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After months of murmuring, the latest A-list ensemble project from The Big Short and Don’t Look Up filmmaker Adam McKay has hit Hollywood.
Titled Average Height, Average Build, the project is being described as part serial killer thriller, part comedy, following a killer who uses political lobbyists to change laws in order to make it easier for him to kill, according to sources. Like all of McKay’s recent work, the project will tackle larger sociopolitical ills — à la the 2008 housing crisis (The Big Short) and climate crisis (Don’t Look Up) — this time taking on crime and corruption.
McKay wrote the script and would direct the feature that hit the inbox of studio heads this week. Actors already attached include Robert Pattinson, Amy Adams, Robert Downey Jr., Forest Whitaker and Danielle Deadwyler. The script calls for many more characters to be filled in.
The project has been percolating with McKay for quite some time, with the filmmaker talking about working on a new script that would tackle “big, dirty money” during a Q&A at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. At the time, he described the project as a comedy.
But despite the high-wattage cast and McKay’s enviable track record, the project is facing some headwinds at studios, with several having already passed on it while others are taking their time to crunch numbers. Should it go to a streamer, the starry cast would require significant up-front buy-outs, which is why some have been reluctant to jump in. Insiders at other studios are noting that it is a particular challenge to release a dark political comedy in the current theatrical landscape. McKay has noted to studios that the project would appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, but not everyone feels that way. Apple, where McKay has a first-look deal, has not jumped on the project.
The fact that a package that has an Oscar-winning behind-the-camera team, a filmmaker whose last movie got a best picture nomination, and is populated onscreen by awards-circuit regulars and superheroes alike still cannot immediately find a home doesn’t exactly scream “hot package” and is emblematic of the current state of Hollywood. There is a high degree of risk aversion — financial, thematic or otherwise — with even the streamers less willing to throw around the big money that they brandished just two years ago to attract A-list talent.
McKay is planning on a late-summer shoot in Boston. The film does not yet have a studio on board to finance or distribute. The writer-director has already lined up key below-the-line talent including cinematographer Todd Banhazl, who worked on McKay’s HBO series Winning Time.
McKay’s Don’t Look Up starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, with an ensemble that included Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance and Tyler Perry. It was nominated for best picture, with McKay picking up a nomination for best original screenplay.
The actors so far are newcomers to the McKay school of big-issue comedy, save for Adams. She and McKay previously worked together on McKay’s Dick Cheney movie Vice. Pattinson last starred in The Batman and will next be seen in Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17. Adams was most recently seen in the Disney sequel Disenchanted and will next be seen in Marielle Heller’s comedy horror Nightbitch. Downey will next be seen in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, while Whitaker is currently shooting Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis. Deadwyler garnered much attention this awards season for her role as Mamie Till-Mobley in Till.
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