Mads Mikkelsen Replacing Johnny Depp in “Fantastic Beasts”

Following the apparent removal of Johnny Depp from the filming of the third #FantasticBeasts film a few weeks ago, actor Mads Mikkelsen will be taking over the role of Gellert Grindelwald. Depp resigned at the request of #WarnerBrothers Studio after losing a libel case against The Sun over a 2018 article that called him a “wife beater”.

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is known for his film roles in “Casino Royale” (opposite Daniel Craig’s James Bond), #Marvel’s #DoctorStrange and as Galen Erso in “#RogueOne: A #StarWars Story”.

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Johnny Depp Leaves “Fantastic Beasts” Franchise

Actor Johnny Depp will no longer be playing the role of Gellert Grindelwald in J.K. Rowlings’ #FantasticBeasts movie franchise, which is a series of prequels to #HarryPotter. Depp made the announcement today on his Instagram account claiming that #WarnerBrothers had asked him to leave the franchise.

Releasing a short statement of their own, Warner Brothers has confirmed that Depp will leave the franchise, but did not comment on the nature of the separation or confirm that they asked him to go.

Coming just days after Depp lost a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid that characterized him as being abusive, it’s likely that this is related to the ongoing controversy surrounding back-and-forth abuse allegations between himself and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp did not specifically link the two in his letter, but he did bring the trial up, pledging to appeal the ruling.

His Instagram post can be seen below:

Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald

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Netflix Cancels “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” After First Season

Netflix announced on Sept. 21, 2020, the cancellation of its series “#TheDarkCrystal: #AgeOfResistance”. The internet series was a prequel to the original 1982 Jim Henson film and told the story of a group of young Gelflings who discover that their overlords — the evil Skeksis — are duplicitous and plan to consume their subjects’ life energy via the dark crystal in order to fuel their own.

News of the cancelation comes mere days after the show won an Emmy for best children’s series. Executive producer Lisa Henson said,

“We can confirm that there will not be an additional season of ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.’ We know fans are eager to learn how this chapter of ‘The Dark Crystal’ saga concludes and we’ll look for ways to tell that story in the future. Our company has a legacy of creating rich and complex worlds that require technical innovation, artistic excellence, and masterful storytelling. Our history also includes productions that are enduring, often finding and growing their audience over time and proving again and again that fantasy and science fiction genres reflect eternal messages and truths that are always relevant. We are so grateful to Netflix for trusting us to realize this ambitious series; we are deeply proud of our work on ‘Age of Resistance,’ and the acclaim it has received from fans, critics and our peers, most recently receiving an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program.”

From Variety.
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”

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John Boyega: Disney Sidelined his “Star Wars” Character

In an interview with British GQ magazine published on Sept. 2, 2020, actor John Boyega candidly criticized how The #Disney Company treated himself and his character of Finn in the #StarWars sequel trilogy. In other words, #racism marred his time spent in a galaxy far, far away. Boyega said,

“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”

In the first sequel trilogy film (“Star Wars: #TheForceAwakens”, directed by J.J. Abrams), Boyega played Finn, a former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber, as a major driving force of the narrative. But in the following two films (“Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” and “Star Wars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker”), Disney & #LucasFilm gave more space to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and sidelined Finn.

But John Boyega wasn’t only referring to himself, he was also talking about the other people of color in the cast. Namely, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac: who he feels suffered the same treatment. Boyega acknowledges that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of “The Last Jedi” was particularly hard to take. Boyega went on to say the following in the interview:

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

In an August, 2018 essay published in the New York Times, Kelly Marie Tran, who is Vietnamese-American and was introduced in “The Last Jedi” before being sidelined in “The Rise of Skywalker”, wrote about the her own ordeal with racism, saying she had gone “down a spiral of self-hate” due to all the harassment she had received:

“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”

“[Society] taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests—and perhaps the most damaging—waiting for them to rescue me. And for a long time, I believed them.”

When John Boyega’s face first appeared from beneath a stormtrooper helmet in the first released trailer for “The Force Awakens”, racist hashtags like #BoycottStarWarsVII suddenly appeared on social media. Boyega acknowledged the boycotts in the British GQ magazine directly, saying that he was

“the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race.… It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realize, I got given this opportunity, but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me. Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and Black that and you shouldn’t be a stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”

Then there was Disney’s official poster for “The Force Awakens” released in China. While it was very similar to the one released in the U.S., Boyega’s image as Finn, which was prominent in the U.S. poster, was severely shrunk in the Chinese one.

"Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" Posters

“Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” Posters released in the U.S. (Left) and China (Right).

John Boyega’s words in the interview are an indictment on the systemic mistreatment of black characters in blockbuster films, saying,

“They’re always scared. They’re always fricking sweating.”

Boyega also viewed the return of director J.J. Abrams to “The Rise of Skywalker” as a salvage job, saying,

“Everybody needs to leave my boy alone. He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your shit.”

While Boyega acknowledged that “Star Wars” was an “amazing opportunity” and a “stepping stone” that has precipitated so much good in his life and career, he was palpably exhilarated to be finally saying all this. To dismiss his words as merely professional bitterness or paranoia is to miss the point. His primary motivation is to show the frustrations and difficulties of trying to operate within what can feel like a permanently rigged system. He is trying to let you know what it feels like to have a boyhood dream ruptured by the toxic realities of the world.

John Boyega

John Boyega

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Daisy Ridley Having Difficulty Finding Work After “Star Wars”

Following the release of the final #Disney #StarWars trilogy film in Dec., 2019 (“Star Wars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker”), the main star of the series, actress Daisy Ridley, is reportedly having difficulty finding new acting roles. Earlier this month, IndieWire reported that she was unprepared for the negative backlash for the final film:

“After receiving unanimous acclaim from critics and fans alike in her debut tentpole ‘Star Wars: #TheForceAwakens,’ the follow-up film ‘#TheLastJedi’ severely divided the fandom. But even the backlash to ‘The Last Jedi’ could not prepare her for the outrage that met ‘[The] Rise of Skywalker,’ her reported final outing as Rey in a ‘Star Wars’ feature film. The movie earned some of the worst reviews ever for a ‘Star Wars’ film and ended its run as the lowest-grossing entry in Ridley’s trilogy.”

In an interview on DragCast podcast in mid-August, Daisy Ridley said,

“January was not that nice. It was weird, I felt like all of this love that we’d sort of been shown the first time around, I was like, ‘Where’s the love gone?’”

“You know, everyone’s entitled to not like something, but it feels like it’s changed slightly. But I think in general that’s because social media and what have you…I guess now conversations are just more public, so there’s stuff I wouldn’t have seen, but honestly trying to scroll through my newsfeed in January and trying to not see ‘Star Wars’ stuff, I’d see headlines and be like ‘Oh my God this is so upsetting. So it’s been tricky, but then it’s having that thing of ‘I feel really proud of it,’ and ‘I’m so thrilled to be part of it.’ Yeah, but it’s a funny thing.”

Then in a recent interview with “Entertainment Weekly”, Ridley had this to say:

“It was so sad to finish [Star Wars]. When the film was released, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was such a huge chapter. And, weirdly, the past few months of not having much… Obviously now it’s really nice to be working, but not having much [at the time] I feel like I processed the last five years. To be forced to slow down, it was good mentally for me because [Star Wars was] a big thing in my life.”

“Weirdly, at the beginning of the year nothing was coming through. I was like, ‘Aww! No one wants to employ me.'”

“There were actually loads of things that I auditioned for at the beginning of the year and didn’t get any of them. I had that moment of ‘Oh my god!’ and then just thought ‘everything in its right time.'”

Ridley is now starting to get some voice work.

Daisy Ridley & Mark Hamill

Daisy Ridley & Mark Hamill

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China Issues Guidelines to Increase Production of Sci-Fi Films

China’s National Film Administration and the China Association for Science and Technology (a professional organization) have issued a new document outlining policy measures to boost the country’s production of #SciFi movies. Entitled “Several Opinions on Promoting the Development of Science Fiction Films,” the document highlights how the sci-fi genre fits into the ruling Communist Party’s broader ideological and technological goals.

The document focuses on developing domestic, pro-China sci-fi film content and high-tech production capability, and comes in the wake of the country’s first VFX-heavy sci-fi blockbuster hit, “The Wandering Earth,” which remains the third highest grossing film of all time in China with a local box office equivalent to $691 million.

The document claims that to make strong sci-fi movies, that the number one priority is to “thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought.” Xi Jinping (who is the current president of China and head of its Communist Party) has said in past pronouncements on film work that filmmakers should follow the “correct direction” for the development of sci-fi movies. Apparently, this includes creating films that “highlight Chinese values, inherit Chinese culture and aesthetics, cultivate contemporary Chinese innovation” as well as “disseminate scientific thought” and “raise the spirit of scientists.” In other words, Chinese sci-fi films should portray China in a positive light and as a technologically advanced nation.

To emphasize the importance of technological advancement, the document states that Chinese companies building VFX technology for film are as strategically important as companies working to “further implement the national policy of encouraging the development of the software and integrated circuit industries.” This is in part due to the rising tensions with the West over technology and internet control. The document encourages Chinese companies to encourage and support R&D in the following:

  • “VFX’s underlying core technology and platform tools with independent IP rights,”
  • “film digital content processing and digital copyright protection,” and their industrialization,
  • “Chinese-made high-precision film equipment”, including its use.
  • and that international exchange should be encouraged in the context of furthering these goals.

Ironically, while Xi Jinping has greatly increased censorship in China, the document claims that China’s lack of strong sci-fi is primarily due to a lack of innovative ideas and scripts. To counter this, the document recommends the following:

  • Generate strong sci-fi scripts through talent incubators and prizes
  • Urge film festivals to set up specific sci-fi film departments.
  • Encourage the adaptation of sci-fi literature, animation and games to stimulate the production of new original content.
  • Elementary and middle school students should be made to watch “excellent sci-fi movies.”
  • Universities should be urged to “strengthen the training of sci-fi related talent.”

The document also recommends establishing a sci-fi film screening alliance and improve funding sources for films.

"The Wandering Earth"

Chinese sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth”

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Judge Rules Against Video Game Developer Who Claimed “Star Trek: Discovery” Ripped Him Off

An appeals court took some literary license when discussing a copyright lawsuit over the beloved #SciFi series #StarTrek. Writing on behalf of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Denny Chin borrowed some iconic language from the show’s opening while issuing a decision on a case between CBS Broadcasting Inc. and video game developer Anas Abdin, who claimed that “Star Trek: Discovery” borrowed a concept he came up with:

“Today, in the latest round of Star Trek-related litigation, we are asked to boldly go where no court has gone before.”

Chin wrote that the panel decided the case was consistent with the findings of a lower-court judge. In the ruling, Chin said that Anas Abdin failed to show there was substantial similarity between his video game concept and the television series. Abdin has maintained that a concept he introduced in 2014 on several online forums and websites (tardigrades) was later utilized by CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Netflex Inc. in the show “Star Trek: Discovery”, which premiered in September, 2017.

The appeals court noted that information about tardigrades was publicly available and cited a Smithsonian Magazine report that tardigrades, which are commonly seen on moss or the bottom of lakes, have also been found surviving in boiling hot springs and buried under ice on Himalayan mountaintops.

The appeals court wrote,

“The tardigrade’s ability to survive in space has been reported and discussed in numerous scientific studies and thus has entered the public domain as a scientific fact.”

“Facts and ideas are not protected by copyright.”

"Star Trek: Discovery" Image

“Star Trek: Discovery” Image

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RIP Sir Ian Holm

#RIP: we are saddened to report the passing of British actor Sir Ian Holm at the age of 88. He played old Bilbo Baggins in #TheHobbit film saga (#AnUnexpectedJourney & #TheBattleOfTheFiveArmies) and #TheLordOfTheRings film saga (#TheFellowshipOfTheRing & #TheReturnOfTheKing); Father Vito Cornelius in #TheFifthElement; Napoleon in #TimeBandits; Ash in #Alien; Terry Rapson in #TheDayAfterTomorrow; Jonas Muller (voice) in #Renaissance; Skinner (voice) in #Ratatouille; Sirius / Boris / the Devil in #SimonMagus; Naville in #ALifeLessOrdinary; Walter Bailiff in #LochNess; Pod in #TheBorrowers (miniseries); Dr. Murnau in #Kafka; Reverend Charles L. Dodgson / Lewis Carroll in #Dreamchild; Mr. Kurtzmann in #Brazil; Puck in #AMidsummerNightsDream; & more.

Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace.

Ian Holm

Ian Holm (1931-2020)

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RIP Gene Dynarski

#RIP: actor Gene Dynarski has passed away at the age of 86. His death was reported on April 24, 2020, but he died on Feb. 27, 2020. He played Krodac / Ben Childress in “#StarTrek: #TOS”; Cmdr. Orfil Quinteros in #TNG; Benedict in #Batman (1966 TV series); Centaur I / Guard in #VoyageToTheBottomOfTheSea; Warden Barmak in #LandOfTheGiants; Ike in #CloseEncountersOfTheThirdKind; Ernie Stefaniuk in #TheXFiles; Vasil in #TheInvisibleMan (1976 TV series); & more.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. 🖖 #LLAP

Gene Dynarski

Gene Dynarski (1933-2020)

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