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Hump Day News Update: Spielberg and Netflix Make Nice, Disney Finds New Snow White, Peabody Awards and More News


So let’s see what’s going on in the middle of the week?

Steven Spielberg (Photo: Gerald Geronimo)

After decrying Netflix in the past, suggesting that it may be hurting cinema and that the streamer network’s movies shouldn’t be eligible for Oscars, Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg seems to have changed his mind.

This past week, Spielberg’s Amblin Partners signed a deal to make movies for the leading streaming service. Spielberg had made the derogatory statements towards Netflix two years ago, but either he’s changed his tune or was “misquoted,” because a big deal was signed with the Ted Sarandos streamer that will run counter with Amblin’s current deal with Universal Pictures.

So basically, Spielberg will direct movies for Universal but will also produce movies for Netflix. Got all that? (There’s been no recent word about Spielberg’s connections to Apple TV+ with the failed revival of Amazing Stories, but he was one of the big names connected to the streamer at launch.)

Even so, the two companies previously collaborated on Aaron Sorkin‘s The Trial of the Chicago 7, which received six Oscar nominations earlier this year, and Netflix is also financing and distributing Bradley Cooper‘s Leonard Berstein biopic, Maestro, which is currently in pre-production.

In a statement, Spielberg said, “At Amblin, storytelling will forever be at the center of everything we do, and from the minute Ted and I started discussing a partnership, it was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways. This new avenue for our films, alongside the stories we continue to tell with our longtime family at Universal and our other partners, will be incredibly fulfilling for me personally since we get to embark on it together with Ted, and I can’t wait to get started with him, Scott, and the entire Netflix team.”

One filmmaker who has been working quite well with Netflix is McG, who will produce the multi-cultural romantic comedy The Tradition via his Wonderland Sound and Vision banner at Netflix. The film is based on the comedy spec script by Nico Godinez Miller and Grant Mellon with Mary Viola joining McG as producer. Previous collaborations between Netflix and Wonderland include Tall Girl, The Babysitter and Holidate, as well as upcoming titles Love Hard, Mystery Girl, Uglies and Tall Girl 2. Holidate did particularly well with Netflix, reaching 68 million households in its first month of release.

Emmy Award

With Emmy nominations are coming to a close on Monday, the Television Academy has announced a few new rules for this and next year’s Emmy Awards. The first and main one doesn’t necessarily affect below-the-line, but in the acting categories, the Emmys now offer provisions for those who don’t want to be labeled in one particular genre category, as has been the norm for so many of these awards shows.

According to the new rule (which goes into effect with this year’s Emmys),

“No performer category titled ‘Actor’ or ‘Actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions,” it wrote today. “Now, nominees and (or) winners in any performer category titled ‘Actor’ or ‘Actress’ may request that their nomination certificate and Emmy statuette carry the term ‘Performer’ in place of Actor or Actress.”

On top of that, there will be no more double-dipping for documentaries that qualify for Oscars consideration but when that doesn’t work, they get a cable or network run in order to qualify for Emmys. That’s no longer going to be happening as of next year’s Emmys with the very specific rule, “Any film placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be deemed a theatrical motion picture and thus ineligible for the Emmy competition.”

Basically, you better decide whether you want your doc to qualify for either the Oscars or the Emmys, because you can no longer try to do both.

Speaking of awards, the Peabody Awards were announced earlier this week, honoring the most compelling and empowering stories in broadcasting and streaming media of 2020.  The Emmy-nominated Netflix mini-series, Unorthodox, was one of the television series honored in the Entertainment category, as was  Showtime‘s The Good Lord Bird yesterday, while the MTV Documentaries film 76 Days, which follows the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, received a Peabody Award in the News category.

On Monday, the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso received a Peabody in the Entertainment category, as did CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, while the documentary Time and Renee Tajima-Peña’s PBS docuseries Asian Americans and the Disney Channel children’s series The Owl House were also recognized.

Rachel Zegler
Rachel Zegler (Photo courtesy 42 West)

The biggest casting of the week was probably Walt Disney Pictures Studios finding its Snow White for the Marc Webb-directed live-action Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which will begin filming in 2022. Rachel Zegler, who stars in Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story movie, and who obviously must be impressing those in Hollywood for her work, scored the coveted lead role in what will be an important Disney live-action remake.

Webb told Deadline“Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts. Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.”

Heredity and Midsommar Director Ari Aster has cast up his next movie, Disappointment Blvd., for A24, which had already attracted Joaquin Phoenix after winning the Best Actor Oscar for Joker last year. Phoenix will be joined by Broadway regulars Nathan Lane and Patti LuPone, as well as Oscar nominee Amy Ryan and Kylie Rogers. Aster writes and directs the enigmatic project, as well as produces with Lars Knudsen under their Square Peg banner. Access Industries will co-finance with Len Blavatnik and Danny Cohen exec. producing, along with Elisa Alvares and Timo Argillander of IPR.VC.

Also from Deadline, Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick will direct and produce a movie based on Rebecca Banner‘s Black List script, Space Oddity, with Kyle Allen, Alexandra Shipp and Madeline Brewer attached to star. Production is set to start this month in Rhode Island, telling the story of Alex (Allen) “who, after giving up on Earth and deciding to leave it all behind for a one-way mission to Mars, develops an unexpected romance with Daisy (Shipp), the enigmatic town newcomer, which forces him to choose between an uncertain journey to the stars and an even more uncertain journey of the heart.”

Brewer plays  Alex’s sister, Liz, who has reluctantly returned to the farm where she grew up. This is the first movie for Sedgwick’s Big Swing Productions banner with Valerie Stadler, as she told Deadline“As soon as I read Space Oddity, I knew this was a film I had to direct. This family is so beautifully flawed, so perfectly human. The humor and the heart jumped off the page. We started Big Swing to tell just this kind of story – one that centers on hope but never shies away from the struggle that makes us all part of this fragile experiment on Earth. And there is no better place to film this story than in the beautiful state of Rhode Island.”

Stadler produces along with Jack Greenbaum and Richard Arlook for The Arlook Group and Mickey Schiff for Unique Features. Exec. producers for the film are Bob Shaye, Ibrahim AlHusseini, JL Pomeroy, Brent Emery, Susan Cartsonis, Suzanne Farwell and Anne Clements.

Vanessa Kirby
Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman (Photo: Netflix)

Out of the Cannes Virtual Market comes word that Oscar nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Vanessa Kirby (The CrownPieces of a Woman) have been attached to star in the survival thriller, Suddenly, from A Prophet writer  and frequent Jacques Audiard collaborator Thomas Bidegain and Studiocanal. Gyllenhaal and Kirby previously starred in Audiard’s English language debut, The Sisters Brothers. Bidegain will also direct Suddenly, which is based on Isabelle Autissier’s French-language novel, Soudain Seuls, about a couple who become stranded on an island in the South Atlantic and must fight for survival when their dream journey becomes a nightmare. The novel shines a light on the dynamics of their relationship and also holds a mirror up to modern society. Producing the movie are Alain Attal (Tell No One), and Gyllenhaal with Riva Marker for their Nine Stories banner. Studiocanal is financing, while Artemis Productions and True North Productions are co-producing.

Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening have been cast to star in the Paramount+ feature film, Jerry And Marge Go Large, inspired by the true story of a retired Michigan couple who helped revitalize their community by playing and winning the Massachusetts lottery. The film will be directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) with principal production starting this July in Georgia. Written by Brad Copeland, the movie will be produced by Gil Netter and  Levantine Films and executive produced by Kevin Halloran. Amy Baer will also produce through MRC Film’s Landline Pictures, that label’s first production. Netter, Tory Metzger and Renee Witt from Levantine Films developed and packaged the film based on an original article by Jason Fagone for The Huffington Post.

Kaley Cuoco
Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant (Photo: Netflix)

Kaley Cuoco, who is likely to get an Emmy nomination for her performance on HBO Max’s hit, The Flight Attendant, is in talks to join Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson in the romantic comedy, Meet Cute, directed by Alex Lehmann, although the deal hasn’t closed yet. Based on a screenplay by Noga Pnueli, the high concept comedy is based around the question: “What would you do if you could travel to your loved ones’ past, heal their traumas, fix their problems, and change them into the perfect partner?” If the deal closes, Cuoco would play Sheila while Davidson would play Gary. Akiva Goldsman, Gregory Lessans, and Rachel Reznick of Weed Road Pictures are producing with Santosh Govindaraju and Dan Reardon of Convergent Media.

Amazon Studios and Welle Entertainment are developing Robinne Lee‘s novel The Idea Of You into a vehicle for Anne Hathaway with Tony-nominated actress and filmmaker Jennifer Westfeldt adapting the bestseller. Cathy Schulman is producing through her Welle Entertainment shingle with Gabrielle Union and her production shingle, I’ll Have Another. The novel centers on a 40-year-old divorced mother named Sophie, whose husband Dan left her for a younger woman, so he cancels his planned trip to Coachella with their teen daughter, so Sophie goes with her instead. There, she meets 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, lead singer of hot boy band, August Moon.  Sounds like something that Hathaway and a few younger actors can really sink their teeth into.

Lastly, and this one is from Variety, just to change things up, Doom Patrol star Karen Obilom has been cast as the female lead in HBO Max’s remake of Reginal Hudlin‘s 1990 movie, House Party, being produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter‘s SpringHill Company. She joins Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Tosin Cole and DC Young Fly for the reimagining of the original comedy that starred hip-hop group, Kid ‘n Play.

Progress on the above can be tracked at our subscription-only Production Listings.

Jessica Raine
Jessica Raine (Photo: Hartswood Films)

Things are still a little slower on the TV side of things as pilots are probably being filmed as well as the fall seasons of various shows. Even so, the six-part Amazon thriller series, The Devil’s Hour, from Sherlock and Dracula‘s Hartswood Films, has cast its leads in Jessica Raine (Patrick Melrose) and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who).  Raine will play Lucy Chambers, a woman dealing with family issues including a despondent eight-year-old son, whose name is connected to a string of murders in the area. Capaldi plays a reclusive nomad who is the prime target of the manhunt led by Detective Ravi Dhillo, played by Nikesh Patel from the HBO Max series, Starstruck.

Actress and comedian Wanda Sykes (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is joining the fifth season of Robert and Michelle King‘s legal drama, The Good Fight, which will launch on Paramount+, according to Deadline. She will play Allegra Durado, “a brilliant, strategic attorney who’s been away from the law for ten years while trying to finish her white whale of a book.”  She’s joining the cast in a recurring role, as is Wayne Brady.

Warner Bros. Pictures just released a brand-new trailer for James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad, which will open in roughly five weeks. This one focuses more on Idris Elba‘s character, Bloodsport, and him being brought into the group, plus it also veers away from the humor that was more evident in previous trailers. The Suicide Squad will hit theaters and HBO Max on August 6.

Amazon Studios just released a full-length trailer for French auteur Leos (Holy MotorsCarax‘s upcoming musical, Annette, starring Oscar nominee Adam Driver and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. The movie, which will open the Cannes Film Festival next month before its debut in U.S. theaters on August 6 (and Amazon Prime Video on August 20), was written by Ron and Russ Mael, collectively known as rock group Sparks, whose new Edgar Wright doc, The Sparks Brothers, is still playing in North American theaters.

It’s been a good week for the Apple TV+  comedy series, Ted Lasso, starring Jason Sudeikis. On the same day that the show won a Peabody Award in the Entertainment category, Apple released the first trailer for the second season of the popular hit show, which hits the streamer on July 23.  It should benefit from getting multiple Emmy nominations on July 13, too.

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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