Good Afternoon International Insider team, Max Goldbart here with your mid-August fix of silly headlines, reviews and emojis. We’re taking a break next week, but we’ll be back with your favorite Friday lunchtime newsletter in a fortnight on September 2. For now, read on.
The very international return of Johnny Depp
Back in the director’s chair: Johnny Depp had a decent fortnight. Last week we revealed a first image of his eponymous role as King Louis XV in Jeanne du Barry (his first film in three years) and this week the focus has been on the director’s chair, where the once-disgraced star is set to return for the first time in a quarter-century. Depp will be sitting behind the camera for Modigliani, a feature film about Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. Al Pacino is on board as a co-producer with Depp and Barry Navidi, sources confirmed to Deadline’s Zac Ntim, and the film is based on a play by Dennis McIntyre. It is not yet known whether Depp will act or not, but he starred in his previous directorial effort, 1997 The brave, in front of Marlon Brando. The project appears to represent what appears to be a slow return to the mainstream for Depp, whose fortunes have been on the rise since winning Amber Heard’s notorious libel suit in June. Public perceptions seem to be changing and creatives are slowly welcoming it back into the fold. For many of course, the jury remains out.
Crazy world : One star particularly close to the situation was Depp fantastic beasts replacement Mads Mikkelsen, who spoke to Sarajevo Film Festival’s Damon Wise about a potential return to the Warner Bros. franchise. Discovery for Depp. “The course has changed so let’s see if he comes back,” Mikkelsen told Damon, describing himself as a “huge Johnny fan.” “I think he’s an amazing actor, I think he’s done a fantastic job,” he added. The full interview is more than worth reading, as the beloved Danish star walks us through his wonderfully eclectic career, which has seen stars starring in Nicholas Winding Refn’s pusher, Casino Royale and Oscar winner Another round. He received his Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award for his outstanding contribution to the art of cinema.
Embrace Middle Earth
One acquisition to rule them all: Huge M&A news on Thursday as Swedish video game company Embracer Group acquired Middle-earth Enterprises (part of The Saul Zaentz Company) and thus the lucrative intellectual property catalog and worldwide rights to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and JRR Tolkien The Hobbit. One of the most beloved franchises in the world, which will soon launch the most expensive TV show of all time, is now owned by the group, which supports cinema, video game, board game, merchandising , theme parks and stage production rights. Wow. Financial terms were not disclosed, but we imagine it will be very expensive. Following the resounding success of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings is about to hit a whole new generation with Amazon rings of power mega tentpole, which unveiled its long-awaited rollout schedule this week. Cue an army of Tolkien fans huddled around their TVs at 6 p.m. PDT on Thursday, September 1. Embrace must be onto a winner here.
Warner Bros. Discovery Releases
GB’s blues: Barely a week goes by without Warner Bros. Discovery isn’t changing its international offering and the latest was no different, as it quit its stake in UK’s fledgling GB News network and said goodbye to HBO Max International Originals chief Jennifer Kim. Discovery (as it was then known) backed GB News with fanfare last year, but the network has been plagued with problems – technical, ratings and political – and has become something of a poisoned gift. The channel received early authority as it was run by fearsome British broadcasting heavyweight Andrew Neil, but within weeks he was absent and within months he was chastising the network for being a “tribute band to the UKIP”. The shareholding of Warner Bros. Discovery was bought by existing backers Legatum Ventures Limited and Sir Paul Marshall, who led a £60m ($72m) funding round and, with new faces in the form of former ministers curators turned joyful documentary host Michael Portillo, the channel is now more than alive.
Kim left: Across the pond, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva had all the details on the roughly 70 HBO Max layoffs that included SVP International Originals Jennifer Kim. Kim’s departure will reinforce the importance of Gerhard Zeiler’s international team, according to the memo from HBO Max chief Casey Bloys, who will be solely responsible for pursuing non-U.S. opportunities, taking advantage of a sizable international footprint that is nevertheless itself being adorned. down. Individual theater and comedy teams will evaluate potential co-productions and pitch them in the United States. Kim was responsible for acclaimed co-productions including Russell T Davies’ drama Aids It’s a sin and leaves alongside Jennifer O’Connell EVP, Non-Fiction & Live-Action Family Originals for HBO Max; Michael Quigley, executive vice president of content acquisitions at HBO Max; and Linda Lowy, EVP Casting for HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV. Outlining the thinking behind the decision, Bloys wrote: “Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is rapidly changing, and it is up to us to continue to refine our model to chart a course for long-term success.” Change is afoot, as always, in the new conglomerate.
“Evaluate Options”: Cinema has been one of the sectors hardest hit by COVID and Cineworld has not been spared. The world’s second-largest exponent updated its stance on Wednesday to say it is in “active discussions” about a possible restructuring through a “global deleveraging transaction.” The financial jargon has emerged after a weaker-than-expected recovery in recent months, which comes despite major poles of strength such as Top Gun: Maverick which gave a boost to the whole sector. The outfit’s share price plummeted the next day and we’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on where things go. Nancy had the cover.
make waves: Earlier this month, Insider dove into streamer activity in Africa and Asia and this week our very own Jesse spoke exclusively to two key players who are making waves on both continents. Yolisa Phahle, Head of Content for Showmax in South Africa, has released the trailer for the streamer’s epic fantasy drama blood psalms and deepened what she calls the “Black Panther effect” on international audiences, after the Marvel film proved that African stories could become international hits. It is perfectly placed to take advantage of it. Elsewhere, India’s Applause Entertainment turned five and broadcast veteran Sameer Nair took the opportunity to unveil a sketch show billed as, wait, “Saturday Night Live meets The Kumars at No. 42. For me, I can’t wait. Go further with Yolisa here, and Sameer here.
🌶️ Hot: Ruth Wilson is back on Showtime, leading The woman in the wall next to Good luck to you, Leo Grande actor Daryl McCormack in a BBC co-production. Andreas had this one.
🌶️ Another: Diana Lodderhose cracker here who brought news of Shtisel the latest project from co-creator Ori Elon, a biographical series about famous Zionist leader Theodor Herzl.
🌶️ Another: After black mirror cast of season six in the form of Panels star and third Culkin brother Rory Culkin.
🏪 Shop creation: British YouTube star Joe Sugg, who started BBC Studios-backed indie entertainment Final Straw Productions.
🍿 Box office: Chinese group Bona Film, valued at $1.5 billion, made its commercial debut in Shenzhen.
🚪 Exit: RTL Deutschland Co-CEO Stephen Schäfer after less than a year and following a restructuring.
🏕️ Last festival: Cannes drama The worst was taken over by Kino Lorber for the United States and English-speaking Canada.
🏕️ And another: TIFF docs list released: led by Hilary and Chelsea Clinton’s In his hands.
🤝 The partners: Indian media and entertainment giant Eros Media World and Riyadh-based content production company Arabia Pictures Group.
🏈 Footballlll: Coverage of Britain’s NFL is moving from the BBC to ITV, which will air weekly highlights shows and three live games, including the Super Bowl.
😠 Angry: The Ukrainian Institute, which criticized a prestigious program of German filmmakers for inviting Russians and Belarusians, as well as Ukrainians, to take part.
🧑💼 New Job: BBC’s Amol Rajan Today program presenter and media editor, will assume the College Challenge reins of Jeremy Paxman in 2023.
🎥 Trailer: Indie drama by Vivian Kerr To abandon, which is heading towards Deauville.
🖼️ First Look: Emily Blunt in the BBC and Prime Video English by the famous author Hugo Blick.
And finally: This week saw the sad passing of Wolfgang Petersen, 81, legendary German director of The Perfect Storm, Air Force One and Das Boot who marked world cinema. Mike Fleming Jr’s obituary can be read here.