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James Hampton, Prolific Actor From ‘F Troop’ and ‘Teen Wolf,’ Dies at 84

A friendship with Burt Reynolds forged during “The Longest Yard” led to frequent collaborations and directing opportunities
Tony Maglio

James Hampton, an actor perhaps best recognized from roles in “F Troop,” “The Longest Yard” and “Teen Wolf,” has died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, his spokesperson told TheWrap. He was 84.

Hampton, who passed away on Wednesday at his home in Texas, is survived by his wife, Mary, along with his children, James, Andrea and Frank, and his grandchildren.

Hampton was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as “Caretaker” in the original “Longest Yard.” Also from that film came a longtime friendship with co-star Burt Reynolds, which led to multiple new career opportunities, including writing, directing and producing duties on Reynolds’ “Evening Shade.” Hampton would go on to direct episodes of “Sister, Sister” and “Grace Under Fire.”

Hampton was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Dallas. He attended North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), where he majored in speech and drama and appeared in a number of productions at the school.

An Army veteran who served in Europe, Hampton’s first Hollywood acting role was on “Gunsmoke,” which was the No. 1 TV show in the country at the time. He’d famously play tone-deaf bugler (a person who plays the bugle) Hannibal Dobbs on “F Troop.” Hampton’s list of TV credits is a long one that includes roles on “Who’s The Boss,” “Mama’s Family,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Rawhide.” He made more than 30 appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

Hampton, who played Michael J. Fox’s father Harold Howard in “Teen Wolf,” also had big-screen roles in the movies “Sling Blade” and “Police Academy V.”

Hampton’s autobiography, “What? And Give Up Show Business?” was published earlier this year by Texas Christian University Press.

“The family appreciates your love and support and asks for privacy at this time,” a statement read.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

 

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‘Real World’ Producer Bunim-Murray Promotes Trio As New Boss Julie Pizzi Outlines Strategy To Broaden Output, Eyes ‘The Simple Life’ Reboot
By Peter White

Bunim-Murray is having a “full-circle” moment, according to new boss Julie Pizzi, following the launch of The Real World Homecoming: New York on Paramount+.

The production company is also producing The Challenge: All Stars, wrapping up the final seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and eyeing a reboot of classic reality format The Simple Life.

This all comes as Pizzi starts to make her mark on the business, promoting a trio of executives and continuing to broaden its output.

Pizzi was named President of Bunim-Murray Productions in February and her first order of business was to promote Rupert Dobson, who was responsible for developing physical game Cash Back with CJENM, to EVP, Development, Farnaz Farjam, the former SVP, Entertainment and Development who oversees Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to EVP, Current Programming, and former EVP, Production John Greco to Chief Operating Officer.

“We’re really excited about The Real World Homecoming that’s airing right now. It’s a full-circle moment for Bunim-Murray. That’s a show that started the company, and it’s been so well received, and we have The Challenge: All-Stars on Paramount+. Those are franchises that’ve been with the company since its beginnings,” Pizzi (right) told Deadline.

Pizzi, who started her career at Bunim-Murray in 1998, before leaving in 2003 and re-joining in 2013, has sold 16 projects over the last twelve months, according to her boss, Banijay U.S. chief Cris Abrego.

She said that it has been focusing on a broad swathe of genres, in addition to its work in the traditional reality docusoap world. “We’ve sold documentaries this year. We’ve sold game shows this year,” she said. “We’ve been really focused on this year is format development and really creating formats that can travel, Family or Fiancé is a good example.”

On the doc side, it is developing a project around the murder of Joshua (J.J.) Vallow and Tylee Ryan, whose mother Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell are allegedly expected to be charged for their murder.

“We have some exclusive video around that, and we just sold that,” she said. “That’s unique because, usually, we produce the whole documentary and then sell it, but in this case, we got exclusivity in materials, and then we’re selling it as a series.”

It is also looking to get a new version of The Simple Life (left) going. The show, which originally aired on Fox and then E! between 2003 and 2007, starred socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as they struggle to do manual work.

“That’s a show that I love that we’ve been trying really hard to bring back,” she said. “I feel like The Simple Life needs another life. It was really ahead of its time. I would love to get more docusoaps on the air because with success, they can run for a long time. But that is a really small target.”

This year has been a big year for reboots. In addition to The Real World Homecoming: New York, which launched on Paramount+ in March, it is developing a reboot of Road Rules, which ended in 2007, for the streamer and it produced two seasons of The Challenge.

The Challenge: Double Agents
, season 36 of the MTV show, launched in December. It was shot during the pandemic in Iceland. “That was the first big show that we [produced in the pandemic]. It was a big undertaking. We still had all the protocols in place. We still had to wear masks, but the truth is, there was no Covid in Iceland,” she said.

Pizzi said it was not originally set to shoot in Iceland, but moved it there at MTV’s suggestion. The company also produced Paramount+’s The Challenge: All Stars, featuring previous cast members, earlier this year.

“MTV were so diligent about protocols, but they also paid for it. They said ‘Consider Covid costs outside of the budget’ but [stressed] we had to be the safest. They were really supportive,” she added.

The company also produced the 20th and final season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians during the pandemic. Pizzi said they were pleased to share in the Kardashian’s success.

“They really are such a global phenomenon, and we really got to be part of that journey, which has immensely helped our company. It’s been a great business,” she said.

The Kardashians are heading to Disney’s Hulu and Star for their next series, but Pizzi and Abrego haven’t ruled out working with the family in future. “We would love to continue to work with them, but I feel like it’s really premature, and of course, we’ll support them because we have had such a great journey with them.”

Is Bunim-Murray trying to find the next Kardashians? “We all have and I say we all, because I believe other companies, too, have been chasing another family like the Kardashians for so long, and I do think they’re hard to replace because they’re so big, they’re so diverse, they’re so interesting,” Pizzi said. “They show up in a way that a lot of celebrity families won’t show up, stuff that’s highly private, that family shares, and I think it’s hard for any celebrity to let go like that.”

Elsewhere, in 2018, the company partnered with its Banijay sister company Yellow Bird, known for Nordic noir, on a scripted joint venture, a partnership that is starting to bear fruit with a drama in development with Starz.

 

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Warner Bros Wins Spec Auction For Matt Lieberman-Scripted Family Film ‘Meebo And Me;’ Kenya Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society Producing

By Mike Fleming Jr

EXCLUSIVE: In competitive bidding, Warner Bros. acquired Meebo And Me, an original comedic family adventure spec by Free Guy scribe Matt Lieberman. Pic will be produced by Kenya Barris, through his Khalabo Ink Society, along with Lieberman and Adam Kolbrenner’s Lit Entertainment Group.

The project marks the second big deal for this creative team, on the heels of a big Paramount pitch deal for Yumanzu.

In Meebo And Me, a divorced dad goes through great lengths to get his son the hot new toy, an adorable robot. But when the other toy robots rise up against their owners, the dad and his defective robot set out to save his son and the world while building a profound friendship along the way.

Lieberman also scripted MGM’s Addams Family, Paramount’s Playing With Fire, Netflix’s Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2, Paramount Animation’s Rumble, Warner Bros Scoob! and 20th Century Studios Free Guy, which Shawn Levy directed with Ryan Reynolds starring.

Lieberman is repped by CAA, Kolbrenner’s Lit Entertainment Group and attorney Melissa Rogal; Barris is CAA, Artists First and attorney Gregg Gellman.

Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society is producing the Cheaper By The Dozen that stars Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff and has percolating an animated film based on the songs of Bob Marley, a remake of the classic sports comedy White Men Can’t Jump, and a Richard Pryor film Barris intends to make his feature directing debut.

 

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Previously unreleased Prince album Welcome 2 America to debut July 30

Six years after Prince's death, the world will finally be able to listen to new music.

The Prince Estate and Legacy Recordings announced today that a previously unreleased Prince album, Welcome 2 America, will debut on July 30.

According to a press release, Welcome 2 America is "a powerful creative statement that documents Prince's concerns, hopes, and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation, and a renewed fight for racial justice." The title track has Prince delivering "a searing, spoken-word soliloquy set to music about golden parachutes, the superficial nature of social media, reality TV-fueled celebrity culture, and corporate monopolies in the music industry, ultimately concluding that America is the 'Land of the free / home of the slave.'"

In 2010, Prince performed in several U.S. cities on a concert tour of the same name, but the album has gone unreleased until now. The Deluxe Edition of Welcome 2 America will include an unreleased Prince concert from the singer's April 28, 2011 show at The Forum in California.

You can listen to the title track now on streaming platforms and pre-order the album here.

 

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Emma costume designer Alexandra Byrne on creating a confectionary Regency wardrobe

By Maureen Lee Lenker

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any truly great Jane Austen adaptation also needs fantastic Regency fashion.
When it came to 2020's Emma, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn, Alexandra Byrne was there to create an accurate and eye-catching wardrobe befitting Austen's most impudent heroine.

Byrne is an Oscar-winner for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and has a lot of Elizabethan titles to her credit, but Emma gave her the chance to get back to her roots. "The first film I designed back in '96 was Persuasion by Jane Austen," she tells EW. "In a way, it was revisiting a period of time that I've designed for before, but right at the beginning of my career."

"When I was designing Persuasion, I absolutely didn't know what I was doing," she quips. "So I was firing on that energy of naivety and ignorance and trusting my instincts. I hope I've learned quite a lot over the years, but I remembered that feeling of the way I was working then and to reminded myself that actually, you can just trust your instincts quite a lot."
Those instincts led her to her sixth Oscar nomination, so we called her up to get all the gossip on how she made such distinctive, accurate, eye-catching looks. If we loved them less, we could talk about them more, but we'll leave that to Byrne herself.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Perhaps more than any other Austen heroine, Emma is very concerned with outward appearances and a bit of a clothes horse. How much did that factor into your design approach?

ALEXANDRA BYRNE:
That was quite a challenge because quite often I feel that period films are over costumed. Because people get carried away. But then again, with Emma, she is the queen bee. She's very indulged, and she has everything she wants. [The Regency] was the beginning of fashion becoming a real statement because of the circulation of women's magazines. So, I wanted her to be the kind of the character that has the right clothes for the right occasion, the right season, the right time of day. She can dress entirely at her whim for the statement she wants to make. But we also have a story spanning a whole calendar year, so I wanted to use Emma as the person who has everything for every season. So, I developed a seasonal palette for her clothes, which then dictates the world around her.

Something I loved that films so rarely do is we see Emma re-wear clothes, and mix and match items. How did you hit on that?

I think a lot of people think that Regency is just a a muslin dress and walk away. But actually, there are so many layers involved. You start with the chemise, and then the corsets and a petticoat, then the dress, whether it's muslin or silk. Then, you'd have boots and gloves and jewelry, a bonnet, a short jacket or coat. What I wanted to do was to create a wardrobe so that it really was a proper wardrobe for Emma. We combine all these pieces in different ways. In the film, she really only has three muslin dresses, but they look very different on almost every occasion because of the color of the petticoat underneath or the way it's accessorized. She is following the fashion of the time, and she has everything she wants. But rather than it just being costume after costume after costume, I wanted it to have a sense of reality. Even though it is an extensive wardrobe, she is actually dressing for the moment. On the actual shooting day, the actors quite often they'd start off and get their under-layers on, and then, they'd go to rehearse on set. When Anya came back from the rehearsal, we could fine-tune what the costume was depending on how she felt the scene had worked. And what she wanted to play into or against.

Were there any specific descriptions you took from Austen's text to inspire an ensemble? She's not typically a great writer of clothes.

No, she's not. But it was more the sense of the spirit of the novel really. As the reader, we both share Emma's judgments and watch her making them because Austen combines the internal and the external. There is a huge sense of humor in there. As I said, it was the beginning of women's fashion magazines. Emma would, without doubt, had these magazines and would have first call on looking at the colored engravings of the fashion of the time. But the reality of that is the magazine would get handed on and different people in the village or her group would see them. So, you'd end up with 10 completely different outfits because the result would depend on your interpretation of the drawing, your ability to sew, your budget, etc. It's that sense of individuality and spontaneity about the clothes. [Director] Autumn [de Wilde] described wanted it to be like sugared macarons, that sense of froth and enjoyment.

Speaking of which, Emma is so colorful with these bright yellows and blues. And she's always the center of a tableau, matching her surroundings. How did you devise her color palette and collaborate with the production designer to accomplish that?

The sense of color started with trying to define the seasons. Emma dictated the color palette for the season. And then, I love color. I think it's one of the best storytelling devices that we have because you're guiding your audience in terms of who works with who, who belongs in a room, and who is slightly at odds with the room. And because Kave, the production designer, was also working in strong colors, we talked very closely about the dynamics of what the room colors were going to be and what the scene was playing and how people related in that room. It was like choreographing a dance with the colors and how they worked together.

How integral was Anya to your process?

Hugely. Because this was quite a low budget film, and the prep was quite short. Autumn was very clear that she wanted everything to be real, so that we could draw the humor out of the reality, rather than imposing comedy moments... By the time I started to do fittings with [Anya], she was also working with Autumn. She was having piano lesson; she was having dancing lessons. So, she brought all those areas of the character work that she was doing into the fitting. It's a very spontaneous and organic process where you start to hone in on what you feel is right for for the character in this particular moment.

There's a tendency to want to soften some of the wilder aspects of period fashion for a contemporary eye, but you really leaned into it with the bows, frilly collars, feathers and bonnets. What prompted that choice?

Autumn loves clothes and fabrics. Quite often, directors panic when they hear the word "bonnet." But Autumn loved the bonnets. They have very different shapes. They're a bit like wearing horse blinkers, so they change how a woman would move her head. We had the bonnets in rehearsals so that the actors learned to work with them, and to understand what it meant to be wearing the bonnet. There are far more extreme fashions within the period. But if somebody was researching a film set in 2021 and they only read Vogue, they would think that we dress in a way that we don't dress, so it's also about about interpreting the fashion and making it practical — you know, the reality and the storytelling.

The film sits so wonderfully in Austen's satire. Was there anything you did to help sell that via the wardrobe?

No, I think it comes back to working instinctively. I like to really research a period to completely understand what it should be. So that, when I'm working with the director and making choices to help tell the story, those choices become instinctive because all that background knowledge of the period is laid down. And I can work quite freely. I don't think at any point there was somewhere where I went, "Oh, this would be funny or this would tip this." It became an instinctive collaborative piece of work where we were all developing together and trying to build a credible world for this satire and this story to be able to live. It was such a great collaboration. We felt very secure, and maybe that enabled every department to push the boundaries a bit because we felt that we were all adding up to one story.

 

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Discovery And Comcast Set A Deal To Bring Discovery+, Motor Trend And Food Network Kitchen To Xfinity X1 And Flex
By Dade Hayes

Discovery and Comcast have set an agreement bringing streaming services Discovery+, Motor Trend and Food Network Kitchen to the Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms.

Availability has already started for Discovery+ on Flex, a broadband video package now in more than 3 million U.S. homes. The streaming service will be integrated into the Xfinity X1 pay-TV interface in the coming weeks, the company said.

Discovery+ launched in January with two versions — $5 a month with ads and $7 without ads. It offers 55,000 episodes of new and library series from the company’s cable networks as well as more than 50 titles in an expanding lineup of originals. The company said in February that the service had surpassed 11 million global subscribers and was heading for 12 million as of the end of that month.

Comcast has been steadily incorporating a range of streaming offerings into its X1 and Flex packages, with Disney and Hulu joining Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and many others. The strategy at the company is to try to reduce friction between linear and streaming programming in order to keep viewers within the Comcast media experience. X1 now represents more than two-thirds of Comcast’s total footprint of 19 million cable households, which is the largest among U.S. cable providers. Flex is offered free to the company’s broadband subscribers, with extra charges for premium services.

Also on Flex and heading to X1 are Food Network Kitchen and MotorTrend. Food Network Kitchen is a subscription service offering recipes, instructional videos and live and on-demand cooking classes with culinary experts and personalities. MotorTrend is the only SVOD aimed at automotive enthusiasts. Discovery took a majority stake in a joint venture with the publisher of Motor Trend magazine in 2017 and the next year renamed its Velocity cable network after the established brand. An existing streaming service was then plugged into Discovery’s overall push toward direct-to-consumer businesses.

 

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Tom Holland To Star In Apple Anthology Series ‘The Crowded Room’ From Akiva Goldsman & New Regency
By Peter White

Tom Holland is to tackle multiple personality disorder in a new anthology series for Apple TV+.

The Spider-Man star will play Billy Milligan, the first person ever acquitted of a crime because of multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder, in The Crowded Room.

The 10-part series comes from A Beautiful Mind’s Akiva Goldsman, who will write and exec produce. It will be produced by Birdman and 12 Years A Slave producer New Regency, which has been getting more into television series such as Jared Harris’ The Beast Must Die, and Apple Studios.

The Crowded Room is an anthology series that will explore the true and inspirational stories of those who have struggled, and learned to successfully live with, mental illness. The first season is inspired by Daniel Keyes’ biography The Minds of Billy Milligan.

It is Holland’s latest project for Apple, which recently premiered feature film Cherry.

Holland will exec produce alongside Goldsman, who will exec produce through his Weed Road Productions banner. The series will also be executive produced by Alexandra Milchan for EMJAG Productions and New Regency’s Arnon Milchan, Yariv Milchan and Michael Schaefer.

 

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Courtney Thomasma Named GM Of AMC+, Blake Callaway To Oversee BBC America & Matt Graham Given Sundance Now Oversight As Part Of Exec Shuffle
By Peter White

AMC Networks is shuffling its pack.

The company has named BBC America exec director Courtney Thomasma as general manager of its streaming service AMC+, with Blake Callaway now taking over responsibilities for the Killing Eve broadcaster and Acorn TV boss Matt Graham being given oversight of Sundance Now.

The move gives the company its first real boss of AMC+ with Thomasma working under Miguel Penella, AMC Networks’ President of SVOD. There are no departures as a result of the moves.

Callaway, who is executive director of the IFC and SundanceTV television networks, becomes general manager of BBC America. He will continue to report to AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll. Graham, general manager of Acorn TV will also become general manager of Sundance Now and will continue to report to Penella.

“Courtney, Matt and Blake are accomplished leaders who have all made meaningful contributions to the success of our company, particularly through their dynamic oversight of many of our most important brands and businesses,” Carroll said. “We are pleased to recognize their contributions with these expanded roles, as we continue to reorient our company around our targeted streaming services and delivering our high-quality original content to viewers on an expanding array of platforms.”

 

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‘The Terror’s Lee Shorten Joins Feature-Length Podcast ‘Shipworm’ From Two-Up Productions
By Dino-Ray Ramos

EXCLUSIVE: Remember when people saw podcasts as “novel”? Now, they have grown into a form of entertainment that is on the level of film and TV. That said, there are feature-length podcasts and Lee Shorten (The Terror, The Man in High Castle) is starring in one. He has joined the cast of Shipworm, the first feature-length dramatic podcast from Two-Up Productions.

Written by Zack Akers and Directed by Zack Akers & Skip Bronkie, Shipworm is a psychological thriller following Wallace Conway (Quentin Earl Darrington), who wakes up to find he’s been implanted with an untraceable earpiece while sleeping. So long as he does everything the voice on the other end tells him, he and his family will live. Shorten has been cast in the role of Lin in Shipworm, which will drop April 26.

Shipworm is the fourth podcast from Two-Up, the studio known for breaking ground in fiction (Limetown), musical (36 Questions), and documentary podcasts (The Wilderness). Shipworm is the first-of-its-kind feature-length dramatic podcast.

Shorten is repped by Wetzel Entertainment Group, Red Management, and Global Artists Agency.

 

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Sugar Baby Comedy In The Works At HBO From Emma Seligman & Adam McKay
By Peter White

HBO is developing a comedy set in the world of a sugar baby – where an older person dates a younger person with the promise of money and gifts.

Sugar comes from Canadian filmmaker Emma Seligman and Adam McKay and his Hyperobject Industries production company.

The half-hour project follows a young woman in New York who balances her neurotic Jewish family with her life as a college sugar baby.

It is timely given the news about a certain Congressman from a certain southern state.

Seligman will write and direct the pilot and will exec produce alongside McKay and Hyperobject Industries’ Betsy Koch.

Seligman is behind Shiva Baby, which was a SXSW short film that she adapted into a feature film starring Rachel Sennott, Polly Draper, Dianna Agron, Molly Gordon, Fred Melamed and Danny Deferrari. The film was released by Utopia on April. She is also co-writing feature film Bottoms, about two unpopular queer girls who start a fight club to have sex before they graduate, with Sennott for Orion Pictures that is being produced by Brownstone Production’s Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman and Alison Small.

It is McKay and Hyperobject Industries’ latest project at HBO. The Big Short director, who is an exec producer on Succession, is behind the network’s 1980s Los Angeles Lakers series and a limited series about Jeffrey Epstein based on Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown’s upcoming book as well as a limited series based on Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite.

He also exec produced recent HBO documentaries Q: Into the Storm and 537 Votes.

Seligman is represented by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners and McKay is represented by WME and Ziffren Brittenham LLP.

 

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HGTV’s ‘Love It Or List It’, Two Freshman Series Get Order For More Episodes
By Denise Petski

HGTV has ordered additional episodes of three of its popular series, long-running Love It Or List it and freshmen Vacation House Rules and Selling The Big Easy, for premiere later this year. The re-up includes 18 new hour-long episodes of Love It or List It, starring designer Hilary Farr and real estate expert David Visentin; a 13 hour-long episode sophomore season for Vacation House Rules, starring contractor and real estate expert Scott McGillivray; and 12 half-hours of Selling the Big Easy, starring New Orleans native and residential real estate expert Brittany Picolo-Ramos.

“Millions of viewers tune in to HGTV to watch their favorite experts help families create or find their dream home,” said Jane Latman, president, HGTV. “Hilary Farr, David Visentin, Scott McGillivray and Brittany Picolo-Ramos are quintessential examples of the real estate, renovation and design personalities that keep viewers engaged and inspired. This latest show order is one of many that will ensure more fresh content on HGTV in 2021.”

Each episode of Love It or List It, starring Farr and Visentin, culminates with families answering the series’ anticipated question: are you going to love it or list it? The duo tap into their respective expertise as they help homeowners make the difficult decision—love their existing home after Hilary renovates to accommodate their lengthy wish list or purchase a new house that David finds to better fit the needs of the family.

In Vacation House Rules, McGillivray relies on his years of smart real estate and renovation experience to teach families how to take their vacation property and unlock its full rental potential. With his guidance, even the most neglected and unlivable properties will be transformed into unique, gorgeous—and profitable—vacation homes for visitors to enjoy.

Selling the Big Easy follows Picolo-Ramos and her full-service agency as they help families find the house of their dreams by showing them high-end homes with the right amount of history and charm. She also helps clients’ stage and sell their homes for top dollar in New Orleans’ vibrant real estate market. Picolo-Ramos guides clients through the buying and selling process while touting amenities that the Crescent City has to offer.

 

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VFX Startup Wonder Dynamics Completes Seed Funding Round

By Mike Fleming Jr

EXCLUSIVE: A round of seed funding has been completed by Wonder Dynamics, the AI-driven visual effects venture hatched by VFX artist Nikola Todorovic and Ready Player One star Tye Sheridan to democratize the visual effects process using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to develop production tools for filmmakers to produce VFX and CG elements faster and at a significantly lower price point.

The initial round raised $2.5 million, coming from Founders Fund, Cyan Banister, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis & Terry Dougas’s Realize Tech Fund, Capital Factory, MaC Venture Capital and Robert Schwab. Todorovic and Sheridan, who between them hold three patents on their innovation, will use the funding to scale their AI engineering and VFX teams, and expand their AI production tool. They might do another round of venture capital funding by summer, and the innovation will be road tested on an unspecified film project that will shoot later in the year. After that, the service should be ready to generate revenue through clients that sign up to use the proprietary technology.

I got an opportunity to see a sample of the innovation, with the agreement I not describe its proprietary elements in any great detail. I could see where it will be of value in the area of world creation at modest budgets. The process can be done quickly and at a fraction of a traditional cost structure that has made this kind of moviemaking the domain of studios.

Wonder Dynamics hatched in 2017, and has put together an advisory board that includes Sheridan’s Ready Player One director Steven Spielberg, Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo, Capital Factory CEO Joshua Baer, Rhea Films’ Terry Dougas, Google research scientist and Berkeley prof Angjoo Kanazawa, Schwab, MIT Head of AI Antonio Torralba and Film Finances president Gregory Trattner.

“Technological advancements have always pushed the film Industry forward by creating new opportunities and enabling more efficient methods for making films,” Todorovic and Sheridan said in a statement to Deadline. “Just like digital cameras enabled Indie filmmaking and computer advancements enabled CGI and 3D animation, we are confident that AI will play a key role in the future of filmmaking and most importantly it will empower artists to achieve their vision at a significantly reduced cost. Given the inevitable intersection of the two industries, we strive to surround ourselves with the best possible partners from both Silicon Valley and Hollywood, reflected in our advisory board and investment partners. We couldn’t be happier to have the support of such a strong team of investors, and we are extremely excited to continue exploring what the future of filmmaking will look like.”

 

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Nash Bridges Revival Set to Begin Production in May — Who's Returning?
By Michael Ausiello

Don Johnson‘s long-gestating Nash Bridges revival is finally coming to fruition, with production set to begin in May in San Francisco.

As previously reported, the project — which was initially set up at USA Network — will air as two-hour movie, but producers are hopeful it’ll serve as a backdoor pilot for a full series relaunch. A rep for NBC Universal declined to comment on Nash 2.0, including whether it is still bound for USA Network (versus being poached by NBCU’s reboot/revival-hungry streamer Peacock).

In addition to Johnson, who is currently co-starring on NBC’s freshman comedy Kenan, Cheech Marin (Inspector Joe Dominguez) and Jeff Perry (Inspector Harvey Leek) are also expected to reprise their roles from the original series. The trio will be surrounded by at least a half-dozen new characters, per sources.

On Wednesday’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Johnson confirmed that he’s in “heavy prep” on the new iteration, adding, “We find Nash some years later. And Cheech is going to come back and join me, and Jeff Perry. We’ve got a pretty exciting show that we’re prepping in San Francisco right now.”

The original Nash Bridges was created by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and ran for six seasons — a total of 122 episodes — on CBS, between March 1996 and May 2001. Cuse, who currently has a deal at ABC Studios, is not involved with the revival, which is being spearheaded by Johnson and Bill Chais (Franklin & Bash).

On the original series, Johnson’s Bridges was an inspector (and later captain) with the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit. Additional cast members throughout its run included James Gammon (as Nick Bridges), Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (as Cassidy Bridges), Jaime P. Gomez (as Evan Cortez), Annette O’Toole (as Lisa Bridges), Serena Scott Thomas (Kelly Bridges), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (as A.J. Shimamura), Mary Mara (as Bryn Carson), Kelly Hu (as Michelle Chan), Yasmine Bleeth (as Catlin Cross), Wendy Moniz (as Rachel McCabe) and Cress Williams (as Antwon Babcock).

 

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WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar: Tentpoles Like ‘The Batman’ Will Get Exclusive Run in Theaters in 2022

“I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what we’re doing right now as any indication that we’re not believers in the

moviegoing experience,” Kilar tells Recode
Brian Welk

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on Thursday confirmed that Warner Bros.’ movies in 2022 will go back to playing in theaters exclusively before they hit HBO Max or the home media market.

Speaking to Vox’s Recode podcast on Thursday, Kilar explained that despite the studio’s success releasing 2021 films like “Godzilla vs. Kong” in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, that will change at the end of the year. After that, if you want to see 2022 movies like “The Batman” when they’re first released, you’ll only be able to see it in a theater first.

“I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie, ‘The Batman’ for example, it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theaters first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theaters,” Kilar said.

Last month, WarnerMedia struck a deal with Cineworld, the company that owns Regal Cinemas, to offer a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity on the studio’s films, with certain provisions, beginning in 2022.

Warner’s announcement at the end of December last year led to a lot of industry hand-wringing, as well as some doubts that the studio would be able to put the genie back in the bottle and expect people to return to theaters after providing the day-and-date option, making its entire 2021 slate available on HBO Max for one month the same day it hits theaters.

But Kilar told Recode that he’s “very happy” with the performance of the release strategy so far, citing the strong box office for “Godzilla vs. Kong” of $48.5 million domestically, as well as the film topping HBO Max. He said that the strategy has also helped the new streamer reach new subscribers and reduce churn among existing subscribers.

And while Kilar said there will still be a place for movies that will be produced specifically for HBO Max, he reiterated that the company is committed to the theatrical experience.

“I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what we’re doing right now as any indication that we’re not believers in the moviegoing experience,” Kilar said. “I don’t think you’re going to see the world go back to 2016. The world is changing and that’s the way the world is supposed to work.”

Movies like “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Dune” and “The Matrix 4” are still on the horizon for Warner Bros. in 2021, but anticipated films like “Sesame Street,” “The Batman,” the untitled Elvis biopic and “Black Adam” are some of the movies expected in 2022.

Kilar did however express some regret at the rollout of the studio’s 2021 release strategy, which infuriated top filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve and came as a shock to agents and exhibitors alike.

“I think it would’ve been very hard to make everyone happy in terms of before an announcement was made. If I had the chance to do it over again, I think it’s very fair to say that we would have taken a couple more days to see if we could have had even more conversations than we were able to have. There is a challenge to that, which is you lose the ability to have your story, the rationale as to why you’re doing it, be cleanly communicated,” he said. “There’s no doubt that it was bumpy back in early December of last year.”

 

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‘Queer As Folk’ Reboot Picked Up To Series At Peacock
By Peter White

Peacock has handed Stephen Dunn’s reboot of British drama Queer As Folk a series order.

The project, which comes from UCP, was originally in development with Bravo back in 2018 before moving to the NBCU streamer in 2019 and has now been a straight-to-series order.

It is a reboot of Russell T. Davies’ series, which starred Aidan Gillen, Charlie Hunnam and Craig Kelly as three gay men living in Manchester. A U.S. remake, set in Pittsburgh, also aired on Showtime.

The Peacock series will be set in New Orleans and will follow a diverse group of friends whoses lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Dunn, who has written and directed on Apple TV+’s Little America and is adapting the novel Yes, Daddy at Amazon with Patrick Moran, created the reboot and will write and exec produce. He will also direct the pilot episode. Exec producers include Lee Eisenberg, Emily Brecht, Russell T. Davies, Nicola Shindler, who produced the original with Davies, and Richard Halliwell, who runs NENT Studios UK, which distributes the format.

It is the latest series order for Peacock, which recently took NBC pilot Langdon and One Of Us Is Lying to series.

“It is a surreal honour to adapt the notoriously groundbreaking series by Russell T. Davies. When the show originally aired, the idea of unapologetic queer stories on TV was so provocative that I felt I could only watch Queer As Folk in secret,” said Dunn. “But so much has changed in the last 20 years and how wonderful would it be if the next generation didn’t have to watch Queer As Folk alone in their dank basements with the sound muted, but with their family and friends and the volume cranked all the way to the max.”

Queer As Folk was more than just a show, it was a ground-breaking and necessary voice for so many people. Stephen’s new version for Peacock arrives at yet another pivotal moment in our culture,” said Lisa Katz, President, Scripted Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Alex Sepiol, EVP of drama programming, and his team have championed this project from the first moment it landed on their desks, working to ensure the script became the series we’re announcing today. The entire team is so excited to be a part of introducing a new generation to this type of authentic and affirming storytelling.”

Queer As Folk is a transformative show, that in its past iterations, was a pioneer in representation of the LGBTQ community and we’re excited to continue that legacy. Stephen Dunn brings an energy and modern lens to the series through characters we’ve fallen in love with. We can’t wait to bring it to Peacock for viewers to enjoy this visionary and vibrant show,” added Beatrice Springborn, President of UCP.

Dunn is repped by WME, Mosaic, and HJTH.

 

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Paul Dano To Play Role Inspired By Steven Spielberg’s Father In Director’s Childhood Movie
By Justin Kroll, Anthony D'Alessandro

Paul Dano has been cast in a major role in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming untitled Amblin film, which is loosely based on the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s childhood.

Dano will play a character inspired by Spielberg’s father, but with a separate and original voice.

The pic is co-written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner; produced by Spielberg, Kushner and Kristie Macosko Krieger.

Production starts this summer, eyeing a 2022 release.

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen previously signed on to the film.

Dano will next be seen starring as the Riddler in Matt Reeves’ Warner Bros DC feature The Batman, due out in March 2022.

Dano received a Golden Globe best supporting actor nomination for playing Beach Boys bandleader Brian Wilson in the 2016 movie Love & Mercy. He made his feature directorial debut with Wildlife which premiered at the 2018 Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. He co-wrote the screenplay alongside Zoe Kazan. The pic, starring Carey Mulligan, was released by IFC in October 2018. Dano’s turn in the 2006 feature Little Miss Sunshine notched him a Critics Choice 2007 Best Young Actor award, and he shared in a SAG ensemble win for the Searchlight comedy. Other feature credits include There Will Be Blood, Youth, 12 Years a Slave, Prisoners, Swiss Army Man, Cowboys & Aliens and Knight and Day.

Dano is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.

 

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‘Kung Fu’ Debuts Strong, Hits The CW’s Highest Wednesday Viewership In 7 Years
By Dino-Ray Ramos

The CW’s reboot of Kung Fu delivered a strong debut on April 7, scoring The CW’s highest total viewership number for a Wednesday debut in 7 years since The 100 debuted on March 19, 2014.

The reboot debuted to the tune of 1.4 million total viewers and a 0.2 in the 18-49 demographic.

In addition, Kung Fu delivered The CW’s largest audience in the time period in two and half years since Riverdale in October 2018 (0.1, 530,000).

This continues ratings traction for the CW as Kung Fu is the third best premiere of the season including returning series following the debuts of Walker and Superman & Lois. Following Kung Fu, Nancy Drew (0.1, 666,000) delivered its largest audience of the season and its best since December 11, 2019.

Last night was The CW’s best Wednesday night since April 22, 2020.

Written by Christina M. Kim and inspired by the original series created by Ed Spielman, the new Kung Fu reboot follows a young Chinese American woman Nicky (Olivia Liang), whose quarter-life crisis causes her to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. But when she returns to San Francisco, she finds her hometown is overrun with crime and corruption and her own parents Jin (Tzi Ma) and Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) are at the mercy of a powerful Triad. Nicky will rely on her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice…all while searching for the ruthless assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai) and is now targeting her.

 

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Netflix And Sony Break Ground With Film Licensing Deal Replacing Starz Pact, Including First Look At New Direct-To-Streaming Titles
By Dade Hayes

Netflix and Sony Pictures Entertainment have set a significant new licensing deal giving the streaming giant an exclusive window for the studio’s theatrical titles starting in 2022.

The agreement, which replaces a long-term output arrangement with Lionsgate-owned Starz, provides Netflix with an 18-month exclusive window for Sony films. There is a degree of flux in terms of when that window will begin given fast-evolving theatrical window strategies, but dozens of top titles are confirmed to reach Netflix exclusively after they play in theaters and are released on home entertainment platforms.

Given the fast-evolving strategies around theatrical windows at studios and major exhibitors, the exact timeframe is not fully known. But the slate will kick off with tentpoles like Morbius, Uncharted, Where the Crawdads Sing and Bullet Train. Two subsequent windows will keep films circulating on Netflix as they reach other platforms across TV and streaming.

In addition to the main film slate, Netflix will also have a first-look deal for any direct-to-streaming titles Sony is contemplating and has committed to making “a number” of those, per the official announcement. During Covid-19, the studio famously opted to sell Tom Hanks movie Greyhound to Apple TV+ while theaters in many territories were closed. Under the new deal, Netflix would get the first opportunity to release such projects. Sony could go elsewhere if Netflix passes, but the official announcement said the streaming service has committed to making “a number of” such projects. The two companies have done such deals in recent months for films like the Kevin Hart drama Fatherhood.

The companies have also had an existing relationship via an output deal for Sony Pictures Animation. The new agreement adds all other labels and genres from the studio.

Select library rights are also included. As Sony plans installments of franchises like Spider-Man, Venom, Jumanji and Bad Boys, Netflix will be able to gain rights to prior entries. Another high-profile sequel is a followup to Oscar-winning animated title Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

The pact, which comes as rival studios like Universal and Fox are considering a shift from third-party output deals to their own services. It is both a boost for Netflix and a response to skepticism that it has lost key draws like Marvel and Pixar films, Friends and The Office, and to Sony, which has no subscription service of its own to feed.

“Sony Pictures is a great partner and we are thrilled to expand our relationship through this forward-thinking agreement,” Netflix film chief Scott Stuber said in the official announcement. “This not only allows us to bring their impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new IP to Netflix in the U.S., but it also establishes a new source of first run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”

Sony distribution and networks chief Keith Le Goy said this “exciting agreement demonstrates the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment.”

Valuing the deal is complicated given the flexibility inherent in the direct-to-streaming and library components. Output deals, which for decades have been an economic cornerstone for studios, can be worth hundreds of millions to the supplier. Sony and Starz last renewed their output agreement in 2013, not long after Netflix had released House of Cards and had begun disrupting the entertainment landscape. “Even deals from five years ago are not apples-to-apples given how different the landscape is today,” as one person familiar with the deal put it.

 

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Emma Roberts Reunites With ‘Holidate’ Screenwriter For Rom-Com ‘About Fate’
By Justin Kroll

EXCLUSIVE: Emma Roberts has made another date with Holidate screenwriter Tiffany Paulsen in About Fate. Paulsen will pen script with Marius Weisberg directing. Vincent Newman, Marina Bespalov and Vladimir Koshelev will produce.

The romantic comedy is a tale of two people who believe in love, but seem to never be able to find its true meaning. In a wild twist of events, fate puts each in the other’s path on a stormy New Years Eve and comedy and chaos ensue. Roberts‘ leading man is currently being cast.

Roberts and Paulsen also teamed up on the Warner Bros feature Nancy Drew when the actress was a teen and Holidate was a huge hit for Netflix last holiday season. It’s another reunion of sorts as Newman produced the wildly popular comedy We’re The Millers also starring Roberts.

Roberts has several projects in active development as both actress and producer. She is currently producing the series First Kill for Netflix through her Belletrist Productions.

Endeavor Content is handling Worldwide Sales for About Fate. Filming begins June in Boston.

In Weisberg’s 2008 his debut film Hitler Goes Kaput! exploded at the Russian box office and became the best selling Russian language comedy in Europe that year. His following four comedy features were also #1 hits in Russian-language territories. He is a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Roberts is represented by CAA and manager David Sweeney.

 

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Anne Beatts Dies: Pioneering ‘Saturday Night Live’ Writer, ‘Square Pegs’ Creator Was 74
By Greg Evans

Anne Beatts, an original Saturday Night Live writer who created some of the show’s earliest breakthrough characters, most notably the nerdy high schoolers Todd and Lisa Lupner, died yesterday.

Her death was announced in a tweet by SNL original cast member Laraine Newman. Additional details were not disclosed.

Beatts, who also created the 1982 CBS sitcom Square Pegs starring Sarah Jessica Parker, began her career in comedy writing with a stint at National Lampoon magazine, becoming the Harvard Lampoon spin-off’s first female editor. While there, she met and befriended Michael O’Donoghue, and the two would soon take part in the development of Lorne Michaels’ Saturday Night Live.

Along with her writing partner Rosie Shuster, Beatts created such foundational SNL characters as Todd and Lisa (played by Bill Murray and Gilda Radnor), Laraine Newman’s Shirley Temple-like Child Psychiatrist, the lecherous Uncle Roy (Buck Henry) and two of Dan Aykroyd’s greatest hits: the cartoonishly sleazy salesman Irwin Mainway and Fred Garvin, the unlikely male prostitute.

In addition to SNL, Beatts created and produced the short-lived but fondly remembered Square Pegs, and co-executive-produced the first season of NBC’s A Different World and in 1995 exec-produced the syndicated The Stephanie Miller Show.

For Broadway, Beatts wrote the 1979 one-woman show Gilda Radnor – Live From New York, and is credited with writing the liner notes for the 1985 Ellie Greenwich jukebox musical Leader of the Pack.

More recently, Beatts was involved in the development of a new Blues Brothers project with Aykroyd and Judy Belushi, John Belushi’s widow.

Beatts was an Adjunct Professor in the Writing Division at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, as well as at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

 
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