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Hump Day News Update: Paramount Sues Insurer over M:I7 Shutdowns, The Rocketeer Returns, and More News


Welcome to September 2021!

This certainly is going to be a busier Hump Day than usual, as there has been a TON of industry news over the past couple days. But first, if you’re a member of IATSE, you’ll want to read the leadership’s latest update on negotiations with AMPTP, which you can read about here.

Mission Impossible
Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Paramount)

It was bound to happen to the point where it was almost inevitable, but Paramount Pictures has sued the Federal Insurance Company (a division of Chubb), the insurance company that insured Mission: Impossible 7 for failing to pay a series of COVID-related production stoppages on the latest in Tom Cruise‘s long-running franchise. Production has stopped a coincidental seven times since production began in Venice in February, 2020. Production stopped shortly thereafter but wasn’t able to restart as planned in March in Rome due to the nationwide lockdown in Italy. After being halted three more times in Italy, the production then moved to the UK and faced three more shutdowns, some of them due to nationwide shutdowns and some due to positive cases.

Paramount filed the lawsuit in the US federal court in California, alleging that the insurance firm failed to pay out for all but one of the costly stoppages. The Indiana-based FIC has been accused of breach of contract by claiming it only agreed to pay out $5 million for the initial production pause. In response, Paramount’s lawyers said the studio was covered for losses in excess of $100m resulting from the delays and stoppages. The impact of the costly delays on production exploded last December when Cruise launched into a tirade at several crew members who weren’t following social distancing guidelines.

Mike Richards
Mike Richards (Photo courtesy Jeopardy!)

The semi-tragic story of white hubris that is Mike Richards seems to have come to an end with Sony Pictures Television firing the short-lived seemingly self-appointed Jeopardy! host as the executive producer of that show as well as from his same role for Wheel of Fortune.

The news came from SPTV’s EVP, Business and Strategy, Suzanne Prete, to the staff of the show after a few turbulent weeks in which they hoped to “minimize the disruption and internal difficulties” with no luck. Michael Davies from Embassy Row has agreed to step in and help with production in the interim.

Dear Team,

I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately. We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened.

Michael Davies from Embassy Row has agreed to help with production on an interim basis until further notice. Michael and I will work together with all of you in the weeks ahead to ensure that production remains on schedule and we do not miss a beat as we head into the new season.

I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks. As Ravi mentioned last week, I will be more involved in the day-to-day on our shows moving forward and I am looking forward to working closely with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.



Jungle Cruise
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise (Disney)

Next up, we have some Disney news from The Hollywood Reporter, as the Mouse House has gone ahead and started plans for a sequel to its Jungle Cruise movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which just hit $100 million domestically this past weekend. Johnson and Blunt will return as will screenwriter Michael Green, director Jaume Collet-Sera, and the production team of John Davis, John Fox, Beau Flynn, Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Hiram Garcia with Scott Sheldon returning as executive producer. Since the sequel already has “Franchise Viagra”(as Johnson has been dubbed) on board, one has to wonder whether their characters will make another journey down the Amazon River or whether they’ll find another jungle to explore. 

The Rocketeer (Disney)

More news from Disney as the report came out that the company is developing a new movie called The Return of the Rocketeer, a follow-up to the popular cult classic The Rocketeer from 1991 that’s being developed by actor David Oyelowo with wife Jessica through their Yoruba Saxon banner. The project is being written by Ed Ricourt as a possible starring project for Oyelowo. This story will forucs on a retired Tuskegee airman who takes up the Rocketeer mantle. Brigham Taylor is producing alongside Yoruba Saxon with Blake Griffin, Ryan Kalil, and Noah Weinstein at Mortal Media exec. producing.

Before getting to some other movie news, we need to congratulate Cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko (Inside JobRed Army) who will be directing One Nation Under Earl for Oakhurst Entertainment.  It’s based on the true story about the rise and fall of Earl David, a young Brooklyn attorney who committed major immigration fraud in the U.S. Using an encyclopedic knowledge of the U.S. immigration system, David amassed a fortune and outsmarted the FBI to give tens of thousands of immigrants a shot at the American Dream. The script was written by Jeremy J. Dodd and Jonathan Keasey and will be produced with the Malkus Group. Oakhurst Entertainment’s Jai Khanna and Marina Grasic are financing and exec-producing with Jonathan Keasey also producing. A Yugoslavian expat, Cvetko most recently directed the feature, Show Me What You Got.

Producer Chuck Malkus stated: “The timing with One Nation Under Earl is important because of relevance today with how David achieved 25,000 green cards, albeit with bogus paperwork, and in almost every case, this resulted in current residents achieving personal and professional success.”

Jason Statham (L) and Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables (Lionsgate)

Another thing that seemed inevitable is that Sylvester Stallone would try to get another Expendables movie made, and sure enough, it was announced this week that Stallone will reunite with Jason Statham for the fourth movie in the franchise, according to The Hollywood ReporterDolph Lundgren and MMA’s Randy Couture are also returning in their previous roles in the Lionsgate and Millennium Media sequel, which will be directed by Scott Waugh (Need for Speed). They’ll be joined by Curtis “50 Cent” JacksonMegan Foxx, and Tony Jaa in this fourth installment, which will begin production in October.

Dave Franco, who made his directorial debut with last year’s horror film, The Rental, is going back behind the camera for a romantic comedy called Somebody I Used to Know, which he co-wrote with his wife Alison Brie, who will also star in the film. It is being produced by  Temple Hill Entertainment and Black Bear Pictures for Amazon Studios and also stars Jay Ellis and Kiersey Clemons. The movie follows Brie’s workaholic Ally, who, “on a return her hometown, spends a night reminiscing with her ex-boyfriend Sean (Ellis), which makes her start to question everything about the choices she’s made and the person she’s become. And things only get more confusing when she meets Cassidy (Clemons), a younger woman who reminds her of the person she used to be.”

The film’s producers include Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, and Isaac Klausner, and Black Bear’s Ben Stillman, Leigh Kittay, and Michael Heimler. Franco and Brie are exec. producers, along with Temple Hill’s Laura Quicksilver, Black Bear’s Teddy Schwarzman, and Bart Lipton. The film will debut next year, exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.

 In a statement, Franco said, “Alison and I love romantic comedies and were inspired by the classics from the ’80s and ’90s. We couldn’t be more excited about working with Jay and Kiersey, who are both extremely natural performers, capable of bringing levity and drama in equal measure. And we’re so grateful to have partnered with Amazon Studios, who have been incredibly supportive in helping bring this project to life.”

In some late-breaking news, director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s BayouHarriet) has signed on to direct TriStar Pictures‘ Whitey Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, which stars Naomie Ackie as the late Grammy-winning singing superstar. Lemmons replaces Stella Meghie, who is said to have left the project amicably.  The Sony picture already has a release date set for Thanksgiving, 2022,

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse in 2007 (Photo: Peter Cruise)

Believe it or not, an Amy Winehouse biopic is now in the works, as Halcyon Studios has optioned Daphne Barak’s 2010 book Saving Amy, which is based on almost 40 hours of footage, photos and notes Barak conducted over six months with Winehouse and her family during the last three years of the singer’s life. Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in July 2011 at 27.

Also in the biopic realm, and also at Sony, in fact, the great Emmy-nominated Michael K. Williams (The WireBoardwalk Empire) has joined the untitled George Foreman biopic that George (The Hate U GiveTillman Jr. is directing for Sony’s AFFIRM label. Williams will play Foreman’s trainer and mentor, Doc Broadus, joining the cast that includes Khris Davis (as the young Foreman) and Sullivan Jones (as the young Muhammad Ali).

Staying with boxing, Oscar-winning rapper, actor and songwriter Common will star in and produce a boxing film called The Faith of Long Beach from Snowfall creator, Eric Amadio. The latter will and direct the film for producer Everlast Pictures with Common and Marie Cisco producing for their Stardust banner, along with Adonis Tountas and Garrett Weaver for Everlast. The film follows a soft-spoken street fighter raised in a group home in Long Beach, California, who is torn between his street-life past and a promising future when he attempts to move beyond backyard brawls and follow his estranged father’s footsteps into the world of professional boxing. In the film, Common will play Clifton Battles, a washed-up boxing trainer forced to face his questionable past when he decides to train the young street fighter as a legitimate boxer. In a statement, Common said, “Marie and I are excited to be partnering with an inspiring artist like Adonis. We believe this project has a fresh point of view and with Eric on board to write and direct, it will be a raw and transformative story.”

NEON announced this week that Hunter Schafer (Euphoria), John MalkovichGemma Chan, and Sofia Boutella will star in Tilman Singer‘s horror film, Cuckoo, with production starting in April 2022. Cuckoo will be Singer’s second feature after his supernatural horror film, Luz, which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in 2018 and won awards at subsequent festivals. Singer is bringing back Cinematographer Paul Faltz, Composer Simon Waskow, and Production Designer Dario Mendez Acosta from Luz.

Neil LaBute
Neil Labute in 2010 on set of Death at a Funeral (Screen Gems/Phil Bray)

Playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute is returning to the world of film as Quiver Distribution has announced its second production after the Walter Hill Western Dead for Dollar. LaBute will write and direct Out of the Blue, which will star Diane Kruger and Ray Nicholson (Promising Young Woman) with principal photography beginning this week in Rhode Island. The film is produced by Quiver’s Berry Meyerowitz and Tara L. Craig of The Squid Farm with Jeff Sackman and Larry Greenberg exec. producing for Quiver, which packaged the project and arranged financing with BondIt Media Capital. (Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, and Tyler Gould will executive produce for BondIt while Quiver will handle worldwide distribution of the film and introduce it to international buyers at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival.)

According to the press release, Out of the Blue is a “contemporary tale of passion, deceit, and violence. When Connor (Nicholson) meets enigmatic beauty Marilyn (Kruger), her seductive charm transforms his dull life into a thrilling fantasy world. He plunges headlong into the adulterous affair, the ex-con with a heart of gold seemingly destined for the raven-haired trophy wife. The only hitch in their idyllic new life together? Marilyn’s trapped in a nightmare with an abusive husband and vulnerable stepdaughter.” This will be LaBute’s first feature as a director — other than a few anthology segments — since 2015’s Dirty Weekend.

Another filmmaking legend, Paul Schrader, has a new movie called The Card Counter premiering at the Venice Film Festival this week and being released by Focus Features next week, but he’s already setting up his next film, Master Gardner. According to DeadlineJoel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver are attached as the leads in the crime-thriller Schrader is directing from his own original screenplay.  In the movie, Edgerton (recently seen in David Lowery‘s The Green Knight and Barry Jenkins‘ The Underground Railroad mini-series) plays a meticulous horticulturist devoted to tending the grounds of a beautiful estate and pandering to his employer, the wealthy dowager (Weaver). When she demands that he take on her wayward and troubled great-niece, it unlocks dark secrets from a buried violent past. HanWay is reuniting with Schrader, having sold the worldwide rights to The Card Company, and the company is co-repping the North American sales for Master Gardner with Schrader’s manager, David Gonzales.

Can you handle news about another legendary filmmaker’s latest? How about some news about Francis Ford Coppola‘s Megalopolis, which fans of the Oscar-winning director will know as the filmmaker’s long-time dream project that he’s been trying to make for over a decade. Deadline is now reporting that the 82-year-old filmmaker is finally moving forward on a film that will reportedly cost more than $100 million by talking with a wide array of actors to star in it. Some of the names being mentioned are Oscar Isaac, Forest Whitaker, Cate Blanchett,  Jon Voight, as well as Zendaya, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jessica Lange. The name that really jumps out, though is that of James Caan, who became a huge star due to his role as Sonny Corleone in Coppola’s The Godfather, and who hasn’t appeared in a major release in quite some time.

In what could be an interesting and cool pairing, actors Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke will headline writer/director Rodrigo (In Treatment) Garcia‘s Raymond and Ray for Apple Original Film, which will be produced by  Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón with Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn, the latter two through their Mockingbird Pictures, which also produced Garcia’s Albert Nobbs.

Time to switch into lightning round mode…

Remember last year when Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova won the hearts of America in Borat’s Subsequent Moviefilm, and received an Oscar nomination to boot? Well, she’s back, having been cast in the Italy-UK rom-com, The Honeymoon, along with Pico Alexander, Asim Chaudhry, and Lucas Bravo. The movie is already filming in Rome and Venice.

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone will star in the STX Films/Temple Hill cross-cultural romantic comedy that she’ll produce through her Ka Productions. Temple Hill’s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen (remember them from above?) are in talks to develop the project with Isaac Klausner overseeing for Temple Hill.

Regina Hall (Girls Trip) is joining Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg for their Netflix comedy, Me Time, written and directed by John Hamburg.

Connie Britton, who can be seen in Mike White‘s terrific HBO drama The White Lotus, is joining the Salmira Productions indie thriller 892, directed and co-written by Abi Damaris Corbin, which also stars John Boyega, Michael K. Williams, and Nichole Beharie.

At this point, I probably don’t need to mention it, but if you haven’t subscribed to our Production Listings, you’re missing out on getting some of the quickest updates about projects in the works that will need to hire crew.

Time for some TV casting and news… (Feel free to take a breather since as we warned, this has been a big news week.)

Peacock continues to reboot tons of old NBC shows, and one of the latest is a reboot of the popular ’90s Will Smith vehicle, The Fresh Prince of Belair, but this time, it’s being done as a one-hour drama called Bel-Air. (Don’t yell at me. I didn’t make up this news. I’m just reporting it.) Well, Peacock has found its Will, the character originated by Smith, in newcomer Jabari Banks from West Philadelphia. The series is based on Morgan Cooper’s popular fan film that reenvisioned the original series, which comes from Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and Universal Television, having received a two-season order from Peacock last September.  T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson (The ChiThe 100) serve as exec. producers and show-runners with Cooper directing and serving as co-write and exec. producer. Oddly, Banks’ casting was announced via a video:

Peacock has also been developing a Vampire Academy series, based on Richelle Mead‘s popular young adult romance novels, and the main cast was announced this week, including Sisi Stringer (Mortal Kombat) in the lead role of Rose Hathaway. The ten-episode drama also stars Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir, Kieron Moore as Dimitri Belikov, Andre Dae Kim as Christian Ozera, J. August Richards as Victor Dashkov, Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Tatiana Vogel, Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mia Karp, Rhian Blundell as Meredith, Jonetta Kaiser as Sonya Karp, and Andrew Liner as Mason Ashford. The series follows two young women whose friendship “transcends their strikingly different classes as they prepare to complete their education and enter royal vampire society,and it’s described as a “serialized and sexy drama that combines the elegance of aristocratic romance and the supernatural thrills of the vampire genre.”

The CW‘s popular Batwoman series has found its Poison Ivy in Bridget Regan from Paradise Lost and Jane the Virgin. She joins other new cast members, Nick Creegan as Marquis Jet and Victoria Cartagena as Renée Montoya.

Tian Richards
Tian Richards in Nancy Drew (The CW)

Also at the CW, a Nancy Drew spin-off about Tom Swift has received a straight-to-series order at the Warner Media television network for the 2021-22 season, which will put the character played by Tian Richards into his own series from Nancy Drew co-creators/EPs Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage through their Fake Empire banner co-producing with CBS Studios. Co-created by Melinda Hsu Taylor, Noga Landau, and Cameron Johnson, Tom Swift will follow the serialized adventures of its “titular Black, gay, billionaire inventor,” as played by Richards, who is thrust into a world of sci-fi conspiracy and unexplained phenomena after the shocking disappearance of his father.

Time for a lighting round of  TV casting, mainly for projects we’ve already reported on in ‘”these pages”:

Judy Greer and Katy Mixon are joining the NBC/Blumhouse limited series, The Thing About Pam, which stars Renée Zellwegger and Josh Duhamel, and is based on the Dateline NBC episode of the same name.

Cara Buono and Kai Lennox are joining the Elle Fanning  series for HuluThe Girl from Plainville, while Jesse Williams has joined the Hulu drama pilot, Olga Dies Dreaming

Kyle Chandler is joining Jeremy Renner in Taylor Sheridan‘s Paramout+ series, Mayor of Kingstown

With all those attachments and hirings for TV series, we also need to report that Emily VanCamp is leaving the Fox medical drama, The Resident, after four seasons.

It was bound to happen with Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opening Friday, but there was a ton of new trailers since Monday. One of them is for an anticipated movie opening in roughly six weeks, and that’s MGM’s latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die.

The final Daniel Craig installment was ready to be released in April 2020 — Craig even appeared on SNL  to promote it — when COVID hit, and the movie has been delayed a number of times since. It looks like it’s really coming out this time and MGM Pictures released the final trailer, which it premiered at the exhibitor conference, CinemaCon, last week. After a quick recap of the previous Craig Bond films, the trailer shows us a lot more of Bond’s new villain, played by Oscar winner Rami Malek and gives us just a taste of what to expect.

Coming out much sooner — in fact, next week on Sept. 10 — is James Wan‘s horror film, Malignant, via Warner BrosPictures, who released the second and final trailer from Wan’s first original (i.e. non-sequel) horror film since The Conjuring in 2013. We’ll let the new trailer speak for itself in what looks like another VERY scary movie from Mr. Wan.

We now shift gears to a few smaller movies, and in fact, Mass, the directorial debut by Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods), was one of the critical hits from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. An incredible four-hander starring Jason IsaacsReed BirneyAnn Dowd, and Martha PlimptonBleecker Street will release the intense drama in theaters on Oct, 8, and we can guarantee there will be some awards talk about some or all of the cast.

We’ll close off today’s Hump Day news celebration with the first trailer for Todd Haynes‘ new documentary about the legendary rock group, The Velvet Underground, that introduced the world to the late Lou Reed. The movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in July, and will continue its festival run before being released Oct. 15 on Apple TV+.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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