IN THIS WEEK’S “Live action Ursula” story, Melissa McCarthy may be ready to help some poor unfortunate souls in Disney’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
Sources tell Variety that while the deal is not yet completed, McCarthy is in early talks to play the sea witch Ursula in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid.
As Disney preps its live-action version of the undersea tale, there’s a lot of buzz about the cast. Disney and the production team behind it are looking to make contemporary and compelling casting choices, while still paying homage to the beloved animated original.
Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall is helming. The film will incorporate the original songs from the 1989 animated hit as well as new tunes from Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda is also producing the film along with Marshall, Marc Platt and John DeLuca. David Magee wrote the script.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Take it as you will” story, Clint Eastwood’s next film Richard Jewell is listed among the Georgia Film Commission’s projects set to shoot in the state this summer — despite the calls for a boycott of production in Georgia over the state’s new anti-abortion “heartbeat” law.
Local news outlets, including WXIA in Atlanta noted that the film is set to begin in Georgia this summer.
Reps for Eastwood, Warner Bros., which is releasing the film, and the Georgia Film Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Previously titled The Ballad of Richard Jewell, the film tells the true story of a security guard who was falsely accused in the bombing that took place at Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Paul Walter Hauser plays Jewell alongside a cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde and Kathy Bates.
The state has come under fire from many in the Hollywood community since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last month signed a new law designed to prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, unless it is blocked in the courts; legal challenges are already underway.
The law has sparked numerous Hollywood producers and companies to either say they would boycott the state entirely or that they would donate proceeds of their shooting fees to charities and activist groups fighting the bill. Specifically, WarnerMedia said in a statement at the end of May that the company would “reconsider” filming in Georgia if the law were to go into effect.
“We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” the company said in a statement. “We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project.”
Well, this is a sticky issue.
ADDENDUM: Despite a call for film and television productions to boycott working in Georgia in the wake of the passing of the state’s abortion ban, at least one high profile feature film is gearing up to shoot in the state this summer. As The Wrap reported earlier this week, Clint Eastwood’s fact-based Richard Jewell will shoot in the state, presumably to better utilize the actual locations in which the story took place over 20 years ago.
In an official statement, a Warner Bros. spokesperson told IndieWire, “We have made the decision to tell this compelling story — based on real people and events — in the locations where it actually took place, which is in and around Atlanta. As is always the case, we worked closely with our production partners to determine how and where to shoot this film, in order to best reflect authenticity in the storytelling.”
IN THIS WEEK’S “Lord of the Flies update” story, Lionsgate has acquired the U.S. rights to Voyagers, a sci-fi thriller from director Neil Burger that stars Colin Farrell and Tye Sheridan, the studio announced on Friday.
“Voyagers,” which is described as Lord of the Flies for a new generation, is produced by AGC Studios and Thunder Road, and it is Burger’s follow-up to The Upside, the remake of The Intouchables that hit No. 1 at the box office earlier this year for STX Entertainment.
Rounding out the cast of “Voyagers” are Fionn Whitehead, Lily-Rose Depp, Isaac Hempstead Wright and Chanté Adams. Lionsgate also announced Friday that Viveik Kalra, Quintessa Swindell, Archie Madekwe and Archie Renaux will also be joining the cast of the film. Production began this week in Romania.
Set in the near future, the film chronicles the odyssey of 30 young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it.
Burger is directing from his own script and is also producing on behalf of his Nota Bene Productions banner. Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Brendon Boyea are also producing.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Trading down” story, Mark Wahlberg is in negotiations to take over Chris Evans’ role in Antoine Fuqua’s action thriller, Infinite.
Evans, who signed on to the pic in February, was unable to continue with the project due to scheduling issues.
Infinite is based on D. Eric Maikranz’s novel “The Reincarnationist Papers,” which centers on the Cognomina, a secret society of people who possess total recall of their past lives. A troubled young man haunted by memories of two past lives stumbles upon the centuries-old society and decides to join their ranks. Ian Shorr are adapting the story for the screen.
Infinite is set to bow Aug. 7, 2020, with production scheduled to begin this fall.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Disney Fairy Tale” story, Fresh off last year’s acclaimed indie movie Sorry to Bother You and Steven Spielberg‘s blockbuster Ready Player One, Lakeith Stanfield and Olivia Cooke are in talks to star in an untitled fairy tale movie in the works at Disney+, Collider has confirmed.
Susan Johnson (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) will direct from a script by Cat Vasko, while Andrew Lazar and Ben Simpson will produce for Mad Chance. The trades have kept plot details under wraps, but according to Scriptshadow, the story follows a prince who sets off on a journey with his princess-to-be in order to lift a spell that’s made her really boring. Along the way, they discover a shocking reality about their existence — they’re actually one of the Grimm fairy tales, and they’ve disrupted the entire fairy tale universe with their quest. Scriptshadow describes the story as a subversive take on fairy tales, a la Shrek, Enchanted and the recent spec Fairy Godmother, which is in development at MGM.
IN THIS WEEK’S “In the Myst” story, Myst, the influential video game that helped usher in the CD-ROM era, may inspire an ambitious multi-platform film and television universe.
Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, the co-producer and co-financier of the Matrix and Sherlock Holmes franchises, has acquired the rights to the first-person graphic adventure. For those born post-90s, Myst was wildly popular and hailed as a bold step forward in gaming when it debuted in 1993. It took players to a magical island and had them solve a series of puzzles. The graphics were considered to be state-of-the-art, and some fans had a quasi-religious attachment to its mythology.
Myst inspired several sequels and spinoffs over the decades, but its primary story follows Atrus, grandson of a woman who discovered the D’ni civilization in a cavern deep below the New Mexico desert. These mystical people create books that link to other worlds, but the discovery triggers a cultural clash that unfolded over several novels and games.
In the case of Myst, franchise comes with a built-in fanbase, having sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Village Roadshow says it will use the games to develop a “multi-platform universe including film, scripted and unscripted television content.” The company will develop and produce the content with original co-creator Rand Miller and his youngest brother Ryan Miller, as well as Isaac Testerman and Yale Rice at Delve Media.
I played Myst – and Riven, its’ first sequel – and they were really fun. Surely there is a lot they could do here, but there’s also a lot they could fuck up.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Black Widow surprise” story, Production is underway on the long-awaited Black Widow movie with Scarlett Johansson reprising her role as the assassin turned SHIELD agent and Avenger. The film has been shooting in Norway this month, but details have still managed to stay mostly under wraps. Though we recently learned the identity of the character being played by Marvel Cinematic Universe newcomer Florence Pugh, there hasn’t been much else to reveal.
But recently, a few new set photos spotted a mysterious armored character. Who could it be?
Other outlets have shared embedded Twitter posts featuring a few different glimpses of a new character. It appears to be a man wearing armor that resembles the color scheme of War Machine suit, perhaps with a bit more of a blue-gray tint to it. The masked helmet looks like something a skydiver might wear, not unlike the one Tom Cruise wears in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but with the face area obscured.
However, the interesting detail comes from what’s on the character’s back. Not only is there an armored backpack that doesn’t look dissimilar from the one Falcon wears to house his wings (perhaps it houses a retractable parachute instead?), but sitting on top of it appears to be a hood. There also seem to be reddish-orange accents on the hood and backpack. And that has fans making one guess as to who this character might be.
In Marvel Comics, there’s a character known as Taskmaster. He’s a mercenary who has photographic reflexes, giving him the ability to mimic the physical movements of anyone he witnesses, making himself a formidable foe against superheroes. This includes being an exceptional martial artist (mimicking Elektra, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi), a skilled swordsman (Black Knight, Silver Samurai, Swordsman), a deadly accurate marksman (Captain America with a shield, Hawkeye with a bow and arrow, Punisher with firearms, and Bullseye with various projectiles) and an agile athlete (Black Panther, Daredevil).
After committing crimes for his own benefit, Taskmaster realized the danger of such activities, so he instead established a center for teaching aspiring criminals, training plenty of lower-tier villains, including Captain America foe Crossbones, to take on superheroes.
Taskmaster’s comic history paves the way for him to be a soldier with ties to future SHIELD agents.
It would be even more interesting if it turns out that it’s not a man under that armor, but a woman. Maybe that’s Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova under the armor. That would play with her Marvel Comics origins a little bit, but that could be a fun twist on the character who eventually becomes a new Black Widow in the comics. But there’s also a chance it could be David Harbour inside there too.
We’re not sure if this is meant to be the big villain of Black Widow, or if it’s maybe just some kind of side mission that Black Widow has to contend with. But we’re certainly interested to see how this expands the mythology of Scarlett Johansson’s character and what it means for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel Studios hasn’t given an exact release date for Black Widow, which will be directed by Cate Shortland, but it’s expected sometime in 2020.
Essentially more speculation, but interesting anyway.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Mysteries abound” story, Helena Bonham Carter is joining Millie Bobby Brown in Enola Holmes, Legendary’s adventure project based on the Enola Holmes Mysteries book series by Nancy Springer.
Harry Bradbeer is directing the project, which sees Legendary producing with Brown and her sister Paige Brown via the duo’s PCMA Productions shingle. Jack Thorne wrote the script.
The series, which began with The Case of the Missing Marquess in 2006, is comprised of six books and tells the tale of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ much younger sister, Enola, who turns out to be a highly capable detective in her own right. The first and fifth books in the series were nominated for Edgar Awards in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
Carter will play Enola’s mother, according to sources. Alex Garcia and Ali Mendes will oversee the project for Legendary.
RELATED: Henry Cavill is set to take on the role of the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes in Legendary Entertainment’s film adaptation of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mysteries novel series.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Doom approaching?” story, Noah Hawley may be busy working on the final season of his mind-bending series Legion and his upcoming directorial debut Lucy in the Sky, but the filmmaker always has time to talk Doctor Doom. Hawley’s long-gestating project about the Marvel antihero seemed like it was — well — doomed following Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and its superhero characters. But Hawley is here to assure us that Doctor Doom is not dead yet, and that talks have restarted, this time with Marvel Studios.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hawley confirmed that he had recently sat down with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige presumably to discuss Doctor Doom, during which time Hawley pitched going even wilder and more experimental than the Marvel Cinematic Universe had gone before:
“I did sit down with [Marvel Studios’ president] Kevin Feige recently and I said that I look at myself as sort of the Marvel R&D department. I know the genre can do all of these amazing things that [the Marvel Cinematic Universe] is doing, but my feeling is, what else can we do with it? Can we make it surreal? Can we make it musical? Not as a gimmick, but all of these techniques are about putting you into the subjective experience of these characters.”
Hawley is probably not making these suggestions specifically for a Doctor Doom movie, but looking for ways to push the envelope in the superhero genre as he’s done with FX’s Legion. Hawley has described his Doctor Doom as more of a geopolitical thriller, focusing on the character’s pressures as the king of the fictional Eastern European country.
Hawley has been trying to get Doctor Doom off the ground for the past two years, but the impending Disney-Fox deal had presented a daunting roadblock for the film. A script is reportedly already written, but Disney and Marvel aren’t in a rush to reintroduce Fox’s Marvel characters into the MCU just yet, though with the future of Phase 4 still a blank slate, there may be hope for Doctor Doom yet.
Although Hawley has his hands full with Legion, Fargo, and Lucy in the Sky, he clearly is passionate about bringing Doctor Doom to the big screen, adding to THR:
I wrote a script about Doctor Doom, an antihero story I really like, and we’re still talking about making it. I’m trying to get out from under this movie I made and this last season of Legion, and Fargo is coming back up… but for better or worse, these are the stories we want to hear right now. I think you can bury your head in the sand and say, ‘That’s unfortunate for our culture because they’re simplistic.’ Some people say that. I don’t look at it that way. I think they are morality tales on a larger scale, and it’s better to be part of the conversation than pretend the conversation isn’t happening.”
My head hurts.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Adding to the Nile” story, Death on the Nile, the next entry in Kenneth Branagh‘s unofficial Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe, continues to rack up impressive cast members. Just like the star-studded previous film, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is adding a cavalcade of famous suspects for Branagh’s Hercule Poirot to investigate. Annette Bening is the latest name being floated, with the actress in talks to join Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, Branagh, Tom Bateman (reprising his role from Orient Express), and more.
After awkwardly nodding her head to some Nirvana music in Captain Marvel, Annette Bening is ready for a little mystery. Deadline reports the actress is in talks to join the Death on the Nile cast for director and star Kenneth Branagh. There’s no word on which character Bening would play.
In the film, Branagh’s brilliant detective character Hercule Poirot is on vacation on the Nile, but ends up having to investigate the murder of a young heiress. This is more or less the same set-up as Orient Express, swapping a river cruise for a train.
Death on the Nile opens October 2, 2020.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Master of quarters” story, Netflix has acquired the new feature film Quartermaster with Iron Man 3 scribe Drew Pearce set to write and direct, sources tell Variety.
Insiders say Pearce brought the idea to the streaming service and Netflix execs were so impressed they bought the pitch in the room and are moving quickly to cast the lead.
Plot details are unknown other than that is is a high-concept thriller. Marc Platt, who had previously worked with Pearce on his directorial debut, Hotel Artemis, will produce along with Adam Siegel.
Since breaking out as the screenwriter on Marvel’s massive hit Iron Man 3, Pearce has become a go-to screenwriter for massive action tentpoles like “Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation” and the upcoming Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, which he co-wrote with Chris Morgan. Pearce has recently taken aim at directing his scripts as well, and his directorial debut Hotel Artemis featured Jodie Foster in her first acting role since 2013’s Elysium.
IN THIS WEEK’S “New Eternal” story, Salma Hayek may join the Marvel Universe.
The actress is in early talks to join Marvel’s The Eternals, which Chloe Zhao is set to direct later this year.
Richard Madden and Kumail Nanjiani are also on board the superhero adventure project, which is based on the 1976 comic book series created by Jack Kirby. Angelina Jolie remains in talks to also star, with no deal set.
The comic features superpowered and near-immortal beings known as Eternals and a more monstrous offshoot known as the Deviants that were created by cosmic beings known as Celestials.
While Madden is understood to be playing the lkaris, the leader of the group, character details for Hayek’s potential role have not been revealed.
So that’s happening.
IN THIS WEEK’S “In Memorium” story, Billy Drago, who often played harming but chilling gangster roles and appeared in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables and Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider, died Monday in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke. He was 73.
The character actor played Al Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti in 1987’s The Untouchables.
On TV series Charmed, he put his reptilian stare to good use as the demon Barbas in several episodes over five seasons.
Born William Eugene Burrows in Hugoton, Kan., his actor-director father was said to be of Native American origin. His mother’s family was of Romany extraction; he took their name Drago as his stage name. Starting out as a stuntman, he moved to New York and beginning his acting career.
Drago started acting in the late 1970s, appearing in films including Cutter’s Way, No Other Love and Windwalker. On television, he had guest roles in Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting, Walker Texas Ranger, Trapper John, M.D. and The X-Files.
Appearing in more than 100 films, he had roles in three Chuck Norris films including Invasion U.S.A., Hero and the Terror and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection as drug lord Ramon Cota.
Drago also appeared in Michael Jackson’s You Rock My World music video in 2001 and as the mysterious stranger in Mike and the Mechanics’ Silent Running (on Dangerous Ground).
His later film roles included Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, The Hills Have Eyes remake and Children of the Corn: Genesis.
Drago’s son Darren E. Burrows, who survives him, has appeared on TV shows including “Northern Exposure.”
And anyone that knows anything about Drago’s work should know he played John Bly in the wonderful, albeit too short-lived, Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., along with Bruce Campbell. RIP, Billy Drago.
ALSO: Max Wright, best known for playing patriarch Willie Tanner on the sitcom Alf, died Wednesday. He was 75.
Wright’s family confirmed his death to TMZ. The actor died in his home in Hermosa Beach, Calif., after years of battling cancer. Wright was diagnosed with Lymphona in 1995.
Wright is most famous for his role as the adoptive father to Alf, a back-talking alien puppet who crash-landed on Earth. The series ran from 1986 to 1990 on NBC and featured Wright in every season. His other television credits include episodes of shows such as Norm, Murphy Brown, Friends, Quantum Leap, Misfits of Science, Cheers, Buffalo Bill, Taxi and The Drew Carey Show.
He also played the manager of the iconic Friends coffee shop Central Perk in the early episodes of the series, in addition to Norm MacDonald’s boss in the ABC sitcom Norm. His film credits include All That Jazz, Snow Falling on Cedars, Reds, The Sting II, Soul Man and The Shadow.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Big score for the Ghostsbusters” story, Paul Rudd is in final negotiations to join Sony’s latest installment of Ghostbusters.
Sources tell Variety Rudd will play a teacher in the film.
Carrie Coon is also in talks for the not-so-secret project along with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard and Gifted star Mckenna Grace.
Jason Reitman, whose father Ivan Reitman directed the original Ghostbusters, will step into the director’s chair. He co-wrote the screenplay with Gil Kenan and plans to shoot the film later this summer. Ghostbusters 2020 is expected to hit theaters in summer of next year.
“I’ve been wanting to work with Paul Rudd since my short film opened for Wet Hot American Summer at Sundance. I’m thrilled he’ll be joining this new chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe,” said Jason Reitman.
Sony wouldn’t comment on plot details, but insiders tell Variety the story will be an extension of the original Ghostbusters and focus on a single mom and her family, with Coon playing the mom and Wolfhard playing her son. It’s unknown how exactly it connects to the original Ghostbusters series. Sigourney Weaver is also rumored to return as Dana Barrett.
The Ghostbusters sequel will produced by Ivan Reitman.
And the sequel/reboot train keeps on a-rollin’.
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