Zendaya’s love, Sean Penn’s hate

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

A Zendaya tennis love triangle. Sean Penn’s double feature. Warner Bros. spends big while British indies are tight on cash. And tiny horses.

Let’s go!


Craig Mazin + HBO + 4 years. Mazin is the brilliant writer and creator of two sensational HBO shows:

  • The Last of Us (2023)
    • Won 8 Emmys
  • Chernobyl (2019)
    • Won 3 Emmys
    • Including Outstanding Limited Series

Mazin has re-upped his contract with HBO for another four years. The deal is said to be in the 8-figures. This is good for TV. Mazin tends to write all the episodes himself, giving a more auteur feel to each of the show’s carefully crafted dystopian stories.

After Barbie‘s $1.4 bn box office, Warner Bros. has deep pockets. Here are the latest budget numbers for the studio’s upcoming films:

  • Joker 2
    • $200 M
    • The first Joker cost $60M
    • $20 M for Joaquin Phoenix
    • $12 M for Lady Gaga
  • Mickey 17
    • $150 M
    • Starring Robert Pattinson
    • Dir: Bong Joon-Ho
    • Pushed to 2025
  • Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film
    • $115 M
    • PTA’s Biggest budget ever
    • $20 M for Leonardo DiCaprio

Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations noted:

“There’s only so much top talent in Hollywood, and it’s very competitive and stretched thin because a lot of talent have deals in streaming. If theatrical is going to work, you need the A-lister like Tom and Leo, and Warner Bros. is spending what they need to spend to keep this talent.”

Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group chiefs, seem to be creating a mote around their studio by acquiescing to large salary demands.

We’ll see if their calculated gamble pays off.

SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers inked a crucial deal on new animation contracts for TV and Film, a development following the union’s longest strike, spanning 118 days from July 14 to November 9 last year.

This agreement, awaiting ratification, builds on the 2020 negotiations.

Here are the key points from 2020:

  • ↑ 2.5% wage year 1
    • ↑3% year 2 & 3
  • ↑ 1% in employer contributions to SAG-AFTRA Health Plan
  • ↑ 26% in residuals for high-budget animated programs for Amazon and Hulu etc.

Yet to be disclosed are the specifics of this round’s wage adjustments, potentially mirroring or exceeding the prior 7% initial hike for the TV/Theatrical contract.

One more nugget: Oppenheimer is the most-watched launch for NBC’s Peacock.

More details here.


Sean Penn is the most empathetic man. Sean Penn is the cruelest man. His range as an actor runs the gambit in two newly dropped trailers.

The first is Daddio, where he plays a philosophical cab driver who pulls at his passenger’s (Dakota Johnson) heartstrings. That sounds cheesy, but the honest performances in the trailer make it beautiful.

The second is Asphalt City. I met with the director earlier this week and got to see the unsettling brilliance of Penn’s work. In this film, Penn plays a caustic paramedic in Brooklyn’s Wycoff Medical Center. Fair warning, this trailer is amazingly dark and violent.

Penn has won two Academy Awards—one for Milk (2008) and one for Mystic River(2003). The performances are both excellent and couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope these two films earn him nominations.

Asphalt City is out on March 29th.

Daddio is out this summer.

Natasha Lyonne also has two upcoming projects. She’s just been cast in Taika Waititi (dir: Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Love and Thunder) new film Klara and the Sun.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Klara (Jenna Ortega) is an Artificial Friend designed to prevent loneliness. Klara is purchased by a mother and a bright teen named Josie, who adores her new robot companion but suffers from a mysterious illness. This is the story of Klara’s quest to save Josie and those who love her from heartbreak and how, in the process, Klara learns the power of human love.

Lyonne will play the shopkeeper.

It doesn’t seem like a meaty role, but Lyonne adds great characterization to anything she’s in, like Russian Doll (trailer). She has an angstyness that ranges from high-comedy to melancholy, often in a single sentence.

Next up, she rounded up all five Culkin brothers for an Amazon Prime animated series, The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy, that she will EP.

Some fun quotes in this article about how Lyonne made it happen.

More on this tomorrow, but Cate Blanchett goes full Mad Max in this trailer for Borderlands.


Read the Barbie script. Love it or hate it, there’s some beautiful world-building in Barbie, and the moment of Barbie’s realization that she’s a real woman is so magnificent that it’s worth it to take a peak at the script just to see how that was moment rendered (pg 35).

Read Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s script here.


Love-Love. Luca Guadagnino (dir: Call Me by Your Name) is no stranger to complicated love plots. His latest film, Challengers, revolves around a tennis three-some starring Zendaya.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Tashi (Zendaya), a former tennis prodigy turned coach is married to a champion on a losing streak. Her strategy for her husband’s redemption takes a surprising turn when he must face off against his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.

There’s a certain subdued sexiness in the trailer that makes it enthralling. Guadagnino’s most recent film Bones and All (2022) used the lens of cannibalism to expose the literal rawness of love. Will he be able to pull off as penetrating a film with tennis?

Release date April 26, 2024.

From Octopus to Dodo. James Reed’s 2021 Academy Award-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher pulled on viewers’ collective heartstrings by personifying a cephalopod in a way that elevated it beyond the typical nature documentary (trailer). Now he’s EPing a docu-series about Colossal, a real company bringing extinct species back to life.

Here’s a release quote:

“The series will have exclusive access to follow Colossal as it works to bring back iconic extinct species – including the woolly mammoth, the thylacine [a carnivorous marsupial once native to Australia], and dodo bird – and strives to rewild them into their natural habitats. It will have behind the scenes access to Colossal’s whole process – from their groundbreaking work on ancient DNA and genetic engineering to documenting the lives of animals which have not roamed the earth in thousands of years.”

So Jurrasic Park but in real life?

Science is amazing. This is bonkers. Our personal vote for de-extinction is the early horse ancestors. Apparently, they were tiny. And we’ve always wanted a horse to gallop across our desk.

What a way to write.


Rebecca O’Brien is one of the foremost UK producers. Here’s a short list of her projects:

She recently stated:

“There’s market failure because the streamers came in, high-end TV got higher end, and Hollywood arrived. And they took a lot of our investors away…Some additional fiscal support for the sector is essential. I think we could really die without it.”

She spoke about her personal challenges with getting the money together for her latest movie starring Cannes Best Actor winner Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out):

“It’s set in a medieval Village at some point in the past, and it’s a week in the life of this community where a stranger arrives and things go horribly wrong. So that’s the story, but to make this film it’s a UK, French, German, Greek, and U.S. co-production, with little bits of money patchworked together from all of those different countries from their public funds, pre-sales, and little tax credits here and there.”

She continued:

“It’s absolutely exhausting to put something like that together. If we had an enhanced tax credit, for instance, I wouldn’t have had to defer my fee. We would have been in a position where we can now finish the film with confidence. But it’s been a real struggle just because we haven’t quite got enough money to do it.”

Financiers Film4 and BBC Film echoed the need for an expanded UK tax credit.

Although BBC just ordered 12 new drama series.

Timbuktu director sells his latest film to Gaumont. Abderrahmane Sissako’s Black Tea is an official selection at the Berlin Film Festival.

Here’s an official synopsis:

After saying “no” on her wedding day, Joice leaves the Ivory Coast to start a new life in Guangzhou, China.

There’s an immense sensuality in tea that is the live wire of the romance in the trailer.

It looks like a slow-burn masterpiece.


Jason Reitman, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and a few other directors bought a movie theater.

See you Friday.

Written by Gabriel Miller.

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