It’s Thursday, and I’m trying to figure out if the new tax plan will allow me to deduct my Drybar bills.
Hello from Los Angeles, where we’re getting in formation for The Lion King, shooing Brett Ratner away from our sets, and peeking behind the scenes of Stranger Things.
ALL THE SINGLE LIONS
Sometimes the goddesses just know when you need a piece of good news. And by goddesses, I mean the publicity department at Disney. The studio announced late Wednesday that Beyoncé will play the female lead, Nala, in Jon Favreau’s remake of The Lion King, due in theaters in July 2019. The pop star joins the previously announced Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones as Mufasa (again), and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar in the retelling of the 1994 animated film. As V.F.’s Yohana Desta wrote back in March, when rumors started circulating about Favreau courting Beyoncé for the role, the casting makes sense for both parties. The now mother-of-three adds a family-friendly project to her impressive oeuvre, and Favreau adds a mononymous singing icon to an update of one of Disney’s most popular musicals. Now that the news is official, V.F.’s Joanna Robinson notes that Beyoncé’s casting rekindles one of our era’s crucial debates: is Nala a Disney princess? Or more rightly, with Beyoncé’s casting, is she now a Disney queen?
Having spent time on Favreau’s Jungle Book set, and watched as he directed the film’s child star, Neel Sethi, act against blue-screen environments and computer-generated characters played by Bill Murray and Christopher Walken, I’m eager to see how the filmmaker tackles the production of his latest film. It seems inevitable—and advisable—that Favreau would retain some of the memorable Elton John and Tim Rice songs from the 1994 Lion King, including “Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and “Hakuna Matata.” And composer Hans Zimmer, who also worked on the original, will also be back for the update. With Beyoncé aboard, there’s clearly room for new songs as well. Let the diva-fication of this classic begin.
THE BRETT BEAT
V.F.’s Nicole Sperling writes:
The studios aren’t wasting any time distancing themselves from toxic talent. The latest example came as Warner Bros. backed away from director-producer Brett Ratner, who is accused of sexual harassment by six women in the Los Angeles Times. Studio sources confirmed that Ratner’s first-look deal at Warner Bros. will not be renewed, and he will no longer be renting office space in a bungalow on the lot once occupied by Frank Sinatra. Ratner has also been relieved of his producing duties for the upcoming film The Goldfinch, based on the best-selling novel by Donna Tartt. The movie, from Brooklyn director John Crowley and starring Ansel Elgort, is set to begin production in 2018.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Ratner said, “In light of the allegations being made, I am choosing to personally step away from all Warner Bros.-related activities. I don’t want to have any possible negative impact to the studio until these personal issues are resolved.” The producer is also involved with the financing company RatPac-Dune, co-founded by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which has supplied $450 million of capital to the studio since 2013, and subsidized budgets on up to 75 films. The deal is set to expire in March 2018—and while Warner Bros. has no control over Ratner’s involvement in the company, should he stay a partner in it, it’s unlikely they will renew their agreement. The scandal seems unlikely to fade away quickly; the L.A. Times’s Amy Kaufman tweeted that she has been contacted by more than 20 new accusers since her first story went online Wednesday. And Ratner, as Desta notes, is fighting back with at least one defamation lawsuit against a separate accuser who came forward on Facebook.
V.F.’s Yohana Desta writes:
Lucasfilm continues to whet our collective appetite for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. A new trailer for the film was released Wednesday night, once again teasing the ultimate battle between light and dark, and giving fans some new theories to mull over. For example: what’s going on with Rey and Luke? In one scene, Rey can be seen standing over him and wielding a lightsaber while the sage Jedi warns, “This is not going to go the way you think.” In between all the juicy action shots—from a scarred Kylo Ren smashing things to my beloved Finn battling with my evil beloved Captain Phasma—there’s more vaguely ominous dialogue, like this: “Darkness rises—and light to meet it.” However, the trailer’s true pièce de résistance is a quick shot of Luke stepping into the Millennium Falcon, a nostalgic moment that hits fans right in the chest—and teases the potential adventures that lie beyond his exile in Ahch-To.
INSIDE THE UPSIDE DOWN
V.F.’s Laura Bradley writes:
How do you go about creating the look and sound of a creature that doesn’t exist? That’s one of the many things I thought about as I watched Stranger Things 2. So I went straight to the source, interviewing visual effects and sound designers from the show to get to the bottom of making a demon pollywog that’s simultaneously menacing and really darn cute. Turns out the keys to the character are clumsiness, a gargly voice, and teeth that stay hidden until the most opportune moment. Dart might not be the deadliest creature in the world of Stranger Things, but we’ll still be keeping our distance from any slug-like creatures for at least a few more weeks.
That’s the news for this overcast Thursday in L.A. What are you seeing out there? Send tips, comments, and the keys to Frank Sinatra’s bungalow to [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca