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In a day of dramatic twists at Annapurna Pictures, president of film Chelsea Barnard is out.
The move comes on the heels of Megan Ellison’s studio jettisoning two films that it had been developing: Jay Roach’s untitled Fox News/Roger Ailes film and a Jennifer Lopez stripper film based on the New York magazine piece “The Hustlers at Scores.” Both projects had been championed by Barnard. Annapurna declined to comment.
The news comes hours after The Hollywood Reporter first reported Tuesday that Annapurna Pictures was unloading its untitled Fox News movie centered on the late Ailes, followed by news that it was shopping the Lopez pic. The latter film has landed at STX, which is in advanced talks to acquire the project. (Constance Wu is said to have signed on to co-star before the movie left the Annapurna fold.) Lopez and producers Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina had a positive experience with the team at STX on Second Act, and that played a significant role in them wanting to take the film there.
All in all, it’s a troubling turn for Ellison’s nascent studio, which began distributing films with Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit last summer. Focus Features, Amblin and Participant Media are in the mix to acquire the Fox News drama, which Roach is directing and is set to go into production in two weeks.
It is unclear why Annapurna would part ways with either the hot-button Fox News project or the Lopez starring vehicle, both seen as having female-empowerment themes. Sources say that Annapurna is facing financial problems and has been taking on co-financing partners on a number of recent projects including the Fox News film.
Barnard, who has been with Annapurna since its inception back in 2011, was named head of film at the company in January 2017. Her executive producer credits include Spike Jonze’s Her and the Steve Carrell-starrer Foxcatcher.
The trio of moves come as a surprise — particularly regarding the Fox News drama, given that casting for the film continued up until Monday, when Malcolm McDowell signed on to play Rupert Murdoch. A source says Annapurna is continuing to help on the casting front for the Fox News movie.
John Lithgow is set to star as the disgraced Fox News chairman who was accused of sexually harassing many women at the network. Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie round out the all-star cast. The Big Short‘s Charles Randolph wrote the screenplay.
Given the day’s dramatic events, all eyes are now on the next James Bond film, which MGM will be distributing domestically through its joint venture with Annapurna.
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