A very belated return to my film-related gossip column.
Kenneth Branagh has been cast as Boris Johnson in a TV drama about the UK Prime Minister’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
‘The Sceptred Isle’ will be directed and co-written by Michael Winterbottom (‘A Cock and a Bull Story’ (2005)) while Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman will serve as a consultant.
Beginning with him being sworn in as Prime Minister, this five-part drama will recount the first cases of Covid in the UK, through to Johnson falling ill from the virus and the arrival of his son.
The series will trace the impact of the pandemic on Britain and the response to it from scientists, doctors and nurses. It will be based on the first-hand testimony of individuals within 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and hospitals and care homes across the country.
Winterbottom stated about the series: “The first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic will be remembered forever. A time when the country came together to battle an invisible enemy. A time when people were more aware than ever about the importance of community.
“Our series weaves together countless true stories - from Boris Johnson in Number 10 to frontline workers around the country - chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policymakers to protect us from the virus”.
From the pics, Branagh certainly has Boris’ bleached blonde hair which has been balding as of late. However, he’ll need to either pile on the pounds or don a fat suit to truly convince as Britain’s populist Prime Minister. Gary Oldman did that when he played Winston Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour’ (2018).
Daniel as the Doctor
The Mirror have reported that Jodie Whittaker has quit the role of the Thirteenth Doctor in everyone’s favourite time-travelling Sci-Fi show ‘Dr.Who’ (1963-). The report suggests that Whittaker will be stepping down from the role after the end of the upcoming 13th season. If she does so, she joins former Doctors David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi in quitting the role after three series.
The odds are already out on who will replace Jodie with bookmakers Betfair lining up the red-hot favourites for the two-hearted Time Lord and his TARDIS. Currently ‘My Family’ and ‘Citizan Khan’ star Kris Marshall is the no.1 favourite with odds of 3/1 followed by ‘The Falling’s Maxine Peake and ‘Game of Thrones’ beauty Natalie Dormer both at 8/1.
I’m more interested, however, in a report by ‘We Got This Covered’ that ‘Get Out, ‘Widows’ and ‘Black Panther’ star Daniel Kaluuya is under consideration for the role.
Now, we’re still in early days and the BBC have refused to comment on the report that Jodie is quitting, but the prospect of Daniel Kaluuya as the 14th Doctor really excites me. He’s a terrific actor - so brilliant in ‘Get Out’ (for which he was Oscar-nominated), ‘Widows’ and ‘Queen and Slim’ last year. His casting would make him almost (and no spoilers here) the first Black Doctor.
I think this would be terrific ground to follow on from the first female Doctor. I just can’t see the Beeb going back to just casting a white male in the lead role again. It would look like they were backtracking on their established political correctness - a notion of “we’ve been a bit PC for two years, so now we can go back to being traditional and reactionary”. On the contrary, the first Black Doctor would be a great step for racial diversity and I’m sure Kaluuya would give a terrific performance as he always does.
Carey’s not hot enough
Carey Mulligan has hit out at a sexist review which basically branded her not hot enough for the lead role in awards frontrunner ‘Promising Young Woman’ (2021).
In ‘Promising Young Woman’, Mulligan plays a woman avenging her raped best friend. The Variety review of the film by film critic Dennis Harvey reads “Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly mult-layered femme fatale - Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her. Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems put-on”.
When speaking recently as part of a Variety video series, Mulligan said: “I feel it’s important that criticism is constructive. I think it’s important we are looking at the right things when it comes to work, and we’re looking at the art and we’re looking at the performance.
“And I don’t think that goes to the appearance of the actor or your personal preference for what an actor does or doesn’t look like - which I felt that article did.
“I think in criticising or bemoaning a lack of attractiveness on my part in a character, it wasn’t a personal slight. It didn’t wound my ego, but it made me concerned that in such a big publication an actress’s appearance could be criticised and it could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism”.
Margot Robbie may be conventionally hotter than Carey Mulligan, but Mulligan is the better actress. The awards clearly think so too as the Golden Globes recently awarded her Best Actress. She was right to call out this sexist and lookist review from an obviously very bigoted male critic. I just wish more women would too. #MeToo…
Sex and the City is back?!
I attracted some criticism recently when I said that the news that the return of ‘Sex and the City’ - the most toxic show on telly - was the worst news of that week. It was supposedly insensitive to the thousands of Covid deaths being reported.
Of course, I don’t think ‘Sex and the City’ coming back to TV is as bad as millions dying from Covid, but I do think the criticism was a bit of an overreaction. In the words of Jim Davidson, “it’s comedy, get a life and get your shoulders back on”...
Anyway back to the news. ‘Sex and the City’ will return for 10 half-hour episodes. But there is a catch - ladies contain yourselves! Kim Cattrall - who is the only Brit on the show and the least vile of the leading four - won’t be returning for the new series when it airs on HBO Max.
HBO didn’t say why Cattrall, who plays Samantha, won’t be returning in the new show entitled ‘And Just Like That’ (a reference to one of the show’s original catchphrases). However she has had a pretty tricky relationship with the show in recent years and with the hideous Sarah Jessica Parker in particular.
She specifically said there was a “toxic relationship” with her co-stars. This was when she ruled out appearing in a 3rd ‘Sex and the City’ movie. I just want to highlight the word “toxic” because, to be honest, that couldn’t be a better fitting way to describe the show and perhaps Cattrall realised just how toxic it was and decided to walk out.
All the characters on this show are the definition of vile - VILE, VILE, VILE, VILE! The news of the show’s return makes me want to insert pointed matchsticks under my fingernails. That would be more fun than watching ‘Sex and the City’ and I’m not joking this time…
Chris quits Warner Bros.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Nolan - one of Hollywood’s greatest directors - is “unlikely” to work with Warner Bros. again.
He cites the fallout with the studio over their decision to release their entire 2021 movie slate on to HBO Max as the reason for his departure. The controversy generated by the decision isn’t necessarily Warner Bros. choosing to release its movies simultaneously on the popular streaming service with their theatrical release, but more that the studio didn’t consult and discuss its plans with any of the filmmakers operating under the banner.
Since 2005’s ‘Batman Begins’, Nolan’s films have raked in $5.6 billion at the global Box Office with Warner Bros. also putting out ‘Insomnia’ (2002), ‘The Prestige’ (2006), ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), ‘Inception (2010), ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012), ‘Interstellar’ (2014), ‘Dunkirk’ (2017) and ‘Tenet’ (2020). Nolan’s departure is a great loss for Warner Bros. Not only is he currently the world’s 8th most bankable filmmaker, but the only one of them spending over $200 million making original, thought-provoking content. A terrible shame…
A special New Year’s edition of Film Diary!
Happy New Year! I hope you’re enjoying it as best as you can in these troublesome times. What a hectic 12 months it has been with a 1.84 million death toll and Covid infection rates continuing to spike. Nottingham is now in Tier 4, meaning non-essential shops and entertainment venues have to close, but schools and colleges stay open (for now!), although they will be returning after the Christmas break a week late on January 18th.
Still, there is hope on the horizon. Several vaccines are on the roll-out, the UK is out of the E.U and Trump is on his way out of the White House this month. And 2021 has the potential to be a mammoth year for the blockbuster with big-budget leftovers from 2020 lining up to be released. If those pesky cinemas stay open, we could be seeing ‘No Time to Die’, ‘Black Widow’, ‘A Quiet Place: Part II’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ hitting the pictures practically every week. I seriously hope Hollywood can regain its losses made in 2020, certainly with a return to some degree of cinematic normalcy and hope that cinemas survive this pandemic once everyone is safely vaccinated.
Anyway, a new month and new year means new movie news and I thought I’d make a new contribution to my monthly film-related gossip column ‘Film Diary’ specially for the beginning of 2021. I’ve rounded up a selection of the biggest and juiciest news from the last two months of 2020 for your reading pleasure…
Nolan vs. Warner Bros.
Christopher Nolan has hit out at Warner Bros’ decision to simultaneously release their entire 2021 movie slate on HBO Max. This release slate includes ‘Dune’, ‘In the Heights’ and ‘The Matrix 4’ which will all be coming home early to the much-famed streaming service.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Nolan branded the decision as “very, very, very, very messy” and branded HBO Max “the worst streaming service”.
When asked what his feelings were on the matter, he stated “oh, I mean, disbelief. Especially the way in which they did...There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone. In 2021, they’ve got some of the top film-makers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences. They’re meant to be out there for the widest possible audiences...And now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service - for the fledgling streaming service - without any consultation”.
Nolan’s latest film ‘Tenet’ (2020) was delayed three times due to the pandemic before its release in August. Him and Warner Bros. were determined that the movie get a big screen release. Therefore it’s no wonder that the great film-maker feels a great sense of betrayal in the studio who are now fast-forwarding and skyrocketing the rise of streaming services which are putting cinemas in very real danger of having their work cut out for them.
Nolan has always been a champion of the big screen experience and I do worry that his fallout with Warner Bros. over releasing their 2021 slate on HBO Max might just have cost the studio their best asset. He’s the only “mainstream” film-maker spending millions of dollars on original tentpole movies. Warner Bros. would do well to keep him on board…
Cruise’s Covid Rant
Everyone’s favourite pint-sized scientologist and bankable movie star Tom Cruise exploded into a serious rage on the set of ‘Mission Impossible 7’ (2021).
Speaking at Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, the 58 year old actor tore into workers for breaking Covid rules on set. “If I see you do it again, you’re f**king gone. And if anyone in this crew does it, that’s it - and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f**king do it again!”. This was in response to two of the crew standing less than a metre apart from each other at a computer screen.
Frankly I think Mr. Cruise has every right to be angry at people not following health and safety procedures. He continued “they’re back in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherf**kers...That’s it. No apologies. You can tell it to the people that are losing their f**king homes because our industry is shut down”.
‘Mission Impossible 7’ - due for release this November - has already been struck down by Covid-related issues. In October, Cruise held crisis talks with Director Christopher McQuarrie shortly after 12 people on the movie’s set in Italy tested positive for Covid-19.
I certainly enjoyed listening to Tom go off on one. He almost did it as well as when Christian Bale exploded into anger on the set of ‘Terminator: Salvation’ (2009). Hilarious stuff.
No Depp for Grindelwald
Johnny Depp has resigned from the role of Gellert Grindelwald in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise. The 57 year old movie star announced his resignation on Instagram; thanking fans for their “support and loyalty” before stating that Warner Bros. had asked for his resignation.
Depp’s decision comes just the same week as he lost his libel case against The Sun who branded him a “wife-beater” in 2018. The trial followed in the wake of a series of domestic abuse allegations made against the actor by his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Frankly, I think Depp has been cast a hard hand by Warner Bros. Sure, if these allegations against him are true, the studio don’t want to be seen backing a perpetrator of domestic violence. But I still think there needs to be a distinct separation between the artist and the person and, removing Depp from the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise, Warner Bros. may have just lost one of Hollywood’s most bankable movie stars.
I also think it’s wrong that Depp is the only one suffering repercussions for his actions. Let’s remember that he did also allege that Heard tried to severe his finger. If Depp is being removed from upcoming projects due to accusations of domestic violence, Heard surely should be too considering she has allegations against her. If this is the way the studio works and Depp has been removed from ‘Fantastic Beasts’, she should be removed from the upcoming ‘Aquaman 2’ (2022).
Emma out, Margot in
Margot Robbie will replace Emma Stone in the leading role opposite Brad Pitt in Director Damien Chazelle’s latest movie ‘Babylon’ (2021). An R-rated drama set during the transition between Silent Hollywood and the “Talkies” and mixing real people with fictional characters, the film was set to reunite Stone with the director of ‘La La Land’ (2017) which won Stone her first Oscar.
‘Babylon’ is set for a limited awards run in America this Christmas before a wide release on January 7th next year. That is assuming it films on schedule given it’s looking to shoot in LA which is still a Covid hotspot even while productions resume.
Stone cites “scheduling issues” as the reason for her departure although the rumour mill is going into overdrive on two counts. One that she dropped out because she’s pregnant or that she’s about to return to the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise in the role of Gwen Stacy in this year’s ‘Spider-Man 3’. The latter rumour of which makes me very excited!
Either way, her departure from ‘Babylon’ means Margot Robbie will be reuniting with Brad Pitt once again after they starred together in ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ (2019).
A New House of Thrones
A bit of TV news for you now. Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy have officially been cast for the leading roles in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel series ‘House of the Dragon’ (2022). They will be joining Paddy Considine who was previously announced as part of the cast.
Former ‘Doctor Who’ Smith will be playing Prince Daemon Targaryen - the younger brother of King Viserys (played by Considine). D’Arcy from ‘Truth Seekers’ (2020) will be portraying Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen - the first-born child of the King, pure Valyrian blood and a dragon rider. Meanwhile Olivia Cooke, who was so likeable and funny recently in ‘Pixie’ (2020), is Alicent Hightower - daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms.
I’m a big Olivia Cooke fan so this is music to the ears to me that she will be starring in this new prequel. I’m less of a fan of Matt Smith whose Eleventh Doctor was more like an eccentric history teacher than a bonkers, tortured Time Lord. I just hope his performance here isn’t like he was in a PSHE video I watched at school where he was officially the worst “chav” ever. “I will shank you, innit!” (in pompous RP pronunciations!).
My first film-related gossip column!
I’ve been thinking of doing a film-related gossip column for quite some time now. I first stumbled across the idea while reading Jason Solomons’ ‘Trailer Trash’ column in The Observer. From 1997 to 2013, this was the first dedicated film diary and gossip column in the British papers. His funny, witty insights into encounters with stars, baby news and Film Festival highlights gave me an idea that I should do one for myself.
The difference is that my gossip column is more opinionated. If there was one area Solomons’ Trailer Trash could be improved on, it was that he merely reported the big weekly news in Film without ever really giving us his own thoughts on what’s kicking off in Hollywood. For my own Film Diary, I want to report the facts, but also inject a little bit of my personality with scathing or unscathing criticism of all the juiciest bits from on or behind the big screen.
So here it goes. My first film-related gossip column with a selection of five biggest stories from the world of Film…
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Cineworld - the UK’s biggest cinema chain - are closing all 127 of its UK sites and 546 theatres in the US. The decision comes in the wake of the postponement of the latest James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ (2021) which was due to be released in November, but has now been pushed back to April 2nd, 2021 (a whole year since it originally was scheduled to come out).
5,500 jobs are said to be at risk and I really feel for them, but unfortunately I’m not surprised. Cinemas have been starved of big-budget releases for months with studios delaying their biggest tentpoles in order to ensure the revenue of good-value cinema money as the Covid-19 pandemic wrecks the global Box Office. Personally I think it was a cowardly move on Universal’s part to delay this movie. Studios need to accept they’re not going to make as much money as they would in non-Covid times.
Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. showed bravery putting ‘Tenet’ out in cinemas back in August. It’s just a shame it’s not doing too well at the Box Office with $333 million intakes worldwide against a $200 million budget.
Still, cinemas are open now and available to screen new releases. And, if studios continue delaying their tentpoles, by the time they come out, there might not be any cinemas left to show them. Anything is possible in this pandemic…
The name’s Tom...Tom Hardy
The Sun have reported that women’s heartthrob and tough guy Tom Hardy has been already cast as the next James Bond when Daniel Craig bows out of the role now next year.
The report comes as the Vulcan reporter claimed Hardy was offered the part in June. He was said to be set to reveal his 007 status when ‘No Time to Die’ came out in November, but the pandemic has obviously now pushed back that movie’s release date until April (hence the Cineworld closure!).
Personally I think Hardy is a little too obvious a choice for Bondy and a little close to Craig’s incarnation. We know Tom as a grizzled geezer and rugged hardman despite his pretty boy looks. Daniel Craig has already been playing the same tough guy version of Bond in the recent Bond movies. I can’t see Hardy quite matching someone like Idris Elba whose casting would be a great step in the right direction for racial diversity.
Can You Feel the Moonlight?
‘Moonlight’ maestro Barry Jenkins will direct ‘The Lion King 2’. But it’s not a remake of the 1998 Disney sequel ‘The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride’. According to The Guardian, the film will delve into Mufasa’s origins story while acting as a direct sequel to 2019’s remake. Kind of like ‘The Godfather: Part II’ (1974) - a prequel-sequel.
In a recent statement, Jenkins says “helping my sister raise two young boys during the 90s, I grew up with these characters”. “Having the opportunity to work with Disney on expanding this magnificent tale of friendship, love and legacy while furthering my work chronicling the lives and souls of folk within the African diaspora is a dream come true”.
I personally hated the 2019 remake, but I really look forward to this sequel from Jenkins. He is one of the greatest directors of this century and ‘Moonlight’ (2017) is one of my favourite films. If there’s anyone who can make this work, it’s him.
The Three Spider-Men
Here’s a bit of Spidey news for you. Earlier this week, we learned the - pardon the pun - “shocking” news that Jamie Foxx would be returning as Electro in the upcoming ‘Spider-Man 3’.
Well, now, FandomWire has reported that Marvel has been secretly in talks with both former ‘Spider-Men’ Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield to get them back for ‘Spider-Man 3’ alongside current incarnation Tom Holland.
According to sources, the studio has produced a script that unites all three spider-men to team up against various villains from their past including Foxx’s Electro.
This news has excited hardcore fans dying to see a live-action version of the ‘Spider-Verse’ that has been dreamed of for decades and got an animated spin in 2018’s ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse’.
I personally am just excited to see Garfield back in the tight spider-suit. He has always been the best Spider-Man (other opinions are available) and frankly puts Tobey and Tom to shame when it comes to acting ability.
I’ve been heartbroken this month. Specifically because one of my favourite actresses and all-time cinematic crush Emma Stone reportedly got married in September. But not to former boyfriend, adorable couple goals and aforementioned Spider-Man Andrew Garfield.
Nope. Stone secretly tied the knot with SNL host Dave McCary last month having announced their engagement in December and having postponed their March wedding due to the pandemic.
I wish Emma all the best with her new marriage. It’s just a shame I wasn’t invited to the wedding! Although that would have been even more soul-destroying for me...
This article was originally written in October 2020.