“Caste Is the Bones, Race the Skin”

On Film / The Daily — Oct 15, 2020
Detail from the cover of Caste; photo by Bruce Davidson

The pace seems to be picking up. Last month, we noted that at this point in the pandemic, as we continue to learn more about how to keep ourselves safe, filmmakers, taking all the necessary precautions, are getting back to work. Since then, news has broken of projects in the works from Steven Soderbergh, Park Chan-wook, Clint Eastwood, Ridley Scott, and rounding up a remarkable cast, Adam McKay. Perhaps the most intriguing of the lot, though, is the one Ava DuVernay has lined up with Netflix.

As Amanda N’Duka reports for Deadline, DuVernay will write, produce, and direct a feature interweaving stories drawn from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Wilkerson’s previous book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in August, Oprah Winfrey selected Caste for her massively influential book club, telling the AP’s Hillel Italie that Wilkerson’s best seller “could change the way we see each other, how we see our humanity and the structure of our world.”

Reviewing Caste in the New York Times this summer, Dwight Garner called it “an extraordinary document, one that strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” Wilkerson’s book is “about how brutal misperceptions about race have disfigured the American experiment,” and “the historian, the sociologist, and the reporter are not at war with the essayist and the critic inside her. This book has the reverberating and patriotic slap of the best American prose writing.” So it’s only natural that Garner turns to Wilkerson herself to sum up the gist of her argument: “Race, in the United States, is the visible agent of the unseen force of caste. Caste is the bones, race the skin.”

Still at It

Ridley Scott is eighty-two and Clint Eastwood turned ninety in May, but the pandemic isn’t going to keep either of them locked up. Scott has just completed shooting The Last Duel in Ireland, reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. It’s the story behind the real-life face-off between the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges and the squire Jacques Le Gris in 1386 and stars Adam Driver, Matt Damon, and Jodie Comer. Driver and Scott will meet up again in Italy in March to begin shooting Gucci, which will also feature Lady Gaga, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino. In the meantime, Scott has set screenwriter David Scarpa (All the Money in the World) to work on Kitbag, in which Joaquin Phoenix will take on the role of Napoleon.

As for Eastwood’s next project, there’s more than a little backstory here. In 1940, having published two books of philosophy, N. Richard Nash turned to playwriting and broke through with The Rainmaker (1954). Geraldine Page starred in the Broadway production and the 1956 film featured Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn. In the mid-1970s, Nash wrote a screenplay and found no takers, so he spent two weeks turning it into a novel, Cry Macho. The reviews were terrific, and the same three studios that had rejected the screenplay came calling. Without changing a word, he sold his script to one of them.

Eastwood picked it up in the 1980s but, as Dave McNary notes in Variety, he decided to make The Dead Pool (1988) instead. Production on Cry Macho finally got off the ground in 1991 in Mexico with Roy Scheider heading the cast. But that movie was never realized. In 2011, Arnold Schwarzenegger was planning to give it a go, but a personal crisis that became a public scandal scuppered his return to the screen after he’d served two terms as Governor of California. Now Eastwood has once again picked up the story of a washed-up horse trainer who aims to make a quick $50,000 by kidnapping a boy from Mexico and delivering him to his father in Texas.

Starry Ensembles

Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Timothée Chalamet, Jonah Hill, and Ariana Grande are joining Jennifer Lawrence in the cast of Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short (2015) and Vice (2018), reports Justin Kroll at Deadline. Don’t Look Up, a Netflix production, will focus on two astronomers scrambling to warn humankind that a planet-destroying asteroid is heading our way.

Streep also stars in Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk, a comedy written by acclaimed short story writer Deborah Eisenberg and “reportedly all in the can,” according to Charles Bramesco at Little White Lies. Soderbergh’s “next next movie” is already in production and stars Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, David Harbour, Amy Seimetz, Bill Duke, Kieran Culkin, and Julia Fox. Set in Detroit in 1955, No Sudden Moves is a heist movie written by Ed Solomon, who dreamed up Men in Black and had a hand in launching the Bill & Ted franchise and rebooting Charlie’s Angels.

The cast of Barry Levinson’s Francis and the Godfather isn’t quite as crowded but it’s no less starry. Oscar Isaac and Jake Gyllenhaal will play, respectively, Francis Ford Coppola and producer Robert Evans as they clash over and again during the making of The Godfather (1972). Mike Fleming Jr. recalls the flash points at Deadline. Evans was the producer on another volatile production, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), and Ben Affleck plans to direct that movie, adapting Sam Wasson’s book, The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood.

Overseas

Variety’s Patrick Frater reports that Park Chan-wook is preparing to shoot Decision to Leave in Korea with Park Hye-il (The Host) as a detective investigating a murder and falling for the victim’s widow, who will be played by Tang Wei (Lust, Caution). In Europe, Christian Petzold has been writing his follow-up to Undine, notes Leonard Pearce at the Film Stage. The Red Sky is a love story that Petzold has no intention of shooting until this pandemic is over. “I want to see bodies,” he recently told Film at Lincoln Center programmer Dennis Lim. “I can’t do it with masks, and so I want to do it for real.”

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