Johnny Depp and a Dinosaur

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

Johnny Depp directs, Mission: Impossible in a wheelchair, Universal’s Scar Tissue, Cillian Murphy in Berlin, and a dinosaur.

Let’s go!


JOHNNY DEPP DIRECTS

Johnny Depp gets personal.

For the first time since 1997, Depp will direct a feature film. Al Pacino requested him personally.

Parts of the official synopsis feel achingly self-reflective:

Paris, 1916, in the midst of WWI–the Italian-born painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani considers himself a commercial and critical failure. One evening in a fashionable restaurant his frustrations erupt into scandalous behavior and costly damage to the premises. Suddenly he finds himself on the run from the police.

Directing Modi seems to have been a transformative experience for Depp.

He stated:

“I would like to express my profound gratitude to the entire cast, crew, and producers for their unwavering commitment and creativity. To Al, who requested that I make this film — how could I refuse Pacino? A sincere acknowledgment for generously contributing his talent and dedication to this project.”

He continued:

Modi is a testament to the collaborative spirit of independent filmmaking, and I am excited to present this unique and compelling story to the world.”

Since Depp is relegated to the world of independent film for the time being, he seems primed for artistic renewal.

We deeply wish that the Johnny Depp of yesteryear will return with as much gusto and flavor as his swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow or his drug-fueled Hunter S. Thompson.

Even though he won’t be acting in Modi, perhaps some of his magic will be transferred onto the silver screen.

The film just wrapped production.

For More:

First look BTS image of Depp directing Pacino. And one more for fun.

The shockingly cheesy Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) trailer.

The sublime oddity of Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Trailer.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Universal jams with Red Hot Chili Peppers. The studio has just optioned the rights for Scar Tissue, the NY Times bestselling autobiography by frontman Anthony Kiedis.

Here’s the book’s official synopsis:

In 1983, four self-described “knuckleheads” burst out of the mosh-pitted mosaic of the neo-punk rock scene in L.A. with their unique brand of cosmic hardcore mayhem funk. Over twenty years later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, against all odds, have become one of the most successful bands in the world… even [Kiedis’] descent into drug addiction was a part of that journey; another element transformed into art.

Universal is a great fit for the material. Their film Straight Outta Compton (2015) made $200 M worldwide on a $28 M budget and garnered an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) is set to produce.

Mickey Mouse battles – proxy fight. Nelson Peltz, billionaire and Chairmen of Wendy’s, thinks Disney is being run poorly. Here are his demands:

  • Succession plan for Bob Iger, CEO
  • Slash executive pay based on performance
  • Aggressive cost-cutting measures

In response, Disney has:

Peltz teamed up with former Disney CFO James Rasulo and nominated themselves as independent directors for the Disney Board – a filing recently made with the SEC.

Peltz’s company, Trian Investments, stated:

“[Disney] is a Board that is too closely connected to a long-tenured CEO and too disconnected from shareholders’ interests… lacks objectivity as well as focus, alignment, and accountability.”

Peltz is going to release a dense white paper next week with a long list of demands.

An independent analysis of Peltz’s companies showed they had under-performing track records.

Renowned director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther 1 & 2) will be teaming up with Michael B. Jordan for their fifth film together. This will be based on an original script penned by Coogler, his first since Fruitvale Station (2013), and there are rumors this will be a vampire movie. He may be trying to beat former employer Marvel’s Blade (2025), rumored to be having a rough time. Ryan Coogler bites back… maybe.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

The undeniable talent of Tracy Letts – recognized by UTA. Letts is one of the most prolific actors and playwrights of our time.

Actor:

Playwright/Screenwriter:

While Letts is a brilliant character actor, his deep understanding of the human condition forged from years of playwright work (for which he has won two Tonys) allows him to execute perfectly fine-tuned lead performances.

A prime example is his sneaky oddball lover in A24’s The Lovers (trailer).

Letts has just signed with UTA.

Toni Servillo is the poetically self-indulgent yet eternally lost soul starring in The Great Beauty (2013). His masterwork can also be seen in director Paolo Sorrentino’s The Consequences of Love (2004) Il Divo (2008), and The Hand of God (2021).

He will now play a Sicilian mob boss, dubbed “The Last Godfather” in a new film, Iddu, who was known to dissolve his victims in acid, Breaking Bad style.

The film directors Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza (Sicilian Ghost Story) stated:

“In the rich Italian criminal history, Matteo Messina Denaro and his 30 years of hiding are unique. What has emerged over the years from investigations and news reports has given us the opportunity to delve into his enigmatic personality and shed light on the varied system of relationships that his invisible presence nurtured.”

The fairy tale fever dreams that infused the director’s previous work, Sicilian Ghost Story (​trailer​), will make this role memorable. Imagining Servillo in this role is chilling. We can’t wait.

Iddu is currently in post.

A geriatric Mission: Impossible. June Squibb, the forever feisty actress who brought a delightful sassiness to Alexander Payne’s Nebraska (clip), is leading her first film in Thelma.

Premiering at Sundance, here is the official synopsis:

When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.

Watch Squibb break the speed limit in her power wheelchair in this first-look Sundance featurette.

Writer-director Josh Margolin mused:

“Tom Cruise jumping out of a plane is as dangerous as my grandma getting onto a bed, I wanted to treat Thelma’s mission with the sincerity and stakes that you would Ethan Hunt globe-trotting to track down the bad guy.”

Squibb discussed capturing a very genuine feeling of aging:

“At some point it changes — the way people treat you. They want to take care of you, which is lovely, and sometimes I just let them take care of me. But other times you think, ‘I can do this and I’m fine.’ They want to lend an arm or a hand. So you do it — you take an arm, you take a hand. But I am still independent and able to live a life of my own.”

Next up for Squibb: voice acting in Inside Out 2. She’s not slowing down one bit.


FESTIVALS

Indie gold rush at Sundance? After the double strike, some dealmakers are feeling optimistic that big distribution companies will lay out massive sums to use indies to fill the vacuum that was created by the moratorium on studios shooting:

“There is a feeling of hunger, especially for the back half of 2024. We’re curious if some buyers will each walk away with multiple titles.”

Jason Blum (CEO of Blumhouse) said:

“I hope that a bunch of Sundance movies wind up in theaters quickly — in the next six months.”

Previous big buyers at Sundance, an indicator of who may make big purchases:

Amazon MGM will also be a large buyer as they’ve agreed to put more movies into theaters.

Berlin Film Festival opener: Cillian Murphy. Hot off Oppenheimer, Murphy will star in Small Things Like These.

Here’s the official synopsis:

In 1985, devoted father and Bill Furlong discovers disturbing secrets kept by the local convent and uncovers shocking truths of his own.

Here’s a first-look image.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

A David Attenborough take on Sasquatch. Premiering at Sundance, Sasquatch Sunset is a Big Foot film with no dialogue, starring Jesse Eisenberg as a Sasquatch.

The directors, brothers David and Nathan Zellner, were inspired by a childhood filled with watching monkey sequences (e.g., Planet of the Apes series and 2001: A Space Odyssey’s The Dawn of Man.

The Zellners explained their meticulous rewriting process:

“We knew that if we wanted people to get on board with this, they needed to be really dialed into the tone, and we couldn’t have big, broad strokes about what we were going for. I think the more specific it could be, the easier it would be to get people behind it. We rewrote it several times over the years, and, until shortly before we made it, it kept evolving, but it was very specific, both structurally and also with the comedic beats, and the grunts.”

While they were working on nailing the tone, they directed:

Their hypnotic portrayal of solitude seems well-honed for Sasquatch Sunset.

Dinosaurs and David Robert Mitchell. When Mitchell directed his supernaturally terrifying STD horror-thriller It Follows (2014, trailer), it announced him as a director with a trained eye toward Hitchcockian suspense. His follow-up, Under the Silver Lake (2018, trailer), is a winding fever dream of a narrative that is aggressive about not adding up.

His latest is Flowervale Street. Here’s the most comprehensive breakdown available:

Anne Hathaway will play a mother looking for her 15 and 12-year-old children in director David Robert Mitchell’s upcoming film Flowervale Street. Set in the 1980s, the project has been described as A Quiet Place mystery/thriller with dinosaurs.

Mitchell has been adding more and more brush strokes of oddity to his worlds. Perhaps in this one, he’s gone even further into total Lynchian surrealism.

Production will begin in March.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Mubi snags Swedish film Passage. The film, directed by Levan Akin, is set to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Lia, a retired teacher, has promised to find her long-lost niece, Tekla. Her search takes her to Istanbul where she meets Evrim, a lawyer fighting for trans rights, and Tekla starts to feel closer than ever.

Akin stated:

“I adore Mubi, so to have their dedicated team of cinema lovers release this film so broadly warms my celluloid heart.”

Akin’s previous work, And Then We Danced (2019), which played at Sundance and Cannes, is a gutting piece on Eastern-European masculinity encased in a hypnotic film about a Georgian man who tries out for the national dance team.

We eagerly await Passage.

Titanic in color. Ever since Peter Jackson meticulously re-colored WW1 footage in the groundbreaking and heartbreaking They Shall Not Grow Old (trailer), the technique has seeped its way into everything from Ken Burns documentaries to YouTube channels dedicated to colorizing Lumiere films.

Now, a team of UK filmmakers is revitalizing 1912 Titanic footage.

Series producer Jonathan Mayo explained:

“Working on this documentary has been an incredible experience. The cutting-edge colourisation techniques employed will take your breath away. It was also a humbling experience to speak to some of the children of those who survived the Titanic disaster and feature in the 1912 footage.”

First look image here.

Titanic in Colour will be available on Channel 4. Rose and Jack not included.


ON THIS DAY

2001. Cult film Donnie Darko written and directed by Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.


That’s all for the week. See you Monday!


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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