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Jennifer Lawrence to Star in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Burial Rites’ (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

Luca Guadagnino, currently drumming up Oscar buzz for the ravishing “Call Me by Your Name,” will direct Jennifer Lawrence in “Burial Rites,” Variety has learned. Lawrence will produce, as well as star in the true-crime drama. TriStar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures, has worldwide rights to the picture.

The film draws on Hannah Kent’s 2013 novel of the same name, and centers on Agnes Magnusdottir (Lawrence), the last woman to be publicly executed in Iceland in 1830. Agnes was sentenced to death for killing two men and setting fire to their home. The story takes place as Agnes awaits confirmation of her death sentence by the high court, a period of time that finds her reluctantly forging emotional and romantic bonds, while reflecting on her supposed crimes.

In addition to “Call Me by Your Name,” a romantic drama that’s received critical raves and just picked up three Golden Globe nominations, Guadagnino directed »


- Brent Lang

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Woody Harrelson in Talks to Join Tom Hardy in ‘Venom’

2 hours ago

Woody Harrelson has joined Tom Hardy in Sony’s “Venom” movie.

Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams, and Jenny Slate are also on board, with Ruben Fleischer directing.

Although character details are sparse, sources say Harrelson will play a henchman of sorts. Sony had no comment on the casting.

Scott Rosenberg (“Jumanji”) and Jeff Pinkner (“The Dark Tower”) will write the script for “Venom,” with Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach producing the movie, along with Amy Pascal. Palak Patel and Eric Fineman are overseeing the project for Columbia Pictures.

Since his inception in 1988, Venom has been one of “Spider-Man’s” most popular characters, making it a top priority for the studio to get the movie off the ground. Venom made his big-screen debut in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3,” where he was portrayed by Topher Grace.

Throughout the history of Marvel Comics, Venom has appeared alongside Spider-Man, Iron Man, Deadpool, Hulk, and other major characters.

Harrelson has kept »


- Justin Kroll

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Regina Hall to Co-Star in ‘Shaft’ Sequel With Samuel L. Jackson (Exclusive)

6 hours ago

Regina Hall has joined the cast of New Line’s latest installment in the “Shaft” franchise opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie T. Usher, sources tell Variety.

Hall will play a former love interest of John Shaft and the younger Shaft’s mother. Alexandra Shipp and the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, are also on board.

Tim Story is directing from a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow. Barris and John Davis are producing. Marc Fischer and Ira Napoliello are exec producing.

The movie follows Usher, a nerdy FBI agent who, after his friend dies under suspicious circumstances, launches his own investigation, reluctantly enlisting help from his estranged father — the legendary, stuck-in-the-’80s-but-still-cool John Shaft.

MGM’s 1971 blaxploitation film was based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel and directed by Gordon Parks. John Shaft was portrayed by Roundtree, who navigates mob neighborhoods in New York City to find a mobster’s missing daughter.

The film was »


- Justin Kroll

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Disney-Fox Deal Expected for Thursday (Report)

10 hours ago

A mega deal between Disney and Fox will be announced on Thursday, according to a new report on CNBC.

The $60 billion-plus pact will see Disney acquire key entertainment and sports assets from 21st Century Fox, including its film and TV studio. The CNBC report follows a Monday announcement that Comcast has opted out of its pursuit for Fox.

A spokesman for Fox declined comment. A Disney spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shares of Disney were up 0.44% in early morning trading to just over $107, while shares of Fox rose .33% to $33.37.

Not all of Fox’s assets will go to Disney. The company will retain Fox News, the Fox broadcast network, and Fox Sports 1, which will be reconstituted into a new, independent company. According to CNBC, that would be worth roughly $10 a share. As part of the deal, Fox shareholders will get a stake in the new company, along with shares of Disney. »


- Brent Lang

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Ari Sandel Tapped to Direct ‘Goosebumps’ Sequel

8 hours ago

Ari Sandel has been brought on board to direct a sequel to “Goosebumps,” Variety has learned.

It is unclear, however, if this “Goosebumps” follow up will be the next one to hit theaters or if it will even get made at all. Sony, which is backing the movie, has two versions in development. One of these scripts features original star Jack Black, and one does not. There are scheduling concerns involving the actor. The pressure is mounting, and Sony had better make a decision soon about which film it wants to make if it has a chance of hitting its September 21, 2018 release date.

The studio has tapped Rob Lieber (“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) to write one of these scripts. The first “Goosebumps,” was a modest hit, having grossed $150.2 million worldwide on a reported $58 million budget. Sony is looking to trim costs on this iteration.

Sandel’s credits include “The Duff, »


- Brent Lang

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Rockets Toward $425 Million Global Launch Weekend

7 hours ago

The Force is seriously powerful financially, with Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” tracking to deliver about $425 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

More than a dozen international markets will open Wednesday, led by France and Italy along with Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan. On Thursday, key markets include Germany, the U.K., Australia, Korea, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Previews begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in North America. On Friday, the domestic launch will take place at about 4,175 theaters in the U.S./Canada including nearly 410 Imax screens, 640 premium large format, 3,600 3D locations, and 212 D-Box locations. The total will be slightly higher than last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which opened at 4,157 locations.

The largest Thursday night preview gross in North America is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with $57 million two years ago. “Rogue One” opened with $29 million in Thursday night previews.

Domestic tracking »


- Dave McNary

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Universal Crosses $5 Billion Mark at 2017 Worldwide Box Office

2 hours ago

Universal Pictures has topped $5 billion at the global box office for the second time in the studio’s 105-year history, led by “The Fate of the Furious” and “Despicable Me 3.”

The global total for the studio passed the milestone on Dec. 11 to reach $5.003 billion, including $1.605 billion domestically and $3.398 billion internationally. Universal joined Disney and Warner Bros. in reaching the mark this year, with Disney hitting the milestone on Nov. 30 and Warner doing so five days later.

The Fate of the Furious” had the biggest global opening weekend of all time at $542 million — breaking the record set by 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It was also the top international opening ever at $443.2 million.

The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth film in the franchise, earned $1.23 billion worldwide in what’s the 11th-largest total of all time. It is only the sixth film in history to cross $1 billion at the international box office and is also the »


- Dave McNary

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Jim Broadbent Joins Robert Downey Jr. in Universal’s ‘Voyage of Doctor Dolittle’ (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent has been cast in Universal Pictures’ “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle” starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role.

Dunkirk” actor Harry Collett is also on board to co-star in the pic.

Stephen Gaghan, who most recently directed Matthew McConaughey’s “Gold,” will helm the film from his own screenplay. Tom Shepherd wrote an earlier draft.

The studio acquired the project following a heated bidding war with producers Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum through their Roth Kirschenbaum Films, alongside Susan Downey for Team Downey. »


- Justin Kroll

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Shelter PR Expands With New Film and TV Division, Hires Veteran PR Exec Alicia Ramirez Wyld

1 hour ago

Shelter PR is expanding their agency with the launch of its new film and television division, and has also hired former Paramount exec Alicia Ramirez Wyld as exec VP.

Wyld has held senior positions at Focus Features, Warner Bros., and, most recently, Paramount where, for nearly 10 years, she oversaw regional publicity and promotions as well as all experiential marketing, in addition to sports, religious, and family outreach for the company’s films.

“On the heels of our three-year anniversary of opening the doors at Shelter PR, we are excited to take the company to the next level,” said Shelter PR partners Cara and Christine Tripicchio and Marla Farrell. “Alicia is a highly respected, savvy, and smart executive who is known for her innovative ideas and ability to execute campaigns on a global scale. We couldn’t be more thrilled that she is joining our team and look forward to expanding the company with Alicia playing a key role »


- Justin Kroll

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From ‘Lego Batman’ to ‘Ferdinand’ to ‘Boss Baby,’ These Actors Inspire the Animators

1 hour ago

From “the Lego Batman Movie” and “The Boss Baby” to “Ferdinand,” theaters are full of animated films showcasing premiere acting talent. Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, John Cena and Miranda Cosgrove are just a few of the actors who’ve entered the booth this year to give a vocal performance that will inspire animators as they create a character.

Voice-acting gigs were not always seen as plum jobs and voice actors often didn’t receive the same respect accorded other performers. That started to shift in 1992 when Robin Williams gave one of the most memorable voice performances as the Genie in “Aladdin.”

“A lot of people think it’s like an Adr process, like a post process when you’re directing a vocal performance,” says Tom McGrath, the helmer behind “Boss Baby” and the “Madagascar” films. “The main thing is to create a safe place for the actors so they can try things. As a director »


- Karen Idelson

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Jordan Peele Praises His ‘Get Out’ Below the Line Crew

1 hour ago

The Universal-Blumhouse film “Get Out” has been winning awards for first-time feature writer-director Jordan Peele, but he’s quick to salute his behind-the-camera colleagues. “They trusted me with a crazy premise and I owe them a great deal,” Peele said. He spoke about his collaborators on the envelope-pushing movie that was filmed in Alabama.

Rusty Smith

Production designer

“I wanted everything about the house to be comforting, so we could subvert that comfort. For the other locations, there weren’t sets built, but there was a complex where we co-opted spaces to create a few sets, like the detective office, the operating room. The creepy rec room was originally a judge’s chambers. In the script, it was called the games room, and it could have gone many different ways. I wanted an evil feng shui, but with was a curious warmth. I almost wanted a sense that you could have fun in the room — partly for the »


- Tim Gray

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Oscars: Best Picture Field Shifts Into Focus

2 hours ago

Critics group superlatives and top 10 lists may have been flying around for two weeks, but now that Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” and the Hugh Jackman musical “The Greatest Showman” have finally screened, and with Disney’s epic “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premiere out of the way, everything in the Oscar hunt has really and truly been seen. So let’s take the first real educated pulse of this year’s best picture landscape.

It has been the year without a frontrunner since the Venice/Telluride/Toronto starting gun, and the news is: It still is. Even with highly anticipated prestige players like Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” on the board, no film has stepped up and seized the burdensome status of being “the one to beat.” Ask around and you’ll probably get a half-dozen answers: “It’s ‘Dunkirk’s’ to lose.” “‘Lady Bird’ could »


- Kristopher Tapley

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Louis C.K.’s ‘I Love You, Daddy’ Leaks Online After Being Pulled From Theatrical Release

3 hours ago

Louis C.K.’s dark comedy “I Love You, Daddy” was released this week — but not in the way he had intended.

The comedian’s admission of past inappropriate sexual conduct prompted the film’s distributors to scrap release plans, and C.K. reportedly has been trying to buy back the rights. On Monday, a 1.5-gigabyte rip of “I Love You, Daddy” was uploaded to piracy sites, including the notorious (and resilient) Pirate Bay.

The leak, first reported by TorrentFreak, was perpetrated by the piracy group calling itself Hive-CM8, which claimed it was motivated to share “I Love You, Daddy” with the world given the uncertainty of its release.

The pirated copy evidently came from one of the awards screeners distributed by the Orchard, which had acquired the movie for $5 million before cancelling U.S. release plans following the New York Times’ report about C.K.’s having masturbated in front of multiple women. International distributors »


- Todd Spangler

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With a ‘Film Stars’ Song in Contention, Rock Star Elvis Costello Reflects on Moonlighting for the Movies

3 hours ago

Elvis Costello wrote the closing song for the new movie “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” but it’s a classic from his own canon that director Paul McGuigan planted as an Easter egg for music buffs. Costello’s “Pump It Up” is heard early on in the film to establish the late ’70s time frame, right before a scene that has the American actress Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening) meeting her younger Liverpudlian boyfriend (Jamie Bell) for the first time. Just after “Pump It Up” is heard on the soundtrack, the two lovers-to-be dance to “Boogie Oogie Oogie” — a cheeky nod to one of the silliest awards upsets of all time, when the ephemeral disco group A Taste of Honey famously beat Costello for the best new artist Grammy.

“You know what? It didn’t register,” admits Costello, who didn’t get the embedded joke when he first saw the film, and whom the »


- Chris Willman

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The Strangest, Swankiest and Most Expensive ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Merchandise

4 hours ago

Star Wars” merchandise is some of the most popular and coveted among all fandoms, and as the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” draws near, so do more goodies that fans can buy. But not all merch makes sense, and even Disney can steer an iconic brand like “Star Wars” to the Dark Side of branding.

Here are some of the most astonishing, exciting, and downright head-scratching “Star Wars” branded products you can spend your galactic credits on:

Dole

Fruit is fruit, and generally the most important criteria when stocking up on produce is ripeness and price. Dole and “Star Wars” have partnered for a “Unite for a Healthy Galaxy” sweepstakes that includes prizes and an app that allows customers to scan special packaging for access to exclusive content and recipes. Which means that “Star Wars” lettuce is now a real thing that exists. 

I was willing to store that C-3POs box in my garage »


- Matt Fernandez

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Howard Gottfried, ‘Network’ Producer, Dies at 94

4 hours ago

Howard Gottfried, who received an Oscar nomination as producer of the 1976 media satire “Network,” died of a stroke Friday in Los Angeles. He was 94.

Gottfried also partnered with “Network” writer Paddy Chayefsky on films including “Altered States” and “The Hospital.” He met Chayefsky as a regular in a New York card game, and the two started on their first project, “The Hospital.” Gottfried met the film’s lead, George C. Scott, when Gottfried served as his divorce attorney.

Chayefsky won the best screenplay Oscar for “Network,” which also won Oscars for Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and Beatrice Straight. Finch’s character, irate news anchor Howard Beale, was named for Gottfried.

Raised in the Bronx, Gottfried started his career as a lawyer and became involved in off-Broadway theater. He then went to United Artists, where he oversaw TV series such as “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Patty Duke Show” and “The Fugitive.” Gottfried later moved »


- Pat Saperstein

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Five Key Questions About Saudi Arabia’s Decision to Reintroduce Movie Theaters

5 hours ago

Saudi Arabia’s removal of its 35-year-old ban on cinemas is prompting theater chains including AMC, Vue International, and Dubai-based Vox Cinemas to announce moves to enter the last untapped movie market in the Middle East. With a population of more than 30 million – the majority under 25 – and huge oil-driven wealth, the Saudi Arabian market seems a mouth-watering one, but questions about permissible content and other issues remain.

The Saudi government said Monday that it expected to open more than 300 sites with more than 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry that would contribute more then 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 jobs over that period. The first theaters could start showing films as early as March. The move is part of a drive led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform Saudi society, which has already paved the way for concerts, the country’s first local Comic Con (pictured) and the right of women to attend »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Michael Apted to Receive Directors Guild’s Honorary Life Member Award

5 hours ago

The Directors Guild of America has awarded Michael Apted its DGA honorary life member award in recognition of leadership, contribution to the guild and the profession of directing, and outstanding career achievement.

The award will be presented to Apted, who currently serves as DGA secretary-treasurer, at the 70th Annual DGA Awards Dinner on Feb. 3 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

“Michael is a game changer for our guild and our industry,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme. “Whether having the foresight as a young man to conceptualize the revolutionary documentary series “7 Up” — still going on decades later — or guiding Hollywood through a digital revolution, he is a fearless, visionary leader, and we are all the beneficiaries.”

Schlamme noted that Apted has served as either president or co-chair for every major new media and Svod negotiation.

“Michael has skillfully navigated the DGA through times of great change, setting the path for our members and our industry to flourish. His search »


- Dave McNary

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

5 hours ago

Not so long ago and not so far away, J.J. Abrams awakened the sleeping giant of the “Star Wars” franchise with “The Force Awakens,” which was almost universally praised by critics. As the opening for “The Last Jedi” approaches, critics’ reviews are officially in and the consensus is that the series’ newest offering could be one of the best.

“The Last Jedi” is sitting at a 93% fresh rating on the popular review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, and while most reviews laud its thrilling effects and emotional core, not everyone shared in the unbridled praise of the film. Variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote that while entertaining, “The Last Jedi” is “the longest and least essential chapter in the series” and that due to its inconsequential plotlines, “audiences could presumably skip this film and show up for Episode IX without experiencing the slightest confusion as to what happened in the interim.” CNN’s Brian Lowry wrote that despite reintegrating »


- Matt Fernandez

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CAA Promotes Ten Trainees

6 hours ago

CAA has promoted ten trainees to agent or exec at the agency.

Austin Denesuk has been promoted to agent in CAA’s industry-leading television department. Denesuk is based in Los Angeles, where she serves in the TV lit group.

Bennett Beckner, Joseph Harris, Madison Lee, and Joe Mott were elevated to agents in CAA’s music department, which represents more than one-third of this year’s top 100 worldwide tours. Beckner and Lee are based in Nashville, while Harris and Mott are based in Los Angeles.

Callie Rivers and Maddy Roth have been named executives in the CAA Foundation, the agency’s philanthropic arm, and are based in the Los Angeles office.

Jacksonville-based Beth Enstrom has been promoted to executive in CAA golf, and Tee Stumb has been promoted to agent in CAA sports talent sales department. He will continue to be based in New York.

Erik Telford has been promoted to agent in the speakers group, and is »


- Justin Kroll

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