What's news: Warner Bros. is looking for class, cachet and maybe Leonardo DiCaprio for its Joker movie. Plus: Fox's Kingsman sequel has encouraging early tracking, a close look at Twin Peaks' ratings and Force Friday reveals new Last Jedi details. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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By bringing on Martin Scorsese as a producer, Warner Bros. hopes to use the legendary filmmaker to lure his longtime collaborator into the world of comic book franchises, Kim Masters and Borys Kit report:
Sources say Warners will make an attempt to use Scorsese to bring Leonardo DiCaprio into the world of comic-book movies. Certainly, Scorsese’s involvement in The Joker film, which The Hangover filmmaker Todd Phillips would direct, could elevate and diversify the studio's contributions to the genre, creating the potential to make awards-worthy films such as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy.
There's no offer for DiCaprio, and sources say Scorsese's deal to produce isn't even done yet. The chances of landing DiCaprio could be slim to none. But the attempt in itself sends a signal to talent that Warners wants to hire serious filmmakers to make serious films.
This plan was not met with applause in all quarters: Insiders say Jared Leto, the actor who portrayed the Clown Prince of Crime in last summer's Suicide Squad and is slated to reprise the character not just for a sequel but for another spinoff movie (with DC villainess Harley Quinn), was caught off-guard by the plans. Leto is said to have made his displeasure with the notion of multiple Jokers known to his CAA agents, and rival agency WME has been using the concern to court him.
Elsewhere in film...
► Kingsman sequel tracking for $40M-plus U.S. debut. Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Golden Circle is generating strong interest, as the Fox release is projected to open in the $40M-$45M range when it hits theaters Sept. 22. (Ahead of the $36.2M domestic debut of the original Kingsman in February 2015.)
► China's summer box office now soaring. Revenue totaled $2.48B from June to August, a 24 percent increase over the summer of 2016. Meanwhile, North America's box office is estimated to have plummeted 15.7 percent, with revenue totaling $3.78B.
+ Patrick Brzeski notes: Hollywood and Beijing regulators can both breathe a sigh of relief over the Chinese market's return to form. After surging by an average of 35 percent for a decade, the country's box office experienced an abrupt correction in 2016, eking out a gain of just 3.7 percent for the year. The sudden shakiness of the world's most reliable growth engine had led to handwringing on both sides of the Pacific.
► Has Hollywood's gender-bending trend jumped the shark? Mia Galuppo writes: Despite having few details known about the project, immediate criticism met the news that Warner Bros. is developing an all-female adaptation of Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 novel, directed by two men. Immediate backlash.
^Our Souls at Night, reviewed. Co-stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford reunite as aging bedmates in an adaptation of Kent Haruf’s last novel presented by Netflix and screening in Venice. The takeaway: "An engaging family film and rom-com for the older generation."
Quoted at the Venice Film Fest...
+ Paul Schrader: "I don't think we as a species will outlive this century. The world is going to be fine. We're not."
+ Guillermo Del Toro: "It's so difficult to talk about love and not sound silly, but I do believe the antidote to what we are living, which is a time full of hatred and division, is this humanistic possibility."
+ Ai Weiwei: "Why do we have the news talking about Houston flooding for weeks? Why not talk about the flooding in Bangladesh that killed thousands of people at the same time?"
► Sam Rockwell to play George W. Bush in Cheney biopic. The actor is in final negotiations to add his name to Adam McKay’s biopic of former vice president Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale. The call sheet also includes Steve Carell, Amy Adams and Bill Pullman.
► Gary Sinise to narrate Steve McQueen doc. The movie, Steve McQueen: American Icon, hails from American Icon Films, a joint venture between Erwin Brothers Entertainment and pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship.
► Denzel Washington legal thriller to premiere at Toronto Film Fest. Dan Gilroy’s Roman J. Israel, Esq., starring Washington, is headed to Toronto for a world premiere, just three years after debuting the Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Nightcrawler at the fest.
Q&A: Matt Damon on Downsizing, Suburbicon. Stephen Galloway speaks to the actor ahead of the Alexander Payne film's Venice film festival debut. Damon: "film’s not dead. But in terms of the big studio movies, it feels like the $20 million to $70 million drama is just gone."
TV's measure for success becomes more difficult to define each year — and no series may better exemplify that quandary in 2017 than Twin Peaks, Michael O'Connell notes:
Showtime's expensive, 18-episode revival of David Lynch's '90s cult drama enthralled most critics, confused fans and, on the average Sunday night, rarely drew more than 300,000 live viewers. But even with its paltry linear returns, the series is being chalked up as a win — at least according to Showtime Networks CEO and president David Nevins.
Heading into the Sept. 3 finale, Twin Peaks was pulling a weekly average of 2M viewers once time-shifting, encores and streaming plays were tallied. And while that's a more handsome figure than its Sunday numbers, it's still a fraction of the audience that Showtime's top tier originals (like Ray Donovan) earn.
From a financial perspective, Nevins says Twin Peaks has exceeded expectations. Its May premiere week drove the greatest number of free trial sign-ups for Showtime's over-the-top streaming service since it launched in 2015. Even better, most of the people who signed up for that record number of trials have paid to keep Showtime the subsequent three months.
Elsewhere in TV...
► Netflix nabs Damien Chazelle musical drama. The La La Land director's eight-parter will be based in a Parisian nightclub, with a script by Jack Thorne and music from the Grammy-winning Jagged Little Pill producer Glen Ballard.
► "Apple eyes iconic studio as base for Hollywood production push." "The iPhone maker is in discussions to move its original content division to The Culver Studios, whose former owners include RKO, Howard Hughes and Cecil B DeMille," the Financial Times reports.
► Fox to try six-second ads for NFL. "Fox Networks Group will offer the bite-size slots alongside its standard 15- and 30-second ads for a variety of sporting events after first testing the format on its broadcast of the Teen Choice Awards," The New York Times reports.
► HBO plans True Detective season three. Nic Pizzolatto will be the lone writer on the series, save for David Milch, who penned one installment. Jeremy Sauliner and Pizzolatto will direct. It will tell the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks.
► Amazon lands James Gunn's Starsky and Hutch reboot. In a competitive situation, the streamer has handed out a script-to-series commitment to the drama from the Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind, his brother Brian Gunn and cousin Mark Gunn.
^Netflix's Narcos season three, reviewed. After a slow start to its third season, which drops today, the cartel drama proves that it's able to be gripping TV even without Wagner Moura's Pablo Escobar. The takeaway: "Takes a few episodes, but the addiction kicks in."
► Amazon's Carnival Row adds Cara Delevingne. The supermodel turned actress is set to star alongside Orlando Bloom in the eight-episode fantasy noir from Legendary Television. The project is set to begin filming this fall for a 2019 release.
► DC's Greg Berlanti drama Titans casts Brenton Thwaites. The actor has been cast in the lead role of Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder in straight-to-series drama Titans. The show will debut in 2018 on the DC Comics-branded digital platform.
► TheBlaze lays off dozens of staffers. Glenn Beck announced that 20 percent of his staff at the political network was dismissed on Thursday. In his note to staff, Beck made reference to the structural challenges facing the media industry as a reason for the cuts.
► R.I.P., Richard Anderson. The actor who portrayed Oscar Goldman, the head of a secret scientific government organization, on the 1970s series The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman, died Thursday at 91. Full obit.
Graeme McMillan writes: With Force Friday II here, details are emerging about what Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise is about to hit the shelves, including a wave of Lego kits based on the movie. This can mean only one thing: It's time to comb the Lego announcement for potential Last Jedi plot reveals.
What else we're reading...
— "Reality TV's wildest disaster." Sam Knight's feature: "In its mysterious, unwitnessed state, Eden and its lost reality stars seemed to offer a stronger parable for these narcissistic end-times than anything deliberately conceived." [The New Yorker]
— "What Lena Waithe wants from Hollywood." Adrienne Green writes: "The Emmy-nominated actress and writer on what’s next after Master of None, creating her own show, and forcing the industry to pay attention to new black talent." [The Atlantic]
— "Young Sheldon reinvents The Big Bang Theory formula." John Koblin writes: "co-creator Chuck Lorre abandoned the format that made him successful by instead using a single camera, voice-over narration and a child actor." [The New York Times]
— "Muralist Robert Vargas is painting a towering history of L.A. above the traffic." Jeffrey Fleishman writes: "When he’s done later this year, the canvas, 60,000 square feet of wall and windows, will tell the tale of the city." [The Los Angeles Times]
— "Looking back at the first Justice League movie." Darren Franich writes: "Like most terrible superhero stories from last century, Justice League of America has aged well as an artifact of a lost world." [Entertainment Weekly]
Today's birthdays: Zendaya, 21, Boyd Holbrook, 36, Padma Lakshmi, 47, Zak Penn, 49, Phil McGraw, 67, Lily Tomlin, 78.