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George Lucas risked everything

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

American Godfathers, a Memorial Day best forgotten, Jeffrey Wright is playing games, Leos Carax on Leos Carax, and an existential chicken.

Let’s go!


AMERICAN GODFATHERS

On Saturday, Francis Ford Coppola presented George Lucas with an honorary Palme d’Or.

The pair co-founded American Zoetrope (production company: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), which was home to Lucas’s first two features, THX 1138 (1971) and American Graffiti (1973).

Coppola recounted:

“I also remember, George, when he returned so sad and rejected, having gone to the owners of Flash Gordon, the protagonist of a space comic book in 1934, and he said they told him he wasn’t important enough to trust with their famous character, the star of serial movies that he loved so much as a kid.” 

He continued:

“And he looked at me and he said, well, I’ll make my own movie. I’ll call it
Star Battles or Star Wars or something. And so he did. And in the process risked everything he did to make it. Congratulations, George.” 

Amongst the next generation of filmmakers that were anointed with honors from Cannes:

  • Palme d’Or

Opening winning, Baker expounded that he’d reached the apex of his career and was unsure of what to do with the rest of his life, but he was clear on one thing:

“I will continue to fight for cinema because right now, as filmmakers, we have to fight to keep cinema alive. This means making feature films intended for theatrical exhibition, the world has to be reminded that watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone and checking emails is just not the way, although some tech companies would like us to think so.” 

This is the 5th win in a row for Neon.

First Indian Film included in the official selection in 30 years.

In addition, the cast, Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez, and Karla Sofia Gascon, collectively won best actress.

Jesse Plemons took best actor for playing three different roles in Kinds of Kindness (dir: Yorgos Lanthimos).


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Memorial Day Weekend Box Office. Here are the domestic grosses:

  • $32 M – Furiosa (Warner Bros.)
    • $65 M worldwide
    • $170 M budget
    • Underperformed by a big margin
    • Worst performing Memorial Day movie since Casper (1995)
    • The sequel Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) did $45.4 M in 3 days
    • Trailer
  • $31 M – The Garfield Movie (Sony Pictures)
  • $21 M – IF (Paramount)
  • $17.2 M – Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Studios)
    • 3rd weekend
    • $298 M Global
    • $169 M budget
    • The last installment, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), grossed $490 M worldwide
    • Trailer
  • $1.3 M – Babes (Neon)

This was the worst total grossing Memorial Day weekend since 1998. Although the governing thesis is that the strike tanked this typically gold mine of a release window, Furiosa, although excellent, is hamstrung by the fact that its lead (Anya Taylor-Joy) is less famous than the original Furiosa (Charlize Theron).

Loan Outs are under fire by EDD. Cast and Crew, one of the leading Hollywood payroll companies, sent an email stating:

“The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has informed Cast & Crew that payments made to loan-outs should have been paid directly to the loan-out corporation owner/shareholder as wages.” 

The email continued:

“The EDD has indicated that they will begin sending out notices in the next thirty days to loan-out corporations under review in the EDD’s current assessment.” 

Loan outs (S-Corp, C-Corp) shield employees from having taxes taken upfront out of their compensation. Employers benefit from not having to pay payroll taxes.

The WGA, DGA, IASTE, and SAG-AFTRA leaders all vehemently oppose this ruling and are currently consulting with one another on the best steps to combat it.

​​Richard Sherman, who, together with his brother, Robert, wrote highly lauded popular songs for many Disney features, died on Saturday at 95. The Sherman brothers won Academy Awards for Original Music Score and Original Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) for their work on Mary Poppins (1964).

Some of their best-known film scores were composed for:

  • The Parent Trap (1961)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Robert Sherman died in 2012.

For more on their careers and contribution to Mary Poppins (1964), read Mary Poppins: Radical Elevation in the 1960s by Leslie Abramson.

Tidbit:

Wake Up Dead Man (e.g., Knives Out 3) returns in 2025. Potential cast includes:

  • Tom Hardy
  • Lindsay Lohan
  • Cailee Spaeny (Civil War)
  • Josh O’Connor (Challengers)

The Bear Season 3 returns on June 27th. Teaser trailer. Hulu is dropping all the episodes simultaneously.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Jeffrey Wright is adapting his Last of Us video game performance to the screen. In the video game, The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog), Wright, using motion capture, played the leader of the Washington Liberation Front, Issac Dixon.

The character is a ruthless leader who is not afraid to personally torture someone to get information. He will surely be a driving force in season 2 of the HBO series, currently in production.

Check out his work:

Wright could have embodied Issac a decade ago, with production for the second game starting back in 2014.

Wright has been very busy in the interim, starring as the complicated Genius Bernard in HBO’s Westworld series (Bernard questions consciousness), and he recently had massive success in American Fiction (2023, trailer), being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

There’s a cynicism across Wright’s roles that seems perfect for these post-apocalyptic hopeless environments.

Unsurprisingly, we may see more of these medium crossovers, from video games to films or movies, played by the same character. That is a big part of James Gunn’s DC plan; one of the clauses of every actor cast for the new DCU is lending their voice and likeness to any character portrayal, be that in the movies, TV series (including animation), and, of course, video games.

American actor and producer Bradley Whitford joins the Netflix political drama Death by Lightning with Michael Shannon and Matthew Macfadyen.

Created by Game of Thrones producer Mike Makowsky, Death by Lightning brings to life the epic and stranger-than-fiction true story of James Garfield (Shannon), reluctant 20th president of the United States, and his greatest admirer Charles Guiteau (Macfadyen) – the man who would come to kill him.

Whitford will play Secretary of State James Blaine.

Whitford best known for his portrayal of another political figure White House Deputy of Chief of Staff Josh Lyman in NBC’s The West Wing a role he was nominated for in three consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards, winning in 2001 (best of clip).

Whitford’s career has been full of critically acclaimed roles, including two Primetime Emmys for two different characters in the Amazon Studios’ drama Transparent (2014-2017). And yet another Emmy for his performance as suspiciously endearing Commander Joseph Lawrence in Hulu dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-2025). Clip.

The TV icon got his start in daytime drama All My Children but has starred in films like Billy Madison (1995), Get Out (2017), Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and Tick, Tick…Boom! (2021).

Tidbits:

Mubi has made its fourth major acquisition at Cannes:

  • Bird
    • Dir: Andrea Arnold (American Honey)

The film stars Barry Keoghan as a single father raising two kids who plans to make a killing selling hallucinogenic toads.


FESTIVALS

Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard winners:

Here’s the official synopsis:

Released from jail, Lang returns to his hometown in Northwest China. As part of a dog patrol tasked with clearing stray dogs before the 2008 Olympics, he bonds with a black stray. The two lonely souls embark on a new journey together.

The first clip is spellbinding.

Synopsis:

Paris food delivery cyclist and asylum seeker named Souleymane has two days to prepare his story for a make-or-break interview to secure legal residency.

Check out the full list of winners here.

Waiting for Godot’s Chickens. If you’re going to be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, be sure to check out the sublimely absurd, blisteringly hilarious Three Chickens Confront Existence.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Three factory farm chickens attempt to find peace of mind and a greater sense of purpose by engaging each other in a series of debates, games, feuds and emotional experiments while awaiting their imminent trip to the broiler.

It is a Waiting for Godot-esque play that had me laughing non-stop.

Running at Edinburgh Fringe Festival Aug 2nd – 26th.

Tickets can be purchased here.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Morgan Spurlock, a documentarian best known for putting his own body on the line to show the effects of fast food in Super Size Me, has passed away at 53. Starting his career as a playwright, he was inspired to become the subject of his documentary after learning of multiple lawsuits by people blaming McDonald’s for their obesity.

He spent 30 days eating only McDonald’s, gaining 25 pounds, and chronicling his health with a doctor. After Super Size Me became a nationwide hit, Spurlock went on to host various shows on FX and MTV.

Here are some of his most popular works:

He had a profound effect on filmmaking and is cited as having birthed the YouTube citizen journalist movement.

Carax on Carax. Leos Carax is a filmmaker whose work bridges the hyper-real to the hyper-absurd. His latest, C’est Pas Moi (It’s Not Me), is a radical montage self-portrait that is a deep examination of the filmmaker’s work and his relationship to the history of cinema.

The film, which played at a Cannes premiere sidebar, just dropped a trailer.

The opening of the trailer features a seamless cut of his frequent collaborator actor Denis Lavant running in both Carax’s debut Boy Meets Girl (1984) and his follow-up ​Mauvais Sang (1986, trailer). The latter featured a young Juliette Binoche and Julie Delpy​.

My favorite film of the 2010s was Carax’s Holy Motors (starring Lavant as a multitude of characters). The film drove the point home that we are constantly performing our own lives. And there’s something quite horrific and beautiful about the entire enterprise.

Sideshow and Janus Films have just acquired C’est Pas Moi for North America.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

French actor and director Gilles Lellouche is only getting better with age.

Lellouche’s new film Beating Hearts (L’amour Ouf) is a modern Romeo and Juliet tale that received widespread praise at its Thursday night premiere at Cannes.

This is the official synopsis:

Follows an improbable relationship between two people. A girl from an upper-middle-class family (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and a boy from a modest background fall in love but drift apart; he eventually becomes a criminal and spends 12 years in prison.

At its official press conference over the weekend, Lellouche, joined by his cast of French veteran actors and several newcomers, explained his ever-growing love for directing and all the responsibility that comes along with it:

“I take great, great pleasure from directing. You’re there for the whole process and it nourishes me intellectually. The older I get, the more I love to direct!” 

The French Belgium film is adapted from Irish writer Neville Thompson’s 1997 novel Jackie Loves Johnser OK? Lellouche co-wrote the screenplay with Ahmed Hamidi, his collaborator on his last feature, Sink or Swim (2018, trailer).


ON THIS DAY

1977. 30th Cannes Film Festival: Padre Padrone, directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, wins the Palme d’Or.


See you tomorrow.


Written by Gabriel Miller, Spencer Carter, and Madelyn Menapace.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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