We hope everyone had a good weekend and are looking forward to the shorter work week with Thursday being Thanksgiving. We have a shorter news column this week as well, and presumably, things will continue to slow down as we get closer to the winter holidays in late December.
The big casting news of the weekend, coming from The Hollywood Reporter, was that Delroy Lindo from Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods and the recent Western, The Harder They Fall, has been cast in an unspecified role in Marvel Studios‘ Blade, which will begin filming late next summer 2022. Two-time Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali plays the title character, the vampire hunter made famous by Wesley Snipes in three Blade movies released between 1998 and 2004. The second movie, Blade II, was even directed by Oscar winner, Guillermo del Toro. Marvel’s new movie is being directed by Bassam Tariq, whose indie drama Mowsul Mogli impressed on the film festival circuit earlier this year, working from a script by Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen). No release date has been set, as of yet, but presumably, it will be released sometime in 2023.
Incidentally, there’s been a follow-up to THR‘s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever story from a few weeks back. The production has begun its hiatus until January as reported, but now word comes out that its star Letitia Wright is still recuperating from an on-set injury, and this has nothing to do with her reluctance to get a COVID vaccine, which would prevent her from returning to this country to continue filming. Wright suffered from a fractured shoulder and concussion that was a lot more serious than the production expected, according to a letter sent to production from President Kevin Feige, Executive Producer Louis D’esposito, and Producer Nate Moore.
This letter says,
As we wind down for the holidays, we wanted to send a note of thanks and appreciation for the hard work of our entire cast and crew, as well as an update on timing. First and foremost, this project is exceptional and something we know audiences are eager to see. We could not be any more excited to complete this film and share it with the world next year. Thank you for everything you’ve done to get us to this place.
Unfortunately, we’ve not gotten here without a few setbacks. Running a production of this scale in the midst of a pandemic is not an easy task, and you have remained diligent and professional throughout. In addition, as you are all aware, Letitia had a frightening accident on our set during a stunt back in August. It was a reminder of the importance of safety at all times in our work, which we know you understand and are committed to. What we had initially thought were minor injuries turned out to be much more serious with Letitia suffering a critical shoulder fracture, and a concussion with severe side effects. It has been a painful process and Letitia has been home recovering with her doctors and the support of family.
We’ve adjusted our production schedule so she has the time she needs to heal, but there’s only so much we can do without Shuri! We also want to thank Letitia for everything she’s doing to get back to the set – we know how much she loves this role, how tough it’s been for her to be away, and how hard she’s working to recover as quickly as she safely can. We are eagerly awaiting her return and we know we will all come back stronger together.
Please be on the lookout for more information on your specific return-to-work date. As of now, we’re on schedule to resume filming – with Letitia – in January 2022. We are all focused on finishing the movie with excellence, honoring the memory of our dear brother Chadwick in the process. We are thrilled to share Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with the world, confident that the challenges that we have overcome together as a team will make the film even more impactful. Please take care of yourselves and enjoy the holidays.
-Kevin, Louis & Nate
Next, we have to report on a few sad deaths including that of Oscar-winning Costume Designer Emi Wada (Ran) at the age of 84 on Nov. 13, according to Japanese media. Wada first became known for her samurai costumes for Akira Kurosawa‘s 1985 film, Ran, which was based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, for which she won the Oscar, saying while accepting the award, “He doesn’t need my costuming.” Wada also worked with other respected filmmakers, including Nagisa Oshima and Zhang Yimou, as well as designing costumes for theater and opera. One theater director who worked with Wada, Amon Miyamoto, praised her on his Facebook page, saying, “I’ve never known anyone who pursued perfection and authenticity as much as you. To have been able to create something with you is an honor I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
Also, actor Art Fleur, who played Babe Ruth in The Sandlot, and also appeared in Field of Dreams, The Santa Clause, and many others has died at the age of 78 after a ten-year battle with atypical Parkinson’s, according to his wife, Shelley.
One filmmaker still alive and well and cranking out movies faster than anyone can keep up with is Sir Ridley Scott, whose second movie of the year, House of Gucci opens on Wednesday. (Look for J. Don Birnam‘s review later today.) Scott isn’t resting on his laurel, as he’s already prepping to start filming his Napoleon drama, Kitbag, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jodie Comer as Napoleon and his wife Josephine, for Apple Studios. (On Friday, Below the Line spoke with his cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who was heading to the UK to location scout.)
And then, on top of that, Scott gave a progress report on BBC‘s Today show about his planned live-action series based on his early sci-fi film classics, Blade Runner and Alien, the latter for FX. Both of these are being presented as eight or ten-episode limited series, and apparently, pilots for both shows are already written.
Before we get to any more news, we want to share some app news. If you’re a member of the Academy or any of the guilds or societies, you might want to check out a new app called FYCIt, which is currently in limited public preview. It’s the brainchild of indie producer Ryland Aldrich (Folk Hero and Funny Guy), and it’s quite brilliant. Maybe you’ve noticed that the studios have started to do more FYC (for your consideration) screenings and events again, after most of that was curtailed last year. In fact, there’s now so many screenings and events going on, especially in New York and L.A. that it’s almost impossible to keep track of it all. I know this for a fact, since I’ve been trying to catch up on all the movies before my various critics’ groups vote. The app is absolutely free, and it’s something that’s almost crucial for busy production professionals who may only have so much time to catch
In fact, from the site’s FAQ about why Aldrich created FYCIt, it says:
“Until FYCit, guild members and FYC attendees needed to navigate a jumble of dozens of websites in order to find out what events were happening on any given date. FYCit solves that problem by collecting all of that data and presenting it in one simple, attractive place. With added features like the ability to mark movies as ‘want to see’ and being alerted when new screenings are added, FYCit is your awards season resource.”
Again, it’s pretty brilliant, and I can’t wait to give it a try.
In the world of television, we have some interesting casting news, including the report that Natasha Liu Bordizzo (The Society) has been cast as the popular character Sabine Wren in Disney+ and Lucasfilm‘s Star Wars: Ahsoka series, which will star Rosario Dawson, spinning off from her appearance as the title character in the Disney+ hit, The Mandalorian. Bordizzo played Snow Vase in the Netflix film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, as well as on the streamer’s series, The Society. She’s also appeared in films Detective Chinatown 2, Guns Akimbo, and Hotel Mumbai. Wren is a Mandalorian warrior, who was first introduced in the Star Wars Rebels animated series, so this continues Lucasfilm’s introduction of characters from the Star Wars animated series into live action. Ahsoka is written by Dave Filoni, and exec. produced by Filoni and Jon Favreau. Presumably, this will continue the cliffhanger ending of Rebels where Ahsoka and Wren set out to find Ezra Bridger, who has yet to be cast. Production is set to begin for Ahsoka in March 2022 with reports that Hayden Christensen would reprise his own Star Wars character, Anakin Skywalker, in the series, although likely in flashbacks.
Actor Kal Penn, who seems to be having a bit of a renaissance after his foray into politics with President Barack Obama, has now been cast as the male lead in Peter Tolan‘s FX comedy pilot, Belated, according to Deadline. The half-hour comedy series comes from the Rescue Me co-creator, who writes, directs and EPs the series. In it, Penn will play Owen, “a recently out man in his 40s, and his ex-wife Diana as they attempt to find their new normal and take on new relationships while continuing to co-parent together. The project also follows an unexpected intergenerational friendship between Owen and Clay, a 17-year-old trans teen.” Tolan came out as gay later in his life, and Penn recently revealed his engagement to his partner in his memoir, You Can’t Be Serious, which was released earlier this month. Nick Alford from Cloudland exec. produces the pilot, which comes from FX Productions.
Jackson White (Mrs. Fletcher) will star in the Hulu straight-to-series drama, Tell Me Lies, opposite Grace Van Patten, based on Carola Lovering’s novel, which was adapted by Meaghan Oppenheimer and will be EP’ed by Emma Roberts. Tell Me Lies follows “a tumultuous but intoxicating relationship as it unfolds over the course of 8 years. When Lucy Albright (Van Patten) and Stephen DeMarco (White) meet at college, they are at that formative age when seemingly mundane choices lead the way to irrevocable consequences. Although their relationship begins like any typical campus romance, they quickly fall into an addictive entanglement that will permanently alter not only their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.” Oppenheimer also serves as showrunner and EPs with Roberts, Karah Preiss and Matt Matruski through their Belletrist banner, Laura Lewis and Stephanie Noonan for Rebelle Media, and Vice Studios’ Shannon Gibson and Sam Schlaifer for the Vice-owned Refinery29. Lovering serves as a consulting producer, while 20th Television is the studio.
Peacock and Channel 4 have renewed the popular musical drama, We Are Lady Parts, for a second season.
Not really casting news, but it was recently announced that Nikki Glaser will headline her very first comedy special for HBO.
Lastly, Jorge Reyes from Queen of the South, Oscar-nominated pop star and producer Pharrell Williams, and Ben Silverman (The Office, Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin) are developing the Latinx family drama, The Santos of Chicago, over at NBC. The series is loosely based on members of Reyes’ family, and it’s described as “This Is Us or Brothers and Sisters meets The West Wing.” According to the Deadline report, it “follows the lives and loves of six Afro-Latinx siblings, led by the two eldest sisters who, during their insurgent run for Congress, will become the Latina Jack and Bobby Kennedy. This leads their siblings to pursue success in their own fields, leading them on a surprising, tumultuous journey as their ordinary family transforms into an American dynasty.” Silverman is exec. producing with Howard Owens and Rodney Ferrell for Propagate Content, as well as Williams and Mimi Valdes for I Am Other Productions and Reyes. Shani Saxon serves as co-executive producer, while Verky Baldonado is co-producer. Universal Television (a division of Universal Studio Group) is the studio.
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Let’s get into some box office, which had another decent week, especially for Sony Pictures and filmmaker Jason Reitman, whose Ghostbusters: Afterlife opened across the country on Friday, starring Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Mckenzie Grace, and Finn Wolfhard. After Thursday previews that brought in $4.5 million, that was rolled into the sequel/reboot’s Friday estimate of $16 million, and then Ghostbusters ended up making an estimated $44 million over the weekend, which is only slightly less than the 2016 remake directed by Paul Feig. Ghostbusters made another $16 million overseas in 31 international markets, allowing it to have a $60 million global opening, $4.7 million of that on IMAX screens.
Marvel’s Eternals, directed by Chloé Zhao, dropped to second place with $10.8 million, down 60% in its third weekend with $135.8 million grossed in its first three weeks. It added another $22.7 million in 49 overseas markets, which brings its international cume to $200.3 million, with $336.1 million grossed worldwide.
Back in North America, Paramount Pictures‘ Clifford the Big Red Dog took third place with $8.1 million, having grossed a decent $33.5 million in its first two weeks.
Things didn’t go as well for Will Smith‘s latest film, King Richard, in which he plays Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams. Released by Warner Bros. into 3,302 on Friday with no Thursday previews while also released simultaneously on HBO Max, the movie bombed. There’s just no nice way of saying it, because it ended up opening with just $5.7 million in its first weekend. For some perspective, this is Will Smith’s lowest opening for a wide release going all the way back to one of his earliest dramas, Six Degrees of Separation, in 1993. The movie received an “A” Cinemascore, which shows that it might have decent legs if people actually go to see it in theaters vs. watching it on their TV sets, but this is further proof that Warner Media‘s day-and-date plan to stream all WB movies on HBO Max was not a great idea.
Dune followed in fifth place with $3 million and $98.2 million grossed so far domestically. That was followed by Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage and the Bond movie, No Time to Die, in sixth and seventh place with slightly less than $3 million each. While Venom has crossed the $200 million mark domestically (one of only two movies to reach that milestone in 2021), Bond has now become the biggest global hit of the pandemic, as it ended up with $733 million worldwide, which allowed it to surpass Universal Pictures‘ F9, which previously held that status with $725 million worldwide.
Two independent films were given limited releases this weekend, and while Bleecker Street‘s India Sweets and Spices did not fare very well with just $172,600 in 343 theaters, a terrible per-theater average of just $500 per venue. On the other hand, Mike Mills‘ C’mon C’mon, starring Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix, took in roughly $134,000, but that was in a mere FIVE theaters, so its $26,900 per theater is even higher than The French Dispatch‘s $25,938 per-theater-average last month. Granted, the latter did that in almost ten times as many theaters, so we’ll have to see how this A24 release fares as it expands wider across the country. In the meantime, you can read J. Don Birnam‘s review here.
One of the trailers we got this weekend is for Jockey, a fantastic indie drama being released by Sony Pictures Classics, starring Clifton Collins Jr. as Jackson Silva, an aging jockey looking for one last title with his trainer (Molly Parker). When a young rider (Moises Arias) shows up, claiming to be his son, Jackson takes him under his week, only making his journey more complicated. This excellent film is directed by Clint Bentley, and it will be released in New York and L.A. on December 29.
That’s it for now. Back on Wednesday for our “Hump Day News Update,” and then hopefully, we can all get a nice, long and restful long weekend.
All photos courtesy the respective copyright owners, as listed.