It’s a hot and humid Hump Day here in New York City, and sadly, we’re going to have to once again start with a couple of deaths of note over the past few days, including Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who died tragically on Tuesday at the age of 80. Watts has been the backbone for the band playing on every single studio record and playing on every single tour since the band’s formation in the mid-’60s. (And as you can see from the picture, Watts appeared on the front cover of the live concert album, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!)
Another tragic loss from the last two days was the news that actress, Marilyn Eastman, who starred in the late George Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead and on the original Perry Mason, passed away at the age of 87, according to a post by her son John Eastman confirming her death on Facebook: “I’m very sad to announce the passing of my mother, Marilyn Eastman on 8/22/21 in Tampa, Florida. I cannot overstate how much she enjoyed the affection and attention shown to her by countless ‘NOLD’ fans, and up until several weeks ago, was planning personal appearances.”
According to The New York Times, NBC Standards and Practices exec William Clotworthy has died at the age of 95 in hospice in Salt Lake City, Utah. Clotworthy began as a page at NBC in the 1940s before joining the standards and practices department in the ’70s, becoming the on-set censor for Saturday Night Live between ’79 and ’91, where he got the nickname, “Doctor No.”
Let’s get into some production beginnings and endings, of which you can always learn more about in our Production Listings.
Eva Longoria’s directorial debut, Flamin’ Hot just finished its shoot in New Mexico. The Searchlight Studios film tells the inspiring story of Mexican-American businessman Richard Montañez (played by Jesse Garcia), the Frito Lay janitor who channeled his Mexican American heritage and upbringing to turn the iconic Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a snack that disrupted the food industry and became a global pop culture phenomenon. Annie Gonzalez plays Richard’s wife, Judy, and the cast also includes Dennis Haysbert, Emilio Rivera, Tony Shalhoub from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Matt Walsh from Veep, Pepe Serna, Bobby Soto (Narcos), Jimmy Gonzales (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It), and TikTok sensation Brice Gonzalez. Also joining the cast are Vanessa Martinez (Warrior), Fabian Alomar, Mario Ponce, and Hunter Jones (Gotham). Ms. Longorria now goes into a post to prepare the film for a presumed 2022 release.
The AMC+ vampire fantasy series, Firebite, from See-Saw Films, has begun production in Southern Australia, according to UPI, with plans to stream on the service this winter. The eight-episode series stars Yael Stone, Rob Collins, Callan Mulvey, and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, and it follows two Indigenous Australian hunters on their quest to battle the last colony of vampires in the middle of the South Australian desert. The show was created and written by Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) and directed by Brendan Fletcher, who released a joint statement earlier this week, “Our only rule was to find great people, no matter where they came from. We have actors who’ve worked on big Hollywood blockbusters, and others that are flying in from remote Aboriginal communities who light up the screen with natural presence. To us, they are all movie stars.”
We’ll begin our movie casting news with the report that Jake Gyllenhaal will star in and produce Oblivion Song, a movie based on The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman‘s comic book series of the same name, which was drawn and co-created by Lorenzo De Felici. Released by Image Comics in 2018, it tells the story of Nathan Cole, “a man who makes daily trips to try and rescue those still living in the apocalyptic hellscape of Oblivion—a part of Philadelphia lost a decade ago, along with 300,000 of its citizens.” Gyllenhaal will produce with Riva Marker for his banner, Nine Stories, along with Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst, and Sean Furst for Skybound Entertainment, as well as Brian Oliver and Bradley Fischer of New Republic Pictures, who optioned the film rights.
Marker said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to partner with New Republic and Skybound on Robert Kirkman’s mind-blowingly captivating series. When faced with a cataclysmic event that permanently alters our lives, what would we choose to save? Just as Kirkman did with The Walking Dead and Invincible, in Oblivion Song, he’s created the potential for a franchise that is profoundly entertaining, and the perfect opportunity to explore big questions we’re reckoning with globally.”
Kirkman added, “We couldn’t be more excited to find such great partners in New Republic and Nine Stories. Both companies have a tremendous reputation for premium storytelling at the highest level, and we can’t wait to see Jake bring this character to life on the big screen. We are so fortunate to have assembled a team that is as passionate about this comic as we are.”
Cynthia Erivo will headline and exec. produce the 1970s London-based drama-thriller, Steel, from director Francis Lawrence and exec. producer Matt Charman, with MRC Television, and Civic Center Media taking it out to market. Written by Adam Gyngell and Fred Fernandez Armesto (inspired by the life of the latter’s secret agent grandmother), the film chronicles a self-made woman’s rise to power in Erivo’s Madeline Crowe, “a fiercely ambitious arms dealer who seizes control of her own destiny in a high-octane and dangerous profession dominated by her male colleagues. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, driven by an insatiable hunger to win at all costs, yet beholden to her son as a single mother, Crowe is forced to confront the kind of person, deep down, she really is. Steel explores how choices made by individuals desperate in pursuit of money and power shape the geopolitical landscape of our present, and how women like Madeline were the vanguards.”
Erivo is EPing Steel with Solome Williams through their Edith’s Daughter banner, along with Charman’s Binocular, Lawrence and Cameron MacConomy of about: blank, as well as Gyngell and Armesto. Binocular’s Valery Ryan and Annelie Simmons co-executive produce.
Fresh off his impressive dramatic turn in the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, actor and comedian Marlon Wayans is developing a new untitled Halloween adventure-comedy to star and produce for Netflix. The adventure-comedy will be directed by Jeff Wadlow (Fantasy Island) from a script written by Rob Rugan, Todd Berger, and John R. Morey. Wayans is producing with Rick Alvarez for Ugly Baby Productions, as well as Nathan Reimann, while Wadlow is an exec. producer. The story follows a teenage girl, who after accidentally unleashing an ancient and mischievous spirit on Halloween, which causes decorations to come alive and wreak havoc, must team up with the last person she’d want to in order to save their town – her skeptical father (Wayans). Wayans previously brought his 2019 comedy Sextuplets to the streamer while Wadlow directed True Memoirs of an International Assassin, starring Kevin James, for Netflix.
McKenna Grace, who stars in Sony‘s upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife and recently received an Emmy nomination for her guest role on Hulu‘s A Handmaid’s Tale is joining Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) in Olivia Wilde‘s movie, Perfect, for Searchlight Studios with filming to begin in 2022. McKenzie will be playing Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug in the biopic based on Strug’s book Landing On My Feet, A Diary Of Dreams, co-written by John P. Lopez, which will tell the story of Strug winning Team USA’s first gold medal at the 1996 Olympics despite a badly injured ankle. No word on what Grace’s role might be just yet.
Taylour Paige, the breakout star from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, has closed a deal to star in Legendary‘s Brothers, reuniting with the company behind The Toxic Avenger remake, in which she stars with Brothers star Peter Dinklage. Brothers also stars Josh Brolin, Glenn Close, and Brendan Fraser.
Deadline reports that Filipina star Lovi Poe is joining Alex Pettyfer and Poppy Delevingne in director Ben Cookson‘s The Chelsea Cowboy, based on the life of actor, gangster and lothario John Bindon. Poe will play British blues singer Dana Gillespie, who employed Bindon as security and also provided him with access to the high life, most notably the island of Mustique where he met Princess Margaret.
Steven Spielberg‘s upcoming semi-autobiographical Amblin film with the intriguing title, The Fabelmans, based loosely on Spielberg’s own childhood has added six more actors: Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Keeley Karsten, Birdie Borria, Alina Brace, and Sophia Kopera, with Francis-Deford playing the younger incarnation of the aspiring filmmaker at the center of the story. They join the ensemble that already includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Paul Dano, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch, Sam Rechner, and Oakes Fegley.
We just recently reported on the Aubrey Plaza vehicle, Emily the Criminal, and Theo James (Insurgent) will now be joining her in the crime-comedy.
Let’s get into some television, shall we?
We’ll start with some Showtime series renewals and announcements, being that the cable network just had its TCA panel, where they announced that Bryan Cranston‘s Your Honor, which was originally planned as a limited series, will get a 2nd season, as will Flatbush Misdemeanors. Furthermore, the popular Showtime talk show, Desus and Mero, has been renewed for a fourth season.
As far as new projects, Showtime has ordered a comedy pilot for The Wood from Justin Hillian and Rick Famuyiwa (The Mandalorian) based on Famuyiwa’s 1999 comedy movie of the same name. On the drama side of things, Showtime has also ordered a pilot for Susannah Grant‘s sex-trafficking drama, Coercion, starring Sydney Chandler.
While Freeform has renewed the popular series, Motherland: Fort Salem, for a third and final season, it’s been reported that HBO has cancelled Betty, the Crystal Moselle skateboarding series, after just two seasons.
On the exec. level of things, AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan has stepped down after 26 years with ex-Showtime Chief, Matt Blank, stepping into the job in the interim until a new CEO is named.
Jenny Klein has been promoted to showrunner for the NBC/Blumhouse true-crime limited series, The Thing About Pam, starring Renée Zellwegger and Josh Duhamel, after original writer-showrunner, Jessika Borsiczky, who left the project over creative differences.
NBC‘s planned live musical, Annie Live, has cast its Little Orphan Annie in Atlanta newcomer Celina Smith, the network revealed Tuesday, and she’ll be joined by Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace, and Tituss Burgess as Rooster. NBC said about the young star, “Already a triple threat at the age of 12, Smith will light up center stage with an all-star ensemble.”
Mom star Jaime Pressly looks to be returning to CBS with a new comedy in the works called The Porch, from Mom Co-Executive Producer Susan McMartin, Aaron Kaplan‘s Kapital Entertainment and CBS Studios. Based on an idea from Pressly herself, The Porch was written by McMartin based on her story conceived with Pressly. On the show, Pressly would play the recently divorced LJ, who “returns home to the small North Carolina island she couldn’t wait to leave to bury a mom she couldn’t stand. She finds herself staying far longer than she ever imagined, reconnecting with the “porch” folks she never felt a part of and falling in love for the first time with the train wreck of a mother who is no longer alive.”
Disney+ is developing and producing a new UK-based live-action drama series called Nautilus, which will be seen as an origin story for the fictional character, Captain Nemo, from Jules Verne‘s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is particularly interesting because both Disney and Fox have been trying to make a movie based on 20,000 Leagues for a number of years. Nautilus will be a ten-part live action adventure series developed and co-produced by Moonriver TV’s Xavier Marchand and Seven Stories’ Anand Tucker and written and EP’ed by James Dormer (Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands) and EP’ed by Disney’s Johanna Devereaux with filming to take place in early 2022.
Disney+ announced some casting for two UK Star original series, including Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (starring in this week’s Candyman) taking the lead in Culprits, a darkly comic heist series from executive-producer Stephen Garrett (The Undoing) and filmmaker J Blakeson (I Care A Lot) with Killing Eve‘s Morenike Williams producing.
Also, Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel) will take the lead in the streamer’s rom-com action thriller, Wedding Season, an eight-episode series produced by Dancing Ledge Productions with Chris Carey, Laurence Bowen, and Toby Bruce exec. producing. It’s produced in association with Russian Doll‘s Jax Media and penned by Oliver Lyttelton (Cheaters), with Timewaster‘s George Kane directing. Wedding Season follows two people who shouldn’t be together, but who can’t stay away from one another, with Salazar playing Katie, a picture-perfect bride who we meet on her wedding day surrounded by the dead bodies of her new husband and every member of his family with both thinking the other committed the murders. That will begin production later this month, shooting in Scotland, Manchester, London and Las Vegas.
Lastly, Jenifer Lewis from black-ish will star opposite Vanessa Bayer in the latter’s Showtime comedy series, I Love This For You, based on Bayer’s own story of overcoming childhood leukemia. Co-created and exec. produced by Bayer and Saturday Night Live‘s Jeremy Beiler, the series is about Joanna Gold (Bayer) “who dreams of becoming a host at a home-shopping channel. Working to shed her life-long label as ‘that cancer girl,’ she moves away from her parents, starts a budding romance for the first time in her adult life and forms a meaningful friendship with her idol Jackie (Molly Shannon), the charismatic host at the network, all against the backdrop of a highly competitive workplace run by an unstable billionaire, where people play dirty to succeed.”
Let’s get to some trailers, beginning with the first teaser trailer for Sony Pictures‘ SpiderMan: No Way Home, starring Tom Holland in his third solo outing as the Marvel webspinner. A bootleg version of the trailer with unfinished VFX appeared online a day before its initial release to coincide with Sony’s panel at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where exhibitors were also given a sneak preview screening of Jason Reitman‘s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which won’t be released until November. But here is your first look at Sony’s movie made in conjunction with Marvel Studios and President Kevin Feige:
Amazon Prime Video has released its first look at the second installment of Welcome to the Blumhouse, four horror movies made with Blumhouse Pictures that will stream on October 1 and 8. The four movies are Black as Night, Bingo Hell, The Manor, and Madres.
Next up is the first trailer for Pedro Almodovar‘s next film, Parallel Mothers, starring Penelope Cruz, which will play a number of film festivals in September after premiering in Venice on September 1 and before being released in the United States by Sony Pictures Classics on December 24 — just in case you’re wondering if this will be another Oscar player for Almodovar and Cruz following Volver in 2006.
The plot for the film by the popular Spanish auteur is:
“Two women, Janis and Ana, coincide in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged, doesn’t regret it and she is exultant. The other, Ana, an adolescent, is scared, repentant and traumatized. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors. The few words they exchange in these hours will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way.”
Netflix released the first trailer for its own Oscar player, The Hand of God, from Academy Award-winning writer and director Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo, The Great Beauty, The Young Pope). It tells the story of a boy, Fabietto Schisa, in the tumultuous Naples of the 1980s. The Hand of God is a story full of unexpected joys, such as the arrival of football legend Diego Maradona, and an equally unexpected tragedy. Fate plays its part, joy and tragedy intertwine, and Fabietto’s future is set in motion. Sorrentino returns to his hometown to tell his most personal story, a tale of fate and family, sports and cinema, love and loss.
That’s it for today. Back on Friday for the End of Week Production Notes and then a well-deserved weekend break.