New Projects, Fresh Updates

Arnaud Desplechin

It’s only been two weeks since the last roundup on projects in the works, but with so many filmmakers around the world eager to get back to work, it’s already time for another. Let’s begin in France with the return of Catherine Breillat, who has begun work on her first feature since 2013’s Abuse of Weakness. Inavouable—the title can be translated as “unacceptable,” “unmentionable,” or even “immoral”—will be a remake of Danish filmmaker May el-Toukhy’s Queen of Hearts (2019), which starred Trine Dyrholm as a lawyer who jeopardizes her career and marriage when she strikes up an affair with her stepson.

Breillat’s version will star Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who has begun work on her fifth feature, Les Amandiers, one of three projects recently backed by Arte France Cinéma. Set in the late 1980s, the story, cowritten with Noémie Lvovsky and Agnès de Sacy, focuses on four twenty-year-olds aiming to enroll in the renowned school founded by Patrice Chéreau and Pierre Romans at the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre. Louis Garrel and Micha Lescot will be taking on lead roles, and Garrel has also joined the cast of Pietro Marcello’s L’envol, which features Noémie Lvovsky as well. This will be Marcello’s third fictional feature and his first to be shot in France. Described in a recent casting call as a “musical fable,” L’envol will tell “the story of one woman’s emancipation across a twenty-year period between 1919 and 1939,” reports Cineuropa’s Fabien Lemercier.

The third film to receive support from Arte France Cinéma is Frère et soeur, the latest feature from Arnaud Desplechin, who has just completed an adaptation of Philip Roth’s Deception with Léa Seydoux. Melvil Poupaud will play the brother, Louis, a teacher and a poet, and Marion Cotillard his sister, Alice, an actress. They haven’t been on speaking terms for twenty years, but the death of their parents will force a reunion.

Also in the Works

While it may have taken Catherine Breillat eight years to get back behind a camera, it’s been fifteen years since Todd Field directed Little Children. He’s now written and plans to direct TAR, and all that we know about it at this point is that Cate Blanchett will star in a story set in Berlin. Production is slated to begin in September.

These roundups always spotlight a good number of literary adaptations, and one of the most prominent this time around is The Days of Abandonment, based on the 2002 novel by Elena Ferrante. Maggie Betts (Novitiate) will write and direct and Natalie Portman will star as a woman in her late thirties whose husband announces that he’s leaving her after thirteen years. Before Ferrante well and truly broke through to a broad international readership in 2012 with My Brilliant Friend, the first of her Neapolitan novels, The Days of Abandonment was her most widely read novel in English. In a 2013 piece on Ferrante for the New Yorker, James Wood wrote that, in Abandonment, the author “turns ordinary domestic misery into an expressionistic hell; she can pull a scream out of thin air.”

Florian Zeller’s The Son, an adaptation of his 2019 play cowritten, like The Father, with Christopher Hampton, has landed Hugh Jackman for the role of Peter, a man starting over with a new partner and baby. Laura Dern will star as his ex-wife, Kate, who turns up with their son, Nicholas, announcing that she can no longer handle the teen’s angry fits of self-mutilation and depression. Olivia Colman, who stars alongside Anthony Hopkins in The Father, has landed the lead role in Empire of Light, Sam Mendes’s follow-up to 1917 (2019). This will be a love story set in and around an old cinema on the southern coast of England in the 1980s. Mendes is reteaming with cinematographer Roger Deakins, with whom he’s worked on Revolutionary Road (2008), Skyfall (2012), and 1917.

Duke Johnson, who codirected Anomalisa (2015) with Charlie Kaufman, will direct Ryan Gosling in The Actor, a noirish thriller based on Memory, a novel Donald E. Westlake wrote in the 1960s though it wasn’t published until 2010. Having suffered a brutal attack in Ohio, Gosling’s Paul Cole, hampered by bouts of memory loss, struggles to make his way back to New York.

The Horror

For his third feature after God’s Own Country (2017) and Ammonite (2020), Francis Lee has been adapting a novel, but he won’t tell interviewers just yet which one. We do know that Josh O’Connor will star as a sad and lonely man in “an epic wilderness,” that this will be a period film set in the twentieth century, and that Lee intends to terrify his audiences. “It is dealing with some fundamentals about being queer,” Lee told Metro Weekly’s Randy Shulman late last year. “And often not in a very positive way.”

Mark Jenkin (Bait) has just wrapped principal photography on Enys Men, an “ecosophical horror” set in the 1970s that centers on a woman volunteering for the Wildlife Trust and observing a rare flower on a remote Cornish island, where a tall stone may or may not be gradually edging toward her cottage. “In Enys Men we explore the horror of human intervention in the natural world and how very little things can knock everything out of balance,” says Jenkin.

Another horror movie in the works is Mother Land, the story of a family haunted by an evil spirit and the first feature to be directed by Mark Romanek since 2010’s Never Let Me Go. And Matt Sobel (Take Me to the River) will direct Naomi Watts in an English-language remake of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy (2014), which the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney called a “wicked little chiller full of foreboding and malevolent twists.”


Martin Scorsese will begin shooting Killers of the Flower Moon in just a few weeks now, and casting announcements have been rolling out every few days. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally slated to play Tom White, an FBI agent investigating the murders of Osage men and women who had come into some money when oil deposits were discovered beneath their land in the early 1920s. But DiCaprio decided that the role of Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of a local rancher played by Robert De Niro, would be a better fit. “Marty called me very late at night,” screenwriter Eric Roth tells Screen’s Mark Salisbury, “and said, ‘Are you laying down or sitting down? Leonardo has a big idea.’ I think Leonardo was right. I’m not sure he can play Gary Cooper, which is what the main character kind of is.”

Jesse Plemons has stepped into the role of Tom White, and the rest of the cast includes Lily Gladstone (Certain Women), Tatanka Means (I Know This Much Is True), Michael Abbott Jr. (Loving), Pat Healy (Bad Education), Scott Shepherd (Bridge of Spies), William Belleau (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Louis Cancelmi (The Irishman), and singer-songwriters Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. “I think it’s going to be the most profound movie about Native Americans that’s ever been made,” says Roth.

Paul Dano will play a character based on Steven Spielberg’s father in the film Spielberg has cowritten with Tony Kushner based on his memories of growing up in Arizona and making his first Super 8 movies. Dano joins Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, who will be playing fictionalized versions of Spielberg’s mother and favorite uncle, respectively.

Cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo, who has worked with Bong Joon Ho on Mother, Snowpiercer, and Parasite, and with Lee Chang-dong on Burning, is about to begin shooting Broker, the first Korean project from Hirokazu Kore-eda. The film, starring Song Kang Ho (Parasite), Bae Doona (The Host), Kang Dong-won (Peninsula), and K-pop star IU, centers on boxes made available to unwilling parents who can anonymously drop off their unwanted babies.

Speaking of babies, the brain of one is transplanted into the body of its dead mother in order to bring her back to life in Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel Poor Things. Tony McNamara, who cowrote Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (2018), is adapting this satirization of the Victorian novel for Lanthimos and Emma Stone, and Ramy Youssef and Willem Dafoe are in talks to join the cast.

Raffey Cassidy, who played the daughter in a cursed family in Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), will likely join not only Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig but also Sam and May Nivola, the children of Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola, in Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise. In the 1985 novel, an “airborne toxic event” unleashes a black cloud of chemicals that threatens the lives of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette, and their four children.


The nameless narrator of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize–winning debut novel The Sympathizer was born to a Vietnamese mother and a French father, grew up in the U.S., and during the final days of the war in Vietnam, worked for the South’s secret police while spying for the communist North. “Nguyen’s skill in portraying this sort of ambivalent personality compares favorably with masters like Conrad, Greene and le Carré,” wrote Philip Caputo in his review for the New York Times. Now Park Chan-wook is developing a series based on the book with Rhombus Media and A24, which, by the way, has just posted a conversation between Nguyen and Minari director Lee Isaac Chung.

Thomas Vinterberg, whose Another Round is up for two Oscars, including one for directing, is developing a six-part series for Danish television. Families Like Ours will track the divergent fates of several characters during a summer when unprecedented floods compel the Danes to evacuate the entire country.

Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) will direct Elle Fanning in The Girl from Plainville, a series for Hulu. Liz Hannah, who cowrote The Post (2017) for Steven Spielberg, will base the screenplay on Jesse Barron’s 2017 Esquire article about Michelle Carter, the real-life seventeen-year-old accused of encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself—via text messages.

Finally for now, a few quick notes on upcoming series that nod to old Hollywood. Benedict Cumberbatch has signed up to star as Richard Hannay in an update of John Buchan’s 1915 novel The 39 Steps, which has been adapted for four features, the most famous of which, of course, is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version. Jacqueline Hoyt, the writer and producer who has worked on The Good Wife and Barry Jenkins’s forthcoming The Underground Railroad, is writing Audrey, a series based on the life of Audrey Hepburn. And James Ellroy, the novelist best known for L.A. Confidential, is launching a five-part podcast series. Hollywood Death Trip will explore some of the most gruesome murders in the history of Los Angeles, including the killing of Sal Mineo.

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