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End of Week Production Notes 7/9/21: Robert Downey Senior Dies, Zack Snyder Announces Next Netflix Movie, and More News


Hold onto your butts! This week’s Friday news wrap-up is going to be a little crazy, because we’re dealing with a week where the Cannes Film Festival is in full gear, and the movie and TV biz is trying to make up for the shorter week due to the 4th of July.

Robert Downey
Robert Downey, Sr. (Photo Bhuvan Hungund)

We start with the sad news that filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr. died earlier this week at the age of 85.  Best known for his provocative 1969 film, Putney Swope, and the father of a certain blockbuster movie star, Downey died in his home in Manhattan on Wednesday. Putney Swope is about a Black man, who is accidentally elected chairman of a Madison Avenue ad agency, and in 2016, it was selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry. Downey also directed Greaser’s Palace in 1972, which was said to influence Paul Thomas Anderson, who gave Downey a part in his 1997 film, Boogie Nights.

There isn’t a ton of production news to share today, although Forma Pro Films announced that it would be opening Europe’s largest virtual LED studio called LED Unit Studios in Riga, Latvia next month. As with other virtual production studios, it will be using the latest technology to offer real-time rendering, live camera tracking hardware and the necessary LED screens for film, television and commercial production.

The studio offers 16,146 sq ft of as well as in-house lights and grip rentals, and everything needed for an all-inclusive LED Unit Studio, which allows productions to save money on travel and control over their shooting environment while also lessening COVID-19 production risks.

Max Pavlov, CEO of the LED Unit said, “Our engineers were previously developing virtual sets for ‘The Mandalorian’ and we are happy to bring this technology to international film, TV and commercial productions. LED Unit will be a custom-built virtual production stage and will become one of the largest European facilities, decked with the latest software and hardware solutions. In-house camera and lighting rental also gives us the opportunity to provide our future partners full-package deals.”

Forma Pro Films has three films and seven commercials lined up for production at its LED Unit studio, but crews arriving will need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination, and temperature checks will take place twice a day, as per the measures set by the Latvian state so prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As far as productions gearing up, the sequel to the family hit, Paddington and its sequel, currently titled (what else?) Paddington 3, will begin production in the 2nd quarter of 2022, according to production company, Studiocanal. The third movie will have a story by Paul King, Simon Farnaby and Mark Burton with screenplay by Burton, Jon Foster, and James Lamont.

Paddington 3 will be released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures, who also confirmed this week that the long-in-development Barbie movie will also begin production in 2022 at the UK studio Leavesden with plans for a 2023 release. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) is confirmed to direct Margot Robbie in the title role. Studiocanal also noted that the Colin Trevorrow-directed War Magician, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is finally moving forward after many years languishing in development.

Another movie that has been in development for just as long and will finally start production this September is the adaptation of Paulo Coelho‘s The Alchemist, which will film in Morocco with Kevin Frakes directing, and Sebastian De Souza, Tom Hollander,  and Shohreh Aghdashloo starring. It is being geared up for a release in the fall of 2022, produced by Will Smith and Jon Mone for Westbrook Studios; Frakes and Raj Singh for PalmStar; and Gil Netter for Netter Films.

Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Fresh off his hit action-horror flick Army of the Dead, filmmaker Zack Snyder has announced that his next movie for Netflix will be called Rebel Moon, and it will be a sci-fi take on Akira Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai, which Snyder at one point pitched to Lucasfilm as a film for the Star Wars franchise, which is said to be an influence.

Snyder is co-writing the script with his 300 co-screenwriters Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad, and he’s co-producing with his spouse/producing partner Deborah Snyder through their Stone Quarry which includes Wesley Coller. Other producers include Dawn of the Dead producer Eric Newman for Grand Electric along with Sarah Bowen as exec. producer. Netflix’s Scott Stuber, who also oversaw Dawn of the Dead and then brought Army to the streamer will also oversee this one.

The general premise involves a peaceful colony on the edge of the galaxy threatened by the armies of a tyrannical regent named Balisarius. The desperate colonists dispatch a young woman with a mysterious past to seek out warriors from neighboring planets to help them make a stand.

Snyder told THR, “This is me growing up as an Akira Kurosawa fan, a Star Wars fan. It’s my love of sci-fi and a giant adventure. My hope is that this also becomes a massive IP and a universe that can be built out.”

It that wasn’t enough, Netflix released the first pictures from Army of Thieves, the prequel to Snyder’s movie, directed by German filmmaker Matthias Schweighöfer, who played the witty safecracker Dieter in Army of the Dead. The movie co-stars Nathalie Emmanuel (F9), Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Jonathan Cohen, and Noémie Nakai, and it will hit the streamer this fall.

Army of Thieves
Matthias Schweighöfer in Army of Thieves (Photo: Netflix)
Army of Thieves (Netflix)
Army of Thieves (Netflix)
Army of Thieves
Schweighöfer with Nathalie Emmanuel in Army of Thieves (Netflix)
Army of Thieves
Army of Thieves (Netflix)

Tomorrow War
Chris Pratt in The Tomorrow War (Amazon Studios)

Also, the Chris McKay-directed The Tomorrow War did very well on Amazon Prime Video over the July 4th weekend, racking up 2.4 million views in the U.S. alone in its global release into 240 countries and territories where it debuted as the #1 streaming film. Deadline reports that Skydance and Amazon want to bring back the entire cast and crew from the sci-fi action movie for a sequel, including star Chris Pratt, co-stars Betty GilpinSam RichardsonJ.K. Simmons and Yvonne Strahovski, as well as McKay and original screenwriter, Zach Dean. (Look for our interview with the VFX experts at Weta Digital talking about their work on the Chris Pratt film sometime next week.)

Bill Condon has been tapped to adapt the musical Guys and Dolls for a movie at TriStar Pictures, that being another musical that’s been long-in-the-works of being adapted to the big screen. TriStar bought the rights to the original Damon Runyon short stories about gangsters and gamblers that inspired the Broadway musical, as well as the rights to the musical and the remake rights to the 1955 film adaptation originally made by Samuel GoldwynJohn Goldwyn and Marc Toberoff are producing with Nicole Brown and Shary Shirazi overseeing for the studio.

As far as other movie news, in some of the stranger casting, Oscar winner Javier Bardem has been cast to star in the Sony Pictures adaptation of the 1965 children’s book, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber, which was previously adapted into a 1987 animated musical. The new live action musical from Will Speck and Josh Gordon will also be a musical with Deadline reporting that it will include new songs from the Oscar-winning La La Land songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Speck and Gordon direct from an adaptation by Will Davies, which is based on the story of a reptile who lives on New York City’s Upper East Side. So this means that Bardem is playing Lyle or is he playing one of Lyle’s human friends? It isn’t clear, but the movie is already set for a release on July 22, 2022.

From THR comes word that John Boyega, who recently left the Netflix drama Rebel Ridge, has stepped in to replace the very busy Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) in the Salman Al-Rashid and Sam Frohman-produced indie drama, 892. The duo’s Salmira Productions will be joined by Epic‘s Joshuah Bearman and Mackenzie Fargo. When the film shifted production dates, it came into conflict with Majors’ appearance in Marvel Studios‘ Ant-Man 3, the latter which is set to begin filming in London this month.

Saturday Night Live director Paul Briganti, who also directed the short Greener Grass on which the indie feature comedy was based, has been hired to direct the Chris Pratt indie comedy, The Black Belt, for Monarch Media. Based on the 2020 Black List script by Randal Green about a “shy, unassuming teen boy on a quest for an expertise in karate, and the unorthodox uncle who guides him along the way,” Pratt is producing the film through his Indivisible Productions along with producing partner Jon Schumacher. Producing for Monarch are principals Steve Barnett and Alan Powell, while Vicky Patel will serve as EP. UTA Independent Film Group is overseeing film sales and distribution.

The team behind the Oscar-nominated Judas and the Black Messiah, co-writer, director and producer Shaka King, producers Ryan Coogler and Charles D. King, and star Lil Rel Howery are developing an untitled original movie based around an American political insurrection. King will direct and produce the film along with Coogler’s Proximity Media, King’s MACRO along with Howery, while King will also be part of the writing team. EPs for the film are Proximity’s Sev Ohanian and Zinzi Coogler, as well as MACRO’s Poppy Hanks and Greta Fuentes, and Brandon Harris.

Keep tabs on these projects mentioned above and more by subscribing to our Production Listings, which are updated daily.

A scene from Greenland (Photo: STXfilms)

We go from movie casting into movie deals, because the Cannes market means that a number of projects either in development or production were picked up for distribution. STXfilms stepped up with a reported $75 million to buy Greenland 2, the sequel to the Ric Roman Waugh – directed Gerard Butler Apocalyptic thriller that was released to PVOD last year in the United States, skipping a domestic theatrical release altogether. The duo already have another movie called Kandahar in the can, and are also developing a direct sequel to the 2019 hit, Angel Has Fallen. 

Amazon Studios looks to be ponying up the money to buy the worldwide rights to Foe, the hot new science fiction movie from Lion director Garth Davis, based on the sci-fi novel by Ian Reid. Davis co-wrote the adaptation with the author, and it’s already lined up Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal and LaKeith Stanfield in its cast with plans to start filming in Australia next January. The movie will be produced by AC Studios, I Am That and See-Saw Films.

Another big sale was Lionsgate offloading its comedy remake, The Valet, starring Eugenio Derbez, to the Disney+ and Hulu streamers. It’s an English language remake of Francis Veber‘s French comedy hit, which co-stars Samara Weaving and more, including Reggaeton superstar, Lunay, making his acting debut.

Continuing the streamer purchases, Netflix picked up the worldwide rights to the horror film, CURS>R, starring Asa Butterfield (Hugo), while Redbox Entertainment has picked up the rights to Nick Cannon‘s She Ball.

In overall movie/streamer deal news, it was announced that all Universal Pictures movies would stream exclusively on Peacock four months after they’ve hit theaters — once Universal’s deal with HBO Max lapses — but then a day later, it was announced that Amazon had also made a deal to stream Universal movies on its Prime Video and IMDb TV streamer platforms, presumably sometime after they’ve been on Peacock for a few months.

Rutherford Falls (Peacock)
Rutherford Falls (Peacock)

There were a couple announcements this past week about television series being renewed, including Rutherford Falls, which will get a 2nd season at Comcast streamer Peacock, while the former CBS series Evil has been renewed for a third season by Paramount+. (If you haven’t had a chance, check out Neil Turitz‘s “The Accidental Turitz” column, which includes some thoughts on television networks putting their popular shows onto their streamers. (It also is good to read if you’re intrigued by the news above about Universal’s streaming plans for its feature films.)

There are a few new projects in the works, including a television adaptation of the Korean action film, The Villainess, which was set up at Amazon with writer Francisca Hu (DynastySleepy Hollow) writing and exec. producing the pilot with original director Jeong Byeong-Gil directing the pilot and exec. producing with Star Trek Beyond writer Doug Jung. Robert Kirkman‘s Skybound Entertainment (Walking Dead) and Next Entertainment World‘s Contents Panda are teaming on the adaptation of a movie about Asian woman who believes she was raised by white, American parents, only to learn of her dark past back in her home country, and if the plot sounds a lot like this week’s Black Widow, it kind of does, doesn’t it? (The original Korean movie debuted four years ago at Cannes.)

Also, Sony Pictures Television has set up an animated series based on the 1987 David QuinnTim Vigil comic book, Faust, with Godkiller writer Matteo Pizzolo adapting it. The original comic follows “John Jaspers, a tormented vigilante who sells his soul in exchange for super powers and must then rise against Mephistopheles to rescue his lover Dr. Jade DeCamp and win back his soul.”

In some quick exec. and deal news, Shonda Rhimes‘ Bridgerton has done so well on Netflix that the streamer has extended her deal and added to the new contract is a first-look deal for feature films and gaming, as well. Producer Timothy C. Sullivan, formerly of Emmett Furla, is joining Voltage Pictures, while Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter have signed a first-look deal to develop movies for Netflix.

Let’s get into some television casting news, because there’s a lot this week, starting with the casting of the Netflix limited series, Painkiller, which will star Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black and Matthew Broderick, as well as West Duchovny, Dina Shihabi and John Rothman.

A few more quick bites as we go into our lightning round…

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey have joined the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, with Alcock playing the younger version of Emma D’arcy‘s Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and  Carey playing the younger Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke‘s character).

Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians) has joined the Netflix prequel series, The Witcher: Blood Origin, as has Sophie Brown (Marcella) and Laurence O’Fuarain (Vikings). Brown takes over from Jodie Turner-Smith who had to leave the spin-off series due to scheduling conflicts. The shoot will begin in the UK next month.

Actress Robin Given is joining the third season of the CW’s popular Batwoman series, Kapil Talkwalkar has joined the NBC Night Court sequel pilot, and Kiefer Sutherland will play Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Showtime anthology series, The First Lady.

The Paramount+ limited series The Offer, about the making of The Godfather movies, has added a LOT more actors, including Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn, Patrick Gallo as The Godfather author Mario Puzo, and Josh Zuckerman as Peter Bart. Justin Chambers from Grey’s Anatomy will have the recurring role as the legendary Marlin Brando. Also joining the cast are Meredith Garretson, Nora Arnezeder, Paul McCraneAnthony SkordiJake Cannavale,  James Madio, Michael Risoli, Stephanie KoenigLou Ferrigno, Frank John Hughes, and Danny Nucci.

More movie casting includes the eclectic announced cast for Matthew (Kingsman: The Secret ServiceVaughn‘s latest spy franchise, Argylle, which includes Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cena, and Catherine O’Hara.

Poppy Delevigne (Riviera) will co-star with Alex Pettyfer in The Chelsea Cowboy, the biopic about actor and ganster John Bindon with Idris Elba involved as an exec. producer. Ben Cookson (Waiting for Anya) is directing the movie, in which Delevingne will play aristocrat, model, actress and original IT girl Lady Victoria Hodge, who provided Bindon with access to the high life the working class boy craved as the couple went into a tumultuous 13-year relationship that serves the backbone for the story.

Aussie pop singer Olivia Newton-John is exec. producing the coming-of-age drama, Deltopia, with the cast including Luna Blaise, Madison Pettis, Charlie Gillespie, Hart Denton, Greer Grammer, Will Peltz and more. It’s currently in production in Los Angeles, the story taking place over a 24-hour period where a group of Southern California friends finish up high school and travel to Isla Vista, Santa Barbara for the annual unsanctioned “Deltopia” street party.


Walt Disney Animation released the first trailer for its November release, Encanto, a musical family comedy set in Colombia, which includes original songs from the EGOT-seeking Lin-Manuel Miranda.

MGM and United Artist Releasing released the first trailer for The Addams Family 2, which will hit theaters on October 2, directly opposite Sony Pictures’ own animated sequel, Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformia. That should go well. 

Lastly, we return to STXfilms, who released the first trailer for its bowling comedy, Queenpins, this week. Written and directed by Aron Gaudet & Gita Pullapilly, the comedy stars Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Joel McHale, as well as Bebe Rexha and Vince Vaughn. It will hit theaters on September 10 and then Paramount+ sometime after that.

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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