Although it still feels like the industry is starting to wind down with the obligatory two-week holiday coming up, the months-long actors and writers strike have made it so that many deals are being worked out right until the end of the fiscal year, so that the studios, networks and streamers have content moving forward.
A24 is gearing up to make a live-action feature along with Kojima Productions based on the latter’s popular open world Playstation game Death Stranding. Released in 2019, the game stars Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) as Sam Porter Bridges, a courier tasked with delivering supplies to isolated colonies after the United States is hit by a cataclysmic event that has destructive creatures roaming the Earth. Besides Reedus, the game, which sold over 5 million copies and was named “game of the year,” has also drawn talent like Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, and Margaret Qualley, so a feature film seems like a worthwhile endeavor. It’s very likely to be one of A24’s larger productions, with Alex Lebovici’s Hammerstone Studios (Barbarian) on board as co-financier and executive producer, but watching the first trailer for Alex Garland‘s upcoming Civil War (see that below) may have the burgeoning production house and distributor ready for larger and more commercial projects. A Death Stranding 2 video game is already in development for the Playstation 5 with the apocalyptic video game, The Last of Us, having already been turned into a successful Emmy-nominated venture for HBO/Max.
One of the more interesting recent projects announced just yesterday was the latest from Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach, who is setting up his next project for Netflix, his ersatz home for the past three films. It will reteam him with Adam Sandler, who also has a long-term first look deal with the streamer. They will be joined by none other than George Clooney for a project Baumbach wrote with Emily Mortimer, which he will produce with Amy Pascal and David Heyman (Wonka). (For those wondering about the connection between Baumbach and Mortimer, her two kids, Sam and May Nivola, appeared in Baumbach’s last film for Netflix, White Noise.) As of now, plot details and even a title are being kept wraps, although it’s said to be a “coming-of-age film about adults.”
It’s thought that Baumbach might receive a fourth Oscar nomination for co-writing Barbie with long-time partner Greta Gerwig, who just this past week was announced as this year’s Jury President for the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, making her the first American woman to hold that honor, as well as the youngest Jury President at 40.
Speaking of Clooney, Sony has won the rights to handle theatrical distribution for Apple Original Films‘ Wolfs, reuniting Clooney with his long-time pal and collaborator, Brad Pitt, directed by Jon Watts (Spider-Man: No Way Home), as well as the Scarlett Johansson–Channing Tatum space race film Project Artemis, directed by Greg Berlanti. The two films would continue Sony’s relationship with Apple following the former handling worldwide distribution for Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon, which has amassed $172 million in global box office under Sony’s aegis. Wolfs, which Watts also wrote and produces, follows two lone-wolf fixers assigned to the same job. It will be the first time Clooney and Pitt have starred in a project together since Steven Soderbergh‘s Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007.
Project Artemis, written by Rose Gilroy, is a ’60s set drama with an ensemble cast that includes Ray Romano, Anna Garcia, Donald Elise Watkins, Woody Harrelson, and more, with Johansson serving as producer under her These Pictures banner, along with Jonathan Lia, Keenan Flynn, and Sarah Schechter.
Earlier this week, we mentioned that Olivia Wilde was looking to direct the Christmas custody comedy, Naughty, for Margot Robbie‘s LuckyChap production banner as her next film, and now Universal has come on board to distribute that.
Paramount Pictures announced this past week that Naomi Scott from Aladdin and Charlie’s Angels would be the star of the upcoming Smile sequel. The original Smile made $105.9 million domestically and $217 million globally, based on a production budget of just $17 million.
Earlier this year, Lionsgate suddenly removed White Bird: A Wonder Story, its sequel to the $315-million-grossing Wonder, from theaters, but now, it’s back on the schedule for Oct. 4, 2024. That puts it up against Todd Phillips‘ own sequel, Joker: Folie a Deux, which teams Joaquin Phoenix‘s title character with Lady Gaga‘s Harley Quinn.
Focus Features also announced a July 12, 2024 release date for Baltasar Kormákur‘s Icelandic romantic drama, Touch, based on Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson bestselling Icelandic novel. Spanning several decades, the film co-written by Ólafsson and Kormákur, follows a widower’s journey to find his first love who disappeared 50 years earlier. Egill Ólafsson leads an international cast that includes Kōki, Pálmi Kormákur, Masahiro Motoki, Yoko Narahashi, Meg Kubota, Tatsuya Tagawa, Charles Nishikawa, Sigurður Ingvarsson, Starkaður Pétursson, Ruth Sheen, and more. Focus is building up a pretty nice line-up for 2024, a mix of foreign language films like this and Goran Stolevski‘s Housekeeping for Beginners, as well as Drive-Away Dolls, the solo directorial debut by Ethan Coen, and Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders, which Focus just picked up from 20th Century Studios.
Academy President Janet Yang announced earlier this week that Jennifer Fox would return to produce the 14th Annual Governor Awards, her fifth time producing the event. It will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Ovation Hollywood with honorary awards being presented to Angela Bassett, Mel Brooks, and Editor Carol Littleton, as well as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to the Sundance Institute’s Michelle Satter. The event will take place on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Ovation Hollywood.
20th Television Production Chief Nissa Diederich will be exiting the company, nine months after production operations for Disney TV Studios, Hulu, Freeform, and FX were consolidated under Carol Turner, with Diederich reporting to her. Turner was previously EVP and Head of Production for Disney’s ABC Signature before becoming EVP Production at 20th Television.
Because we didn’t have any trailers in the Tuesday installment, we’ll leave you with a few more trailers than usual, although we’ll also mention that this weekend’s big theatrical release is Warner Bros‘ Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet, which our critic J. Don Birnam absolutely loved.
Before we get to those trailers, a few other things to check out from around the Above/Below the Line universe:
A Glimpse Into The Mind of Poor Things Composer Jerskin Fendrix (by Below the Line Editor Jack Giroux)
First off, we have the very first teaser for Eddie Murphy‘s return as Axel Foley in Netflix’s Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, which will hit the streamer and presumably a few theaters next summer.
Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland will be back in 2024 with another movie for A24, this one being the intriguing and oddly timely sci-fi film Civil War, which will hit theaters on April 26, 2024. The movie stars Nick Offerman (as the President apparently), Cailee Spaeny, married Oscar nominees Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, Wagner Moura, and Stephen McKinley Henderson.
Earlier in the week, we also got to see the third (and possibly final?) trailer for Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune: Part Two, also starring Chalamet, which was delayed until 2024 and will now hit theaters, including IMAX and other premium formats, on March 1.