As much of this week has been all about the negotiations between IATSE and AMPTP breaking down and the call for a strike authorization that will happen next week, the sad news came in over the week about two deaths from the world of film: an absolute cinematic icon and legend in Mr. Melvin Van Peebles, who died at the age of 89 on Tuesday, and also, the death at 65 of greatly-respected British filmmaker Roger Michell, best known for directing Notting Hill and whose most recent film, The Duke, hit the festival circuit this past month.
To try to encapsulate and encompass Van Peebles’ vast impact and influence on independent and Black cinema in a few mere paragraphs would not be doing him justice, but I was very fortunate to meet and interview Mr. Van Peebles fairly early in my career as a movie writer. When people call him a “genius” and “a true revolutionary” in their tributes to the filmmaker, it’s no exaggeration. Van Peebles’ early films, The Story of a Three-Day Pass, Watermelon Man, and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song were trailblazers for the world of black independent cinema. The production of the latter of these three films was documented in Melvin’s son, Mario Van Peebles‘ 2003 comedy biopic, Baadassss!, which won two Black Reel Awards and was nominated for three Film Independent Spirit Awards. Mario was the one to announce his father’s death.
Tributes to Van Peebles poured in over the past few days, and you can read three such tributes from filmmakers, Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins, and Ava DuVernay.
He made the most of every second, of EVERY single damn frame and admittedly, while the last time I spent any time with him was MANY years ago, it was a night in which he absolutely danced his face off. The man just absolutely LIVED pic.twitter.com/IIpfU8wI7q
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 22, 2021
“You have to not let yourself believe you can’t. Do what you can do within the framework you have. And don’t look outside. Look inside.”
― the iconic artist, filmmaker, actor, playwright, novelist, composer and sage Melvin Van Peebles, who has gone home at the age of 89. pic.twitter.com/36BQKzN9G7
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 22, 2021
Michell died on Wednesday with no cause of death given, announced Thursday by his publicist to the UK Press Association. “It is with great sadness that the family of Roger Michell, director, writer and father of Harry, Rosie, Maggie and Sparrow, announce his death at the age of 65 on September 22,” the statement read.
The 1999 film, Notting Hill, was Michell’s third feature, and he’d go on to be quite prolific with a diverse filmography that thrived with British films like Venus (starring the late Peter O’Toole, his eighth and final Oscar nomination) and 2017’s My Cousin Rachel. Other films included Changing Lanes, starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson; The Mother, one of Daniel Craig‘s early breakout roles in 2003; the thriller Enduring Love, also starring Craig; and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Michell’s most recent and final film, The Duke, premiered earlier this month in Venice and Telluride, with Helen Mirren receiving a tribute at the latter.
NBC‘s Saturday Night Live has announced the first four hosts and musical acts for the 46th season of the venerable late-night sketch show, which added another eight Primetime Emmys to its roster of 71 total during the past few weeks’ ceremonies. The new season begins on Saturday, Oct. 2, hosted by Owen Wilson, who is having a comeback of sorts from his starring role in Disney+’s Loki. He will be followed on Oct. 9 by Kim Kardashian West, Oct. 16 with Rami Malek (the villain in the new Bond film, No Time to Die), and then recent Ted Lasso Emmy-winner Jason Sudeikis. This will be the first time hosting for all four of them with musical guests being Kacey Musgraves, Halsey, Young Thug, and Brandi Carlile, respectively. Sudeikis returns to Saturday Night Live after being a writer and player on the show between 2003 and 2013 and having played President Joe Biden during the 2019-20 season. The cast returning from Season 5 has yet to be revealed, even though many of them appeared at the Emmys this past Sunday. There are rumors that there may be up to 6 new cast members this season.
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) September 22, 2021
It’s been a while since there’s been a Super Mario Bros movie — not that the 1993 movie live-action adaptation of the popular arcade game was anything to write home about. Chris Meledrandi‘s Illumination animation studio — who has produced hits such as Despicable Me, Minions, and The Secret Life of Pets — is giving the popular Nintendo video game characters another go, this time with an animated feature that just announced its A-list voice cast. The movie will star Chris Pratt and Charlie Day (reuniting from their voice roles in the animated hit The Lego Movie) as the voices of Mario and Luigi, the two Italian plumbers who are plunged into a world of foes and fantasy from the beloved Nintendo game series.
Anya Taylor-Joy will voice Princess Peach, while the supervillain Bowser will be voiced by Jack Black. The voice cast also includes Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, and comedian Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike. Universal Pictures has already set the date of Dec. 21, 2022, for the film being co-financed by Nintendo. Likewise, Meledandri is producing the films with Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo.
Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic from Teen Titans Go! and Teen Titans Go! to the Movies are directing from a script by Matthew Fogel (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, next year’s Minions: The Rise of Gru).
Meledrandi announced the cast with the statement, “Mario and Luigi are two of the most beloved heroes in all of popular culture, and we are honored to have the unique opportunity to work so closely with Shigeru Miyamoto and the widely imaginative team at Nintendo to bring these characters to life in an animated movie, unlike any film Illumination has made to date.”
Miyamoto added, “We are collaborating with Chris and his experienced team to not just create a character licensed film, but a new piece of entertainment which brings Super Mario Bros. to life on the screen, and allows everyone to enjoy whether or not they know about the game. The production so far is constructive and going very well, and both parties are learning a lot from each other. We humbly ask that fans wait just a little longer for the premiere, and we hope they look forward to seeing the unique characAnniters from Super Mario Bros. on the big screen.”
Kevin Hart seems to have found himself a happy home at Netflix, as he’s just signed on for another film for the streamer called Lift, which will be directed by F. Gary Gray (Fate of the Furious), according to Deadline‘s Mike Fleming, Jr. Hart’s most recent Netflix film, Fatherhood, did very well on streaming, and Netflix bought Dan Kunka‘s spec script for Lift in March. In the movie, Hart will play a master thief who is wooed by his ex-girlfriend and the FBI to pull off an impossible heist with his international crew on a 777 flying from London to Zurich. Production will begin in early 2022 with the film produced by Simon Kinberg and Audrey Chon for Genre Pictures, Matt Reeves and Adam Kassan for 6th & Idaho, along with Hart and Brian Smiley‘s HartBeat Productions, through their creative partnership with the streamer. They’re currently in production on the comedy Me Time, which teams Hart with Mark Wahlberg and Regina King.
Eddie Murphy also seems to have gotten comfortable at Amazon Studios after Paramount Pictures sold his sequel, Coming 2 America, to the streamer earlier this year, and it fared quite well. Murphy has signed a three-picture first look film deal with Amazon, which shows that he’s not quite ready to retire any time soon either.
Gabriel Byrne and Mira Sorvino have joined Frank Grillo in the biopic Lamborghini, which is currently filming in Emilia Romagna and Rome, Italy. Grillo plays Ferrucio Lamborghini, founder of the Italian sports car company, while Byrne will play his rival Enzo Ferrari, and Sorvino will play Lamborghini’s second wife, Annita. Oscar-winner Bobby Moresco (Crash) is directing from his own screenplay with a supporting cast that includes Giorgio Cantarini (Life Is Beautiful) and Fortunato Cerlino (Gomorrah). It’s based on the biography, Ferruccio Lamborghini: La Storia Ufficiale (The Official Story), written by his son Tonino Lamborghini, which charts the long life and career of the entrepreneur who went from manufacturing tractors to making military vehicles during World War II and then switching over to luxury sports cars. It’s produced by Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, and Danielle Maloni for Iervolino and Lady Bacardi Entertainment with Bret Saxon and Jeffrey Bowler as EPs.
Having just wrapped filming in Turin, Italy, the spy action movie, Assassin Club, stars Henry Golding, Noomi Rapace, Sam Neill, and Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad), and is directed by EuropaCorp vet Camille Delamarre (Transporter: Refueled) It takes place in the world of international spies and elite assassin where Golding’s Morgan Gaines is the best of them. When Morgan is hired to kill six people around the world, he soon discovers all the targets are also assassins unknowingly hired to kill each other. Rapace plays Falk, the only assassin with skills to match his own. Under the guidance of his mentor Jonathan Caldwell (Neill), Morgan must defeat Falk and the other assassins to keep himself and his girlfriend Sophie (Melchior) alive. With a script by Thomas C. Dunn, the project is produced and financed by Film Bridge International (FBI), who is repping sales, with additional funding provided by 828 Media Capital. The script comes from Thomas C. Dunn. Ellen Wander, CEO of Film Bridge, is producing with FBI’s Jordan Dykstra, Motus Studios’ Emanuele Moretti, and 828 Media Capital’s Todd Lundbohm.
Former SNL cast member Molly Shannon — who recently reunited with Mike White for his HBO series, The White Lotus — has joined Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman in Zach Braff‘s latest feature, A Good Person, which will be distributed in North American and many international markets via MGM. Produced by Killer Films, Elevation Films, Braff, and Pugh, the hot Black Widow star plays Allison, whose life falls apart after her involvement in a fatal accident and the unlikely relationship she forms with her father-in-law, as played by Freeman. It starts production this fall.
Maybe it seems weird to hear that the classic Will Smith song “Summertime” is being turned into a musical feature film from Screen Gems, Westbrook Studios, and Davis Entertainment, but songs seem to be the new go-to source material, going by the upcoming Hard Luck Love Song from filmmaker Justin Corsbie that’s hitting theaters on October 15.
John Logan‘s directorial debut, the untitled “LGBTQIA+ Empowerment horror film” for Blumhouse Productions, which just cast its lead earlier this week, has also just added Kevin Bacon as a star and exec. producer
Disney’s high school feature, Chang Can Dunk, written and directed by Jingyi Shao has landed its lead in Bloom Li (My Dead Ex), playing a 16-year old, constantly marginalized, not-popular high school kid and wannabe basketball player becomes obsessed with the idea of learning to dunk, all in an effort to best the school’s basketball star, Matt — and hopefully win the adoration of the very pretty Kristy. The film is produced by Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani for their Hillman Grad Productions along with Brad Weston and Negin Salmasi with plans to stream on Disney+.
It also looks like two-time Oscar-winning director Alejandro G Iñárritu just wrapped production on his latest film, Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths), in Mexico City on Thursday. Written by Iñárritu with Argentine writer Nicolás Giacobone, who co-wrote and shared an Oscar with the filmmaker for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Bardo marks the Mexican filmmaker to his home country for the first time in 20 years, since his debut, Amores Perros. His follow-up to The Revenant is being described as “nostalgic comedy set against an epic journey.”
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Showtime has ordered to series a drama based on the Swedish vampire novel and film, Let the Right One In, which stars Oscar nominee Demián Bichir, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, Power), Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot), Madison Taylor Baez (Selena: The Series), Kevin Carroll (Snowfall), Ian Foreman (Merry Wish-Mas), and Jacob Buster (Colony). The pilot was written by playwright, writer and producer Andrew Hinderaker (Away, Penny Dreadful), who will serve as showrunner and executive producer along with Seith Mann from Homeland and Blindspotting. Mann directed the pilot and will also direct additional episodes.
Let the Right One In is produced by Tomorrow Studios (Cowboy Bebop, Snowpiercer), exec. produced by Hinderaker and Mann, along with Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements for Tomorrow Studios, Alissa Bachner as co-executive producer, while Bichir is also a producer on the series. Inspired by the original Swedish novel and film, the series centers on Bichir’s Mark and his daughter Eleanor (Baez) whose lives were changed forever 10 years earlier when she was turned into a vampire. Locked in at age 12, perhaps forever, Eleanor lives a closed-in life, able to go out only at night, while her father does his best to provide her with the human blood she needs to stay alive.
The Belgian series, Team Chocolate, is also getting an English language adaptation in a partnering between STXtelevision and Reel One Entertainment, who bought the rights from Wild Bunch TV. The series tells the story of Jasper Bloom, a young man with Down’s syndrome, who begins to work with a diverse team of employees with a range of disabilities and falls in love with one of his colleagues, who is taken to another city. So Jasper gathers his new friends for a road trip adventure to find her. STXtelevision and Reel One are committed to casting the show with “the same character-specific attention, authenticity, and care that was a hallmark of the original series.”
Fresh off the success of his action-comedy Free Guy, filmmaker Shawn Levy has finally landed his limited series adaptation of Anthony Doerr‘s 2014 Pulitzer-winning bestseller, All the Light We Cannot See, as a four-part limited series for Netflix after developing the project for a number of years through his company, 21 Laps Entertainment. Levy will direct all four episodes from a script by Peaky Blinders scribe and creator Steven Knight, both of them having a long relationship with the streamer — Levy for his hit drama series, Stranger Things. All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Marie-Laure, a teenager who is blind, and Werner, a German soldier, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Levy and the producers have already started a worldwide casting search for the lead to play teenage Marie-Laure with actresses with blind or low vision encouraged to apply and audition. Levy will also exec. produce along with 21 Laps’ Dan Levine and Josh Barry, and Knight is also an exec. producer. Joe Strechay from See will serve as Associate Producer, Blindness and Accessibility Consultant.
Amblin Television is developing Kimberly McCreight‘s recently-published thriller novel, Friends Like These, into a series, which McCreight will adapt herself, with Amblin’s Co-Presidents of Television Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey exec producing. Her novel follows five friends who gather at a picture perfect country house in the Catskills for a co-ed bachelor weekend a decade after graduation, bound by the mysterious and tragic death of Alice, their sixth member, during senior year. But the “bachelor weekend” is just a front – they’re actually gathering for a staged intervention for Keith, Alice’s college boyfriend, now a successful art dealer caught in a downward spiral of opioid addiction. But Keith’s brought an unexpected guest along for the weekend – his biggest client, a charismatic bad boy named Finch, who senses the fault lines within the group and wastes no time exploiting them to his own benefit.
David Alan Grier, who also released a loving tribute to the late Melvin Van Peebles earlier this week, is headlining and EPing a Sony Pictures Television limited series adapting A Soldier’s Play, which received seven Tony nominations going into the Tony Awards on Sunday, including a nomination for Grier himself. Covering several decades and multiple wars, the play centers on Sgt. Vernon Waters and the emotional impact he is subjected to as a soldier in the 1940s with Grier playing the main character’s father. The Pulitzer-winning play, written by Charles Fuller, is set at a Black army base in the segregated Louisiana of 1944. Bernie Cahill and Jon Kanak of Activist Artists Management reached out to Sony with Grier about turning it into a limited series, and the trio are exec. producing with Fuller and are currently looking for a writer to adapt the play.
Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo are the latest two actors to join the Apple TV+ dystopian drama series, Wool, based on Hugh Howey‘s novel, which has already cast Tim Robbins and Rebecca Ferguson. Writer Graham Yost has adapted the series for Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and AMC Studios. The story is set in “a ruined and toxic future where a community exists in a giant underground silo, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them.” Oyelowo, who famously played Martin Luther King, Jr, in Ava DuVernay‘s Selma, will play the silo’s sheriff Holston, while Jones will play his wife Allison, who works at IT. Ferguson, Yost and Tyldum are exec. producers, alongside Howey, as well as Remi Aubuchon, Nina Jack, and Ingrid Escajeda.
Variety reports that Netflix’s The Crown, which absolutely destroyed at the Emmys this past weekend, has cast its Dodi Fayed for the fifth season of the series, which will focus on the relationship between Diana, Princess of Wales and the Egyptian department store heir. The Kite Runner star Khalid Abdalla has been cast as Fayed, while Salim Daw from Oslo will play Dodi’s father, billionaire and former Harrods owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed. For the fifth season, the role of Diana will be taken over by Elizabeth Debicki from Emma Corrin, who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as the younger Diana. Presumably, the season will cover the last few months of Diana’s life before she died in a car crash propagated by pursuing paparazzi. Dominic West will be taken over the role of Prince Charles for the fifth and sixth seasons, taking over from the departing Josh O’Connor, who just won an Emmy on Sunday. Other than that, little else is known about the season or what will be covered.
Colin Donnell from Chicago Med and Arrow is starring in the Peacock Australian-set crime drama, Irreverent, which just received a series order from the NBC streamer. Donnell will play Mack, a skilled and articulate mediator who keeps the peace between organized crime families in Chicago, but when a mediation goes wrong, he flees to a tropical Australian beach town and takes on the identity of a Reverent. Also in the cast as series regulars are PJ Byrne, Kylie Bracknell, Briallen Clarke, Tegan Stimson, Ed Oxenbould, Wayne Blair, Russell Dykstra, Calen Tassone, and Jason Wilder.
Season 2 of Netflix’s Firefly Lane, starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke, is adding Ignacio Serricchio, Greg Germann, India de Beaufort (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), and Jolene Purdy (The White Lotus).
Leslie Bibb, Rachel Bloom, Michael McKean and Krista Marie Yu have joined Steve Levitan‘s Hulu comedy pilot, Reboot.
One of the breakout television series from the past couple months is Hulu’s Reservation Dogs, and one of its stars, Devery Jacobs, who plays Elora, will be joining the show’s expanded all-indigenous writers’ room for its second season.
Netflix has announced some of its upcoming true crime documentaries and docuseries, a genre the streamer has helped make very popular during the current pandemic, and one of the standouts will likely be Lion King 2 from directors/EPs Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, which is being produced by A Goode FIlms Productions with Library Films and Article 19 Films with Chris Smith and Fisher Stevens serving as EPs, as well.
Other docs and docu-series of note include January’s The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman, a three-part series from filmmakers Sam Benstead and Gareth Johnson (The Imposter), of a notorious conman convicted in 2005 of stealing fortunes and destroying lives. Felicity Morris‘ The Tinder Swindler will hit the streamer in February, and that ALSO tells the story of a conman who posed as a billionaire playboy on Tinder. Others include Luke Sewell‘s documentary film, Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King, and the docu-series, Bad Vegan, about restauranteur Sarma Melngaitlis, who was (you guessed it) conned.
Finally, a smaller item to share with the renewal of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for its seventh season, although it will move to Thursday nights with AEW aka All Elite Wrestling coming to TNT on Wednesday nights.
NEON has released the first full trailer for Pablo Larrain‘s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana — yes, the same one from The Crown — which recently premiered at a number of film festivals including Venice, Telluride and Toronto and will be released to theaters on November 5.
Another trailer released this week is the one for Will Sharpe‘s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as lesser-known British artist Louis Wain, and co-starring recent Emmy winner Claire Foy from The Crown, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Sharon Rooney, and more, with appearances by Taika Waititi, Nick Cave, and Olivia Colman, who also narrates. It will debut on Amazon Prime Video on November 5 after a limited theatrical release on Oct. 22.