Robert Downey Jr. is a chameleon

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

Robert Downey Jr. is a Natural Born Chameleon, Fantastic Four redux, Will Smith’s Sugar, an American Psycho debut, and a Sardinian Iron Claw.

Let’s go!


THE MANY FACES OF ROBERT DOWNEY JR.

Something was getting stale with Robert Downey Jr.

After years of diverse, electrifying work, from early career break-outs like his oddball, charming Chaplin (1992) to his stark-raving mad TV producer who revels in a Bonnie and Clyde-esque prison interview in Natural Born Killers (1994), his mid-2000s work demonstrated more homogenous coolly detached characters e.g. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Zodiac (2007), The Soloist (2009).

And that coolness stuck.

Propelling himself into the iconic Iron Man role, over the course of ten films, Downey Jr. transformed Tony Stark from a billionaire arms dealer with questionable morals into the world’s most unlikely savior.

In Oppenheimer, Downey Jr. stripped away that flashy performative layer of himself and became Lewis Strauss.

It was a meticulous process that brought Downey Jr. back to his youth doing one-act plays at the Geva Theater in Rochester, where he made his theater debut at seventeen.

What Downey Jr. found in Strauss was a new dimension of himself. An inversion of his bombastic roles. A quietness.

In HBO’s upcoming The Sympathizer, Downey Jr. takes on multiple characters.

The series tells the story of a North Vietnamese spy embedded within the South Vietnamese army, navigating a treacherous path between loyalty and survival in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Although the trailer doesn’t give away much, Downey Jr. appears almost unrecognizable in at least half a dozen parts, from CIA agents to outlandish professors to cryptic botanist

This transformation underscores the actor’s chameleonic ability, signaling a return to form.

The Sympathizer streams on Max on April 14th.

For More:

The Sympathizer Trailer.

Chaplin (1992). Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin Trailer. It’s charming.

Watch this surprisingly sharp fan edit that showcases Downey Jr.’s work in Oppenheimer.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Marvel’s “first family” has been cast. Fantastic Four reveals its new team:

  • Pedro Pascal (Last of Us) as Mister Fantastic
  • Venessa Kirby (Napoleon) as his wife Sue Storm
  • Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things S3) as her brother, “Human Torch”
  • Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Bear) as Ben Grimm, aka The Thing

This is the third reboot of the franchise, including a non-released version in 1994. But it’s Marvel’s first crack at it for the MCU. From the promo image above, it looks to, at least in some part, be a period piece set in the ’60s, potentially using the space race to set up the superfamily’s ill-fated trip to space, which becomes the catalyst for their superpowers.

No word yet on the new big bad Dr. Doom, but we can’t wait.

IATSE teams up with low-budget producers, working on sub $15 M films, to form an anti-harassment committee to defend against sexual misconduct on set. This follows a study by the Hollywood Commission that found:

  • Workers report an overall increase in awareness
  • Workers continue to experience high rates of misconduct
  • Workers continue to underreport misconduct

IATSE president Matthew D. Loeb stated:

“We applaud the steps taken by low-budget producers who, understandably, want their sets to be free from sexual harassment and abusive conduct. This collaboration will help ensure we meet that goal through our collective effort.”

The newly formed committee will work together to implement Hollywood’s Respect on Set program.

Sony’s Q3 (end of the 2023) numbers. Here are the gains and losses:

  • $2.43 bn revenue
    • ↑ 10% from last year
  • $281 M profit
    • ↑ 57% from last year

Sony had a strong showing with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($691 M) and recently Anyone But You ($172 M), although most of that revenue has come in 2024.

This strong box-office showing helped drive its license revenue and home entertainment sales.

Terence Winter takes on Freon. In the pantheon of scientific advances that have harmed humanity, Thomas Midgley, Jr. is up there with Alfred Nobel (inventor of dynamite). Midgley invented two horribly toxic substances: leaded gasoline and Freon.

Terence Winter is developing Midge into a tragicomedy feature.

Winter is renowned for his work as:

  • The Sopranos (1999- 2007)
    • Writer of 25 episodes, Producer
  • Boardwalk Empire (2010- 2014)
    • Showrunner
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
    • Writer
  • Vinyl (2016)
    • Showrunner

Winter stated:

“The only thing crazier than this story is that it hasn’t already been told.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way will be developing.

It’s going to be a wild one.

Ridley Scott is Stayin’ Alive. Paramount is in negotiations with Scott to helm their Bee Jees biopic. It’s still early, though.

No word on plot details, but for a taste of how fun this could be, check out John Travolta’s iconic Saturday Night Fever (1977) Stayin’ Alive scene and the Airplane! (1980) parody.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

David Thewlis is an enlightened degenerate. At least that’s how we view him in Naked (1993, trailer), a deranged, sexually charged, philosophical, gritty performance that earned him the Best Actor award at Cannes. Since then, he has appeared as the fan-favorite Professor David Lupin in Harry Potter, who has a bad habit of turning into a werewolf (clip).

Thewlis will now play in the new CW drama Sherlock & Daughter as Sherlock. Although he certainly could play either role.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Sherlock Holmes faces a sinister case, risking friends’ lives. American Amelia joins, seeking her father after her mother’s murder. Despite differences, they solve a conspiracy and her mother’s case.

While the synopsis sounds somewhat standard, Thewlis brings a hyper-specificity to even his blandest roles.

George MacKay gets dragged to the underworld of his desire. MacKay looks wildly different than his doggedly frightened performance as the lead in 1917 (trailer). He will now play in Femme.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Follows Jules, who is targeted in a horrific homophobic attack, destroying his life and career. Some time after that event, he encounters Preston (MacKay), one of his attackers, in a gay sauna. He wants revenge.

Violence is hidden in the trailer. Closeted. But that doesn’t keep the aggression and terror at bay.

Will Smith’s Sugar. After Smith’s slap, he’s been absent from the cinema. Although he’s getting re-plugged back into his old franchises:

Smith will now star in an original Sugar Bandits, based on the book by Chuck Hogan, who wrote the novel that was the basis for The Town (2010).

Here’s the start of the official synopsis for the book:

Neal Maven (Smith) returns to Boston from his tour in Iraq only to discover that the country he vowed to protect has little use for him now. The men and women who remained Stateside are years ahead of him, both personally and professionally, which embitters him and pushes him toward his breaking point.

And then he meets Brad Royce. Royce is everything Maven wants to be: a fellow vet, charismatic, and confident, principled, wealthy, and with a beautiful woman on his arm. Not just any beautiful woman, but Danielle Vetti—the most stunning girl from Maven’s high school. Literally, the girl of his dreams.

It seems cliche, but The Town was anything but, so there’s hope for this film.

Along the way, Will Smith may find authenticity in this character’s journey mirroring his own.


FESTIVALS

EFM’s first big sale. Here’s the latest:

  • Ash
    • Buyer: Amazon Prime
    • Starring: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
    • Production Company/Financier: XYZ Films
    • Director: The Flying Lotus

Here’s the synopsis:

A woman (Eiza González, Baby Driver) wakes up on a distant planet and finds the crew of her space station viciously killed. Her investigation into what happened sets in motion a terrifying chain of events.

It was said to have sold for close to $10 M.

Check out this haunting sci-fi first-look photo.

Here are a few projects launching at EFM:

  • Batso
    • Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ethan Hawke, Jessica Biel

Synopsis:

In 1970, The Wall of Early Morning Light was an unthinkable climb. For larger-than-life climbing legends Warren ‘Batso’ Harding (Hakwe) and Dean Caldwell (Radcliffe), it represented a near-impossible physical and mental challenge.

For iconoclast Batso, it also offered one last chance to stick it to the naysayers who thought him too old, too out of touch, and too crazy. For novice Dean, it was a way to see beyond his 9-to-5 existence and unlock the awesome potential of the human spirit.

What began as an almost farcical exercise became one of the great underdog stories in the history of the sport. The estimated 10-day climb stretched into a 28-day marathon of grit and determination that sparked a media sensation.

Apparently, the team ran into some treacherous weather conditions and nearly had to be rescued.

It’ll be great to see Hakwe and Radcliffe share scenes.

  • The Mother
    • Starring: Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
    • Director: Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Bastards)
    • Financier: 30 West
    • Sales rep: CAA and AGC

Here’s the synopsis:

An immigrant mother is forced to tap her mysterious past to rescue her sons from gangsters in Boston.

One more: Berlinale’s opening film, Small Things Like These, starring Cillian Murphy.

Here’s a first-look clip.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

American Psycho writer Bret Easton Ellis is making your next nightmare. His directorial feature debut, Relapse, is an elevated monster movie.

Ellis stated:

“I grew up watching the iconic horror movies of the 1970s… It seems appropriate that my first feature would be a horror film.”

Here’s the official synopsis for Relapse:

Fueled by paranoia from social media, Matt’s addiction returns. A monster from his youth appears, but his therapist believes it’s in Matt’s mind.

This is all spurred by Matt, played by Stranger Things’ Joseph Quinn, who goes into rehab after witnessing a horrible death at a party.

Ellis continued:

“It will have my strokes: sex, drugs, and paranoia. It will also be a fun, lush, and commercial feature film for a lot of people to enjoy.”

It’s great to see the author/scriptwriter level up to a feature directorial debut.

There’s a textured, dreamy, unnerving quality to this fashion short film he directed, The Arrangement.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

A Sardinian Iron Claw. Paolo Taviani and his brother, who is now deceased, are renowned for their depiction of neo-realism:

  • Padre Padrone (1977)
    • Sardinian Iron Claw
    • Won Palme d’Or
    • Trailer (4K restoration)
  • Night of the Shooting Stars (1982)
  • Caeser Must Die (2012)

Paolo Taviani is set to shoot Canto Delle Meduse. The film is a pandemic drama that crosscuts storylines from ancient to modern Rome.

Taviani stated:

“Depicts several days during lockdown that forced us to stay inside our homes like bad kids. And the wish to go out and walk. But the silence outside was not a silence inside me. I was alive with a big desire to fight against the unknown with my only extraordinary weapon: cinema.”

Shooting will begin in April.

Germany’s ambitious film funding reform, spearheaded by Culture and Media Commissioner Claudia Roth, aims to centralize the nation’s film funding system, enhance its efficiency, and increase its attractiveness to domestic and international productions. The reform, expected to launch in 2025, offers up to a 30% tax incentive for recognized German production costs as a grant, aiming to replace the existing rebate subsidy programs.

This move is anticipated to make Germany a more competitive Film and TV production location.

This overhaul also includes a controversial investment obligation for broadcasters and streamers, mandating a 20% reinvestment of German sales into European productions, with a substantial portion allocated to German-language content.


ON THIS DAY

Some great first-look images from Joker 2. Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga are in love.


That’s all for the week. We’re off on Monday.

See you Tuesday!


Written by: Gabriel Miller and Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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