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End of Week Production Notes 12/18: Tom Cruise’s COVID Rant, Netflix Series Hit by Covid and More News


We’re just one week away from Christmas Day  —  this Friday column will be taking a few weeks off,  in case it wasn’t obvious — but it was still a crazy week in the world of television and film production. Anyone who has been reading this column or our “Back to Work” pieces over the past few months knows how serious Covid-19 is, and everyone knows how important it is to keep the safety protocols set in place so that production can resume and people can work.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Unfortunately, two crew members on the set of Mission: Impossible 7, which was one of the earliest movie show to go back into production after the COVID shutdown, decided not to take it seriously enough, and they ended up incurring the wrath of the film’s starTom Cruise.

Apparently, the two members of the crew were watching a monitor standing less than six feet apart and Cruise flipped out, yelling, “We are the gold standard. They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us! Because they believe in us and what we’re doing! I’m on the phone with every fucking studio at night, insurance companies, producers, and they’re looking at us, and using us to make their movies. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherfuckers. I don’t ever want to see it again. Ever. And if you don’t do it, you’re fired. If I see you do it again, you’re f*cking gone.” And of course, it was all caught on tape.

We all know that many actors, filmmakers and celebrities in particular have been caught on tape yelling at someone on set for some reason or another, but apparently, Cruise has already seen enough problems with the movie’s production, especially when 12 people from the set in Italy tested positive for COVID in October, shutting the whole thing down for a week. The show had just returned to England two weeks ago, presumably to wrap up before the holidays, and another COVID case on set would likely hinder the movie’s planned November 19, 2021 release date.

In most circumstances, people would be calling Cruise a diva or a star out of control, but in fact, a lot of people supported how serious he was taking COVID and keeping the production going without more issues.

Many came forward to defend Cruise, including George Clooney, who was asked about it while doing press for his own new movie, The Midnight Sky, on The Howard Stern Show, saying, “He didn’t overreact because it is a problem. I have a friend who’s an AD [assistant director] on another TV show who just had the almost exact same thing happen with not quite as far out a response.”

“You’re in a position of power and it’s tricky,” Clooney continued, “You do have a responsibility for everybody else and he’s absolutely right about that. If the production goes down, a lot of people lose their jobs. People have to understand that and have to be responsible. It’s just not my style to, you know, to take everybody to task that way.”

Director Kay Cannon, whose own movie, the musical Cinderella, was shutdown due to COVID and had to resume after months dormant, also gave kudos to her own cast and crew, while showing Cruise some empathy for the situation he’s facing.

Things apparently haven’t gotten better though, as original source The Sun reported yesterday that five crew members quit the production after Cruise had yet another outburst on set. Listen, everyone is under a lot of pressure right now, not just because of COVID but also because of everything else going on in the world, including the impending Christmas/holiday break. Cruise is under pressure, everyone else on set is probably stressed from a very long shoot, and maybe everyone just needs to take a two-week rest and let things settle down.

Kominsky Method
Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas in The Kominsky Method (Photo: Netflix)

In case anyone doesn’t think that COVID is serious and someone high profile like Tom Cruise shouldn’t be getting so upset, we bring to you Below the Line‘s weekly COVID shutdown report, this time from the set of two Netflix series, the Colin Kaepernick limited series Colin in Black and White, where four staffers working on pre-production tested positive. Oddly, Deadline reports five other cases at the same location booked by “Netflix Productions,” as per the Los Angeles County Department of Health database. Who knows how that information got to Deadline, but it also reports that there have been multiple cases on the set of the Warner Bros. TV/Chuck Lorre Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, as well. The latter was scheduled to wrap this week on its third and final season, while the former, a six-part series co-produced by Kaepernick with Ava Duvernay, wasn’t scheduled to start production until January with Jaden Michael playing Kaepernick.

Our next section is brought to you by Below the Line‘s own Production Listings — do you subscribe? Might want to get on that just in case the annual rate goes up in 2021.

Anyway, this is better news, as it includes movies that have wrapped filming, like Guillermo del Toro‘s Nightmare Alley, starring Leonardo DiCaprioBradley CooperCate Blanchett and more. That was enough for Searchlight Studios to give the movie a December 2021 release window, which might put del Toro back in the Oscar race, having won multiple Oscars for 2017’s The Shape of Water.

Also wrapping production recently was Clint Eastwood‘s Cry Macho, based on the Richard Nash, in which the 90-year-old legend will hire a former rodeo star sent to kidnap the son of his old boss.

As reported by Deadline, Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is joining Shailene Woodley in the FilmNation serial killer thriller Misanthrope, directed by Argentine filmmaker Damian Szifron (Wild Tales). Mendelsohn replaces the just as illustrious Mark Strong with plans to begin filming in two weeks in Montreal.

What would this column be without a few celebrity photos from the set of movies that recently began production? First, we have Michael B. Jordan from Creed in costume from the set of the Denzel Washington-directed  A  Journal for Jordan for Sony Pictures.

Next, we have actress Isabelle Furman who is returning as Esther for the prequel, Orphan: First Kill, and she took to Instagram to post a picture of  herself covered in (hopefully) fake blood. It will be the actress’s surprising return to a character she first played in Warner Bros. 2009 thriller, Orphan, when she was barely 11 years old!

The annual Sundance Film Festival will look very different this year with a virtual component, maybe a few drive-ins, and even a few remote arthouse screenings around the country, but we do know that it will run from January 28 through February 3, 2021, about half the normal length. We also know some of the movies playing, since Sundance announced its line-up. Some of the premieres of interest include directorial debuts by actors Rebecca Hall (Passing) and Robin Wright (Land), Ben Wheatley‘s thriller In the EarthEdgar Wright‘s music doc The Sparks Brothers about the quirky avant-garde new wave band, and new docs about Amy Tan, a movie about The Matrix by Rodney Ascher, and a new doc from Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation). As with previous Sundance, there are likely to be a lot of discovery titles and new directors to watch.

Servant (Apple TV+)

As far as series, M. Night Shyamalan‘s Apple TV+ series Servant was renewed for a third season even before the second season began airing on January 18, while the Hulu series Helstrom was cancelled.

One of the interesting new series announced was one by French auteur Olivier Assayas, who would be teaming with Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander for a new HBO mini-series based on Assayas’ 1996 movie, Irma Vep, a strange (but terrific!) art film starring Maggie Cheung as an actress who doubles as a cat burglar with none of the rest of her cast or crew the wiser.

There were a few other big casting news items and projects announced, including Naomi Ackie from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Education, the final film in Steve McQueen‘s Small Axe Anthology (on Amazon Prime Video today), being cast as legendary singer Whitney Houston in the musical biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody for Sony.

Oscar winner Ben Affleck will be playing iconic magician Harry Houdini in Houdini, a movie set-up by former WB Exec. Jeff Robinov at Walt Disney Pictures with Dan (10 Cloverfield LaneTrachtenberg directing.

Less definite are the unconfirmed rumors that actor/comedian Kevin Hart is in talks to star in the planned Borderlands movie, as the character Roland. Borderlands is based on a very popular video game, and it already has cast a bonafide Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, which is a good start for producers Avi and Ari Arad with Eric Feig.

Lastly in terms of casting, 22-year-old Quintessa Swindell has been cast in the Warner Bros. superhero movie Black Adam, which stars Dwayne Johnson in the title role, which is meant to eventually tie together with last year’s Shazam! movie. She will play a superhero named Cyclone.

While Below the Line is likely to have our own coverage of the artisans from Ryan Murphy‘s movie musical The Prom, which just hit Netflix last week, you can whet your appetite with this interview by Variety Artisans Editor Jazz Tangkay with Costume Designer Lou Eyrich whose work dressing Meryl StreepJames CordenNicole Kidman and the rest of the fantastic cast in the musical is nothing short of fabulous.

Here’s but just a taster: “Meryl is an absolute delight to work with. She loves a costume fitting, and I don’t know many actresses that do. She walks in that door and totally engages. She walks in that door and gravitates towards things. She loves to accessorize.”

We’re going to finish up with two new trailers, one for the Apple TV+ movie Palmer, starring Justin Timberlake, hitting the streamer on January 29, 2021, and the second for Conor Allyn’s immigration thriller, No Man’s Land, starring Frank GrilloGeorge Lopez and Andie McDowell, which will be in theaters and on VOD January 22, 2021.

Just another reminder that we’ll be taking a break from the  “End of Week Production Notes” for the next two weeks, but will still be posting any important news in Monday’s “Over the Weekend” column.

Happy Holidays for anyone who gets to take the next two weeks off!

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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