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Todd Phillips’ Jokers

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

Joker 2: musical mayhem, Colin Farrell’s non-monocled Penguin, School of Rock 2 Electric Boogaloo, Sundance CEO departure, and a family heirloom.

Let’s go!


Todd Phillips is an agent of chaos.

The Hangover and Joker director, famously dropped out of NYU film school and stole camera equipment.

His filmmaking has been defined by characters who live outside a set of normal social standards, epitomized by his first feature films:

  • Road Trip (2000)
    • The ultimate anti-college experience
  • Old School (2003)
    • 40-something guys miss college, so they exploit a loophole to turn a family home into a frat house
  • Starsky and Hutch (2004)
    • In one wild scene, Ben Stiller (Agent Starsky) fires a gun into a garage, striking a pony

But Phillips’ mid-career pièce de résistance was The Hangover (2009). The lynchpin for the film’s success is the mentally unstable friend Alan (played brilliantly by joker Zach Galifianakis). He roofies a bachelor party and introduces chaos at every turn. Alan doesn’t subscribe to any customary moral, ethical, or legal laws—he is bound only by devotion to his friends.

While The Hangover finds comedy in this premise, Joker (2019) exposes the dark side of a mentally unstable man seeking to belong.

At the Joker premiere, Todd Phillips discussed the star Joaquin Phoenix’s performance:

“I jokingly say [Pheonix] is an agent of chaos. He has chaos in him, and you know you can act that, probably, but if you don’t have to, there’s something to that… I jokingly say [Joaquin] is the tunnel at the end of the light.”

Introducing more mayhem into the fray, it was just announced that Joker: Folie à Deux (2024) is set to be a Jukebox Musical with at least 15 songs.

Todd Phillips’ currency is upending expectations. To that end, he’s done spectacularly well with both Joker and The Hangover series, each reaching over $1 bn.

We welcome his gloriously anarchistic return.

Joker: Folie à Deux is set to be released on October 4th.

For More:

The marvelous mayhem in Joker (2019) trailer.

Todd Phillips has said that Joker: Folie à Deux is a musical inspired by Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York (1977, trailer).

Best of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (clip).


Weekend Box Office. Here’s the breakdown of the total gross:

Sequels! Several reported sequels and adaptations are in the works/being dreamed of…

Here’s the breakdown:

From Jack Black:

“I wish there’d be a School of Rock 2 Electric Boogaloo. I’m ready… you know Mike White wrote the first one and he’s a genius. And we’d have to have Mike White back in the saddle, but he’s real busy right now with White Lotus, the best show on TV.”

If you click your heels together three times, Jack Black’s pipe dream will come true. We’re ready.

Relive School of Rock (2003, trailer).

From Adam Sandler’s on-screen nemesis Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald):

“I saw Adam about two weeks ago, and he says to me, ‘McDonald, you’re gonna love this… he shows me the first draft of ‘Happy Gilmore 2… So, it’s in the works. Fans demand it, dammit!”

Relive Happy Gilmore (1996, trailer).

From Chris Brancato (creator: Narcos, Godfather of Harlem) comes a new series on:

“Fearsome Irish gangs. [In NYC in the 1970s].”

The series will be launched on MGM+. No production or release date has been released.

David Ayer is a beast. Ayer recently directed The Beekeeper, starring Jason Stathom, which exceeded expectations critically and commercially, grossing $153M off a $40M budget. Ayer, who also directed Suicide Squad (2016) and End of Watch (2012), has a new project: Heart of the Beast.

Here’s the official synopsis:

A former Navy SEAL and his retired combat dog attempt to return to civilization after suffering a catastrophic accident deep in the Alaskan wilderness.

Damien Chazelle (dir: Whiplash) is set to produce with his wife and producing partner, Olivia Hamilton, who has a first-look deal with Paramount.

One tidbit: SAG-AFTRA members approve the animation contracts for voice actors. Here are the key deal points:

  • 7% wage increase (backdated to July 1st 2023)
    • ↑ 4% July 1st 2024
    • ↑ 3.5% July 1st 2025
  • ‘“Voice actors”’ include only humans”
    • E.g., No using performers’ voices w/o permission
    • Studios can still use “digital replicas,” but performers must be compensated
  • High-budget streaming residuals

Read the full agreement here. It was approved by over 95% of voting members.


Yes, that’s Colin Farrell in The Penguin. Even after the initial shock of the incredible makeup done for this character, who featured in The Batman (2022), it is still pretty unbelievable to see him back in the sagging skin of Gotham’s gangster.

The Penguin has been a staple of Batman’s rouges gallery since his golden age. Some actors have taken a spin on the character, but Danny Devito’s twisted black goop-spitting little creep was the most memorable (image, warning: terrifying).

Although Ferrell started off playing some one-dimensional bad guys: a vampire terrorizing a family in Fright Night (2011) and a prescient serial killer in Solace (2015), his recent bend towards more complex men of evil (Widows, True Detective), makes The Penguin feels like a culmination of those efforts.

Watch how Farrell salivates over the memory of a gangster who ruled his childhood neighborhood in the teaser trailer.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays Pharrell Williams in the upcoming biopic directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Harrison may not be a household name, but his work over the years has been formidable:

  • It Comes at Night (2017)
    • Joel Edgerton’s son is tormented by nightmares in this pre-pandemic vision of terror
    • The red door clip
  • Monster (2018)
  • Elvis (2022)

Here’s the official Pharrell Williams biopic synopsis:

The untitled coming-of-age project is said to be inspired by Williams’ formative years growing up in Virginia Beach in the 1970s.

No word yet on production dates, but we’re excited to see Harrison take on a much more Happy role.

Two tidbits:

Oscar-winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) will join the above Pharrell Williams film. No word on who she will play.

Benedict Cumberbatch will star in Apple TV+’s Eric.

Official synopsis:

Vincent [Cumberbatch], a puppeteer on America’s leading kids’ TV show whose son goes missing, finds solace through his friendship with Eric, the monster that lives under Edgar’s bed.

More on this later, but here’s a beautifully high-res image of the 1980s world of Cumberbatch’s puppeteer workshop. And another image of a guilt-stricken Cumberbatch.

Release date: May 30th.


Sundance CEO Joana Vicente is stepping down after two and a half years.

Here’s what she said:

“With great pride and respect, I look back at the significant work we have accomplished together at the Institute and the herculean task of bringing the Festival back from the pandemic – all while making the Festival more accessible by welcoming a community online. From our first pivot to a digital festival and two successful in-person hybrid festivals, we have cemented Sundance’s position as the best platform for emerging storytellers.”

Read her full departure letter here. No specific reasons were cited other than wanting to pursue the next chapter of her life. Last year, Sundance laid off 6% of its workforce amid economic uncertainty.

Enter Amanda Kelso, who assumed the role of Acting CEO. Here’s what she said:

“As a trustee of this non-profit for over four years, I have had the privilege of working closely with Joana Vicente. I first want to thank Joana for her meaningful contributions to the Institute… I intend to bring my over 25 years of experience as a creative communications and brand leader, working in a variety of global community-focused places like Google and Instagram, to my leadership of Sundance.”

Read her full message here.

Kelso has served for four years on Sundance’s board of trustees. She also worked with the Digital Festival Task Force during the pandemic to help the festival pivot to online and served as the co-chair of the Technology Committee.

Early in her career, she was a PA on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1995-1996).


Sora AI, owned by Chat GPT maker Open AI, is coming to Hollywood. Here’s what Bloomberg reported:

“The artificial intelligence startup has scheduled meetings in Los Angeles next week with Hollywood studios, media executives and talent agencies to form partnerships in the entertainment industry and encourage filmmakers to integrate its new AI video generator into their work… Sora isn’t available to the public yet, but OpenAI has already granted access to a few big-name actors and directors.”

Here’s the only public video Open AI released on the capabilities of Sora last month.

For a more detailed look at Sora, check out our cover story from last month on whether this is good for young creatives or an extinction-level event for Hollywood.


Documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman is extreme. After directing a stream of hellishly visceral but always cinematic documentaries (American Symphony and the Oscar-nominated Cartel Land), he just landed a job helming The Savant, an action crime series for Apple TV+ starring Jessica Chastain.

Here’s the synopsis:

Follows the Savant, a top-secret investigator who infiltrates internet hate organizations to bring down the nation’s most violent men.

Heineman recently directed American Symphony (2023), a documentary about Jon Batiste receiving seven Grammy nominations on the day his wife was diagnosed with cancer (trailer).

Heineman’s first narrative feature was A Private War (2018), starring Rosamund Pike as a war-torn journalist who loses her eye reporting and is addicted to truth, much like Heineman (trailer).

The Savant will be his first narrative TV series.

A pair of acquisitions from Gravitas Ventures:

  • Bad Behaviour
    • Starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw
    • Official selection: Sundance
    • Trailer

Here’s the official synopsis:

A former child actress seeking enlightenment at a retreat led by a spiritual leader navigates the close but turbulent relationship with her daughter.

This dark comedy is the debut feature for director Alice Englert, who is best known for playing Rosa in Ginger and Rosa (2012).

Limited theatrical run and on VOD, June 14th.

  • The Present
    • Starring Isla Fisher

Here’s the official synopsis:

A brilliant boy discovers that he can manipulate time using a family heirloom. He soon teams up with his siblings to return to the time of their parents’ separation in hopes of changing the outcome.

This family comedy will start a limited theatrical run and be available on VOD, June 18th.


1954. 26th Academy Awards: From Here to Eternity wins best film, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn win best actor and actress.

The film is best remembered for its iconic love on the beach scene, later parodied by Airplane! (1980).

See you Tuesday.

Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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