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Richard Linklater: Don’t Play It Safe

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

The Hitman rocks, Netflix complaints, Pharrell’s toys, Wes Anderson’s scheme, Sundance’s Summers, and interdimensional animals.

Let’s go!


RICHARD LINKLATER: DON’T PLAY IT SAFE

The defining element of director Richard Linklater’s career is exploding the boundaries of narrative storytelling.

This weekend, Linklater gives a screenwriting workshop for Screencraft, where he shares his philosophy and insight into creating great films.

Among my favorites of his work:

  • Waking Life (2001)
    • A stream-of-consciousness animated film with dozens of disparate animation styles
  • A Scanner Darkly (2006)
    • A dystopian film that descends into Keanu Reeves’ bisected brain by way of rotoscoping
  • Boyhood (2014)
    • Filmed in segments over a decade

Linklater’s oeuvre is populated with perpetual slackers living on society’s fringes (don’t forget he directed School of Rock). And in these plots he finds a chorus of souls waiting to have their dormant hearts set on fire.

So it’s no surprise that his latest film, Hitman, premiering today on Netflix, which collides film noir and comedy, was no easy sell.

Linklater explained:

“You don’t get fired for doing a sequel or an origin story, something that already exists… You don’t get in trouble for what’s obvious and commercial. What changed is that films got greenlit by the marketing department and then it’s become really safe choices.”

Here’s the official synopsis for his anti-establishment film Hitman:

A professor (Glenn Powell) moonlighting as a hit man of sorts for his city police department, descends into dangerous, dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to a woman who enlists his services.

Hitman premiered at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews, solidifying Linklater’s narrative risk-taking as a model for success.

For More:

Linklater shares his insight for creating great films, like Hitman, and opens up about his writing process. Sign up for the Screencraft workshop here.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

The crowning jewel of Netlfix’s many lawsuits is a $170 M defamation and negligence suit by Fiona Harvey, who inspired the character of Martha in Baby Reindeer.

The lawsuit alleges:

“The “This is a true story” quote from the first episode of the Netflix series Baby Reindeer is the biggest lie in television history. It is a lie told by Netflix and the show’s creator, Richard Gadd, out of greed and lust for fame; a lie designed to attract more viewers, get more attention, to make more money, and to viciously destroy the life of Plaintiff, Fiona Harvey – an innocent woman defamed by Netflix and Richard Gadd at a magnitude and scale without precedent.”

Read the full complaint here.

Netflix stated:

“We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by [creator] Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.”

Netflix recently donated $1 M to the Innocence Project as part of the settlement for a libel case for Ava Duvernay’s When They See Us. Netflix is also involved in libel suits for Inventing Anna, The Queen’s Gambit, and Making of a Murder.

Sykdance’s $85 M deal. No, they didn’t shaft Shari Redstone. Instead, they splurged for:

  • Way Of The Warrior Kid
    • Starring Chris Pratt
    • Director McG (Terminator Salvation)

Synopsis:

A self-doubting kid who gets bullied learns to find his inner warrior with the help of his uncle, an elite Navy SEAL, who uses his training to guide the youth over the summer. ​

Way Of The Warrior Kid is slated to begin production this summer.

Lego is using its successful catalog to dip into a truly unexpected genre: Music Documentary. Piece by Piece will be a retelling of superstar rapper-producer and musician Pharrell Williams all through the medium of everyone’s favorite building blocks.

Piece by Piece will let Pharrell tell his story, from his come up with N.E.R.D. to his exploding musical career and work as a producer (which has garnered him 13 Grammys).

The presentation seems very interview-heavy, like many documentaries about artists’ lives. Still, all of the vignettes will be performed by Lego, bringing along with it Lego’s surprisingly competent grasp of humor, which they have already shown off in the smash hits:

  • The Lego Movie (2014)
    • They finally let Benny build a SPACESHIP! Clip
  • Lego Batman (2017)
    • Batman goes through a depression when the Joker is caught. Clip

You have to see the Piece By Piece trailer to believe it.

It’s strange. One of the best comparisons is potentially another doc that portrayed itself through an unconventional medium: Linklater’s Waking Life.

Clash of the Titans: Godzilla X Kong has been given a sequel, not surprisingly, since the entire series has made $2.5 bn.

The “Monsterverse” consists of:

  • Godzilla (2014)
  • Kong: Skull Island (2017)
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
  • Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
  • Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)

The last of which broke the record as the highest-grossing Godzilla film ever ($567.6 M Worldwide).

Maybe more surprisingly, this sequel will be its director’s second-ever feature film. Grant Sputore‘s first film, I Am Mother, achieved massive success and was a Netflix grab at Sundance. Trailer here

It is not unheard of for a brand new director to be thrown on to a massive project (Captain Marvel), but it is rare to be put on such a titan of industry as Godzilla V Kong. Sputore seems to have a grasp on sci-world building and CGI monsters, so we are hopeful that he will succeed in this massive opportunity.

Meanwhile, the director of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Adam Wingard, is moving in the opposite direction. His next film is the A24 indie Onslaught.

Tidbits:

Wallace and Gromit’s second feature film is dropping on BBC this Christmas. Here is the trailer featuring the dastardly Feathers McGraw. The first, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit (2005) took an Oscar for Best Animated film and grossed $192 M worldwide. The new movie, Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl, will be available on Netflix following its Christmas release.

Gillian McAllister’s addictive thriller novel Just Another Missing Person will be adapted by Heyday Television (Barbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

British screenwriter Georgia Pritchett (Succession, The Shrink Next Door, Veep) is also attached to write and produce the adaptation of McAllister’s 2023 whodunnit.

Heyday founder David Heyman said:

Just Another Missing Person

is a story that stays with you long after the final page and Georgia Pritchett is the perfect screenwriter to bring it to life as a thrilling premium TV series.”

Heyday was most recently behind another book adaptation, Apples Never Fall, the popular Peacock limited series that was released earlier this year.

Lionsgate revisiting the world of Panem once again in The Hunger Games: Sunrise on the Reaping, the fifth installment in the franchise hitting theaters on November 20th, 2026.

Acclaimed YA author Suzanne Collins recently announced the novel that will be adapted, which will be released in the spring of 2025 and will cover the 50th Hunger Games, also known as the Second Quarter Quell.

Fan favorite character Haymitch Abernathy, previously played by Woody Harrelson, will be the focus, and Francis Lawrence, who directed the last four films of the franchise, will be returning.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Australian actor Murray Bartlett will star opposite Amy Adams in At the Sea, the latest drama from Kornél Mundrucźo and Kata Wéber, the Hungarian filmmakers behind Pieces of a Woman (2020).

The film follows the life of Laura (Adams) after a long rehabilitation, as she returns to her family at their beach holiday home, where she has to readjust to the complicated life she left behind. Now, she is forced to face the following next chapter of her life without the career that gave her fame, fortune, and most importantly, identity. Bartlett will play Adams’ husband.

Bartlett is best known for his Emmy-winning performance in the first season of The White Lotus as the reckless and “sober” hotel manager, Armond (clip). He also received further recognition for his performances in Hulu’s Chippendales (2022).

His Emmy Nomination came from his guest appearance in HBO’s first season of the post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us (2023) as Nick Offerman’s devastatingly romantic partner as they create an oasis for themselves and their shared love of art in a wasteland (scene).

This episode, Long, Long Time, is deemed the best episode of the show’s debut season. Here’s another excellent scene (one more good day).

At The Sea will begin production in Boston this summer and is expected to have a 2025 premiere.

Tidbits:

Beatrice Grannò stole every scene in The White Lotus season 2 as the morally righteous prostitute (still) who becomes corrupted. She has just signed with Independant Artists Group. Grannò will star with Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) in a new sci-fi romance, Daniela Forever. Seductive first look image here.

Nicola Coughlan (Bridgerton) and Jessica Gunning (Martha in Baby Reindeer) are set to star in the children’s series The Magic Faraway Tree alongside Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy (All of Us Strangers). The children’s book series features trees reaching the clouds, gnomes stealing from elves, and chocolate houses.

Wes Anderson fills out his cast for The Phonician Scheme. In addition to Riz Ahmed, the following actors are set to star:

  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Tom Hanks
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Willem Dafoe
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Benicio del Toro
  • Michael Cera

The film just wrapped production.


FESTIVALS

She Loved Blossoms More is a wild sci-fi film premiering at Tribeca Film Festival.

Here’s the synopsis:

Three brothers build an unusual time machine to bring their long-dead mother back to life.

The teaser shows them zapping animals into alternative dimensions and is David Lynch levels of trippy.

Christos V. Konstantakopoulos (The Lobster) is an EP.

Akira Kurosawa’s magnum opus Seven Samurai (1954) is returning to NYC (July 5th) and LA (July 7th) in 4K. Here’s the trailer. Toho Company completed the restoration film. Janus Films will distribute.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Music Box Films picks up the Sundance Grand Jury Prize (U.S. Dramatic) winning film In the Summers.

The film follows the formative years of two sisters who navigate their loving but violent father during their yearly summer visits to his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Alessandra Lacorazza, who won the directing award at Sundance, discussed her reason for making the film: ​

“As a way to understand my father and our fractured relationship and to see a different kind of queer and Latin representation. My inspiration was my beautiful but often chaotic childhood. The beauty, the joys, the pain of being a child of an addict, and the importance of having my sister as an ally and a witness.”

​No word yet on Music Box’s US release date.

Vertical acquires the Michael Cera buddy comedy Sacramento. The film looks like it will hit that mid-2000s sweet spot, a coming-of-age road trip movie. At least, that’s the hope from the first look.

Here’s the official logline:

When free-spirited Ricky suddenly reappears in father-to-be Glenn’s life, the two former best friends embark on a spontaneous road trip from LA to Sacramento in Michael Angarano’s original take on the buddy comedy.

The movie, directed by Michael Angarno, will also star Kristen Stewart. Sacramento is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released by Vertical later this year.


ON THIS DAY

1952. Liam Neeson was born in Ballymena, County Antrim.


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


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

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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