will be directing from a script by Gavin Steckler. Production is already taking place in New Jersey for the film about an unusual and unexpected visitor who brings together several people living in a small city in rural Western Pennsylvania.
Omar Epps (Power Book III: Raising Kanan) and Michael Ealy (Stumptown) will star in and exec. produce the Lionsgate thriller, The Devil You Know, which is written and directed by Charles Murray (A Cold Hard Truth). It follows Epps’ Marcus Cowans, a man who has a chance to turn things around in his life when he learns one of his brothers may have been involved with a home invasion that puts Marcus in the suspicions of a cop, played by Ealy. The film also stars Glynn Turman, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Theo Rossi, BJ Britt, Vaughn Hebron, Erica Tazel, Curtiss Cook, Keisha Epps, and Ashley Williams with Murray and Marc Danon producing via their Command Films banner, along with Roy Scott MacFarland, and Jackie J. Stone.
Epps took to Twitter to confirm the announcement.
We on go time for real! 🚀🧨🚀
So proud to be a part of this incredible film! Salute to our whole @lionsgate team, salute to my comrade @themichaelealy, and most importantly salute to our super talented writer/director @charlesmurray_filmtv!! We did it … https://t.co/IgDGFncbmP pic.twitter.com/1cAIpYoy7m
— OMAR EPPS (@omarepps) September 8, 2021
British actors Emily Watson, Eddie Marsan, and Omari Douglas (It’s a Sin) are joining the cast of Director Jonas (Lords of Chaos) Akerlund’s Midas Man, a biopic about the Beatles’ music manager, Brian Epstein, as played by Jacob Fortune Lloyd. Watson and Marson play Epstein’s mother and father, respectively, while Douglas plays his confidant and friend, Lonnie Trimble. Jonathan Wakeham wrote the screenplay based on a story by Brigit Grant, which shows how Epstein rose to fame at the age of 25 by discovering a number of popular rock groups, including the Beatles. It’s produced by Kevin Proctor and Perry Trevers at StudioPOW, and Trevor Beattie and Jeremy Chatterton at Trevor Beattie Films.
The Television Critics Association‘s TCA panels are still ongoing in L.A., and Fox had its turn to share its wares as a number of announcements were made.
Fox seems to be interested in the return of Jack Bauer, the FBI agent played by Kiefer Sutherland in the popular drama, 24, according to Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn who said that they’re in “active creative discussions” to bring the show back. The producers have a new take that they haven’t yet pitched but this mirrors what Exec. Producer Howard Gordon had said recently and unofficially that they’ve had a new take on the series “percolating.” All six seasons of 24 are currently streaming on Hulu.
Fox is also in discussions on whether to do a second season of the popular drama reboot, Fantasy Island, which aired over the summer. The series stars Roselyn Sanchez as Eleana Roarke, a descendant of the Mr. Roarke, the character played by Ricardo Montalban on the original series from the ’70s and ’80s.
We’ll run through a couple quick renewals, including The First Wives Club being renewed for a third season by BET+ and Gossip Girl being renewed for a second season by HBO Max after the record-breaking debut of the reboot. Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a third season just ahead of its second season debuting on the streamer in February 2022. Furthermore, Freeform has renewed its series, Good Trouble, for a third season.
There’s been a lot of reality series news this week with Big Brother: Celebrity Edition returning for a third season on CBS and Paramount+ (where fans can monitor a live feed from the house 24/7), while The Amazing Race will also be returning this season after COVID-related production delays.
Fox also had issues with COVID on their non-scripted competition shows, Alter Ego and The Masked Singer, facing delays but finally having new episodes in the can to debut on Sept. 22, along with new series Fox also has a new reboot of Don’t Forget the Lyrics, a second season of I Can See Your Voice, and Gordon Ramsay‘s latest cooking competition series, Next Level Chef, in production. The question is whether any of these series will continue and Rob Wade, Fox Entertainment‘s President, Alternative Entertainment and Specials, has been cautious about announcing renewals for any of the shows. “We’ve managed to get a lot in the can,” he said during the aforementioned TCA panel. “It feels a lot better than it did a couple of months ago, when it was hard to make shows, now we’re hopefully going through another bit of flow rather than ebb. Everyone’s just holding their breath to see what happens next in terms of what we’re allowed to make and how we’re allowed to make it.”
It’s already been decided by Fox that Labor of Love will not be renewed for a second season.
For the past couple months, we’ve covered the return of the NBC series, Manifest, for a fourth season on Netflix, and that’s starting to take shape with the returning cast of Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh and J.R. Ramirez being joined by Parveen Kaur, Luna Blaise, and Holly Taylor. Ty Doran will be promoted to take over the role of Cal Stone, previously played by Jack Messina, who is leaving the Warner Bros. Television show. The popular drama was seemingly saved by a #SaveManifest campaign, and while NBC let the cast off of their contracts, it’s been said that most of them will be getting “sizable pay increases.”
Snowfall Co-Creator Eric Amadio is writing and exec. producing a new Untitled Cannabis Series, which will partner Entertainment 360 with actual Cannabis companies, Cookies and Gashouse, a one-hour drama inspired by true events, which will look at the origins of the present-day legit marijuana business. Den of Thieves Director Christian Gudegast (who is prepping to shoot the sequel, Den of Thieves 2: Pantera, in Europe) will direct the pilot and exec. produce. Also EP’ing are Cookies CEO Berner, Felix Murry of Gashouse as well as 360s’ Guymon Casady and Evan Silverberg. Jeff Karam is a consulting producer.
If you’re familiar with the 1982 Don Bluth animated film, The Secret of NIMH, based on Robert C O’Brien‘s 1971 children’s novel, Mrs. Frisby and Rats of NIMH, then you may also know that Bluth had been trying to make a sequel to it for decades. That property now seems to be following a similar path as the beloved Jim Henson movie, The Dark Crystal (also from 1982!), which also had been trying to make a sequel for many decades, before ending up with a Netflix prequel series on Netflix a few years back. Fox is now looking to bolster its place in the animation realm with a script commitment for NIMH, an animated series from Fox Entertainment and MGM’s Orion Television. The series is looking for a writer to develop the series based on the trilogy of books that followed O’Brien’s original novel.
CBS has given a pilot production commitment for The Never Game, an adaptation of Jeffrey Deaver‘s novel that will star and be EP’ed by Justin Hartley from the hit NBC show, This Is Us. Hartley set the project up with 20th Television, who will produce the show, with This is Us‘ EP Ken Olin directing and EP’ing the pilot that’s written by exec. producer Michael Cooney. In the series, Hartley will play lone-wolf survivalist Colter Shaw, who roams the country as a ‘reward seeker’, using his expert tracking skills to help private citizens and law enforcement to solve all manner of mysteries while contending with his own fractured family.
David Tennant (Doctor Who) and his wife, actor Georgia Tennant, will headline Hide, a “Jekyll & Hyde”dramatic thriller in development at Peacock written and EP’d by showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (Agent Carter) and directed/EP’d by awards-nominated director Julie Anne Robinson (Bridgerton).
Fox is casting up Melissa London Hilfers‘ musical-drama series called Monarch with Susan Sarandon, Anna Friel, and country star Trace Adkins joining the cast. Sarandon will play Queen of Country Music, Dottie Cantrell Roman, the head of the first family of country music, The Romans, in what is described as a “Texas-sized, multigenerational musical drama” about said family. Adkins will pay her husband, Albie, who helped Dottie create her country music dynasty, with Friel playing their heir, Nicolette “Nicky” Roman, who is on her own quest for stardom. The series is planned as a midseason debut with a two-night event on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, after the NFC Championship Game, which will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 1.
ViacomCBS and MTV Entertainment Studios have struck a deal with Selma star David Oyelowo and his wife, actress/writer/producer Jessica Oyelowo for original scripted and unscripted series to be delivered through their Yoruba Saxon banner. First up, a Bass Reeves limited series with Oyelowo paying the Wild West lawman, who is thought to be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. The series will be produced by Yellowstone‘s Taylor Sheridan, who also has a deal with ViacomCBS.
Brian Tee (Chicago Med) will star opposite Nicole Kidman in the Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming drama series, Expats, and adaptation of Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel The Expatriates from Director/Showrunner Lulu Wang (The Farewell), produced with Lee, Kidman, Per Saari’s Blossom Films, and Amazon Studios.
It’s time for a Lightning Round…
Lucy Barrett is joining the CW series Charmed as the new co-lead along with Melonie Diaz and Sarah Jeffery, replacing the departing Madeleine Mantock.
Andrew Lees and Zoe Cipres are joining the fourth season of the CW series, Roswell: New Mexico, as recurring characters.
Following the announcement of many actors returning for the 18th season of Grey’s Anatomy, Abigail Spencer will also join the aforementioned Season 18 reunion by reprising her role as Megan Hunt.
There have been a ton of trailers this week, including a couple big ones for some of the movies hitting theaters this fall, including a few awards contenders and prominent holiday releases. The biggest one was the first trailer for Lana Wachowski‘s The Matrix Resurrections, which will reunite Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann Moss with the groundbreaking sci-fi premise that led to their hugely successful franchise directed by the Wachowskis. The movie will be released theatrically by Warner Bros. Pictures and streamed on HBO Max starting Dec. 22.
Focus Features released the second trailer for Edgar Wright‘s horror film, Last Night in Soho, which is playing a few of the Sept. film festivals before getting a theatrical release on Oct. 22. The anticipated movie stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie.
Although we got a very brief teaser a week ago, the Netflix English language version of the thriller, The Guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, got a full trailer in advance of its premiere at TIFF this week. The movie, directed by Antoine Fuqua, will hit Netflix on October 1, following a select theater release on Sept. 24.
Filmmaker Adam McKay has been hard at work on his upcoming star-studded ensemble dramedy, starring Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as astronomers sent on an awkward media tour. Netflix released a teaser trailer (seems like that’s what Netflix is doing now) for the movie that will hit select theaters Dec. 10 and then Netflix on Dec. 24.
Filmmaker Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women) returns this fall with the drama, C’Mon, C’Mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gabby Hoffman, and Woody Norman, which recently premiered at the Telluride Film Festival to raves, particularly for Mills’ screenplay. It will also play at the New York Film Festival before being released by A24 in November. Here’s the first trailer: