Unfortunately, there’s no way around starting our mid-week news update with the tragic news that Saturday Night Live veteran Norm Macdonald has died at the age of 61 after secretly fighting cancer for 9 years. Besides being a stand-up comic and popular late night guest, Macdonald was part of the cast of SNL from 1993 through 1998 and was best known for anchoring the show’s Weekend Update segments for three of those seasons.
Macdonald was born in Quebec City on Oct. 17, 1959, and after starting his career in Canadian comedy clubs, Macdonald appeared as a contestant on Star Search in 1990, which led to a writing gig on The Dennis Miller Show in 1990, writing for the comic who had preceded Macdonald as Weekend Update anchor from 1986 to 1991. Macdonald followed that with a year writing for Roseanne from 1992 to 1993.
On Saturday Night Live, McDonald also won over fans with his impressions of Burt Reynolds, Larry King, and others.
Many loving tributes poured onto social media on Tuesday afternoon after Macdonald’s death was announced by many of his colleagues like Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen, and others. You can see a few of these below:
No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. Fuck cancer.
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) September 14, 2021
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind. https://t.co/0sXoCLEtuG
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) September 14, 2021
Oh fuck. I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting. I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the the all time greats. RIP.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) September 14, 2021
There were some major changes at Paramount Pictures announced this week. Shortly after delaying the remainder of the studio’s theatrical releases until 2022, Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos stepped down last week, and it’s been confirmed by the studio that Nickelodeon head Brian Robbins will take over while still maintaining the CBSViacom child-targeted cable network and overseeing films produced for the streamer, Paramount+. Showtime CEO and Chairman David Nevins will be taking over Paramount Television, which will become part of the premium network group, while Nicole Clemens will remain PTVS President, reporting to Nevins. Both will continue in their Paramount+ roles as well.
In a statement, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said, “Paramount is one of ViacomCBS’s crown jewels, delivering some of the most iconic moments in entertainment for more than a century. The moves we’re making today will build on Paramount’s strong momentum, ensuring it continues to engage audiences at scale while embracing viewers’ evolving tastes and habits. A passionate storyteller who takes a holistic view of the entertainment ecosystem, Brian is an expert at building powerhouse global franchises by leaning into the unique strengths of new and established platforms – including theatrical releases, streaming, linear, consumer products and more. With Brian drawing on his extensive experiences across animation and live action, and David overseeing Paramount Television Studios, we will build on Paramount’s incredible legacy and chart a new path for the studio.”
We reported last week that Director Christopher Nolan was out shopping his next movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer’s involvement in the creation of the atom bomb to studios other than his decades-long home at Warner Bros. It looks like Universal Pictures is getting in on the “Christopher Nolan business” as they have signed a deal to finance and release the yet-to-be-titled movie.
It seems like a good fit considering Universal’s release of 1917 a few years back, including on IMAX screens, because that’s frequently been Nolan’s preferred cinematic format. Universal will also give Nolan the theatrical window he expects after the filmmaker came to odds with Warners’ decision to release their entire theatrical line-up day-and-date on HBO Max.
Production will begin on Nolan’s untitled Oppenheimer pic in the first quarter of 2022 with long-time Nolan collaborator, Cillian Murphy, having a key role.
One might not think that Triplets, a planned sequel to the 1988 Ivan Reitman comedy that brought together Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, would be a ludicrous idea to make so long after the original movie. At one point, Eddie Murphy was said to be joining the duo for the sequel, which would make sense since Murphy just had great success when his own ’80s sequel, Coming 2 America, was released on Amazon Prime Video earlier this year. He is no longer doing this one, though. Instead, Tracy Morgan is joining the duo for Triplets with Reitman returning behind the camera to direct the script by Dylan Dawson and Lucas Kavner.
Hidden Figures director Ted Melfi, who just premiered his new Netflix movie, The Starling, up at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is adapting Don DeLillo‘s 1997 National Book Award-nominated novel, The Underworld, for Netflix with plans to direct, as well. This information was revealed to The Wrap during an interview with Melfi at TIFF.
Two-time Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali will co-star with Julia Roberts on the Netflix thriller, Leave the World Behind, replacing two-time Oscar winner, Denzel Washington, who was originally rumored to reunite with Roberts. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is adapting and directing the movie based on Rumaan Alam’s novel with Roberts producing through her Red Om Films banner, along with Esmail and Chad Hamilton through Esmail Corp. Alam will exec produce, along with Red Om’s Lisa Gillan while Marisa Yeres Gill will also be involved in the production. The novel, Alam’s third, tells the story of two families, strangers, forced together on a long weekend that goes horribly wrong.
One of the breakout stars of Apple’s series Ted Lasso, Emmy nominee Nick Mohammed, is joining John Slattery‘s feature film, Maggie Moore(s), which currently stars Jon Hamm and Tina Fey, a movie that takes place in a desert where nothing happens until the police chief needs to deal with back-to-back murders of two women with the same name. According to Deadline, Mohammed will play “a part philosopher, part wise-ass who makes jokes in inappropriate situations but only as a defense mechanism to protect himself from the worst parts of his job as a police officer.”
The always-busy Keegan-Michael Key, most recently seen on the Apple TV+ comedy Schmigadoon, is joining the Warner Bros. prequel Wonka, directed by Paul King (Paddington), in an undisclosed role, also according to Deadline.
Winona Ryder will star in the indie thriller, The Cow, directed by Homecoming Co-creator, Eli Horowitz. She will star along with Dermot Mulroney, John Gallagher Jr., Owen Teague, and Brianne Tju in Horowitz’s feature directorial debut, co-written by Horowitz and Matthew Derby. Production has wrapped on that one.
The British biopic, The Chelsea Cowboy, starring Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) as actor and small-time gangster John Bindon, who infiltrated British high society, has added more cast ahead of its shoot, according to Deadline. Charlotte Hope (from Game Of Thrones), Charlie Creed-Miles (Giri/Haji), Plan B/Ben Drew (Harry Brown), and Sadie Frost are joining Pettyfer, Poppy Delevigne, and Filipina actress/singer Lovi Po in the cast which charts Bindnod’s rise and fall. The film written and produced by Leon Butler and directed by Ben Cookson will begin filming in three weeks.
Amazon Studios has hired directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman (Extra Ordinary) to rewrite and direct its sci-fi feature, Sid, a spec screenplay written by Travis Milloy. It’s being produced by Davis Entertainment‘s John Davis and John Fox, who just had a substantial theatrical hit with Disney’s Jungle Cruise, with Zoic Studios. Davis Entertainment’s Jeremy Stein is an exec. producer, as is Zoic’s Chris Jones, Samantha Shear, and Loni Peristere.
If you work in commercials or advertising at all, you’ll notice that there’s some new rules on set as SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry’s Joint Policy Committee (aka the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies) have come to an agreement to allow mandatory vaccination both on commercial shoots and even before actors audition.
The union said in a statement to Deadline, “We are pleased that we were able to reach agreement on a policy that permits employers to require mandatory vaccinations for cast and crew on commercial productions. This policy is in addition to our current protocols on testing and set safety, all of which continue to help ensure the safety of our members on sets. Similar to other policies permitting producers to require mandatory vaccinations, performers must be notified at the earliest point in the process as well as notified about the procedure to trigger the interactive process if there is a request for a medical or religious accommodation.
“Prior to this agreement, the union had been approving mandatory vaccination policies for commercial productions on a case-by-case basis consistent with the direction of the national board. The requirements that the national board set for approval of mandatory vaccination policies have now been codified into the JPC Covid agreement just as it was in the AMPTP return to work agreement and the requirements and procedures are mostly the same.
“Performers who are not vaccinated, but can be vaccinated and wish to remain eligible to work on all commercial sets should consider obtaining their first shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — or their single shot of Johnson & Johnson vaccine — by October 4 and thereafter completing their course of vaccination within six weeks, including the two week waiting period following the second shot. Assuming performers comply with the foregoing, under the terms of the new agreement, they will be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ and eligible to work on commercials that have adopted mandatory vaccination policies while they are going through the vaccination process.”
Getting into some television renewals, Disney+‘s popular High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been given a third season by the streamer. Another popular and more recent streaming series, Hulu‘s Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, has been renewed for a second season. The Amber Ruffin Show has also been renewed for a second season at Peacock, while James Corden is in talks to extend his Late, Late Night deal with CBS. On the other side of things, Generation has been cancelled by HBO Max.
Peacock continues to cast up its dramatic reboot of the popular ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with Adrian Holmes, Cassandra Freeman, Olly Sholotan and five others joining the streamer’s new series, Bel-Air. This follows the fairly recent announcement that Jabari Banks will play Will Banks, the character originated by Will Smith in the original sitcom. Most of the new actors will be playing the Banks family, along with Coco Jones and Akira Akbar. Also in the cast are Jimmy Akingbola (Most Dangerous Game) as Geoffrey, Jordan L. Jones as Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff’s role), and
Simone Joy Jones (The Chair) as Lisa (originally played by Nia Long). The one-hour drama has been given a two-season series order.
Netflix has announced an all-new series based on Matt Wagner‘s award-winning Grendel comic books with Andrew Dabb serving as writer and showrunner and Abubakr Ali taking the lead as the vigilante hero Hunter Rose aka Grendel. Also in the cast are Brittany Allen, Julian Black Antelope, Kevin Corrigan, Emma Ho, Andy Mientus, Jaime Ray Newman, Erik Palladino, and Madeline Zima with Netflix giving the series an 8-episode order. The series is part of the deal Netflix has with Dark Horse Entertainment that led to the popular The Umbrella Academy series on the streamer. Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson will exec. produce, along with Keith Goldberg, Chris Tongue, and original creator, Matt Wagner.
Yet ANOTHER two-tie Oscar nominee, Hilary Swank, will star in and exec. produce a pilot for Tom (Spotlight) McCarthy‘s untitled Alaska-set drama, the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s first foray into television for ABC. Swank will play a journalist who moves to Alaska for a fresh start after a career-killing misstep who tries to find redemption by joining an Anchorage metro paper. McCarthy is writing, directing and EP’ing through his Slow Pony company, along with former Fox 21 Television Studios boss Bert Salke, who will EP through his Co-lab21 banner.
Also from Deadline, actor and filmmaker Clea Duvall is reteaming with Mary Holland, who co-wrote the Hulu rom-com Happiest Season, in which Duvall co-starred, to develop a new single-camera comedy series called Day Job with producer Temple Hill (Dave) and Lionsgate TV. Duvall will write and direct the pilot for the half-hour series she and Holland came up with while working on Happiest Season. It follows a naive woman named Meg, played by Holland, “who is oblivious to the fact that she has never quite fit in with her wealthy, business-savvy family. When Meg is framed by her father for a white-collar crime she is not smart enough to commit, Meg attempts to sever ties with him and the rest of her family, and vows to start a new life without any of their help. Armed with zero life experience or skills, Meg joins the workforce and quickly discovers that the road to her fresh start is not going to be as smooth as she had hoped.” Temple Hill’s Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner, and Adam Fishbach exec. produce along with DuVall and Holland.
Arden Cho (Chicago Med) is leading the cast for the Netflix series, The Partner Track, based on Helen Wan‘s 2013 novel, which Netflix has given a 10-episode order. The series is created by Georgia Lee from The Expanse and is produced by Jax Media with Julie Anne Robinson (who is also directing Hide) directing the first two episodes. The cast also includes Bradley Gibson (Power Book II: Ghost), Alexandra Turshen from Ray Donovan, Nolan Gerard Funk (The Flight Attendant), Dominic Sherwood, Rob Heaps, and Matthew Rauch. In the series, Cho will play Ingrid Yun, a “whip-smart, fierce, kind, and eager to be the first Asian-American junior partner at Parsons Valentine, an elite white-shoe law firm in Manhattan. As Ingrid bargains and fights her way through these male power structures, she wrestles with what it means to be true to herself.”
Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie has just been set as a lead in Netflix’s Wednesday, a spin-off series from Tim Burton‘s live-action Addams Family movies, which already stars Jenna Ortega in the lead role, along with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia Addams and Luis Guzmán as Gomez Addams. Christie will play Larissa Weems, the principal of the Nevermore Academy, Wednesday’s school, who still has an axe to grind with her mother (and former classmate) Morticia. The rest of the cast includes Victor Dorobantu as Thing, Issac Ordonez as Pugsley Addams, and George Burcea as Lurch, as well as Tommie Earl Jenkins, Iman Marson, William Houston, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Oliver Watson, Calum Ross, and Johnna Dias Watson.
British actor Josh Sasse (No Tomorrow) is the latest to join the Fox country music drama series, Monarch, playing Luke Roman. So far, the series has cast Susan Sarandon, Trace Adkins, Anna Friel, Meagan Holder, and Beth Ditto, all playing members of the Royal family.
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I wasn’t sure if we would have any new trailers today, but 20th Century Studios just released the brand-spakin’-new trailer for the Steven Spielberg musical, West Side Story, which is gearing up to be one of the fall’s big awards contenders. With a screenplay by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America), the movie stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ariana DeBose as Anita, along with David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll, Brian d’Arcy James, and even EGOT-winner Rita Moreno, returning from the 1961 movie adaptation, this time as Valentina.
You can watch the trailer for the Dec. 10 release below: