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  • Exclusive: 'The Bikeriders' Eyes New Path; Lex Luthor Found; Jason Bourne Returns; Best Actress Power Rankings

Exclusive: 'The Bikeriders' Eyes New Path; Lex Luthor Found; Jason Bourne Returns; Best Actress Power Rankings

It looks like Nicholas Hoult will be shaving his head for James Gunn's Superman movie.

I apologize for not getting you a newsletter on Friday, as I drove to Joshua Tree and the traffic was brutal — a full two hours longer than it took to return on Sunday — and I wasn’t in the proper, um, headspace to email you. But I’m back with a clear mind and a good scoop before I head back to Boston tomorrow for the holidays. I’m still aiming to email you every day this week, including Thanksgiving, so thanks for reading, and feel free to tell a friend!

Also, congrats to Jason Momoa on hosting a funny episode of SNL, and be sure to check out Rob Reiner’s HBO documentary Albert Brooks: Defending My Life. I’ve been a fan of Brooks since I first saw him in The Scout when I was 10 years old, and I loved seeing all those talk show clips from his early days.

The Bikeriders Is Looking for a New Path

No helmet hair for this guy, huh?

A month after Disney removed 20th Century Studios’ motorcycle drama The Bikeriders from its release schedule, I’m told that financier New Regency is looking for a new distributor for the star-studded movie, which is unlikely to hit theaters this year due to the actors’ availability to promote the film.

In shopping the film around, New Regency is said to be open to all possibilities, including a streaming release. Insiders at the company simply felt there wasn’t enough time to mount a proper publicity campaign following the conclusion of the SAG-AFTRA strike, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.

New Regency can’t afford another costly flop, as it’s coming off the disappointing box office performance of The Creator, which grossed $103 million worldwide on a reported production budget of $80 million and ultimately led to the exit of New Regency’s film and television president Michael Schaefer after seven years in that post.

Back in October, Disney unset The Bikeriders from its planned wide theatrical release on Dec. 1 after Beyoncé announced that her Renaissance concert film would be released in AMC theaters on the same day. Beyoncé’s Renaissance isn’t expected to perform quite as well as Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film, but it should open north of $20 million.

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, The Bikeriders stars Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, and Tom Hardy, and it’s based on a series of photographs from Danny Lyon. The film had its world premiere in September at Telluride, and it was screened for Academy members in October.

Though The Bikeriders currently sits at 85 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, awards pundits felt it was more of a commercial play than an Oscar contender, and the film hasn’t rated too highly on the trades’ prediction charts.

I’ve heard mixed things overall about The Bikeriders, but it looks like an entertaining movie to me, one with a great cast, and I’m not just talking about its three leads. The supporting cast in this film is insane Michael Shannon, Boyd Holbrook, Norman Reedus, West Side Story standout Mike Faist, Emory Cohen (who I will watch in almost anything), the scuzzball trio of Damon Herriman (aka Charles Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Mindhunter), Beau Knapp (love this guy), and Karl Glusman, who gives one of this year’s best performances in God Is a Bullet. If you haven’t seen that film, get on it ASAP.

I haven’t even mentioned fantastic character actors such as Paul Sparks, Happy Anderson, Will Oldham, or rising star Toby Wallace, who was good in Kitty Green’s Aussie thriller The Royal Hotel, and also stars in Brian Helgeland’s crime film Finestkind, which will hit Paramount+ in December. He’s a tad miscast in that film — I’m from Boston so I’m allowed to judge — but he’s a young actor who producers should be keeping tabs on, and that speaks to why I’m going out of my way to mention all of these names.

These are the actors you should be hiring.

I would know… I see everything so you don’t have to. Let me be your eyes and ears, for that is the service I can provide. I may not be a talent agent, but I am a talent guide.

If you ever need to hire a character actor for a supporting role and you’re stumped, just watch The Bikeriders (or God Is a Bullet, which features Jonathan Tucker, Ethan Suplee, and Brendan Sexton III) and I’m sure you’ll find someone who fits the bill. I look forward to seeing the film myself whenever it does come out, so whether 20th Century Studios hangs on to this one or someone else decides to step in and pick it up, send me an invite next year…

Nicholas Hoult Hung Around DC Long Enough to Become the Villain

Is Jada Pinkett Smith going to claim that Lex Luthor has alopecia, too?

Remember when Nicholas Hoult was in the mix to play Superman before ultimately losing the role to David Corsenswet? Well, as it turns out, Hoult was most likely really there for director James Gunn to gauge his chemistry with Corenswet and Rachel Brosnahan, who won the role of Lois Lane. After all, it was clear to anyone with eyes that Hoult was not cut out to play Superman.

Gunn has long wanted a movie star to play Lex Luthor, and he’s believed to have discussed the role with Bradley Cooper during the press tour for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but in the end, he returned to Hoult, who very nearly played Batman for director Matt Reeves. He’s been on DC’s radar for years…

Deadline broke the news, noting Hoult’s ties to Warner Bros. He famously played Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, and he’ll soon be seen in Clint Eastwood’s courtroom drama Juror No. 2. THR cautions that there’s no deal yet, but acknowledges that talks have been taking place since the summer.

Hoult is a strong actor who earned an Emmy nomination last year for The Great, and he should provide a solid nemesis for Corenswet. He follows in the footsteps of Gene Hackman (1978’s Superman), Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns), and Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).

With the three main roles now cast along with a handful of other superheroes, the question now turns to who will play characters such as Ma and Pa Kent, as well as Superman’s father, Jor-El.

It has also been rumored that Lois Lane’s father, General Sam Lane, will also make an appearance. Paging Michael Rooker

Bourne Again?

If Matt Damon was coming back, he would’ve had a say in this decision.

All Quiet on the Western Front helmer Edward Berger is making some noise in Hollywood, as he’s in negotiations to direct a new Jason Bourne movie for Universal.

Berger had been rumored to be among a handful of directors under consideration for the next James Bond movie, but this is the next best thing. what’s unclear is whether this Bourne movie will be a complete reboot with a new actor, or whether the studio plans to bring back Matt Damon and put him front and center.

Personally, I think that would be a mistake. The most recent film, 2016’s Jason Bourne, was the kind of embarrassment that I’m shocked made it past Donna Langley’s watchful eye. It was bad. And while I have no doubt that Damon could whip himself into Bourne shape again, he’s also 53, and at a very different point in his career.

You would think that if Damon was coming back, he would’ve had a say in the Director Decision, so my guess is that he won’t end up being involved.

However, if Damon does come back, I think he should be paired with a younger actor and serve as a mentor figure, though the studio may be better off not inviting any comparisons, and simply moving on from Matty D. A Latino Bourne played by someone like Anthony Ramos might be more interesting, but I get it… if Harrison Ford can still play Indiana Jones at 80 then there’s no reason Damon can’t return to his signature role.

Damon won’t decide his involvement until he sees a script, and Universal still hasn’t even hired a writer yet, as the studio still needs to figure out which direction it wants to take this franchise. Oddly enough, Berger already announced that he’s developing a spy series for Netflix based on Christopher Reich’s Simon Riske book series, which has been compared to both the Bourne and Bond franchises.

Berger is a great choice for this struggling franchise, and Universal is already in business with the director on the thriller Conclave, which Focus Features acquired earlier this month. It’ll hit theaters next year. Berger is represented by CAA, Range Media Partners, and Casarotto Ramsey & Associates.

And now, here are my latest Oscars Power Rankings, which forecast who’s up and who’s down each week…

Oscars Power Rankings: Could It Finally Be Annette Bening’s Year?

You’re a star, you’re a star, you’re a star. You’re a big, bright, shining star.

Best Actress

  1. Annette Bening, Nyad (+2)

  2. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

  3. Carey Mulligan, Maestro (+2)

  4. Emma Stone, Poor Things (-3)

  5. Fantasia Barrino, The Color Purple (NEW)

  6. Margot Robbie, Barbie (+2)

  7. Sandra Huller, Anatomy of a Fall (-1)

  8. Natalie Portman, May December (-2)

  9. Jessica Chastain, Memory (NEW)

  10. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Origin (-6)

Analysis: Annette Bening is 65 years old. She has been nominated for four Academy Awards. If anyone has a “they’re overdue” narrative this year, it’s her. And while I may be the captain of the Nyad bandwagon, where the water’s warm and there’s still plenty of room, I don’t think I’m imagining what I saw in that film from the veteran actress.

Yeah, Barbie grossed $1.4 billion, but so what? Are you seriously going to tell me that on a performance level, Margot Robbie is more deserving of a nomination than Annette Bening? Get outta here!

There are two reasons that the greatness of Nyad is being drowned out by a small chorus of naysayers who saw the film in Telluride. First, critics are afraid of their own emotions. It’s why Crash has become a punchline nearly 20 years after winning Best Picture, and why critics tried to take down Green Book and failed. Both of those movies provoke genuine emotion… but they go about it all wrong in the eyes of many critics, and for that, their legacies must forever suffer!

Wrong. Critics need to trust their emotions more. I don’t care if the real Diana Nyad actually accomplished what she claimed — the results of her historic swim are in dispute — as the facts have no bearing on the movie that I watched, or what I make of Bening’s awards chances. The performance is the performance. Yes, there’s a place in the Best Picture race for blockbusters like Barbie, but a film’s success shouldn’t dictate who’s nominated in the acting categories, which was one reason I was happy for To Leslie star Andrea Riseborough last year.

Frankly, we need more Best Picture winners like CODA, and NYAD is that kind of movie, but it isn’t getting nearly as much love from critics. Which brings me to the second reason:

Women, sadly, aren’t allowed to be unlikable on the big screen. If a female character is unlikable then she’d better be a villain, right? Again, wrong.

Diana Nyad is a complex character, and a ferocious competitor, first and foremost. She may be a bit self-centered and unlikable, but that’s the drive and the discipline that it can take to succeed. It’s why Michael Jordan didn’t come off as Mr. Congeniality in The Last Dance. For him, his career was about winning. And Diana Nyad wants to win, just like Daniel Plainview wanted to win in There Will Be Blood. But women aren’t allowed to be Jordanesque or Plainviewesque and that’s the problem that many critics/pundits can’t seem to get past.

The bottom line is that Bening is utterly fantastic in a physically demanding performance that would be worthy of the Oscar, but I digress…

Her main competition, to my eye, are Maestro star Carey Mulligan, and Killers of the Flower Moon sensation Lily Gladstone, who went so far as to steal a Martin Scorsese movie from Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro — two of the best to ever do it, mind you. If the film had featured Mollie’s perspective a bit more, I think Gladstone might even be a shoo-in for this award, but as it stands, I do understand the argument that her chances are hurt by Mollie being more of a supporting character, and a passive one at that.

But Gladstone does so much in this film with just her eyes that I was truly impressed by her ability to communicate using non-verbal cues, from her body language to, again, those expressive eyes of hers. Mulligan, however, is given a bit more to do in Maestro, in which her character is more front-and-center, and she has now paid her dues for more than a decade, earning two Best Actress nods herself more than a decade apart for An Education and Promising Young Woman. At 38 years old, it’s hard to say that it’s Mulligan’s time… but it may very well be just that.

Elsewhere, while I don’t think Poor Things is a serious contender to win Best Picture, given its divisive nature, I do think that the Academy will be hard-pressed to ignore Emma Stone’s bold, bravura performance as Bella Baxter, so you can safely pencil her in for a nomination, though those predicting that she’ll win her second Best Actress statue may want to slow their roll.

For the final slot, I’m going with Fantasia Barrino for now, based on the early reviews out of last week’s screening. After all, no one left the Barbie movie going, “Oh my God, wasn’t Margot Robbie amazing?” It was the clever script and direction that people fell in love with — OK, it was Ken, too — but as good as Robbie was in the hit comedy (her work is up there with Cameron Diaz’s turn in There’s Something About Mary), I find it difficult to make room for her in this category, especially given the way that Barbie stumbles to the finish line… which just so happens to be the best part of Nyad.

I don’t know how long my one-man crusade for Annette Bening will stay afloat this awards season, but I’m going down with the ship on this one.

There’s no one more “Nyad” than me.

Bits and Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)

One day you’re rumored to be up for James Bond, and the next, you’re The Saint.

  • From Swingers to Saints - Paramount has tapped Doug Liman to direct its action-thriller The Saint, which is slated to star Regé-Jean Page. Deadline broke the news, reporting that Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani are writing the script, and Lorenzo DiBonaventura is producing alongside Brad Krevoy. The Saint follows Simon Templar, a Robin Hood-esque thief-for-hire who employs a variety of elaborate disguises, much like a spy would. Paramount is hoping to build a franchise around Page, but I have my doubts.

    I never liked the original 1997 film starring Val Kilmer, and I’m not sure Page is a movie star in his own right, but nonetheless, this project is shaping up to be a priority for Paramount, and Liman has a little bit of heat after wrapping a remake of Road House starring Jake Gyllenhaal and The Instigators starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, both of which are expected in 2024.

    Liman famously launched Damon’s Jason Bourne franchise with 2002’s The Bourne Identity — interesting timing, eh? —though he wasn’t able to repeat the feat with Jumper, though that film did gross $225 million worldwide. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that. He’s represented by CAA, which also reps Haines and Noshirvani along with Grandview. They’re the guys who wrote Black Adam, gulp.

  • Clint Ain’t Messina Around - Chris Messina has joined the cast of Clint Eastwood’s final film Juror No. 2. Messina is one of those actors I’ve adored for years, dating back to his supporting turn in Sam Mendes’ 2009 film Away We Go. Messina has found himself in some rough Warner Bros. movies — Live By Night and Birds of Prey come to mind — so here’s hoping that Juror No. 2 bucks the trend. Nicholas Hoult stars as a juror on a murder trial who realizes that he’s responsible for the victim’s death, and he’s joined by Toni Collette, Zoey Deutch, Gabriel Basso, Leslie Bibb, and Kiefer Sutherland. It sounds pretty good, right? Expect it to hit theaters in 2024.

    Meanwhile, Messina is having a hell of a year between his slippery turn as famed sports agent David Falk in Ben Affleck’s Air and his lead role in the well-reviewed horror movie The Boogeyman. Messina might be getting more awards buzz if he wasn’t competing with his Air co-stars for ink, be it Matt Damon, Viola Davis, or Affleck himself. But make no mistake, he’s a delight in that film, which is streaming on Prime Video in case you haven’t seen it yet.

  • A Snider With Real Talent - Cody Blue Snider, the filmmaker son of rocker Dee Snider, has been tapped to write a feature adaptation of the hit comic Love Advice from the Great Duke of Hell. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment is partnering with Wattpad Webtoon Studios on the project, which hails from a creator known simply as Unfins, whose comic has racked up more than 160 million views on the digital comic publishing platform Webtoon.

    The comic follows a dorky high school student named Paul who is madly in love with “the girl next door.” After accidentally summoning a demon named Astaroth, Paul offers his soul to Astaroth in exchange for his help in wooing this girl — something the Great Duke of Hell knows nothing about. Having never read this comic, the premise sounds to me a bit like a live-action Big Mouth, but that’s not why I’m writing about this relatively minor news.

    I’m writing about it because — no joke — Cody Blue Snider’s short film Fool’s Day is one of the greatest short films I’ve ever seen, and he absolutely deserves a shot behind the camera of a studio comedy. New Line was developing a feature version that would’ve starred Margot Robbie as a doomed elementary school teacher, but it seemed like they could never settle on a male lead — a clueless D.A.R.E. officer. If you haven’t seen it, please check it out when you have 20 minutes.

  • Another Scandal at Amazon - Following the success of A Very English Scandal with Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw and A Very British Scandal with Claire Foy and Paul Bettany, Amazon has lined up the three-part series A Very Royal Scandal starring Michael Sheen and Ruth Wilson. Sheen will play Prince Andrew, and the limited series concerns the Prince’s disastrous interview with Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis. Julian Jarrold is directing from a script by Jeremy Brock and production is now underway in the U.K.

  • Back to Black - There’s a sequel to the horror-comedy The Blackening in the works at Lionsgate and MRC, with writers Dewayne Perkins and Tracy Oliver developing the project with producer E. Brian Dobbins. Directed by Tim Story, the original horror-comedy followed a group of friends who find themselves hunted by a killer over Juneteenth weekend (when the film was also, smartly, released). The film poked fun at the horror movie trope that Black characters are often killed off first, as the entire cast was Black.

    I wasn’t a fan of The Blackening, which was neither particularly scary nor funny — in fact, I found it downright goofy — but audiences didn’t care, as it grossed $18 million on a production budget of just $3 million, making this sequel a smart business decision for Lionsgate and MRC. Perkins told Variety he envisions a franchise a la Scary Movie rather than one like Knives Out in which the cast is largely replaced, but that may be easier said than done when it comes to a slasher movie. Stay tuned to see who ends up returning from the first film…

  • Star Wars: A New Home - The Golden Globes have found a new home at CBS, and the network is in it for the long haul, as it’s rumored to be a 10-year deal. Viacom will also stream the awards show on Paramount+.

  • Vocal Fans - THR’s James Hibberd has a fun interview with Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden, two Rick and Morty fans who are now voicing the roles of Rick and Morty following Justin Roiland’s departure.

  • Congrats - To Jamie Pillet, who is joining WME as a talent agent after spending 12 years at A3 Artists Agency, where she was promoted to partner in 2020 and served as co-head of the talent department. Clients expected to join her include Iain Armitage (Young Sheldon), Walker Scobell (The Adam Project), Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus), Andrew Barth Feldman (No Hard Feelings), Ben Levi Ross (Tick, Tick… Boom!), Nicolette Robinson (Woman of the Hour), and Jahi Di’Allo Winston (We Have a Ghost).

  • Condolences - To the loved ones of Shari Smiley, the longtime lit agent and manager, who died last week at age 53. As a young Variety reporter, I used to call Shari all the time when she was at The Gotham Group, as she always seemed to find herself in the middle of one bidding war or another. She just had a really good eye for material, having come up at CAA, where she spent 18 years. She worked with authors such as Gillian Flynn, Jodi Picoult, and Cheryl Strayed, and she will be sorely missed by the Hollywood community.

Film Twitter’s Main Character of the Day

Your 15 minutes start now…

This is where I shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly tweets that Film Twitter is, well, already shining a light on. Whether you’re being hailed as a hero or a villain in this space, I hope all recipients of this esteemed award take it in the good nature with which it is intended.

With that disclaimer out of the way, today’s Main Character is Clint Gamache, owner of the website Thrillgeek.

Yesterday, Clint argued that critics have lost touch with family movies, citing The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s 59 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics were… not happy, to say the least… and as of this writing, the tweet has garnered more than 5 million views — mostly from angry critics, no doubt.

A rival Clint by the name of Clint Worthington, EIC of The Spool, wrote that “Our job isn’t to correctly guess what you’ve already decided you like,” and he was backed up by others including Dan Simpson of Eyebrow Cinema, who wrote, “We really need to squash this idea that the primary role of a critic is to validate the opinions of a mass audience.” Scott Mendelsohn and Witney Seibold also weighed in with their thoughts on the pressing matter.

So, is Clint #1 onto something here with Rotten Tomatoes, or are critics approaching family films fairly enough for your taste? You be the judge!

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