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End of Week Production Notes 2/12/21: The Equalizer Paused, Sorkin Gets His Mertzes and More News


It’s Friday again, and it’s also President’s Day (AND Valentine’s Day) weekend, and that means it’s another installment of our End of Week Production Notes, and we go into this weekend with a ton of casting news.

Before we get to that and other news…

Over the next couple weeks, many of those reading this in various guilds, societies or even those in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will have to fill out their nomination ballots. Hopefully, you’ll have found some of Below the Line‘s recent features helpful in steering you towards some of the movies you absolutely must see before doing so. We’re very proud of the amazing work our talented writers have been doing at getting to the nitty gritty of filmmaking for some of these talented artisans.

Queen Latifah in The Equalizer (CBS)
Queen Latifah in The Equalizer (CBS)

As far as production goes, the brand-new CBS version of The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah, which had a high-profile premiere after the Super Bowl this past Sunday, attracting 20.4 million viewers, has had to pause production after a positive COVID-19 test was found during the show’s normal safety protocols. This led to normal contact tracing procedures as the New Jersey production shut down for an unknown number of days and the production schedule was altered accordingly.

Robert B. Steuer

The sad news came in this week that film production and distribution executive Robert “Bob” Steuer, who worked in the business for 50 years, died last Friday (February 5) at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarazan Medical Center at the age of 86 due to dementia complications. Steuer’s career began when he bought a radio station and then a drive-in in Biloxi, WI, catching the eye of American International Pictures founders Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson who brought Steuer to Hollywood to play a key part in AIP’s distribution until it was sold to Filmways in 1979. He later consulted for Ely and Edie Landau‘s production company where he supervised The Chosen before joining Film Ventures as executive vice president overseeing U.S. release and foreign sales. He later held positions at 20th Century Fox, Encore Entertainment and was VP Production at Premiere Entertainment Services until retiring in 2019. He leaves behind his wife Peggy, son Philip, daughter Amy (Dickstein), sister Judy (Hearst), son-in law Joseph Dickstein and granddaughters Cayden Dickstein and Jordan Steuer.

Now let’s get to this week’s casting…

Aaron Sorkin‘s Lucille Ball biopic Being the Ricardos, starring Nicole Kidman, has found the two actors to play the actors that played the Ricardos’ friends, neighbors and landlords, the Mertzes, according to Deadline, with Oscar winner J.K. Simmons playing William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz, and Nina Arianda to play Vivian Vance aka Ethel Mertz. These are two great actors with Arianda best known for her stagework but getting some great roles more recently in shows like Billions and the movies Stan & Ollie and Richard Jewell.

Last of Us
The Last of Us (Sony)

The popular Sony Playstation game The Last of Us has cast the two leads for the HBO series adaptation with Pedro Pascal taking the role of Joel and Bella Ramsey from Game of Thrones taking the role of Ellie in the series being produced by Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and original video game creator Neil Druckmann. It’s been a long time that someone has been trying to transform the cinematic video game into some other medium, first into a movie by Sam Raimi and now into this series, which stands a good chance of going forward with the people working on it.

Speaking of Pascal, he’s also one of the leads, along with Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy), for Judd Apatow‘s Netflix pandemic comedy, The Bubble, which will also include Iris ApatowFred Armisen, recent Golden Globe and SAG nominee Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), David DuchovneyMichael- Keegan KeyLeslie Mann, and Peter Serafinowicz.

Also, Jack Black has landed his next role, actually another video game adaptation for the popular Borderlands, in which Black will play “Claptrap.” The movie directed by Eli Roth will reunite Black with his Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle co-star Kevin Hart, joined by Cate Blanchett and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Actress Lily Gladstone (Certain Women) is the latest to be cast in Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon, being made for Apple Original Films, based on David Grann‘s novel. Gladstone will play Mollie Burckett, who is married to Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of a powerful rancher, played by Robert De Niro. Yes, it’s true. Scorsese is making a feature starring BOTH of his long-time collaborators and leading men, so this should be a great follow-up to The Irishman.

As always, you can keep up with all this stuff through Below the Line‘s Production Listings, which is updated on the daily by our own Paul Tenibrini.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

Although it got a bit of a reprieve when NBC picked up the series after Fox dropped it, the police comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine looks like it will be coming to an end with its upcoming eighth season. That season was already delayed due to COVID but it’s also gonna be shortened, which feels a bit sad considering how long the show had endured thus far.

James Cameron is once again attempting to revive his 1994 movie True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, as he’ll be executive producing a new series for CBS and 20th Television, which will be written by Matt Nix (Burn Notice) with a pilot directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels). This is the second or third attempt at making a series out of the concept of a suburban housewife who learns that her husband is an international spy, and it seems like its success will depend on who gets cast in the two lead roles.

While it may seem a little weird to have any kind of box office update on a Friday, they’re celebrating the Lunar New Year in China, so it seemed like a good time to release the sequel Detective Chinatown 3, which was to be released LAST Lunar New Year though those plans were cancelled due to the COVID outbreak. That didn’t dissuade the Chinese fans of the franchise as the movie racked up over $100 million in advanced ticket pre-sales in advance of its China release today, the start of the Year of the Ox. In fact, the movie just beat Avengers: Endgame‘s single-territory single-day record by making $160 million on Friday. No word on when or whether the movie will get a North American release.

If you’re one of the lucky few Americans that live in an area where movie theaters are still open then you should be aware that Warner Bros. is opening  Shaka King‘s Judas and the Black Messiah into just under 2,000 theaters for Presidents’ Weekend, but will also be streaming it on HBO Max to give people options. You can read Below the Line‘s review here and the first of a number of interviews (with the film’s Editor Kristan Sprague) here. Also, Focus Features is releasing Robin Wright‘s feature directorial debut, Land, into roughly 1,300 this Friday. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival a week or so back and has received generally decent reviews so far but isn’t expected to be a huge breakout at the box office. Check back on Monday to see how these movies fared.

No new trailers this week but spend your free time this weekend watching some movies, because those nomination deadlines are sneaking up fast!

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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