Happy Hump Day! Well… mostly happy anyway.
We’re still mired in the aftermath of the tragic death of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed on the set of the Western Rust, in an on-set accident involving Alec Baldwin and a misfired gun. The whole thing has started to get a little morbid with the amount of coverage, including a moment-by-moment recap of events by CNN.
In the past couple days, it’s been reported that the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department has concluded its initial investigation and has not ruled out filing criminal charges in Hutchins’ death. In fact, today (Wednesday), officials from the sheriff’s department are holding a press conference on the fatal shooting, so we might have to give an update once that’s over.
Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been conducting its own interviews with crew members, while the producers of Rust are opening an internal investigation into Hutchins’ death by hiring a high-profile law firm to conduct interviews with members of the crew. This last part was announced through a memo sent to cast and crew on Tuesday night saying,
“In addition to cooperating with authorities, we hired a legal team from Jenner & Block to conduct an investigation of the events We have stressed that they will have full discretion about who to interview and any conclusions they draw. They may reach out to you over the next week as well. Because we want to reduce the amount of times you are inconvenienced, when allowed, Jenner & Block will join you for the OSHA interview.”
Some good news for those who ventured out into the wilds to see Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune in theaters this past weekend — and those who just picked up their remote and watched it on HBO Max — Legendary has announced and confirmed that it will indeed produce a sequel to the Frank Herbert adaptation. This is a good thing since most people will know that the movie really is Dune: Part 1, and there’s much more story to tell. It even ends on a cliffhanger. Warner Bros. has also picked a date for the sequel/continuation, which will be released in Oct. 2023. Warners also promised that the sequel will get a substantial theatrical window with no HBO Max day-and-date ala the charter film, which caused some friction between Warners and Legendary when it was announced.
The news of the sequel being a go was announced, as are many things these days, via Twitter:
This is only the beginning…
— Legendary (@Legendary) October 26, 2021
We actually have some possible new studio news today with the report that Netflix is looking to acquire a production studio in New Jersey, and is looking to bid on the 89-acre Fort Monmouth army base, which closed in 2011. Plans would be to convert it into studio space, presumably for its own production. If the bid is accepted and the deal goes through, this would be the second tri-state area studio that the streamer will open, following the opening of its Bushwick, Brooklyn studio last month. The site has been valued at $54 million but has already been offered higher amounts. The state is taking bids over a 90-day period through Jan. 12, and current Governor Phil Murphy (who is up for reelection next week) has made it a priority to boost film and TV production in the state, offering a 30-35% tax credit which was renewed in 2019 as well as a 2% “diversity bonus” that runs through 2028.
Some people (actually most people) have forgotten that the movie business began in New Jersey with the work of Thomas Alva Edison and his peers, many of who migrated to California… reportedly to get away from Edison and his control over his inventions. (There’s a great film about Alice Guy-Blaché called Be Natural if you’re interested in that part of film history.)
A Netflix spokesperson told Deadline, “America’s first movie studio was in New Jersey, and today it’s home to many talented people working in entertainment. Governor Murphy and the state’s legislative leaders have created a business environment that’s welcomed film and television production back to the state, and we’re excited to submit our bid to transform Fort Monmouth into a state-of-the-art production facility.
On top of that, Phiphen Pictures, a local independent film and television production company, announced its plans to build a new post-production facility in Englewood Cliffs, so it’s looking to be a good time to be a film worker in New York and New Jersey right now.
All the way on the other side of the world in Mumbai, India, VFX house Framestore finally has opened its Mumbai studio which was delayed due to the pandemic. The new 30,000 square-foot facility currently houses 120 Indian VFX specialists working across titles such as HBO and BBC‘s His Dark Materials, Disney‘s The Little Mermaid, and Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Mumbai Framestore is also adding professionals in compositing, tracking and CFX for its plans to have a 300-person team by 2022.
The site is located in the Goregaon area of Mumbai in the Nesco IT Park of Filmi Nagari with plans for a phase two build-out to double the studio capacity by next year.
Akhauri P. Sinha, Managing Director Mumbai, said, “Stepping through the doors and feeling the studio crackle with life is a real joy after so much hard work. While the pandemic delayed the physical opening we’ve already started to bond as a team, and the additional time has meant we’ve really been able to fine-tune and finesse what the studio can offer our artists. It represents a new high watermark for India’s burgeoning visual effects sector, and the fact that we have such ambitious plans to expand and grow demonstrates our incredibly strong commitment to the city and the country’s wider VFX industry.”
Framestore CEO William Sargent adds, “The new Mumbai space represents part of a strategy that has seen an increase in studio locations. These plans include the integration of Method Studios’ film and episodic teams, the growth of our pre-production services division and our R&D ambitions – plans that speak to scale and capacity, as well as the ability to predict and meet industry demands.”
Sure, it’s Hump Day, but who can complain in a week when we get not one, but two, news items about actor Ryan Gosling? After signing onto Barbie, Gosling will now be reteaming with his Blue Valentine and A Place Beyond the Pines director, Derek Cianfrance, for Universal Pictures and Blumhouse‘s take on the classic Universal monster, The Wolfman. Cianfrance replaces The Invisible Man director Leigh Whannell, who had to step away due to a scheduling conflict. Cianfrance will also write the script for the project, which is produced by Gosling, Ken Kao, and Jason Blum.
On tackling the project, Cianfrance said, “Horror movies were my first love — my entry into what cinema was capable of narratively, psychologically and aesthetically. Coupled with the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan again, this is truly a dream come true. I’m thrilled and inspired to work with the good folks at Blumhouse and Universal to bring this monster back to life in our collective unconscious.”
Brendan Fraser, who got a good taste for superheroics from his role in HBO Max’s The Doom Patrol, looks to be switching sides for the streamer’s Batgirl movie, starring Leslie Grace. Fraser is in talks to play the villain in the movie being made for the streamer, reportedly playing the villain Firefly. The film is being directed by Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are helming from a script by Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey) with Kristin Burr producing.
Indonesian martial arts superstar, Iko Uwais (The Raid), is also looking to take on a more villainous role, as he’s been reported to join the upcoming The Expendables 4 as the movie’s villain, a former military officer-turned-arms dealer with his own private army. He’s joining the returning cast that includes Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture, as well as newcomers Megan Fox, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Jacob Scipio, and Andy Garcia. Former stuntman Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) is directing the new movie from a script by Spenser Cohen that had revisions by Max Adams and John Joseph Connolly. The movie is being produced by Statham, along with Kevin King Templeton, Millennium’s Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner, Jeffrey Greenstein, and Jonathan Yunger.
Stage and screen superstar Billy Porter continues to impress with his career moves, which will continue directing, as he’s currently finishing off his directorial debut, What If? It’s being reported that Porter will also be directing the film adaptation of Camp, the YA novel by Lev Rosen, for HBO Max and Warner Bros. Porter will also play the role of Mark, the camp’s theater director. Working from a screenplay by Robert O’Hara rewriting from Kit Williamson‘s earlier script, the movie is being produced by Oscar-winner Dan Jinks (American Beauty) through his The Dan Jinks Company. The film follows 16-year-old Randy Kapplehoff, who loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists. Randy reinvents himself over the summer as Del, a buff, masculine and on-the-market camper. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him. But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much he is willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
Actress Jennifer Esposito is making her directorial debut with the indie feature Fresh Kills, which is being financed via an offering on the Upstream Exchange — the Ethereum-powered digital stock exchange powered by Horizon Fintex and MERJ Exchange Limited — which today announced a $3.5 million IPO (Initial Public Offering) of securitis by Fresh Kills, Inc. The screenplay is also written by Esposito, inspired by her life growing up on Staten Island, and it tells the story of the loyal women of an organized crime family that dominated some of the boroughs of New York City in the late 20th century. Fresh Kills is produced by Alexis Varouxakis (Good Time) and Christine Crokos (Pimp) with Esposito serving as producer and Jason Weinberg serving as EP. Fans in the United States and worldwide can purchase Fresh Kills’ securities and support the Fresh Killsfilm and movement by purchasing “FRESH NFTs” (nonfungible tokens) which feature opportunities related to the film, as well as images, videos, or content from the film, cast and crew.
Esposito says, “When I took the concept for Fresh Kills to film financiers and distributors, I was told that financial backing depended on having a male lead in the film, as well as a male director, despite the fact that it is the story of women in the mafia world. In addition to lifting up the stories and voices of women, I hope that Fresh Kills will become a social movement. Together with Upstream, we aim to be healthy competition for bigger budget films by mobilizing people to choose character-driven content they can now be part of from the beginning as film investors.”
Filming for Roger (Cruel Intentions, After We Collided) Kumble‘s YA film Beautiful Disaster is underway in Bulgaria, and Voltage Pictures President and COO Jonathan Deckter announced the cast for the film, which will star Dylan Sprouse (After We Collided), Virginia Gardner (Halloween, Marvel’s Runaways), Austin North (Outer Banks), and Libe Barer (Sneaky Pete). Ethan Embry and Rob Estes are also part of the cast with Voltage handling worldwide sales at next week’s American Film Market (AFM). The teen drama is based on Jamie McGuire‘s New York Times bestselling novel that’s been translated and published in 38 countries. The tagline for the film is: “Bad-boy Travis (Sprouse) is exactly what college freshman Abby (Gardner) needs and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights fighting in underground boxing matches, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. But Abby wants nothing to do with Travis. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis offers her a simple bet: if he loses his next fight, he must remain sex-free for a month. If he wins, Abby must live in his apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that Abby’s dark past is about to emerge, and he may have finally met his match.”
Brian Pitt and Mark Clayman from Voltage are producing alongside Deckter, who said, “The adaptation of this beloved New York Times and global bestseller, helmed by one of the most prolific YA directors of all-time, Roger, and led by an incredibly talented cast with massive social followings – Beautiful Disaster has all the makings of the next blockbuster YA franchise. We’ve seen firsthand how quality New Adult content can rapidly reach audiences far beyond the established fanbase of the original IP when it’s in the hands of the right creative team on the production side, and backed by a robust social campaign. This book was one of the pioneering successes of the genre and I have no doubt that our global network of topnotch distribution partners will make this groundbreaking work a surefire box-office hit.”
Voltage’s Nicolas Chartier, Lucas Jarach, and Jamie McGuire are exec. producing Beautiful Disaster.
Prodigal Son star Halston Sage is starring and exec. producing the indie comedy, The List, according to Deadline. Melissa Miller Costanzo is directing the script from Rob Lederer and Steve Vitolo with Tobias Weymar, Annie Mahoney, and Mark Fasano producing for Nickel City Pictures. According to the tagline, the story follows Abby (Sage), a woman who is about to get married and everything is perfect. Until she finds out her fiancé has slept with a celebrity from his “free pass” list. To get her mind off things, Abby and her best friend Chloe come up with a crazy idea: Abby should pursue a celebrity from her own list. But things become complicated when she meets Jake, who gives her a fresh perspective.
In exec news, another Paramount Pictures person has left the studio, as Paramount’s SVP Corporate Communications Mia Ammer has also left.
This seems like as good a time as any to mention our Production Listings, which offers daily updates on the projects above and below.
We start our television coverage with the news that both The Wonder Years and Home Economics have been given full series orders from ABC. The BBC series Happy Valley will also be returning for its third and final season with AMC+ coming on board as a co-producer.
HBO’s Hacks has been one of the biggest new Emmy-winning series of the year, and its co-creators and Emmy-winning writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs are not resting on their laurels, as they are developing a new half-hour comedy series called Hot Robot that’s being written by Genevieve Aniello (The Other Two, The Gayme Show). Aniello will direct the pilot for the series being developed by the duo’s Paulilu Productions, which is set up at Warner Bros. TV. Hot Robot follows a jaded young woman whose life is turned upside down when she’s recruited to work on a super-secret AI project by a big brother corporation. Aniello was the showrunner, exec producer and head writer on Quibi‘s Gayme Show, as well as a staff writer on Comedy Central‘s The Other Two.
Freeform has given a formal pilot order for the one-hour comedy pilot, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, based on Kristin (Only Murders in the Building) Newman’s memoir with Chelsea Frei from Dollface as its lead. Catherine Cohen (What We Do in the Shadows), Alice Hunter (Another Period), and Kosha Patel (Girlboss) also star in the pilot, which is written by Newman and will be directed by Becca Gleason (Summer ’03). Newman is executive producing with Susanna Fogel (The Flight Attendant) and Blair Breard (Scenes from a Marriage). The series follows Frei’s Kacey, who is single for the first time in her 30s, as she escapes her fast-paced life in Los Angeles to see the world. From culture clash to vacation romances, the comedy is a globetrotting journey of self-discovery that will inspire the wanderlust inside everyone.
Jenni Konner is joining Kumail Nanjiani‘s Hulu limited series Immigrant as EP and co-showrunner, while Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger) has been hired to direct and EP the eight-episode series that acts as an origin story for the Chippendales stripper group. Written and EP’ed by Robert Siegel (creator of Pam & Tommy), the series stars Nanjiani as Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the Indian-American entrepreneur who started Chippendales. It will detail “the insane, darkly comedic, crime-ridden story behind the unique male revue that became a cultural phenomenon.”
There’s actually been a ton of television casting going on this week with Netflix’s YA comedy, Fakes — a 10-episode, half-hour series created by David Turko (Warrior Nun) — announcing its cast of Emilija Baranac (Riverdale), Richard Harmon (The 100), and Jennifer Tong (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), as filming gets underway in Vancouver. It’s the story of two teenage best friends who accidentally build one of the largest fake ID empires in North America, and CBS has the first window rights in Canada before Netflix releases it in the rest of the world. Turko is the showrunner, joined by Tabia Lau. The pilot which shoots through December will be directed by Toronto-based director Jasmin Mozaffari (Firecrackers).
The Apple TV+ and MRC Television original series, Hello Tomorrow, starring Billy Crudup, has assembled the rest of its cast, which will include Hank Azaria, Haneefah Wood (One Day at a Time), Alison Pill (The Newsroom), Nick Podany (Harry Potter And The Cursed Child on Broadway), and Dewshane Williams (The Umbrella Academy). The Emmy-winning Crudup also exec. produces the ten-episode, half-hour dramedy that’s created, written and executive produced by Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen, who will serve as showrunners. The series is directed and executive produced by Jonathan Entwistle with Stephen Falk also EPing. Set in a retro-future world, it centers around a group of traveling salesmen hawking lunar timeshares.
Tisha Campbell (Dr. Ken) and Emerson Brooks (The Last Ship) are joining Neil Patrick Harris‘ Netflix comedy series, Uncoupled, along with Brooks Ashmanskas (The Good Lord Bird) as series regulars while Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden and Tuc Watkins from Desperate Housewives will be recurring in the show produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and Jax Media. The comedy is created and executive produced by Younger and Emily in Paris creator/executive producer Darren Star and Modern Family EP Jeffrey Richman. On the show, Harris plays Michael, who thought his life was perfect until his husband blindsides him by walking out the door after 17 years. Overnight, Michael has to confront two nightmares — losing what he thought was his soulmate and suddenly finding himself a single gay man in his mid-40s in New York City.
More exec. news to wrap things up as Robert A. Boyd II has joined the Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios as its Chief Operating Officer.
Our first trailer for the day is a first look at the Netflix drama, The Unforgivable, starring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, which will be in select theaters Nov. 24 and then on the streaming network on Dec. 10. It co-stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan, and Viola Davis and is directed by German filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt (System Crasher). The tagline for the film is: “Released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime, Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. Facing severe judgment from the place she once called home, her only hope for redemption is finding the estranged younger sister she was forced to leave behind.”
Also, Well Go U.S. released the first trailer for Irish-born director Jon (Grabbers) Wright‘s thriller Unwelcome, which stars Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and The Wasp) and Douglas Booth (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as a couple who escapes the city for tranquility in rural Ireland, only to hear stories of mysterious beings who live in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden. As warned by their new neighbors, in Irish lore the Redcaps will come when called to help souls in dire need of rescue, but it’s crucial to remember that there is always a dear price to pay for their aid. It will be released by Well Go in the U.S. on March 17, although it’s being released on Feb 4. in the UK by Warner Bros.
Lastly, we have the first trailer for Paul Verhoeven‘s historic nun drama, Benedetta, which has played a number of festivals this summer, going back to Cannes. It stars Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling (from Dune), and Daphne Patakia, and IFC Films will release it in theaters on Dec. 3 and then on VOD on Dec. 21.
Speaking of festivals, if you’re looking for more stuff to read about festivals, check out Neil Turitz‘s new “The Accidental Turitz” column, which talks about how streamers are using the fall festivals to leverage themselves in the awards game.