By: Romeo San Vicente*/Special to TRT—
Brad Pitt’s undead reunion
Remember in World War Z when Brad Pitt figured out how to dispense with those zombies that killed pretty much everyone except Brad Pitt and his pals? Well, obviously, when nearly half a billion dollars in box office receipts roll in, they manage to find a stray zombie or 12 still lurking in a sewer somewhere. So here comes the sequel (WWZ2? WWZ, Too? WWAA? Just guessing…), starring Pitt and a batch of fresh undeads, but not directed by Z helmer Marc Forster. He’s out, thanks to what is most likely a confirmation of those feud rumors that circulated about him and Pitt, and in is gay director Juan Antonio Bayona. The Spanish filmmaker, who gave us the tsunami thriller The Impossible, will step in for the next installment after a script materializes and, more importantly, after he wraps up duties on A Monster Calls, his new film about a young boy who enlists a tree monster to help him deal with his mother’s terminal illness. Provided you’re not fully sick of the zombie genre by then, look for WWWhatever to show up sometime in 2016.
Taraji P. Henson will be the queen of Lee Daniels’ Empire
Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson is returning to television (or at least pilot season) with Lee Daniels for a new hip-hop-themed drama called Empire. It’ll star Terrence Howard, with whom Henson shared the big screen in Hustle & Flow, as Lucious Lyon, a hip-hop star and record label CEO; Henson will take the role of his ex-wife and former business partner “Cookie,” an ex-con ready to make a fresh start. Together they’ll navigate the business (Malik Yoba and Precious’ Gabourey Sidibe co-star, too) and family life as they deal with having a gay teenage son (Jussie Smollett). Created and produced by Daniels with Danny Strong and Brian Grazer, it can’t sail through the first round of TV draft picks fast enough, given the woeful lack of well-made African-American dramas on the tube, much less one as critically acclaimed as, say, Breaking Bad or Mad Men. And, no, that Tyler Perry soap opera doesn’t count.
Steven Spielberg wants to make a musical you’ve already seen
Maria, Steven Spielberg has just met a girl named Maria. Oh, all right, no, he hasn’t. He met her a long time ago, just like you did. And he fell in love with her, just like you did. In fact, the only difference between you and Steven Spielberg in this scenario is that you aren’t planning to remake Maria’s world, aka West Side Story. A long time ago, during that wild Cantonese musical number in Temple of Doom, maybe you thought, “What if Steven Spielberg made a musical?” Spielberg probably thought that himself. But nobody could have guessed he’d set his sights on remaking one of the most beloved musicals of all time. So… yeah… look, who knows, you know? It’s early days yet, still in the “he has expressed interest” stage, which means it might never happen. But then again it might. The man tends to do as he pleases. We’ll be waiting and watching – and hoping and praying he gets a different idea.
Diana Nyad visits dry land
For a ballroom dancing program called Dancing With the Stars, you’d think that by this point (it’s ninth year on TV and coming up on 18 seasons) more openly LGBT celebrities would have taken part in the actual dancing aspect of it all. But weirdly enough, that has not been the case. In fact, they number on three fingers: Chaz Bono, Lance Bass and now, curiously enough, badass swimmer Diana Nyad. And her timing couldn’t be better. She’s fresh off her historic 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida, a 103-mile journey accomplished in 53 hours, and now the 64-year-old athlete – who’s been part of the American consciousness for decades but who’s never been the kind of famous person hounded by paparazzi – so dancing a little bit on TV will feel like a stroll through the garden. And she’s poised to become a face as recognizable to TV viewers as her accomplishments are to the world of endurance sport, since the season’s line-up includes Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Billy Dee Williams, Candace Cameron Bure, Cody Simpson, Danica McKellar, Drew Carey, James Maslow, Sean Avery and NeNe Leakes, some of whom are even less frequently pursued by tabloids than she is. Another upside? Fewer sharks.
*Romeo San Vicente is very successful at cutting in. He can be reached care of this publication or at DeepInsideHollywood@qsyndicate.com.