Hollywood Heat Index: Nic Cage Hot, Cardi B Not (And, How Bank of America Landed A Spot)

”Power of the Dog” director Jane Campion jumps from No. 1 to No. 6 in just a day
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Welcome back to the Hollywood Heat Index, where we determine who’s hot and who’s not! Let’s take the town’s temperature, shall we?

HOT

10. Nicolas Cage – Hot on the hooves of Pig, the Oscar-winning actor is earning strong reviews once again for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, in which he plays a version of himself, Nicolas Cage. Pretty much everyone I know is looking forward to this movie in one way or another, and that was before its world premiere at SXSW went over like gangbusters. 

Meanwhile, the actor chatted at the festival with Variety’s Selome Hailu, who promptly informed Cage of the practice of “caging,” which as defined by KnowYourMeme.com is “a type of practical joke that involves taping photographic prints of the American actor Nicolas Cage to someone else’s room or belongings without knowledge or consent.” We’re big on consent ’round these parts, but I suppose exceptions can be made for images of Nicolas Cage, who asked with seemingly genuine sincerity, “is this a trip or is this real?” — which is such a Nick Cage thing to say, right? 

I’m just glad Cage is getting his mainstream mojo back. Then again, it was the pictures that changed, not Nicolas Cage, God bless his soul (if he didn’t already sell it for that Oscar).

9. Austin Butler and Florence Pugh – The two young stars are in negotiations for key roles in Dune: Part Two, which is the movie that was promised at the end of Dune: Part One in lieu of an actual ending, in case you forgot. 

Butler is making a deal to play Feyd-Rautha, the cruel and cunning nephew/heir of Baron Harkonnen, who was played by Sting in David Lynch‘s original 1984 movie. Butler’s casting appears to be a huge vote of confidence from Warner Bros. in his performance as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann‘s upcoming biopic of the same name. Don’t forget that Butler is also one of the leads in Apple’s big-budget miniseries Masters of the Air from executive producers Steven SpielbergTom Hanks, and Cary Fukunaga

As for Pugh, she’s in line to play Princess Irulan, the daughter of the Emperor, though she’s waiting to see the latest draft of the script –which is still being written — before she signs on. That leaves the door open for her to back out and star in the Madonna biopic. The Black Widow star has been in-demand all over town ever since her Oscar-nominated turn in Little Women, and she’ll soon be seen as the lead in Olivia Wilde‘s Don’t Worry Darling, which pairs her with none other than Harry Styles, who was also up for Feyd-Rautha. Maybe that’s why Butler nabbed this role — WB already has a Pugh-Styles movie coming out this fall. The other major role left to cast in the Dune sequel is that of Emperor Shaddam IV, the ruler who sent Timothee Chalamet and the rest of the Atreides family to Arrakis in the first place. 

Dune: Part Two is slated for release on Oct. 20, 2023. And this time, it probably won’t open day-and-date on HBO Max.

WARM

8. James Cameron – If you want to be a leader in Hollywood, sometimes you have to lead, so kudos to Oscar winner James Cameron for being one of 75 artists to sign a letter to the Academy and its president, David Rubin, urging them to reinstate eight below-the-line awards to the live broadcast.

“For nearly a century, the Academy Award has represented the gold standard in recognizing and honoring all the essential crafts in filmmaking. Now, as we approach Oscar’s 100th year, we are deeply troubled that this gold standard is being tarnished by valuing some filmmaking disciplines over others, relegating those others to the status of second-class citizens. Critical artistic crafts like music scoring, film editing, production design, makeup, hairstyling and sound will always deserve the same respect and recognition as crafts like acting, directing and visual effects,” the letter reads. 

Cameron wasn’t the only Hollywood heavyweight to sign the letter, but his signature certainly lent itself to stronger headlines in the press. Meanwhile, Cameron’s first film in more than a decade — Avatar 2 — is finally due to hit theaters this Christmas, and for the past year, it has been playing a game of chicken with Aquaman 2 over a shared release date. Well, as I expected, Warner Bros. blinked and the Aquaman sequel is sailing off to 2023. Sure, it may have been part of a larger DC movie reshuffle on the studio’s calendar, but the bottom line is that Cameron won’t have to worry about Jason Momoa swimming (drowning) in his Pandora pool come December.

7. Chris Abbott and Alessandro Nivola – The duo, who previously co-starred together in A Most Violent Year, will play the villains in Sony’s Kraven the Hunter movie, which is shaping up quite nicely between Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Oscar winner Russell Crowe, this year’s likely Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, and rising star Fred Hechinger

Abbott is the kind of indie stalwart (think Martha Marcy May Marlene and Vox Lux) who has long avoided studio movies like this, but he’s reached the point in his career where it was time for a breakout role, something that would make him a household name, and this is a solid step in his journey as a leading man. 

Meanwhile, Nivola is coming off the lead in the Sopranos movie (sorry, but that’ll always be the title to me) and he’ll soon be seen as part of the star-studded ensemble of David O. Russell’s new movie, which is led by Christian BaleMargot RobbieRami MalekAnya Taylor-Joy and Robert De Niro. Nivola has also wrapped Noah Baumbach‘s new movie White Noise with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, as well as Keira Knightley‘s new Boston Strangler movie, so his star is on the rise, and a big bad role in Kraven the Hunter could do wonders for his career.

6. Jane Campion – I’ve gotta be honest… Jane Campion was at the top of the Hot list when I first filed this week’s edition, and then she went and stuck her foot in her mouth while surrounded by press at the Critics Choice Awards, of all places. 

See, at first, I was going to give Campion props for laying the smackdown on Sam Elliott following his moronic attack. I didn’t even like her Netflix movie The Power of the Dog but it was hard not to root for the New Zealand filmmaker after that.

And Sam, we had that movie on the ropes! What were you thinking?!? You inspired people to rally behind Campion, and now the first thing people think of the next time you get cast in a movie — if you get cast in another movie — is going to be your Power of the Dog rant. 

Don’t get me wrong, as a longtime Sam Elliott fan, as well as an avowed Power of the Dog hater, I appreciated Elliott’s candor on Marc Maron‘s WTF podcast, but at the same time, he gave air to a movie that had been all but snuffed out in the Best Picture conversation, unintentionally reigniting its campaign and setting up Campion to dunk all over him, calling him a “bitch.” 

And sure, you could argue that she didn’t actually call him that, but that’s like a guy telling his girlfriend, “honey, I didn’t call you a ‘bitch,” I said you were “being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H. See, I didn’t even say it, I spelled it out!” Like, that guy is still sleeping on the couch that night, and maybe the next, too. 

Campion then followed the B-bomb with an even worse diss — she invoked the dreaded A-word, and not that one you’re thinking of. No, Campion said, and I quote, “He’s not a cowboy; he’s [wait for it…] an actor.” Ouch! Campion should owe Batman a royalty fee after that one because that was a BLAM! POW! if I’ve ever seen one. Seriously, she just bodied 77-year-old Sam Elliott! I tip my cowboy hat to you, Jane, who also beat her male competitors at the DGA Awards and the BAFTA Awards.

And that’s how the original item ended. But then Campion had to go and point out the gender thing while simultaneously denigrating the accomplishments of Venus and Serena Williams because they didn’t have to beat men to get where they are. Campion swiftly apologized and her team convinced Venus to be a good sport and pose for a photo of the two of them “dancing” together, but the damage was done and Campion may very well have hurt Dog‘s campaign for Best Picture. Oops?

COOL

5. Bozoma Saint John – This past week, the legendary marketing exec known as “Badass Boz” parted way with the streamer, which promptly replaced her with Marian Lee. Boz was then the subject of a delicious piece in The Ankler that hinted at discord between her and bossman Ted Sarandos. After escaping from Netflix’s evil clutches — which paid her a reported $4 million a year — Boz took to Instagram to rejoice now that she was “free.” 

From the outside, it sure did appear as though Saint John was better at promoting herself than the actual movies that Netflix made, many of which came and went without so much as a whimper, but I have no doubt she’ll land on her feet soon — and that Netflix won’t really miss a beat without her in its C-suite. So long as Stranger Things is returning this summer and Squid Game Season 2 is on the horizon, the streamer should be just fine, even if there is significant churn ahead as price points creep steadily higher.

4. Deadpool 3 – After working with Ryan Reynolds on Free Guy and The Adam ProjectShawn Levy has been tapped to direct Deadpool 3. He’s far from a terrible choice, but on the other hand, does his involvement excite literally anybody? Is there one person on the planet who wasn’t interested in Deadpool 3 before but is now that Levy is in the director’s chair? 

I liked Free Guy alright and I’ve heard decent things about The Adam Project, but if you gave me a hundred guesses, I’m not sure I would’ve thrown Levy’s name out there even though it was right there under my nose. We’ve either been underestimating him all along, or he’s just a savvy dealmaker who like any good Hollywood politician, knows who he needs to keep happy over the course of his rise. 

Of course, Levy has been making movies for Fox since the Night at the Museum days so is the culmination of that relationship. Let’s hope he doesn’t blow it. The truth is, there’s nowhere to go but up in my book, as I was not a fan of the Deadpool movies, especially the second one from David Leitch. Levy may actually be the best director yet to get his hands on this character, but I wish they had gone with a much younger, hipper choice, all due respect.

COLD

3. Cardi B – The singer left an entire crew high and dry when she pulled out of the Paramount comedy Assisted Living, in which she was to have starred as a low-level criminal who is wrongly accused of a crime and forced to hide out at her grandmother’s retirement home with the help of some old-age prosthetics. 

Personally, I always felt this movie was way outside of Cardi B’s wheelhouse, as only the most talented comic performers, like Eddie Murphy or Mike Meyers, can pull off this kind of thing. You have to be able to act through the prosthetics, and I’m just not sure Cardi B is there yet as an actress. Still, leaving director Thembi Banks and her $30 million production in the lurch like that sure isn’t cool. 

The film was just a week from starting production, according to Deadline, and while it’s entirely possible that Paramount itself got cold feet (it seems like the studio could’ve recast the role with relative ease) and threw Cardi B under the bus in the trades, it sure sounds like diva behavior from the singer, whose rep said she was simply overextended, according to Deadline. Apparently, Paramount will try to put this project together again later this year when Cardi B isn’t so exhausted, but I have a hard time buying that one.

2. Disney and Bob Chapek – What is Bobby C doing up there in the executive offices of the Mouse House? The Disney CEO has really stepped in it with this “Don’t Say Gay” mess, which saw him put his foot in his mouth multiple times before taking way too long to back the company’s LGBTQiA+ employees. I get that Chapek is walking a political tightrope in that position, but that’s why he gets paid the big bucks, and you’d think a Disney veteran such as himself would know how to respond to these kinds of PR flaps rather than issue tone-deaf statements that only further inflame a fiery situation. 

Multiple Pixar employees even got together to draft a letter in which they said they feel that Disney has stifled LGBTQ+ content for years, which is pretty damn alarming when we’re talking about a company with unparalleled influence on the youth of the world. “Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar,” read the letter. 

Chapek was already off to a rough start, having laid off numerous Disney staffers at the start of the pandemic before getting into a war of words with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, so he’s on thin ice these days. Because it’s one thing for Film Twitter or CAA to be mad at you, but quite another when it’s your own employees. Without them, you’ve got nothing, and Chapek would be wise to realize that — and fast. Bob Iger, where have you gone?

1. Bank of America – Talk about a PR disaster! If you haven’t seen the frighteningly familiar body cam footage, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler was put in handcuffs while trying to make a withdrawal after being mistaken for a bank robber. 

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s March and we’re still living in the middle of a pandemic. People wear masks when they enter banks. If they’re cold, they may wear a hoodie. If they’re trying to avoid detection because they’re somewhat of a local celebrity, they may wear sunglasses. But regardless of what Coogler was wearing or how he looked, he was a customer of the bank, and the teller took no steps to verify her identity. She felt uncomfortable so she called the cops. 

Now I may not be a bank teller, so I won’t pretend to know what I would’ve done in that situation, but her rush to judgment could’ve cost Coogler his life. Thank God he complied with officers as soon as they asked him to place his hands behind his back, which I’m not surprised that he did as the director of Fruitvale Station, having seen how these kinds of tense situations can end in tragedy. 

Bank of America apologized to Coogler, who accepted it and said he hoped to move one from the scary incident, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took his millions out of BoA and moved his money elsewhere. Misunderstanding or not, I’d have a hard time going back after that. As it stands, I’m practically embarrassed to still be a customer.