Production Resumes

Gastón Duprat, Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Oscar Martínez, and Mariano Cohn on the set of Official Competition in March

Back in the now-notorious month of March, eight days into the shooting of Official Competition, a movie about the making of a movie starring Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez, the production was shut down. Now, as Jamie Lang reports for Variety, directors Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn have resumed shooting in Spain. Around the world, filmmakers are implementing the necessary precautions and productions are slowly, carefully, and in many cases, tentatively starting back up again.

Late in August, photos snapped on the set of Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble feature set in the San Fernando Valley of the 1970s began appearing online. The Film Stage has been tracking the progress of the project with the working title Soggy Bottom. Bradley Cooper seems to be playing someone who looks an awful lot like Jon Peters, the hairdresser-turned-producer who remade A Star Is Born in 1976 with Barbra Streisand. Benny Safdie is almost definitely playing Joel Wachs, who was a member of the Los Angeles City Council for thirty years before he became president of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York. But the story of Soggy Bottom will center on a child actor played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late star of five of Anderson’s films, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

In France, Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) is currently shooting Les Olympiades, working from a screenplay he’s cowritten with Léa Mysius (Ava) and Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) based on cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine’s 2015 collection of graphic short stories, Killing and Dying. “Although the plot is under wraps, the story is expected to deal with adolescence and revolve around female protagonists,” reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy.

Two weeks ago, Paolo Sorrentino began shooting The Hand of God in Naples before moving the production to Stromboli, the island off the northern coast of Sicily known to cinephiles as the setting for Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film with Ingrid Bergman. The Hand of God, which Sorrentino has described as an “intimate and personal film,” will be the director’s fifth collaboration with lead actor Toni Servillo. Variety’s Nick Vivarelli seems quite sure that the title refers to Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona, even though the film will not be about Maradona.

The starry cast of the all-Black western The Harder They Fall—Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, and Lakeith Stanfield—has been training at “cowboy camp, learning the skills of gunslinging and horseback riding,” according to the Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit. Jeymes Samuel, the British singer-songwriter also known by his stage name The Bullitts, is directing his debut feature in New Mexico. The revenge thriller will track an outlaw who rounds up a gang to hunt down the man who killed his parents.

Countless other directors are itching to get back to work as well, and a few of them call out for mentioning here. Hirokazu Kore-eda is preparing his second feature to be shot outside of Japan after making The Truth in France last year with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Baby, Box, Broker, a story centering on drop-off points where parents can leave their unwanted infants, will go into production next year in Korea and star Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Bae Doona (Cloud Atlas), and Gang Dong-won (Peninsula).

Wes Anderson, in the meantime, seems to have been location scouting and casting in Rome recently, according to Jordan Raup at the Film Stage. Shooting on the as-yet-untitled film, rumored to be a love story, is penciled in for next spring. Hopefully, by that time we will have been able to see Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which was originally scheduled to premiere in Cannes back in May. Raup is also reporting that Wong Kar-wai, already at work on the decades-spanning series Blossoms, has written a sequel to Chungking Express (1994) that would be set in Chongqing in 2036.

To return briefly to Official Competition, a lot has gone on in the lives of the cast and crew since the production was shut down half a year ago. On August 10, his sixtieth birthday, Antonio Banderas announced that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, a little over two weeks later, he was able to report that he’d recovered. Penélope Cruz, in the meantime, has signed on to star in L’immensita, a portrait of a family in Rome in the 1970s to be directed by Emanuele Crialese (Respiro).

In Official Competition, Cruz plays a celebrated filmmaker who clashes with her egocentric actors (Banderas and Oscar Martínez). “In this film,” says codirector Mariano Cohn, “you will see an intense distillation of the universe that we know best: that of directors and actors trying to do one of the most unnatural and complex things, for me, in the world: Shooting a film.”

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