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End of Week Production Notes 1/15/20: SAG Awards Changes Date, Kidman & Hammer Fall Foul of Social Media and More News


As some may have suspected, the fact that production was temporarily paused for a few extra weeks after the holiday break didn’t mean that things weren’t a-happenin’ in Hollywood. This week saw the announcement of  a number of new film projects and TV series, some casting news as well as news about filmmakers and showrunners coming onto projects, or in some cases, leaving them.

SAG-AFTRA_LogoThe big industry news of the week that might have also been somewhat expected was that SAG-AFTRA decided to delay its annual SAG Awards two weeks after the Grammy Awards for music delayed its own ceremony and parked it right onto the original March 14 date for the SAGs.  Now, the SAG Awards will take place on Sunday, April 4, which also happens to be Easter Sunday.

One of the more controversial casting announcements of the week was the news that actors Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem would be playing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the Amazon Studios biopic, Being the Ricardos, which covers a week during the shooting of their hit ’50s TV sitcom,  I Love Lucy, in which the popular TV duo are facing a marital crisis. Aaron Sorkin penned the script for himself to direct, and the casting announcement led to a lot of negative backlash towards both actors.  Originally, Cate Blanchett was attached to play Lucy, but she ended up passing, but Sorkin decided to stay on to direct the film. While I wouldn’t normally comment on casting news (or internet reactions to same), I feel that those against Kidman as Ball (and/or Bardem as Arnaz) need to remember that this is the movie BUSINESS, and we should learn to trust Sorkin’s casting choices, especially after last year’s ensemble drama, The Trial of the Chicago 7, now on Netflix.

Chris Evans
Chris Evans (Marvel Studios)

On Thursday, it was reported that Marvel Studios was in talks with actor Chris Evans to return as Captain America in an undisclosed future MCU movie, according to Deadline. That trade’s sources say it’s unlikely to be another Captain America movie, but more likely to be what Robert Downey Jr. did after Iron Man 3, appearing in other character’s movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War.

Things were going better for the above than for actor Armie Hammer (from last year’s Netflix thriller Rebecca), as he found himself on the blunt end of “Cancel Culture” when a few of his Twitter PMs of a sexual … and cannibalistic… nature to an ex were released publicly, followed by a few romantic partners saying he had been abusive. Hammer denied the allegations that he did anything wrong, and yet, he decided to leave the Jennifer Lopez rom-com Shotgun Wedding, stating, “I’m not responding to these bullsh*t claims but in light of the vicious and spurious online attacks against me, I cannot in good conscience now leave my children for 4 months to shoot a film in the Dominican Republic. Lionsgate is supporting me in this and I’m grateful to them for that.”

In more positive news, Netflix announced that David E. Kelley‘s upcoming drama series based on Michael Connelly‘s The Lincoln Lawyer books was given a series order. Originally set up at CBS, the drama will star Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven) as the title character, Mickey Haller. Previously, Haller was played in the movie by Matthew McConaughey.

Let’s get to some other new projects in the cards…

From Deadline, Oscar-nominated Black Swan Director Darren Aronofsky will be teaming up with Brendan Fraser to adapt Samuel D. Hunter‘s award-winning 2012 off-Broadway play, The Whale, into a feature film for A24, who is co-producing the movie with Aronofsky’s own Protozoa Pictures. In the movie, Fraser will play a morbidly obese 600-lb. man trying to reconnect with his teen daughter. No word on where and when production will begin.

It was also reported by Deadline that director Ridley Scott would reteam with his Gladiator star, Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), for the movie Kitbull, in which Phoenix would play none other than Napoleon. Production will begin in the UK sometime early in 2022 with Apple Studiofinancing and producing. The film is scripted by David Scarpa, who also wrote Scott’s crime thriller, All The Money in the World, about the Getty kidnapping. Scott’s usual partners at 20th Century Studios was given first shot at the movie through their long-standing first look deal with Scott’s Scott Free Productions, but they passed, clearing it up for Apple.

Apparently, Noah Baumbach‘s next movie for Netflix will be an adaptation of Don LeLillo‘s novel White Noise. It will be the filmmaker’s first adaptation as a director, but it will also reteam him with his Marriage Story lead, Adam Driver,  as well as with Baumbach’s long-time partner and collaborator, Greta Gerwig. Shooting is scheduled to commence in June.

Make sure to stay subscribed to Below the Line‘s Production Listings to stay on top of the start of new shows like the ones mentioned.

Issa Rae
Issa Rae (HBO)

In the world of TV and streaming, HBO announced that the popular Issa Rae series Insecure will have one final season, its fifth, before coming to an end. It will begin production later this month for release later in the year.

Staying in the family, the planned HBO Max Gotham PD prequel series to Matt Reeves‘ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, has found itself a new showrunner in Joe Barton, following the exit of Terrence Winter in November. Barton previously created and wrote the BBC Two/Netflix drama Giri/Haji, as well as the feature films The Ritual and upcoming Invasion for Amazon Studios.

Prolific and very busy filmmaker Jon Chiu — whose last movie was the blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians and whose already-completed movie musical In the Heights, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s hit Broadway musical, was delayed from last summer — has opted out of directing the pilot for the planned Willow series for Disney+. Turns out it was just an issue of timing, as he said in a statement, “With the production schedule moving due to continued lockdowns in the UK, and with a new baby coming this summer (surprise!), the timing is just not going to work for me and my family. As you may know, Willow has been one of my favorite movies since I was a child, so I’m devastated that I won’t be able to work with my heroes old and new like Kathy, Ron, Jon, Wendy, Michelle, and the amazing cast and crew they’ve put together.”

Getting back into some more casting, there was as lot of casting news for J. D. Dillard‘s big-budget Korean War movie Devotion, based on the book by Adam Makosproduced by Black Label Media for STXfilms to handle international sales and distribution in the UK and Ireland. Sony will release domestically. Christina Jackson from The Good Fight and Outsiders will play the female lead, while Joe JonasThomas SadoskiDaren KagasoffSpencer Neville and Nick Hargrove have been cast in the male roles. Filming will begin in Georgia next month.

May Calamawasy
May Calamaway (Hulu)

With Oscar Isaac set to play the title role in Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight series for Disney+, he was joined this week by May Calamaway, best known for her work on Hulu‘s series Ramy, in an undisclosed role. The series is looking to begin filming in Budapest, Hungary starting in March.

Earlier in the week, Oscar and Emmy-winner Rami Malek (Bohemian RhapsodyMr. Robot) and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) were announced as joining the cast for David O. Russell‘s untitled next film for New Regency and 20th Century Studios. This is another original film that was at one point called “Amsterdam,” and it currently stars Christian BaleMargot Robbie and John David Washington (Tenet) with production already underway. Then yesterday, even MORE cast was announced including Robert De Niro (who was nominated for an Oscar for Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook), Mike MyersTimothy OlyphantMichael Shannon, Chris RockAnya Taylor-JoyAndrea RiseboroughMatthias Schoenarts, and Alessandro Nivola. That’s one big and impressive ensemble cast, and yet, we have no word what the movie is about, although it will be Russell’s first film since 2015’s Joy.

Not really fitting anywhere above but maybe of interest to those in music and sound is Mercury Records‘ announcement that British photographer Mary McCartney will be directing a documentary about Abbey Road Studios called “If These Walls Could Sing,” produced by John Battsek (Searching for SugarmanEric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars). The film will be released as part of the 90th anniversary of the venerable studio that’s best known for being where The Beatles recorded many of their record. In fact, the director’s surname may not be a coincidence, because she is indeed one of the children of Sir Paul McCartney. She released the statement, “Some of my earliest memories as a young child come from time spent at Abbey Road. I’ve long wanted to tell the story of this historic place and I couldn’t be collaborating with a better team than John and Mercury Studios to make this creative ambition a reality.”

For trailers this week, we’re starting off with Netflix’s 2021 preview that heralded the fact that the streamer would launch a brand-new original movie each and every week for the entirety of the year. The sizzle reel includes blurbs from many of the big stars that will be in those movies released over the course of the year, including Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice) and Melissa McCarthy (Thunder Force). It looks like it will be an abundance of riches on Netflix up until and well past movie theaters reopening across the country sometime this year (hopefully).

Lastly, we also have the first new trailer for Tate Taylor‘s Breaking News in Yuba County, a crime comedy for MGM Studios that stars Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes and more. It will open in theaters and on digital February 12.


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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