Here’s the stories the industry is buzzing about and some they will be after they read this.
Oh, What a Web She Weaves!
Spider-Man: No Way Home may have grossed $1.7 billion but don’t think Sony is resting on its superhero laurels. The studio is negotiating with Dakota Johnson to star in a Madame Web movie from director S.J. Clarkson (Marvel’s Jessica Jones). Sure, Madame Web is typically depicted in the Marvel comics as an elderly woman with psychic powers who doesn’t fight any villains because she’s connected to a life-support system, but what kind of movie would that make? Thankfully, Deadline’s sources stress that “the project could turn into something else” and note that the character is essentially Sony’s version of Doctor Strange, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see which iteration we get here.
Johnson is red-hot right now, as she recently produced and starred in the indie Cha Cha Real Smooth, which Apple acquired out of Sundance for $15 million, and she also co-stars in Netflix’s awards contender The Lost Daughter. If Madame Web can do Venom numbers, or even Venom: Let There Be Carnage numbers, Sony will no doubt be very happy.
Heartthrob of Stone
And hey, speaking of 50 Shades stars, Jamie Dornan has just signed on to join Gal Gadot in the international spy thriller Heart of Stone from Netflix and Skydance. The streamer won the project in a bidding war and it has been a high priority for Scott Stuber ever since. The film hails from British director Tom Harper, who knocked it out of the park with Wild Rose and didn’t really get enough credit for The Aeronauts. Dornan is coming off of the best reviews of his career for his supporting turn in Belfast, and he has a new HBO Max series called The Tourist debuting in March. His pairing with Gadot here intrigues me, so hopefully the script gives him something to do… even if it means singing while climbing a palm tree.
Scream Team Back for More
Paramount and Spyglass are getting the Scream team back together after the latest slasher sequel cleared the coveted $100 million mark worldwide, thereby outperforming the previous installment in the franchise. I didn’t hate Scream (2022) but I didn’t much care for it either, as it felt neither scary nor clever. Sure, it had its moments, but for the most part, it couldn’t make up its mind as to what it wanted to be, so here’s hoping that Radio Silence and screenwriters Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt pick a lane this time and remember to make the next movie scary. That is, after all, the point of making a horror movie, not hiding easter eggs for fans. Worry about that stuff once you nail a script the way Kevin Williamson did the first time around, okay?
Fast 10 (Your Seatbelts)
Vin Diesel has found a new mountain of muscle to fight — or team up with — in the new Fast and Furious movie, which is poised to be his last. Maybe? Possibly? We can only hope. After publicly courting Dwayne Johnson to return to the franchise, and getting absolutely rejected by the bigger star, Diesel turned to Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa. It’s unclear whether Momoa will ultimately prove to be a friend or foe to Dom Toretto and the rest of his motley crew, but at least he brings the right physique to this franchise following recent appearances from Johnson and John Cena. Michelle Rodriguez and Sung Kang are expected to return, and you know Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris wouldn’t dare miss out on a Fast and Furious payday, so you can bet they’ll be back along with director Justin Lin. He’ll have to hustle up and assemble the family quickly, as Fast 10 is slated for release on May 19, 2023, and it’ll be looking to improve upon F9‘s worldwide gross of $720 million, which was pretty good given its positioning during the pandemic.
The Diverse Mr. and Mrs. Smith?
Marvel hero Anthony Mackie and Priyanka Chopra Jonas are set to star in a new movie titled Ending Things, which is billed as a True Lies-esque action film, though it sounds like a more diverse Mr. and Mrs. Smith to me. Chopra Jones will play an assassin who wants out of the business, so she calls it quits with Mackie, who’s her partner in crime in more ways than one. But in order to survive the breakup — and their last job together — they must join forces for one last job. It’s an awfully tired trope (see our Billy Summers item below) but Mackie is immensely likable and I can see him having good chemistry with Chopra Jonas. We’ll see if any buyers bite on this package.
Costner on the Range… Again
Not only was Yellowstone renewed for a fifth season this week, but Kevin Costner signed on to direct his first movie western since 2003’s Open Range. It’s called Horizon and it will chronicle a 15-year span of life in the American West both before and after the Civil War, a time that was “fraught with peril.” In addition to producing and financing the film under his Territory Pictures banner, he’ll also star in the sweeping period film, which sounds like it’s exactly what Costner’s fans want from the actor, whose Yellowstone has grown into a certifiable hit for Paramount+ … and a couple of other streaming services as well.
Jordan Peele Gives Back
Jordan Peele and Universal Pictures were making moves this week, as they won the rights to make Nikyatu Jusu‘s next horror movie, which she’ll co-write with Fredrica Bailey. Plot details for the untitled film are being kept under wraps, but the project is considered a coup of sorts, seeing as how Jusu’s debut feature Nanny just won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, making her follow-up a hot commodity. Meanwhile, Peele and Universal also announced a California Below-the-Line Traineeship for individuals seeking careers behind the camera. The noble initiative launched with Peele’s upcoming horror movie Nope, which provided six paid trainees with on-set experience as well as mentorship. I think it’s a great idea that illuminates the variety of different ways to make a living in this industry, and I would encourage any Cali locals with an interest in below-the-line jobs to apply to this helpful program.
TV Briefs, Featuring Bad Robot and Bad Ideas
J.J. Abrams was a busy boy this week, as not only did he team with David E. Kelley to sell a limited series adaptation of Presumed Innocent to Apple, but he also partnered with Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz on a limited series adaptation of Stephen King‘s bestselling novel Billy Summers. The latter project will soon be shopped to networks and streamers, including Apple and Hulu, where Bad Robot produced such King adaptations as Lisey’s Story, Castle Rock and 11.22.63.
Billy Summers follows a hitman who takes one last job (eyeroll) and agrees to kill a fellow hitman who knows too much about his former employers. But Billy grows cynical about the mobsters who have hired him, and his skepticism proves warranted as things go awry following the job’s completion. King’s book doesn’t have the same profile as some of the author’s earlier hits but Hollywood’s adaptations of his work always get attention.
Meanwhile, Presumed Innocent is based on the 1987 book by Scott Turow that was previously turned into a 1990 movie starring Harrison Ford as a Chicago lawyer who is accused of murdering his colleague. Per Deadline, “the series will explore obsession, sex, politics, and the power and limits of love as the accused fights to hold his family and marriage together.” Sounds like the stuff prestige TV is made of.
For the hardcore geeks out there, Red Notice writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber has signed on to spearhead a new Dungeons & Dragons series that is expected to spawn its own universe of shows — the kind of ambitious plan that we’ve seen attempted many times before by other high-profile IP, only to fail in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, there’s another Star Trek series in the works titled Starfleet Academy, which will follow space cadets in college, because Paramount+ just can’t squeeze enough out of this wobbly franchise. Do let me know how both of these shows turn out, because I have no intention of ever watching either one.
Elsewhere, Starz’s Party Down revival has added Jennifer Garner, James Marsden and Zoë Chao, who, by the way, is really good in Apple’s whodunit series The Afterparty. I guess she’s just a “party” person. She’ll play a creative “food artist” who joins the Party Down gang, while Garner will play a producer who strikes up a flirtation with Adam Scott‘s caterer and Marsden will play a movie star. Most of the original cast will return for the six-episode season, but the question is whether Lizzy Caplan will leave a Samantha Jones-sized hole in the middle of this revival, which presented a scheduling conflict for the in-demand actress.
Let’s hear it for “the boys!” Former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo is teaming up with his brother-in-law, The Boys star Chace Crawford, for an untitled Showtime drama series set in the world of professional football. In other words, a more serious Ballers that will no doubt take a few cues from the immortal classic Any Given Sunday. In a world where Apple has Ted Lasso and HBO is about to bow its Lakers series Winning Time, it makes sense that Showtime would want some kind of scripted series about sports. Let’s just hope it’s realistic, and not just about the players, but the coaches and owners as well, since we all know that’s where the real drama is these days.
And finally, what was NBC thinking in casting Rudy Giuliani on The Masked Singer? What’s next? ‘Surprise, we reanimated Hitler’s corpse and he’s been in the kangaroo costume the whole time!’ The network should launch an investigation into who came up with this terrible idea and which executive signed off on it, because those two people should probably be fired. This guy is a national disgrace and not someone who should be welcomed on primetime television, even in a mask.
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