X-Rated Joaquin Phoenix

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Joaquin Phoenix’s edge, the ruins of Megalopolis, Karen Gillan’s jester, Alison Brie’s horror and a chimera.

Let’s go!


Joaquin Phoenix pushes darker.

Last year, he called up Todd Haynes (dir: May December) with a script idea.

Haynes recalled:

“What was so remarkable is that it all started with Joaquin having some ideas and some thoughts and just questions and images. And he came to me and said, ‘Does this connect to you at all?’”

What was born was a 1930s sexually explicit story of two men, one a corrupt LA cop (Phoenix) and the other a Native American, who are forced to flee to Mexico.

Haynes explains how they fleshed out the film over a series of phone calls:

“It was just this wonderful, organic way to create the script. And Joaquin was pushing it further into more dangerous territory, sexually.”

It’s not surprising.

Phoenix has been pushing his work to the edges of darkness since his raving lunatic rapper in I’m Still Here (2010). This was followed up by his performance as a manic delinquent under the spell of cult icon Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in The Master (2012). Later, Phoenix played the contract killer “Joe” in You Were Never Really Here (2017). In this film, there is such a deep coldness in his eyes that we feel he is indifferent to all life forms.

But the pièce de résistance is his Joker. He is quite literally twisted. On the fringes of society until he becomes neither human nor animal, just a clown.

What Phoenix sees in Haynes is a fearlessness to tackle pre-1960s taboo homosexual relationships (Carol, Far From Heaven).

The currently untitled film is set to shoot this summer.

For More:

You Were Never Really Here (2017) is one of the most striking films of the past decade. Watch Joaquin Phoenix’s chillingly brutal yet sentimental contract killer (trailer).

The Master (2012) staring contest scene. Joaquin Phoenix vs. Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you’re not careful, the scene will bring you to tears…

Joker (2019) trailer. Put on a happy face.


Behold the first image for Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited Megalopolis. Coppola personally financed this film to the tune of $120 M.

The cast of Megalopolis is stellar: Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, and Dustin Hoffman.

Here’s the official synopsis:

The fate of Rome haunts a modern world unable to solve its own social problems in this epic story of political ambition, genius, and dangerous love.

Major potential for a Cannes premiere.

The first bundle of 2024 is sports. Disney (80% owner: ESPN), Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery will each own a third of the new venture, which will be available on a standalone app in the fall (plus Hulu, Max, and Disney+). This may be the final nail in the coffin for cable TV, as sports is still one of the main draws. The deal is said to encompass 55% of US Sports (e.g., NBA, NFL, MLB, and March Madness).

More to come in the Disney quarterly earnings report today.

Sundance Sales rewind. Sundance 2023 Lily Gladstone’s Fancy Dance went unsold…until today. Apple just bought the film, and will release theatrically later this year.

Here’s a synopsis:

Following her sister’s disappearance, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child’s white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in hopes of keeping what is left of their family intact.

Gladstone is powerfully unhinged in this preview of the film.

Juan Carlos Osorio, a rigger working on the Marvel’s Wonder Man, fell to his death. A police investigation has been opened up as to the circumstances. The film industry is tinged with tragic on-set incidents: Halyna Hutchins on Rust, John Bernecker on Walking Dead, and Alan Purwin on American Made.

Our industry needs to work together to set higher levels of safety standards. The obvious lack of crash mats is appalling.


Linda Hamilton is tough as titanium. She plays Sarah Conner, the literal mother of the resistance in all the best Terminator films:

The way Hamilton flips from the most vulnerable human on the planet to the strongest over the series is powerful.

Hamilton’s next mission: a film called Osiris.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Special Forces commandos on a mission are abducted mid-operation by a mysterious spacecraft. Upon waking aboard, they find themselves prey to a relentless alien race in a fight for survival.

Hamilton is suited up for one hell of a battle in this first-look image.

Premiere genre sales agent XYZ Films will look for distribution at next week’s European Film Market.

Hamilton will next be seen in the upcoming season of Stranger Things.

Karen Gillan and a Court Jester. Gillian’s first break was her turn as Amy Pond, the crowd-favorite companion to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in Dr. Who (seasons 5 – 7). Since then, she’s starred as one of the Guardians of The Galaxy, the cyborg Nebula, starting the trilogy as a villain and daughter to the Avengers-level threat Thanos. Her character had a huge arc in Guardians 3. She has become part of the family and a fully-fledged Guardian.

Next up, she will play the terrestrial-bound Queen Mary Tudor in a period piece, Fools.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Queen Mary I takes the English throne in 1553 amid chaos. Cardinal Pole schemes for control but overlooks humble court jester, whose slapstick the pious queen surprisingly enjoys, and they become friends.

The producer, Ryan Bennett, stated:

“With Fools, Guy [Jenkin, director] has discovered a fascinating, hidden piece of history. This is a story where comedy actually saves lives. It’s a defense of moderation, and a celebration of the power of laughter.”

The film is currently in pre-production and will be shot later this year.


Turning your short into a feature. Ursula Ellis will lead this virtual session. Most recently, she has written and is attached to directing a feature-length adaptation of her Bite-Size Halloween short for Disney for Hulu. She will break down her process of getting her short film made and how she turned it into a network feature script.

Q&A and networking session to follow.

The one-hour session will take place on Thursday, Feb 8th, from noon to 1 pm EST.

Register here.


Pj Harling has had quite a career:

I spoke with Pj about how the wild aerial sequences in Masters of the Air came to life.

Harling stated:

Masters was unlike any other job I’ve ever had. I came onto the show six months before shooting started in order to help plan the aerial battles using PreVis. With a section of a B17 on a gimbal, the actors inside would be reacting to the action outside on an 80-foot video wall, and it was vital that this action represented the finished article as closely as possible.”

He continued:

“Myself and the VFX Supervisor were tasked with interpreting what was in the script. Apart from the dialogue, there was very little description of the action. We had to fill in the blanks to create a cohesive action sequence.”

Watching Masters of the Air, it’s almost unimaginable to envision how these ultra-detailed battle sequences were so under-scripted on the page. Harling and the rest of the VFX department worked for six months, pouring over historical records to design the battle sequences as accurately as possible.

Watch the Masters of the Air trailer for a look at his work.

If you’re looking for your next Editor, Pj’s contact info can be found on IMDBPro.

After 25 years in the industry, Pj is using his wealth of knowledge to develop his own horror feature film as a director.

Check out his hilarious short, The Morning After.


A24’s David Laub is one of the top indie film distribution executives. Here’s an abridged credit list:

Laub will launch Metrograph Pictures’ expanded effort to distribute and potentially finance up to 10 films/year. Metrograph is primarily known as an indie theater in NYC’s Lower East Side.

Metrograph’s founder, Alexander Olch, stated :

“It’s a dream come true to work with David, whom we have long admired for his taste and achievements, as we build a new special library of great cinema. We look forward to forging long-term relationships with new and established filmmakers, putting the strength of the Metrograph brand, community, and theater behind our releases.”

Laub will be at Berlinale and European Film Market next week, scouting new projects.

Mubi buys Cinéart. This serves as Mubi’s first acquisition of a distributor. Cinéart handles distribution in Netherland.

Their top films include:

This acquisition will allow Mubi to expand its arthouse distribution efforts into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Mubi has quickly become one of the fastest-growing indie distribution companies and is financing indie films like the upcoming Gasoline Rainbow (dir: Ross Brothers) and Memory (starring Jessica Chastain).

In addition to their new efforts, Mubi boasts an impressive collection of films on its online streaming platform by Wong Kar-wai, Robert Altman, Lars Von Trier, and Fritz Lang.

First-time feature director Michael Shanks casts Dave Franco and Alison Brie. Shanks‘ mini-series Lambs of God (2019), starring Emmy-Winner Ann Dowd (Hereditary), is a terrifying tale of three witches declawing all that is modern in the world. Watch the fairly intense trailer.

Shanks’ first feature is Together. Details on the synopsis are thin:

The horror of co-dependency told in a unique way.

If it’s anything like Lambs of God, it’ll completely recategorize the way we view Franco and Brie.


The magical realism in La Chimera creates a trance-like state. It’s a film about excavating the heart as if it were some ancient archeological ruin.

The film has a tremendous pedigree. It was an official selection at:

  • Cannes
  • NYFF
  • TIFF
  • Telluride

Check out the trailer and fall under its magic. Josh O’Connor (The Crown) stars along with the great Isabella Rossellini.

Neon is releasing.

It will be in theaters in the US on March 29th.


1940. Walt Disney’s second feature-length movie, Pinocchio, premieres (NYC).

See you Thursday.

Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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