Universal's Dark Universe is lifeless as two top producers exit the franchise
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The fate of Universal’s Dark Universe is in limbo as two of the franchise’s top producers exit

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Nearly six months after Universal revealed their plans for the Dark Universe, a series of films that would revive the studio’s classic monster characters for a new generation of moviegoers, a new article from The Hollywood Reporter claims the future of the cinematic universe is in limbo as two of the franchise’s top producers have exited.

Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who helped Universal put the pieces together to get the Dark Universe off the ground, are no longer involved in the franchise and have since gone their separate ways, according to the report. Kurtzman is executive producing the CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery, while Morgan is scripting the much-talked-about Fast and Furious spinoff starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.

Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein, which was set to begin pre-production in London in early October, remains lifeless, and Angelina Jolie, who was expected to star as the film’s title character, is no longer attached.

“We’ve learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision,” Universal’s Peter Cramer said in a statement to THR. “We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves.”

That being said, Universal is exploring other options, even considering the idea of “offering the IP to high-profile filmmakers or producers” with ideas “for one-off movies not connected to a larger universe,” which, in all honesty, could be the studio’s best bet at this stage of the game. They’ve already lost their two main producers/core creatives, so what could be worse than that?

Despite Universal’s claims that the Dark Universe just needs a little more time to get things back in order, it seems as though this is the end of the road for a franchise that, quite frankly, should have never been revealed in the first place.

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Lili Taylor and Stefania LaVie Owen to star in the coming-of-age indie drama ‘Paper Spiders’

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Lili Taylor and Stefania LaVie Owen have been cast as the leads in Inon Shampanier’s indie drama Paper Spiders, a bittersweet story about coming-of-age in the shadow of mental illness. The film is expected to begin production in Syracuse, New York later this month.

Written by Inon and Natalie Shampanier, Paper Spiders follows Melanie (Owen), a high school senior struggling to help her mother Dawn (Taylor), whose paranoid delusions spiral out of control.

“I am thrilled to work with these incredibly talented actresses,” Inon Shampanier said in a statement. “Lili Taylor and Stefania Owen bring great tenderness and depth to this mother-daughter story.”

Anne Clements is producing Paper Spiders for Idiot Savant Pictures along with Ash Christian for Cranium Entertainment.

Taylor, repped by APA and Untitled Entertainment, was seen most recently in last year’s The Nun, where she reprised her role from the 2013 blockbuster horror hit The Conjuring. She can be seen next in the upcoming indie The Evening Hour.

Owen is repped by McKeon/Myones Entertainment and Paradigm Talent Agency and can currently be seen onscreen starring opposite Matthew McConaughey in Harmony Korine’s stoner comedy The Beach Bum. She’ll appear next in Netflix‘s thriller The Messiah.

Inon and Natalie Shampanier, whose previous credits include 2015’s Beautiful & Twisted and 2012’s The Millionaire Tour, are repped by Chris Sablan of Avenue 220 and attorney Jacob Shapira.

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John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps join ‘Born to Be Murdered’ cast

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John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps, and Boyd Holbrook are set to lead the ensemble cast of the Luca Guadagnino-produced thriller Born to Be Murdered, which is currently shooting in Greece and is expected to be a hot item at the Cannes market next month.

The project will mark the English-language debut of Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, Guadagnino’s husband and the great-nephew of legendary Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, who is directing the film from a script written by Kevin Rice, according to Deadline.

Born to Be Murdered, which Cito Filomarino says will be his “take on the manhunt thriller,” follows a couple vacationing in Greece, played by Washington and Vikander, who suddenly finds themselves falling prey to a violent conspiracy with tragic consequences.

“I have worked for years in creating its specific tone and story with the tireless support of my writer Kevin Rice, and I am honored to have the extraordinary John David Washington join me to portray the restless and conflicted journey of such a special character,” Cito Filomarino said.

He added, “I am thrilled and to be working with the wonderful Alicia Vikander, the beautifully intense Vicky Krieps, the superb Boyd Holbrook. With this incredible cast and with my unique collaborators, Born to Be Murdered will be a fantastic experience that pushes genre to a new place.”

Guadagnino and Marc Morabito will produce the film under their Frenesy Films banner along with Francesco Melzi and Gabriele Moratti, who will serve as co-producers on the project for MeMo Films, which is the film’s leader financier.

“We have been working with Ferdinando for ten years, following and supporting his career since the beginning,” the producers said in a joint statement. “He is an exciting new voice in international cinema, and with Born To Be Murdered, he has the chance to be embraced in a bigger scope and in partnership with such a prestigious cast, composed of some of the best and most interesting performers in the world.”

The film is expected to be released in 2020.

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Netflix, other streamers score huge win as the Academy votes to leave eligibility rules intact

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Board of Governors voted late Tuesday night to approve several new rules and changes that will affect the upcoming 92nd Academy Awards in 2020, the most notable of which has to do with Rule Two; the Academy’s eligibility law.

The Board of Governors voted to maintain the rule, which states that, in order to be eligible for awards consideration, a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission.

Additionally, films released in non-theatrical media (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.) on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County theatrical qualifying run will remain eligible.

“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” Academy president John Bailey said. “Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration.”

He added, “We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”

The vote is a huge win for streaming services like Netflix, which has long had a rather rocky relationship with the Academy, which was reportedly exploring the possibility of implementing new rules that would have significantly limited the Oscar eligibility of films that debut on Netflix and other streaming platforms.

The proposed changes were so alarming that the U.S. Justice Department sent the Academy a letter stating that the new rules could raise antitrust concerns and violate federal competition law.

Among the other notable changes approved by the Board of Governors includes the renaming of the Foreign Language Film category, which will now be known as the International Feature Film category, and the number of nominated films in the Makeup and Hairstyling category, which has been increased from three to five.

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