Hollywood Brief: Zendaya’s Love Triangle, Cate Blanchett As Renegade Nun

Plus, the industry said goodbye to a beloved manager and magazine
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Here’s the stories the industry is buzzing about and some they will be after they read this.

There was simply too much casting news this week, so let’s have some fun with the headlines and rank the Top 10 stories of the week in terms of my personal excitement, shall we?

1. Zendaya will produce and star alongside Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in MGM’s love triangle tennis movie Challengers from director Luca Guadagnino. Let me repeat, this is a movie about a love triangle among tennis players, featuring Zendaya and the real breakout of West Side Story, from the director of Call Me By Your NameAmy Pascal, you have my attention.

2. Fresh off of House of Gucci, Adam Driver has signed on to play Italian racing mogul Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann‘s long-gestating biopic Ferrari, which will co-star Penelope Cruz as Enzo’s wife and Shailene Woodley as his mistress. Adam Driver teaming with Michael Mann? Yes, please!

3. Director David Lynch has agreed to take on the rare acting role, as he’ll play irascible filmmaker John Ford in Steven Spielberg’s next movie The Fabelmans, which finds the director confronting his own childhood. Just the idea of Lynch taking direction from Spielberg is making my mind melt.

4. Oscar winner Russell Crowe is in talks to join Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Sony’s Kraven the Hunter movie, in which he’ll likely be playing Taylor-Johnson’s father replete with a Russian accent. I’m picturing this as David Harbour as the Red Guardian in Black Widow, but, like, a lot better.

5. After playing Malcolm X in One Night in Miami and Barack Obama in The Comey Rule on Showtime, British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir has been cast as Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley in an upcoming biopic from King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green. Ben-Adir strikes me as a little stiff and uptight (i.e. British) for this particular role, but he’s a very good actor who deserves the benefit of the doubt here, especially since you know the soundtrack is going to be awesome.

6. Oscar winner Cate Blanchett will play a renegade nun in The New Boy, a period drama set in 1940s Australia about a 9-year-old Aboriginal orphan boy who arrives in the dead of night at Blanchett’s remote monastery, where his presence disturbs the delicately balanced world she has created. Be honest, I had you at “Cate Blanchett will play a renegade nun,” didn’t I?

7. In the Heights star Anthony Ramos has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he’ll play a top-secret character in the Disney+ series Ironheart. Ramos will reportedly receive a Kang the Conqueror-style introduction that will set him up for future appearances in the MCU. A nice coup for Marvel, and for the rising young actor.

8. Over on Disney+, Ray Stevenson is joining the cast of the live-action Star Wars series Ahsoka, which will center on the character played by Rosario Dawson in Season 2 of The Mandalorian as well as a recent episode of The Book of Boba Fett. He’ll play a villain, and an admiral — though according to THR, he won’t be playing Admiral Thrawn. And while it may appear under a different Disney+ hub, the upcoming National Treasure series has added Catherine Zeta-Jones, soon to be seen as Morticia Addams in Tim Burton‘s Netflix series starring Jenna Ortega as Wednesday.

9. Top directors such as Christopher NolanGreta Gerwig and Zack Snyder huddled up with their castings directors this week, as Nolan cast Dane DeHaan in his star-studded atomic bomb thriller Oppenheimer, while America Ferrera and Simu Liu joined Gerwig’s Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and Snyder tapped his Justice League star Ray Fisher for a role in his next Netflix movie Rebel Moon. Fisher will play a resistance fighter named Blood Axe in the film, which will also star Charlie Hunnam, Djimon HounsouBae Doona, and Jena Malone.

10. Michael Rapaport and Theo James have respectively joined Season 2 of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building and HBO’s The White Lotus — both of which will be looking to avoid sophomore slumps.

Those aren’t the only shows coming back for Season 2, as Amazon renewed its surprisingly good original series Reacher, while HBO renewed Euphoria for Season 3. Amazon also announced a new Blade Runner live-action series that will serve as a sequel to Blade Runner 2049Ridley Scott will return to serve as an executive producer to the project.

Apple was also out there making money moves this week, as it set Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern to star in Mrs. American Pie, which explores high society in Palm Beach in the ’70s, before casting Rashida Jones in Sunny, which will be produced by A24. Jones previously starred in the Apple/A24 movie On the Rocks from Sofia Coppola, and she’ll soon be seen in Apple’s upcoming sci-fi series Wool, so she’s clearly becoming a favorite of the streamer. Finally, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who’s been riding something of a hot streak, signed on to join Chris Evans and Ana de Armas in the streamer’s romantic action-adventure movie Ghosted, and Apple also ordered The New Look, a series about fashion icons Christian Dior and Coco Chanel starring Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn and Oscar winner Juliette Binoche.

Elsewhere, Netflix announced it’s making a Tinder Swindler movie based on its buzzy documentary; Lionsgate acquired the Michael Jackson movie being produced by Graham King (Bohemian Rhapsody); Disney pumped the breaks on its Beauty and the Beast prequel series; and Paramount and Nickelodeon announced a new Smurfs movie. Oh, and Village Roadshow teamed with Paul Weitz on a movie starring talented standup comic Taylor Tomlinson.

Your favorite franchises also found themselves in the news this week, as the Star Wars spinoff series Obi-Wan Kenobi will premiere on Disney+ on May 25 — 45 years after the original movie hit theaters… Film and gaming rights to The Lord of the Rings are back on the market, though the property may be viewed as less attractive, what with Amazon preparing to release its own big-budget TV series adaptation, The Rings of Power… Village Roadshow, which co-financed The Matrix Resurrections, sued Warner Bros. this week over the studio’s decision to release the film simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, arguing it was never properly compensated for that decision, which effectively harmed the IP… Variety revealed that due to COVID, the budget of Mission: Impossible 7 rose to $290 million before marketing, which can’t have Viacom stockholders too happy since this has never been a billion-dollar franchise. In fact, no installment has even cracked $800 million worldwide, gulp!

In other news, the Oscar nominations were revealed on Tuesday and The Power of the Dog led the pack with 12 nominations, while Dune managed to pick up 10 nods. Call it a hunch, but I don’t think either film will win Best Picture this year, though anything could happen within today’s Academy, which also nominated the three-hour foreign-language feature Drive My Car for its top award. Clearly, this isn’t your father’s Academy. And if it was, you’d probably have to get vaccinated and wear a mask if you came over for dinner on Sunday night — two modest showbiz requirements that in the ultimate hypocrisy, are unlikely to be enforced at this year’s Oscar ceremony, because why should the Hollywood elite have to live by the same safety rules as the rest of us during this pandemic?

Whichever movie wins Best Picture next month, it’ll likely get re-released in theaters, so you may soon be able to go see it on the big screen with MoviePass. Yes, the world’s worst business plan came roaring back from the dead this week, promising a new and improved subscription model in which customers will be able to buy credits that they can then redeem for movie tickets. The other way you can get credits? You can earn them by watching ads that will literally track your eyeballs, as in, the ad will pause itself if you aren’t watching it. Talk about creepy. You can’t make this stuff up!

Dotdash Meredith announced it would be ending the print edition of Entertainment Weekly, which had already shifted to become a monthly mag back in August 2019. The decision brought plenty of touching tributes from staffers, both past and current, and while EW undoubtedly influenced an entire generation of writers who now populate the internet, the brand has been grossly mismanaged over the last several years, and all of those bloggers pouring one out for the magazine on Twitter likely stopped reading it long ago, just like everyone else.

A medical examiner in Florida announced the cause of Bob Saget‘s death, and it turns out that the comedian simply fell and hit the back of his head earlier in the day, which is why he never woke up when he went to sleep. It sounds like a brain bleed, which can be a silent killer. Hopefully, people will now stop speculating regarding Saget’s past drug and alcohol abuse, as his toxicology report came back clean. His memory deserves better, and so does his widow.

Hollywood also said goodbye to VFX legend Douglas Trumbull this week, as well as beloved talent manager and all-around-good-guy Chris Huvane, both of whom will be dearly missed.

And finally, entertainment mogul Byron Allen announced his plans to put in a bid for the Denver Broncos. The NFL only has two owners of color and they’re both minority owners, so it would be a big deal if Allen bought a majority stake in a team, especially after the recent controversy surrounding Coach Brian Flores and the league’s application of the Rooney Rule, which demands that teams consider diverse hires.


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