Projects and Updates

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (2020)

Setting aside last week’s notes on the adaptations of novels by Octavia E. Butler coming from Garrett Bradley and Janicza Bravo, it’s been over a month since the last roundup on projects in the works. The biggest surprise of these past few weeks has to be the story that Matt Donnelly recently broken in Variety: Michaela Coel, the writer, director, producer, and star of one of last year’s most critically acclaimed series, I May Destroy You, has joined the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Production on the sequel to Black Panther (2018), the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time and the eighteenth chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, began in Atlanta in late June. Director Ryan Coogler, his cowriter Joe Robert Cole, and returning cast members—including Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, and Angela Bassett—have all expressed their determination to honor the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, who starred in the first film as T’Challa, king of Wakanda, and passed away last August.

Coogler, who coproduced Judas and the Black Messiah, is reteaming with that film’s director, Shaka King, to coproduce what Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro refers to as “an untitled original movie centering around an American political insurrection.” Once again, King will direct, and at this point, D’Alessandro emphasizes, that’s all we know about the project.

Also in the Works

Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders are both tackling big abstract ideas in their next documentaries. Herzog will executive produce and narrate Last Exit: Space, a film about humanity’s urge to colonize space to be directed by his son, Rudolph Herzog. Wenders is collaborating with Swiss architect Peter Zumthor on The Secret of Places, which will address, among other questions, “How can not only space and time, but also climate, light, local color, and ultimately also ‘sense of place’ be made visible in a film?” Wenders plans to shoot in both 2D and 3D.

Michelle Williams has completed work on Showing Off, her fourth collaboration with Kelly Reichardt. She’s currently working with Steven Spielberg on the semiautobiographical film he wrote with Tony Kushner, which is provisionally titled The Fabelmans. Judd Hirsch, Jeannie Berlin, Robin Bartlett, and Jonathan Hadary have joined the cast that already includes Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and twelve-year-old Julia Butters (Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood). Williams will next play singer Peggy Lee in Todd Haynes’s Fever, and she’s now signed on to play Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives, in Firebrand. This first feature in English from Karim Aïnouz is “a reimagining of a ‘period’ film,” Aïnouz tells Ben Dalton in Screen, “a psychological horror film set in the Tudor court; a story of intrigue, agency, and survival.”

Murilo Hauser cowrote Aïnouz’s The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, which won the Un Certain Regard award in Cannes in 2019. Now, Hauser has written Walter Salles’s I’m Still Here, which is based on a best-selling memoir by Marcelo Rubens Paiva, whose mother, Eunice Paiva, became an activist when her husband, Brazilian congressman Rubens Paiva, was arrested in 1971 for opposing the military dictatorship. He was never seen again, and years later, it was confirmed that he had been tortured to death.

Salles tells Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. that he spent five years developing Central Station (1998), and four years working on The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), and another four years preparing I’m Still Here. The film stars Mariana Lima—“an extraordinary theater actress,” he says, “and one of the most sensitive film actresses of her generation in Brazil”—as Eunice. “I most like movies where the arc of the main character somehow reflects the arc of the country itself as it goes through a specific period of time and tries to determine what it wants to be,” says Salles. “We had that in Central Station, and we have it here.”

Chilean filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor, who won a best director award in Locarno for Too Late to Die Young in 2018, will next write and direct Niebla, which centers on a thirty-five-year-old woman who wins a cruise trip. As Tom Grater reports for Deadline, she “embarks on what she believes to be a simple vacation and finds herself stuck in a physical and emotional purgatory.”

When Francesca Comencini was twenty-three, her directorial debut, Pianoforte, won a De Sica award in Venice. She has since made thirteen more features and has directed fifteen episodes of the Italian television series Gomorrah and three episodes of Django, a forthcoming series in English starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Noomi Rapace that will reimagine Sergio Corbucci’s classic 1966 spaghetti western. Comencini has also set up her next fictional feature, First Life, Then Cinema, a tribute to her father, Luigi Comencini, the prolific director who worked with Vittorio De Sica, Gina Lollobrigida, Alberto Sordi, Marcello Mastroianni, Jacqueline Bisset, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. “After so many years of doing the same job as my father and trying to be different from him,” Francesca Comencini tells Variety’s Nick Vivarelli, “I wanted to recount how much I owe everything I am to him: I wanted to pay homage to my father, to his way of making cinema.”

Sammo Hung will salute one of his mentors in Seven Little Fortunes, the story of Peking opera master Yu Jim-yuen, who taught Hung, Jackie Chan, and action choreographers Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix) and Corey Yuen (X-Men). Tony Leung Ka-fai (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) will play Yu, and shooting is expected to begin next spring.

Andrew Ahn (Spa Night) will direct Joel Kim Booster and SNL breakout star Bowen Yang in Fire Island, a comedy about two best friends vacationing with, as Variety’s Donnelly puts it, “the help of cheap rosé and a cadre of eclectic friends.” Booster, who wrote the screenplay, says he’s taken inspiration from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Margaret Cho will play “a key role as a homeowner and host on the notorious LGBTQ-friendly island.” Booster has also taken a lead role opposite Maya Rudolph in an as-yet-untitled comedy series created for Apple by Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard. Rudolph will play a woman whose husband has left her eighty-seven billion dollars, and Booster will play her loyal assistant.

Three years ago, Debra Granik went to Cannes to present Leave No Trace in the Directors’ Fortnight and to shop a fictional feature based on Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Is that project still on? Hard to say. It warrants only a brief mention in Matt Grobar’s report for Deadline on another film Granik is slated to direct, Like No Other, an adaptation of Una LaMarche’s young adult novel. When a hurricane knocks out the electricity in a Brooklyn hospital, an elevator halts between floors, trapping two sixteen-year-olds, a Hasidic girl and a Black nerd, inside. “For a chaste romance, Like No Other can be surprisingly seductive,” wrote Catherine Saint Louis in her review of the book for the New York Times in 2014.

Garth Davis (Lion) will direct Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, and LaKeith Stanfield in Foe, an adaptation of the 2018 novel by Iain Reid, whose first novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2016), was adapted last year by Charlie Kaufman. Set in the near future, the story centers on a married couple whose quiet lives on a remote farm are disrupted when a stranger arrives.


Back in March, Jean-Luc Godard said he was working on two projects that he aims to complete before he retires—he will, after all, turn ninety-one in December. A few weeks ago, Variety’s Will Thorne spoke with Godard’s frequent collaborator, Fabrice Aragno, who says that Funny Wars will be shot on black-and-white 35 mm, color 16 mm, and Super 8. “Jean-Luc told to me he wanted to come back to his origin,” says Aragno. “He said, ‘You know this Chris Marker film La Jetée?’ Maybe we can do something like that.” Scenario will be made for the French-German broadcaster Arte, and “it’s more in a classic video style.”

If all goes as planned, Godard and Aragno will shoot some tests at the end of the summer. “The people are ready, the idea is ready,” says Aragno. “We just need to find the good energy, a non-COVID moment.” In the meantime, Aragno, who has made a few of his own short films over the years, is preparing his first feature, Le Lac. “The story is not the main point,” he says. “I’m using everything I’ve discovered with Godard, playing with the freedom of image and sound. It will be a real spectacle cinématographique.”

Taron Egerton (Rocketman) is replacing Robert Pattinson in Claire Denis’s Stars at Noon, a feature based on Denis Johnson’s 1986 novel about an unnamed American woman who falls for an English businessman in Nicaragua in 1984. Margaret Qualley is still on board to play the woman.

Mia Hansen-Løve has completed the first phase of shooting One Fine Morning, in which Léa Seydoux plays a single mother raising an eight-year-old daughter while caring for her ailing father. Because the story takes place over the course of different seasons, the break has always been planned. Hansen-Løve and her cast—which includes Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, and Nicole Garcia—will shoot for another three weeks beginning at the end of November.

Greta Gerwig was to have appeared in Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island but departed that project to direct Little Women. Gerwig is currently performing in front of the camera with Adam Driver in Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel. For some time, though, we’ve known that Gerwig and Baumbach have been dreaming up a project centered on Barbie, the iconic doll introduced in 1959. Now the producer and star of Barbie, Margot Robbie, has confirmed that Gerwig will direct the feature currently projected for a release in 2023.

Robbie is also slated to appear in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, a star-studded feature set in 1920s Hollywood that recently added Jean Smart (Hacks) to its cast. Ari Aster is directing another sprawling and yet still expanding lineup of actors in Disappointment Blvd., which has now taken on Parker Posey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Zoe Lister-Jones. And the news that Wes Anderson has lined up Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and Adrien Brody for his next project is hardly a surprise, but the addition of Tom Hanks is.

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