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Must Reads 1/26/24: Jon Stewart Returns to Daily Show, Ellison Makes Move for Paramount Global, More Industry News

This week has been filled with such a plethora of news, it was night impossible not to run another “Must Reads” before everyone leaves for whatever their weekend plans might be.

Unfortunately, there are absolutely no new movies in wide release, as the studios have decided to take the weekend off, instead re-releasing or expanding many of the movies that were nominated for Oscars earlier this week. Therefore, if you haven’t had a chance to see Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Poor Things or Cord Jefferson‘s American Fiction, they both are now playing in many more theaters, while Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie and Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer are being re-released nationwide, as is Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers. Sure, many of them are already on streaming or other home media, but these are Oscar nominees now, so go see them in theaters if you have nothing better to do.

Big news from earlier in the week was that original The Daily Show host Jon Stewart would be returning to exec. produce and to host show but only on Monday nights. For the past few years, Stewart has been hosting the Apple TV+ series, The Problem with Jon Stewart, and it had been eight and half years since Stewart left the show, for the hosting duties to be taken over by Trevor Noah, who departed last year.

The Daily Show account on X posted a picture to commemorate the return of its original host, who presumably did not want to miss out on another Presidential Election involving former President Donald Trump, since the jokes pretty much write themselves.

There’s been a lot of chatter in the industry as of late about what might happen with Paramount Pictures, which has been rumored to be for sale for a number of years now — the studio did not fare well during the pandemic, having to sell many of its planned theatrical release to streamers.

Now comes word from Bloomberg that none other than Skydance Media founder and CEO David Ellison has made an offer to buy National Amusements Inc., the Redstone family’s holding company, in order to take control of Paramount Global, the media giant behind MTV, Nickelodeon, and of course, the venerable movie studio. National Amuseuments currently controls 77% of Paramount’s voting stock, and Paramount Chair Shari Redstone and her advisers have already been in discussion about Ellison’s acquisition proposal. Ellison’s plan would merge his own Skydance Meida into the larger media company once he takes control. Ellison would finance the deal with the help of his father Larry Redstone, co-founder of software giant Oracle Corp. and one of the richest men in the world.

Ellison’s Skydance Media has long been a partner with Paramount having financed and produced the most-recent Star Trek films, the Mission: Impossible movies, and co-producing Paramount’s massive 2022 blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick.

This development follows recent rumors that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav had been interested in bringing the Paramount brand under the WBD umbrella, and also, that Cruise himself had just signed a new first look deal with WB to develop new properties and franchises for the competing media company.

(L) The Sentry (Marvel Comics) | (R) Lewis Pullman (Apple TV+)

With Steven Yeun having dropped out of Marvel Studios‘ The Thunderbolts a few weeks back, word comes from The Hollywood Reporter that Lewis Pullman (Apple TV+‘s Lessons in Chemistry) is Marvel’s first choice to replace Yeun as The Sentry. Besides co-starring with Brie Larson in Apple’s limited series, for which Pullman received a Critics Choice nomination, as well as the series receiving three DGA nominations, Pullman also starred in the long-delayed Salem’s Lot remake for New Line. Pullman also starred in last year’s Sundance fave, The Starling Girl, the aforementioned Top Gun: Maverick, and Bad Times at the El Royale.

The Oscar nominations on Tuesday drove many Hollywood agents to get their clients to sign on the bottom line for new deals, with Killers of the Flower Moon‘s nominated star, Lily Gladstone, signing onto Charlie Kaufman‘s adaptation of Yoko Agawo‘s acclaimed 1994 science fiction novel, The Memory Police, which will be directed by Reed Morano. This news story also comes from The Hollywood ReporterOgaway’s novel, once translated into English in 2019, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the International Booker Prize, and the World Fantasy Award, the author having already won every major Japanese literary prize with the novel’s initial release. The story takes place “on an unnamed island off an unnamed coast where a majority of the island’s residents are subject to collective amnesia. They endure a process of forgetting things, including objects, people and daily rituals, with the amnesia enforced by an organization called The Memory Police. In the story, a novelist tries to hide her editor, who can still remember, from the Memory Police, while he encourages her to write her book.”

Colman Domingo (R) with Glynn Thurman in Rustin (Netflix)

Not be outdone, Ms. Gladstone’s fellow Oscar-nominee Colman Domingo, nominated for his performance in the title role of Netflix’s Rustin, will continue playing real people, having been cast to portray the notorious Joe Jackson in the Michael Jackson biopic, Michael, which Lionsgate and Universal will release internationally on April 18, 2025.

According to Variety, Domingo (who appeared on the Clayton Davis‘ “Awards Circuit” podcast) will also be making his directorial debut on a biopic about legendary singer, Nat King Cole, which he co-wrote and will also star in. Domingo previously co-wrote the play, Lights Out: Nat King Cole with Patricia McGregor, which premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, that one covering the time around his 1957 Christmas Special, The Nat King Cole Show, the first network program hosted by an African-American performer. Based on these two new upcoming projects for Domingo, this year will not be the last time we see him at the Oscars.

Speaking of musical biopics, James Mangold‘s Bob Dylan movie, A Complete Unknown (previously titled Going Electric) for Searchlight Studios, was supposed to have Benedict Cumberbatch playing folk singer Pete Seeger, but he had to depart the project due to the scheduling issues we’ve been seeing a lot of, due to last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike. The production has bounced back in a big way by getting Edward Norton to replace him. He’ll be joining Timothée Chalamet as Dylan and Elle Fanning as his ’60s love interest, Sylvie Russo, with filming to begin in New York this March.

A scene from Presence (Sundance Institute/NEON)

We’d be neglect if we didn’t mention that the Sundance Film Festival is still taking place in Park City, Utah over this coming weekend. We have more reviews to come, but you can read some of the ones written by Abe Friedtanzer here. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh was back at Sundance in a big way, having debuted his first indie film, Sex, Lies, and Video Tape at the festival way back in 1989. It probably seemed appropriate for the Oscar-winning director to be back for the festival’s 40th anniversary, and he did so in a big way with his haunted house movie, Presence, starring Lucy Liu, written by David Koepp, which was quickly picked up by NEON for theatrical distribution. Soderbergh certainly seems to be back doing theatrical releases after five years of streaming movies, although his 2023 release, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, reuniting him with Channing Tatum‘s title character, didn’t perform as well as its predecessors.

Even so, Focus Features also used Soderbergh’s “presence” (ha ha) at Sundance to announce that it had landed his next movie, the spy thriller, Black Bag, starring Cate Blanchett and Michael Fassbender, for theatrical release. That one is also written by Koepp, who previously wrote Soderbergh’s Kimi and has also been in the news a lot this week, since he’s reportedly writing another Jurassic World movie.

Focus also announced that Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, Morgan Neville, would be teaming with Oscar nominated musician and recording artist, Pharrell Williams, for Piece by Piece, a very different take on the traditional spotlight documentary, this one being produced in conjunction with the LEGO Group. That’s right. Neville is making a documentary about Pharrell made completely using LEGO blocks, and it will be released into theaters on October 11.

Morgan Neville released a statement on the project, saying, “Five years ago, Pharrell Williams approached me with the idea of helping him tell his story through LEGO animation. It was one of those rare moments where I knew in a second that this was a journey I wanted to go on. I’m grateful to our partners at Focus Features and at the LEGO Group for their belief in our crazy mission. We assembled an incredible team of creative collaborators to help make a new type of film. I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Pharrell posted his own version of the announcement on his Instagram.

Bill Skarsgård in Boy Kills World (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions also announced that it handed the rights to the action-thriller, Boy Kills World, starring Bill SkarsgårdJessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, and Famke Janssen. The first feature from director Moritz Mohr debuted as part of the “Midnight Madness” section of the Toronto, and it will be getting a domestic theatrical release on April 26. The film has a solid horror pedigree, having been produced by Sam Raimi and Roy Lee (ItBarbarian) with Skarsgård playing the deaf-mute Boy, who seeks revenge after his family is murdered by Janssen’s Hilda Van Der Koy.

Ryan Reynolds took to social media (as he’s wont to do) to announce that the filming for his upcoming summer blockbuster, Deadpool 3, co-starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and directed by Shawn Levy, had come to its inevitable conclusion. Marvel Studios and Disney will release the R-rated movie on July 26, and it’s expected to be one of the biggest movies of the summer and year, going by the previous two installments.

If threequels are your thing, you might be excited to learn that Rian Johnson plans to start filming Knives Out 3 later this year with his production company, T-Street, with his career-long producer, Ram Bergman, bringing on Katie McNeill as a producer, joining the company’s other producers, Ben LeClair, Leopold Hughes, and Nikos Karamigios. This has been a big week for the company, as its movie American Fiction received five Oscar nominations.

A quick bit of casting news for Universal‘s live action remake of DreamWorks Animation‘s How to Train Your Dragon, with Julian Dennison (from Taika Waititi‘s Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Gabriel Howell, Bronwyn James, and Harry Trevaldwyn, joining the cast as the characters Fishlegs, Snotlout, Ruffnut, and Tuffnut.

We have two trailers to share with you this installment, the first one being the Doug Liman-directed remake of the Patrick Swayze classic, Road House, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which was announced as the opening night film for this year’s SXSW Film and TV Festival, which kicks off on March 8. It was announced that the movie, planned for a theatrical release by MGM, would now be going straight to streaming on Prime Video on March 21. In turn, Liman announced that he would not be attending the SXSW premiere out of protest of the movie not getting a proper theatrical release. Check out the trailer below, because it sure looks like something that would be fun to see with a crowd in theaters.

Earlier this week, we shared Netflix‘s first trailer for the Glenn Powell comedy, Hit Man — which also just played at Sundance — and now, Sydney Sweeney, his co-star (and producer) of Sony‘s hit rom-com, Anyone But You, can be seen in the very different horror movie, Immaculate, which NEON will release on March 22, releasing a Redband trailer to show a different side of the Euphoria star.

That’s it for this week… have a great weekend, and “Must Reads” should be back next Tuesday.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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