Welcome to International Insider, I’m Jake Kanter. In the week in which the world tried to get its head around the contortions of the U.S. electoral college system, allow me to walk you through a busy few days of film and TV news. Any tips or stories can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or my DMs are open.
‘His Dark Materials’ Exclusive
Cracking open the alethiometer: His Dark Materials is back for a second season this weekend and to mark the occasion, we sat down with Ruth Wilson, who plays the dastardly Mrs Coulter in the sweeping Philip Pullman adaptation, and the show’s executive producer, Bad Wolf boss Jane Tranter. You can read the full piece here, but let me pick out a couple of highlights:
The spectre of coronavirus: Season 2, based on Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, was edited during the pandemic and Tranter said Covid’s grip on 2020 will infuse with the narrative of the show. “There is a rather wonderful kind of brooding anxiety to it that I think almost came out of the way that we made it, and then editing on it in lockdown,” she said.
The Season 3 plan: The BBC and HBO are yet to confirm a recommission, but Jack Thorne and a team of writers are currently busy on six of the eight scripts, with hopes that production can begin as early as spring next year. Tranter also revealed that her original vision to split the adaptation of The Amber Spyglass into two seasons has been abandoned.
Lockdown relief: Tranter also spoke for countless producers across the UK when she said that she nearly wept when the government cleared the way for film and TV production to continue throughout lockdown 2.0. Bad Wolf resumed filming on Season 3 of A Discovery Of Witches in Wales on Wednesday.
AFM Hot Ones
The American Film Market goes online next week, with organizers creating a virtual village to help delegates navigate the event and connect with others. Deadline has been first with news on most of the habanero-hot packages being shopped. Our film buffs Andreas Wiseman and Tom Grater pick out four of the spiciest movies at the market:
‘The Things They Carried’: Tom Hardy (pictured) and Pete Davidson are among an in-demand young cast for this Vietnam war movie. Hardy’s Hardy Son & Baker and MJZ are producing with MadRiver shopping. Details.
‘Not Bloody Likely’: Helena Bonham Carter and Pierce Brosnan have been set in this romantic comedy exploring the true story of the 1914 West End production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Cornerstone Films is handling sales. Go deeper.
‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’: Another rom-com, this one starring Lily James, Shazad Latif, and Emma Thompson. Made by Working Title, Studiocanal will fully finance and launch sales. More here.
‘Universe’s Most Wanted’: Director Brad Peyton and Dave Bautista are teaming up to produce this big-budget sci-fi fantasy about a small town that is gatecrashed by a spaceship of intergalactic criminals. Full story.
Lionsgate Loses Another Pride Member
What happened: Lionsgate this week announced that Nicola Pearcey, president of the mini major’s film and TV operations in the UK, is to leave the company “to pursue new opportunities” at the end of the year. This was something of a surprise given that Pearcey had only been in the role since August. Full story here.
What next: A successor has not been named and our sources indicate that the studio’s UK structure may look different going forward. This is Lionsgate’s second European chief to depart in the space of six months, following long-time head Zygi Kamasa’s exit in July. Lionsgate U.S. followed up the Pearcey announcement with news that it will be cutting 15% of its global Motion Picture Group.
The context: As the realities of COVID and shifting viewing habits take hold, we are seeing significant restructuring and downsizing across most traditional studios. Strategies are having to change. Last week it was Warner Bros’ turn to announce major shifts within its UK division. Under Kamasa’s stewardship, Lionsgate has been a significant backer of local films via early investment in production and acquisition. It also made inroads into local TV production. Many in the UK biz are now wondering how and whether that level of investment will continue.
Depp’s Dreadful Day
Damning verdict: Johnny Depp’s explosive libel case against UK newspaper The Sun came to a conclusion this week, with the presiding judge ruling that the tabloid’s use of “wife beater” when describing the actor in a 2018 article was “substantially true.” Among the 129-page verdict was the declaration that “Mr Depp did assault Ms Heard” in reference to the multiple allegations of domestic violence — a damming verdict for the actor.
Implications: It’s too early to say at this stage how this could impact Depp’s career, but the label is a negative one for the actor who once upon a time was the world’s greatest box office draw. He’s due to appear at Poland’s Camerimage festival on November 21, and the event is keeping mum on whether this will still happen or not given the ruling. Depp is also set to appear again as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3, which he is understood to be filming from October to February in London. No word yet on whether Warner Bros might look to reduce his character’s screen time or perhaps even cut him altogether.
Another legal battle: And it’s not over yet for Depp, whose attention now turns to a separate suit filed in the U.S., where he is suing Heard for $50M over a Washington Post column she wrote about domestic violence. The actor has been ordered to sit for deposition on November 11.
RIP Sean Connery
Don’t call me Junior! Of all the many moving tributes to Sean Connery, it was Harrison Ford’s reflections that got me. Ford and Connery’s chemistry crackled in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and it’s clear the pair had as much of a blast shooting the Steven Spielberg masterpiece as I have had watching it over the years. “You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm. God, we had fun,” Ford said in a statement. Connery was 90 when he checked out, but we’ll always have this inspired piece of casting to remember him by. Go deeper on Deadline’s coverage of Connery’s death.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: The BBC is planning the latest reimagining of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited, with Parade’s End producer Mammoth Screen attaching Call Me By Your Name helmer Luca Guadagnino to write and direct. Full story.
🍿 International box office: Warner Bros debuted The Witches (pictured) in 17 international markets, taking in an estimated $4.8M on 5,723 screens. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
🧙♀️ Talking of witch: The Witches stirred the pot this week when a number of disability campaigners and Paralympians savaged the film for its depiction of physical impairments. Warner Bros said it was “deeply saddened” it had caused upset. Tom Grater reports.
🏆 Awards news: Homeland actor David Harewood is to receive an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Edinburgh TV Festival gongs. The event takes place on November 18.
📅 Diary date: With Britain in lockdown, there will be no glitzy red carpet event to celebrate Season 4 of The Crown. Instead, Netflix’s premiere event goes virtual on November 12.
🎦 Trailer dash: Netflix has unveiled the teaser trailer for Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn’s bestselling series of novels. Watch here.
📺 One to watch: Lena Dunham-directed HBO/BBC banking drama Industry opens for business in the UK next Monday. Here’s a trailer for the Bad Wolf-produced series.
On a quest for election news: Brits have been glued to CNN as they try to make sense of the U.S. presidential race and, while there’s been praise for the stamina and clear-eyed clarity of Anderson Cooper, John King et al, there has also been an unexpected side-effect of wall-to-wall U.S. network news. Viewers have been equal parts irked and transfixed by their fellow countryman Richard Quest prancing around a maze promoting his show, Quest Means Business. The promo fills for U.S. adverts on international feeds, and CNN International plays it out — a lot. “That Quest Means Business ad gets more deranged each time you see it. I’m quite obsessed by it,” tweeted political author Ian Dunt. TV writer Scott Bryan expressed concern: “What if Richard Quest never leaves his maze? Do we rescue him?” In case you missed it, we found the promo for prosperity. What a profitable day!
Andreas Wiseman and Tom Grater contributed to this newsletter.