George Tillman Jr. on Amandla Stenberg: ‘Her Wholehearted Focus and Surrender to the Character’ Inspires — IndieWire Honors

The actress’ “The Hate U Give” director pays tribute to this year’s Breakthrough Performance Award winner, and looks to a “bright future” for the star.

ConsiderThis

On November 1, the 2018 IndieWire Honors ceremony will celebrate seven filmmakers and actors for their achievement in creative independence. We’re showcasing their work with new interviews and tributes from their peers all week.

Like many moviegoers, “Soul Food” director George Tillman Jr. took note of Amandla Stenberg after her turn in “The Hunger Games,” but their recent collaboration on “The Hate U Give” solidified his appreciation of her talentTillman shared the following thoughts on Stenberg’s abilities with IndieWire’s Kate Erbland.

When I first read the unpublished manuscript of Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” in January 2016, I was speechless. It was deeply personal and I hadn’t felt moved like that in a long time. It was as if someone had written the story of my own life as a black man growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I knew from that moment that this was a movie I had to direct. I was determined to bring this story to life and I immediately got on the phone with Angie and her team, then later with Elizabeth Gabler at Fox 2000. We were making this movie.

Little did I know that a young actress named Amandla Stenberg was reading this unpublished manuscript at the same time. I remember seeing her in the “Hunger Games” and always thought she was a young and talented artist. The stars were aligned for us to work together on “The Hate U Give.”

I still remember the day she came by office to meet for the first time. I was taken by surprise by her immense drive to play Starr Carter. She was only 17 at the time and I was so impressed that an actress at her age was looking for her own material. It was then I knew how committed Amandla really was to being in this film and bringing this character to life. It was also incredible to see her ability to be in the moment and listen attentively. There was an extremely clear maturity in her focus and presence, and from that meeting on, I didn’t look for another Starr Carter. She was the one.

Just like Starr Carter, Amandla grew up in an inner-city neighborhood and went to a white private school. She was afraid to tell her friends where she lived and she didn’t invite them to her house because she carried a similar confusion for her identity. Starr and Amandla’s lives ran completely parallel to one another, which made her connection to the material incredibly special and powerful.

As I set up a pre-production schedule to prepare her for the role of Starr, I watched her dive into the work with every fiber of her being. Five months before production, we worked hard to uncover the endless specifics to the character of Starr with basketball lessons, character intent, discussions on the material, and behavior charts. Amandla absorbed every bit of information and I was proud to see her fully embody Starr Carter.

Amandla is in almost every frame of this movie, which required countless hours of rehearsal and numerous exercises in building chemistry so she had to engage authentically with each cast member. I watched her soak everything in and gracefully disappear into this role. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many young performers before, and it felt like those earlier films and projects were preparing me for this. I felt it was my responsibility to guide but allow her room to add, adjust, and to fuel her own passion for this role.

Amandla brought a nuanced freshness and youthful spirit to Starr. After 40 days of shooting, it was clear that her commitment never wavered from that first meeting. As many takes I wanted or how many times I wanted to change a reflection for a specific line in the scene, it was incredible to see how much soul she put into this role, and her wholehearted focus and surrender to the character was outstanding. Her performance is the result of hard work, dedication, and passion.

We can look to a bright future. There is more to come. I know this is only the beginning.

For me, Amandla’s work truly starts here, with Starr and “The Hate U Give.” I’m excited to see what else she’ll give the world because just like Starr, she’s lighting up the darkness.

‘The Hate U Give’: How the Emotional #BlackLivesMatter Drama Brought Its Cast Together

The story of a teenager’s burgeoning activism is making waves around the country — but for the cast, the revelations began much earlier.

The Hate U Give” is not your ordinary sentimental studio drama that rounds off the edges, designed for maximum uplift. Much credit goes to Angie Thomas’ edgy 2017 novel (whose title was inspired by Tupac Shakur’s “THUG LIFE”: “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”), which remained on the New York Times Young Adult bestseller list for 50 weeks. That gave Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler the confidence to hew close to its gritty #BlackLivesMatter narrative about high schooler Starr (Amandla Stenberg), who finds her activist identity after witnessing a white police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend.

After its welcoming Toronto International Film Festival debut, “The Hate U Give” shot out of the gate in platform release — Fox is building word of mouth as it expands to more theaters — with rave reviews. But for the cast, the current success is just a natural extension of the galvanizing experience on set.

“This is what you get when we are able to tell our own stories our way,” said actor Russell Hornsby (“Fences,” “Seven Seconds”), who is generating Oscar talk for his fiercely tender role as Starr’s grocer father, Maverick. “We’re in this together, we want this to succeed. That’s rare. With this type of film, and the subject matter, you could botch it. Pull some punches. Take some teeth out of it. Dull it a little. People know when you are pulling the wool over their eyes. Young people will instantly tell everyone what’s real and not. They kept the authenticity.”

The film’s centerpiece is The Talk, when Maverick sits down his children and sternly directs  them to always put their hands on the car dashboard if a police officer pulls them over. Both Hornsby and filmmaker George Tillman, Jr. (“Soul Food,” “Men of Honor”) were raised by parents who made them well aware of the dangers of being a black man anywhere near white cops.

DF-08750_08789_R_COMP_CROP – Amandla Stenberg and Lamar Johnson in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

“The Hate U Give”

Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

Tillman pulled the project together smooth and fast after reading an early manuscript in January 2016, while directing an episode of “Luke Cage.” Having enjoyed an 18-year relationship with Fox 2000, he thought that Gabler would respond to the material. “It had edge and bite to it,” he said. “I knew the characters were there. You get into the police brutality, but the heart of it is this 16-year-old’s journey finding herself, and she is not ashamed of where she came from.”

At the same time, “Hunger Games” star and outspoken feminist Amandla Stenberg (who is now 19), had read the unpublished book and passionately pitched herself to Tillman for the role of Starr. “I never related to anything so hard,” said Stenberg in a phone interview, “in the timeless way it portrays #BlackLivesMatter and brings empathy and humanity to these experiences.”

A year later, after screenwriter Audrey Wells finished the 126-page script — sadly, she succumbed to cancer the day before the movie opened — Fox asked Stenberg to audition and commit. She did both. And it took three auditions to convince the studio that Hornsby, who usually plays lawyers and working professionals, would look natural in braids and tattoos. For the second audition, he showed up dressed for the part. The actor had played a range of roles in theater, but the Hollywood suits hadn’t seen them. “I’d done the work,” he said. “‘What are you talking about? I can do this!'”

THUG-002 – Amandla Stenberg stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

“The Hate U Give”

Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

Fox greenlit a $20-million movie to be shot in Atlanta, co-starring Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”) and “Detroit” star Algee Smith, with Common, Anthony Mackie, and Issa Rae.

Hornsby plays an ex-con who has built a life as a store owner and family man. “As a man he is strong and sturdy,” said Hornsby, “but he is also passionate and also tender and also gentle. He’s evolved.” In “The Hate U Give,” Maverick tells his daughter, “I want you to do better. I want to break the cycle.”

Tillman could relate. His father, who did not go to college, cried when he dropped him off at Chapman College, where Tillman fell in love with the French New Wave and Richard Lester on the way to learning his craft, first in Chicago and then Los Angeles.

Both Tillman and Stenberg related to Starr, a black teenager who straddles two identities: one at home with her family and friends in Garden Heights, another at Williamson Prep. Both had grown up in lower-income urban neighborhoods, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Inglewood in Los Angeles, respectively, and attended largely white private schools.

“Starr was very similar to me,” said Stenberg. “I was able to bring my own personal life experience, to make the dialogue and references authentic. I understood those dualities and complexities of how I present myself depending on the environment I was entering, in order to be accepted. A huge part of all that came from the book. I made sure to portray Starr in a way that wasn’t overly sanitized or stereotyped. She is so nuanced and real. It blew me out of the water, how she’s allowed to be so multidimensional in a way most black characters are not.”

DF-03394_R2 - Amandla Stenberg and Algee Smith in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

“The Hate U Give”

Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

The director organized a boot camp for his actors, giving them booklets with back stories for each character. “It’s called rehearsal,” said theater-trained Hornsby, while admitting that it’s not normal these days for a cast to get together for two-and-a-half weeks before shooting. This allowed Hornsby, Hall and Stenberg to bond as a family.

And it helped Hornsby to take on a mentor role for the younger actors, especially Stenberg. “He was constantly teaching me on set,” she said, “whether it was how to behave or navigate the industry or how to carry yourself and be grateful and professional, very much in the way a father would, never in a way that was demanding or reprimanding, always offering a guiding hand both creatively and professionally, from the moment we began rehearsals.”

During the film, Hornsby transitioned to being an elder statesman. “It’s no longer about me,” he said. “I have to be secure in my work and who I am and these young kids are looking for me to impart some wisdom, to be reassured. With Amandla, it was little things like reminding her to breathe; we’d talk about keeping everything simple.”

‘Monsters and Men’ Film Review: Timely Race-Based Drama Centers on Controversial Killing

Watching Reinaldo Marcus Green’s debut feature “Monsters and Men,” about three different persons of color in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood, one senses that this is the kind of serious, small-bore drama that Hollywood stopped caring about a while ago; it’s about real people in unglamorous situations, making do and struggling to move forward when they find themselves at a crossroads.

But when you take into account Green’s catalytic, section-binding incident — the suspicious killing of a black man at the hands of cops — you realize that this is the kind of movie Hollywood needs to be making. Though “Monsters and Men” isn’t the most fully realized work, its innate intelligence and matter-of-fact sensitivity are the kinds of storytelling assets we need more of, especially when the fabric of life for many continues to fray and tear in ways that demand a larger societal reassessing.

That’s certainly the vibe Green achieves in his opening scene, in which a black man (John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”) behind the wheel of a car, singing along to Al Green, is stopped by a police cruiser. Nothing happens — the driver, later one of our three protagonists, is a cop, who shows his badge — but was it really nothing? The no-frills, real-time nature of this quietly tense opener, and the cool resolve on Washington’s face, let us know that this kind of incident is always a case of a song interrupted, a personal space invaded, progress halted.

Also Read: Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Gets Cannes Standing Ovation, Social Media Praise

From there, we meet Manny (Anthony Ramos, “A Star Is Born”), a reformed young man applying for a security job while he lives with his mother, girlfriend, and daughter. A regular at the corner bodega, he’s hanging with friends one night when cops swarm, focusing on community fixture Darius (Samel Edwards). Manny begins recording with his phone, and within seconds, Darius is dead.

That Green holds his camera on Manny and not Darius’s dying mere yards away is a directorial choice that is likely to fluster some — later, when Manny posts the video online, we don’t even get an uninterrupted viewing of the footage — but it’s an understandable decision as the rest of the movie plays out. However such incidents are seen, assessed, and dealt with (or not), a broken, racist, ass-covering system is going to do what it does anyway to squelch its impact.

As might be expected, Manny’s decision to go viral with Darius’ fate makes him a target for intimidation and questioning by cops, save Washington’s character Dennis, whose story we then follow after he locks eyes with Manny through a one-way mirror at the station. Dennis finds himself in the uncomfortable position of a black man who knows discrimination (the aforementioned opening scene) yet feels the need to defend the actions of his colleagues by way of the broader context of how dangerous his job is.

Watch Video: Amandla Stenberg Gets Woke in ‘The Hate U Give’ First Trailer

Washington’s performance is the film’s best, magnetically capturing Dennis’s hawklike solitude, and the tension inside someone who is careful of his every step, physically and verbally. (Which, incidentally, is praise you could readily apply to his equally great minority-lawman-amongst-whites turn in “BlacKkKlansman.”)

The third story, also signaled by a meeting of eyes from a chance encounter, belongs to high schooler Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison, Jr., “Assassination Nation”), a studious baseball phenom torn between the expected rigor of not rocking any boat that would mar his chance of landing a sports scholarship, and a growing need to be an outspoken voice in the wake of the shooting. Zyrick’s is the most schematically engineered dilemma in Green’s screenplay, but one that nevertheless carries a ripped-from-the-headlines resonance in light of today’s harsh spotlight on politicized athletes.

Also Read: Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s ‘Fast Color’ Picked Up by Lionsgate’s Codeblack

Green made a handful of short films prior to “Monsters and Men,” and if there’s a nagging incompleteness to the movie, it’s because Green, by working with a triptych, is still thinking in a truncated-tale mindset. With all three of the stories, you sense the momentum of a thorny narrative, rich in personal struggle and consequence, coming to a halt just when you’d like them to take the next step dramatically. (To leave Manny when he’s being interrogated seems almost cruel.)

Visually, however, “Monsters and Men” benefits from some fine cinematography by Patrick Scola (“Southside With You”), built around muted, shadowy evocations of loneliness and self-assessment across the three characters’ storylines. Green and Scola are also effective at framing their leads in ways that give us the internal dialogue — when Zyrick watches the video of Darius’ killing, you know he’s thinking, “That could be me someday” — without it having to be spoken aloud. That being said, Green still occasionally succumbs to the obvious scripted line, but there’s enough of an observant realism to these lives that the on-the-nose moments aren’t that distracting.

Besides, “Monsters and Men” wants you to be reminded of Eric Garner and Colin Kaepernick, but in a way that pushes you to think about your own sense of what’s fair, what’s not, what’s true, and what’s necessary. Green’s film lies somewhere between full-throttle drama and issue-driven mood piece. That may not be enough for some moviegoers, but it’s still a worthy conversation starter.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘The Daily Show’ Riffs on ‘Minority Report’ to Save Innocent Black People From Cops (Video)

‘Black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris: I Left Disney for Netflix Over Shelved Anti-Trump Episode

Fox News Anchor Rebukes Ron DeSantis for ‘Monkey’ Comment About Black Opponent (Video)

Tennis Fans Revolt After French Open Bans Serena Williams’ ‘Black Panther’ Catsuit

Watching Reinaldo Marcus Green’s debut feature “Monsters and Men,” about three different persons of color in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood, one senses that this is the kind of serious, small-bore drama that Hollywood stopped caring about a while ago; it’s about real people in unglamorous situations, making do and struggling to move forward when they find themselves at a crossroads.

But when you take into account Green’s catalytic, section-binding incident — the suspicious killing of a black man at the hands of cops — you realize that this is the kind of movie Hollywood needs to be making. Though “Monsters and Men” isn’t the most fully realized work, its innate intelligence and matter-of-fact sensitivity are the kinds of storytelling assets we need more of, especially when the fabric of life for many continues to fray and tear in ways that demand a larger societal reassessing.

That’s certainly the vibe Green achieves in his opening scene, in which a black man (John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”) behind the wheel of a car, singing along to Al Green, is stopped by a police cruiser. Nothing happens — the driver, later one of our three protagonists, is a cop, who shows his badge — but was it really nothing? The no-frills, real-time nature of this quietly tense opener, and the cool resolve on Washington’s face, let us know that this kind of incident is always a case of a song interrupted, a personal space invaded, progress halted.

From there, we meet Manny (Anthony Ramos, “A Star Is Born”), a reformed young man applying for a security job while he lives with his mother, girlfriend, and daughter. A regular at the corner bodega, he’s hanging with friends one night when cops swarm, focusing on community fixture Darius (Samel Edwards). Manny begins recording with his phone, and within seconds, Darius is dead.

That Green holds his camera on Manny and not Darius’s dying mere yards away is a directorial choice that is likely to fluster some — later, when Manny posts the video online, we don’t even get an uninterrupted viewing of the footage — but it’s an understandable decision as the rest of the movie plays out. However such incidents are seen, assessed, and dealt with (or not), a broken, racist, ass-covering system is going to do what it does anyway to squelch its impact.

As might be expected, Manny’s decision to go viral with Darius’ fate makes him a target for intimidation and questioning by cops, save Washington’s character Dennis, whose story we then follow after he locks eyes with Manny through a one-way mirror at the station. Dennis finds himself in the uncomfortable position of a black man who knows discrimination (the aforementioned opening scene) yet feels the need to defend the actions of his colleagues by way of the broader context of how dangerous his job is.

Washington’s performance is the film’s best, magnetically capturing Dennis’s hawklike solitude, and the tension inside someone who is careful of his every step, physically and verbally. (Which, incidentally, is praise you could readily apply to his equally great minority-lawman-amongst-whites turn in “BlacKkKlansman.”)

The third story, also signaled by a meeting of eyes from a chance encounter, belongs to high schooler Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison, Jr., “Assassination Nation”), a studious baseball phenom torn between the expected rigor of not rocking any boat that would mar his chance of landing a sports scholarship, and a growing need to be an outspoken voice in the wake of the shooting. Zyrick’s is the most schematically engineered dilemma in Green’s screenplay, but one that nevertheless carries a ripped-from-the-headlines resonance in light of today’s harsh spotlight on politicized athletes.

Green made a handful of short films prior to “Monsters and Men,” and if there’s a nagging incompleteness to the movie, it’s because Green, by working with a triptych, is still thinking in a truncated-tale mindset. With all three of the stories, you sense the momentum of a thorny narrative, rich in personal struggle and consequence, coming to a halt just when you’d like them to take the next step dramatically. (To leave Manny when he’s being interrogated seems almost cruel.)

Visually, however, “Monsters and Men” benefits from some fine cinematography by Patrick Scola (“Southside With You”), built around muted, shadowy evocations of loneliness and self-assessment across the three characters’ storylines. Green and Scola are also effective at framing their leads in ways that give us the internal dialogue — when Zyrick watches the video of Darius’ killing, you know he’s thinking, “That could be me someday” — without it having to be spoken aloud. That being said, Green still occasionally succumbs to the obvious scripted line, but there’s enough of an observant realism to these lives that the on-the-nose moments aren’t that distracting.

Besides, “Monsters and Men” wants you to be reminded of Eric Garner and Colin Kaepernick, but in a way that pushes you to think about your own sense of what’s fair, what’s not, what’s true, and what’s necessary. Green’s film lies somewhere between full-throttle drama and issue-driven mood piece. That may not be enough for some moviegoers, but it’s still a worthy conversation starter.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'The Daily Show' Riffs on 'Minority Report' to Save Innocent Black People From Cops (Video)

'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris: I Left Disney for Netflix Over Shelved Anti-Trump Episode

Fox News Anchor Rebukes Ron DeSantis for 'Monkey' Comment About Black Opponent (Video)

Tennis Fans Revolt After French Open Bans Serena Williams' 'Black Panther' Catsuit

‘Hal’ Film Review: Engaging Documentary Celebrates 70s Maverick Director Hal Ashby

By the time Hal Ashby made it to the director’s chair in 1970 after a stint as one of the most acclaimed film editors of the 1960s, he’d grown out his hair to a shaggy fullness more in keeping with the hippie-ish message he sent over the airwaves when accepting his 1968 Oscar for editing “In the Heat of the Night”: “I hope we can use all of our talents and creativity for peace, and for love.”

Ashby would never lose his vibey guru mien thereafter, and through the Me Decade, he turned out a remarkable stretch of socially conscious, bitingly funny and character-rich pictures — including “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo” and “Being There” — that have made him a giant among cineastes who see the ’70s as Hollywood’s most satisfyingly adult and uncompromising period. But if there’s still the sense that Ashby isn’t as sanctified as American New Wave stalwarts Coppola or Scorsese — with his stories of small-bore goodness invariably less sexy than tales of gangsterdom — Amy Scott’s breezy tribute of a documentary “Hal” is out to correct that oversight.

Mentor-turned-bestie Jewison wells up when holding forth on Ashby, whose discursive, passionate letters to Jewison — blasting hypocrisy and society’s ills — the director holds in his lap on-camera. Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Lee Grant and Louis Gossett, Jr. speak to the freedom he gave them as actors. Robert Towne, Haskell Wexler and editor Robert Jones provide insight into his behind-the-camera mode. And the next-generation fan base is marked by encomiums from Alexander Payne, Alison Anders, David O. Russell, Judd Apatow and Lisa Cholodenko.

Also Read: Academy to Honor Hal Ashby

“Hal” is the kind of career survey designed to spur rewatches and never-too-late introductions to his work. (Which will, in turn, incur much bemoaning that we live in a dark age for the availability of classic films for instant viewing.)

What comes through is a story of a stumbled-upon calling: an aimless Utah-born escapee from troubled family circumstances (and, we learn, an abandoned infant daughter), who fell into studio work in California through an unemployment agency and hit upon the magic of splicing movies into a meaningful shape. A great story comes out of Jewison’s fever to protect Ashby’s process — a sometimes 24-hours-straight obsession with organic discovery — that led the “In The Heat of the Night” director to spruce up the studio lot’s editing bungalow so that it more resembled a home in which Ashby could spend every waking hour.

With Jewison’s help, Ashby landed the job of directing “The Landlord,” a then-daring, of-the-moment story of race, class, love, and gentrification in Brooklyn. Though not a hit, it was an ideal launching pad for Ashby’s continued interest in not just hot-button issues, but also their human side. Barely-seen led to barely-seen-but-future-cult-classic with 1971’s “Harold and Maude,” whose groundbreaking mix of fable-like positivity and dark, worldly wit showed Ashby’s alchemic gifts as well as his way with actors as far-ranging in style as Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon.

Also Read: ‘They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead’ Film Review: Morgan Neville’s Orson Welles Doc Is Cineaste Catnip

Ashby also knew what to do with big stars, though, as proven by the “The Last Detail” — which featured one of Jack Nicholson’s finest turns, and also a movie nearly robbed of its profanity by a worried studio — and “Shampoo,” Warren Beatty’s pet project about sexual mores. Scott, through some of her interviews, gently rebukes the accepted lore that “Shampoo” was more Beatty’s movie than its director’s.

Ashby’s reputation, the industry’s tolerance for difficult auteurs, and the success of “Shampoo” allowed him to push further. He used his whammy to realize an expensive, elaborate Woody Guthrie biopic (“Bound for Glory”), and on “Coming Home,” he persuaded stars Voight and Fonda to improvise, even casting real Vietnam vets to bolster the realism he sought. And it’s still something of a miracle that Ashby secured a major release for a surreal satire of mass-media personality cults (“Being There”). Prepare yourself for eerie parallels to our current bizarro leadership crisis when revisiting Peter Sellers’ turn as feeble-minded sponge Chauncey.

See Photos: 28 Classic Movies That Never Won Best Picture Oscars – From ‘Raging Bull’ to ‘Chinatown’

It’s cosmically fitting that Ashby’s storied run of seven straight acclaimed films tracks squarely with the accepted lifespan of the New Hollywood now lionized as a golden age. But “Hal” also acknowledges that Ashby’s increased drug use and willful, suit-enraging filmmaking style had as much to do with the drop-off in quality and acceptance after “Being There” as did the studios’ realignment toward bottom lines and blockbusters. Reagan-era flops “Lookin’ to Get Out” and his last film, the seized-and-recut “8 Million Ways to Die,” reflected Ashby only in bits and pieces.

We can merely speculate as to whether Ashby might have enjoyed a creative resurgence with the rise of indies had he not succumbed to cancer in 1988. But as “Hal” entertainingly reminds us, his influence as a righteous, challenging, humanist chronicler of mortal foibles — and as a filmmaker on a quest for a greater understanding of our world — remains a force among today’s more conscientious directors.



Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Grandma’ Star Lily Tomlin on how Being ‘Weird’ Led to 70s Fame

Boots Riley Calls Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ a ‘Fabricated’ Pro-Cop Story: ‘Really Disappointing’

‘Superman’ Star Margot Kidder Died of Suicide, Daughter Says

PBS Orders Documentaries on Woodstock, Reconstruction and a Ken Burns Look at Genes

By the time Hal Ashby made it to the director’s chair in 1970 after a stint as one of the most acclaimed film editors of the 1960s, he’d grown out his hair to a shaggy fullness more in keeping with the hippie-ish message he sent over the airwaves when accepting his 1968 Oscar for editing “In the Heat of the Night”: “I hope we can use all of our talents and creativity for peace, and for love.”

Ashby would never lose his vibey guru mien thereafter, and through the Me Decade, he turned out a remarkable stretch of socially conscious, bitingly funny and character-rich pictures — including “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo” and “Being There” — that have made him a giant among cineastes who see the ’70s as Hollywood’s most satisfyingly adult and uncompromising period. But if there’s still the sense that Ashby isn’t as sanctified as American New Wave stalwarts Coppola or Scorsese — with his stories of small-bore goodness invariably less sexy than tales of gangsterdom — Amy Scott’s breezy tribute of a documentary “Hal” is out to correct that oversight.

Mentor-turned-bestie Jewison wells up when holding forth on Ashby, whose discursive, passionate letters to Jewison — blasting hypocrisy and society’s ills — the director holds in his lap on-camera. Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Lee Grant and Louis Gossett, Jr. speak to the freedom he gave them as actors. Robert Towne, Haskell Wexler and editor Robert Jones provide insight into his behind-the-camera mode. And the next-generation fan base is marked by encomiums from Alexander Payne, Alison Anders, David O. Russell, Judd Apatow and Lisa Cholodenko.

“Hal” is the kind of career survey designed to spur rewatches and never-too-late introductions to his work. (Which will, in turn, incur much bemoaning that we live in a dark age for the availability of classic films for instant viewing.)

What comes through is a story of a stumbled-upon calling: an aimless Utah-born escapee from troubled family circumstances (and, we learn, an abandoned infant daughter), who fell into studio work in California through an unemployment agency and hit upon the magic of splicing movies into a meaningful shape. A great story comes out of Jewison’s fever to protect Ashby’s process — a sometimes 24-hours-straight obsession with organic discovery — that led the “In The Heat of the Night” director to spruce up the studio lot’s editing bungalow so that it more resembled a home in which Ashby could spend every waking hour.

With Jewison’s help, Ashby landed the job of directing “The Landlord,” a then-daring, of-the-moment story of race, class, love, and gentrification in Brooklyn. Though not a hit, it was an ideal launching pad for Ashby’s continued interest in not just hot-button issues, but also their human side. Barely-seen led to barely-seen-but-future-cult-classic with 1971’s “Harold and Maude,” whose groundbreaking mix of fable-like positivity and dark, worldly wit showed Ashby’s alchemic gifts as well as his way with actors as far-ranging in style as Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon.

Ashby also knew what to do with big stars, though, as proven by the “The Last Detail” — which featured one of Jack Nicholson’s finest turns, and also a movie nearly robbed of its profanity by a worried studio — and “Shampoo,” Warren Beatty’s pet project about sexual mores. Scott, through some of her interviews, gently rebukes the accepted lore that “Shampoo” was more Beatty’s movie than its director’s.

Ashby’s reputation, the industry’s tolerance for difficult auteurs, and the success of “Shampoo” allowed him to push further. He used his whammy to realize an expensive, elaborate Woody Guthrie biopic (“Bound for Glory”), and on “Coming Home,” he persuaded stars Voight and Fonda to improvise, even casting real Vietnam vets to bolster the realism he sought. And it’s still something of a miracle that Ashby secured a major release for a surreal satire of mass-media personality cults (“Being There”). Prepare yourself for eerie parallels to our current bizarro leadership crisis when revisiting Peter Sellers’ turn as feeble-minded sponge Chauncey.

It’s cosmically fitting that Ashby’s storied run of seven straight acclaimed films tracks squarely with the accepted lifespan of the New Hollywood now lionized as a golden age. But “Hal” also acknowledges that Ashby’s increased drug use and willful, suit-enraging filmmaking style had as much to do with the drop-off in quality and acceptance after “Being There” as did the studios’ realignment toward bottom lines and blockbusters. Reagan-era flops “Lookin’ to Get Out” and his last film, the seized-and-recut “8 Million Ways to Die,” reflected Ashby only in bits and pieces.

We can merely speculate as to whether Ashby might have enjoyed a creative resurgence with the rise of indies had he not succumbed to cancer in 1988. But as “Hal” entertainingly reminds us, his influence as a righteous, challenging, humanist chronicler of mortal foibles — and as a filmmaker on a quest for a greater understanding of our world — remains a force among today’s more conscientious directors.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Grandma' Star Lily Tomlin on how Being 'Weird' Led to 70s Fame

Boots Riley Calls Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman' a 'Fabricated' Pro-Cop Story: 'Really Disappointing'

'Superman' Star Margot Kidder Died of Suicide, Daughter Says

PBS Orders Documentaries on Woodstock, Reconstruction and a Ken Burns Look at Genes

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Sequel in Development With Jon M Chu Planning to Return

A sequel to “Crazy Rich Asians” is in development, with plans for director Jon M. Chu to return, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force and John Penotti of Ivanhoe are planning to reunite for the follow-up, as well as screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim.

Warner Bros., which hasn’t officially greenlighted the film, has the option for the entire trilogy written by Kevin Kwan, which includes “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.” Henry Golding, Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh also have options for the sequels.

Also Read: Ballin’ on a Budget: How ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Made Mega-Rich World for $30 Million

Do not read on if you don’t want to read spoilers for “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Of course, the end of “Crazy Rich Asians,” which hit theaters last week, teases a follow-up film. The mid-credit scene focuses on Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan) and Charlie Wu (Harry Shum, Jr.), the latter being a big character in the second and third book.

When asked about a potential sequel, Chu told TheWrap, “We would love to, of course — we wouldn’t put that in if we didn’t have the intention [to make a sequel]. However, we don’t get to decide — the audience does.”

According to Thrillist, producer Nina Jacobson told reporters earlier this month, “We’ll just tease [it] a little bit at the end and hope that audiences ask for more movies so we can continue to tell the story.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Rolls Up No. 1 at Box Office With $34 Million 5-Day Opening

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Stars Dueled Over Epic Mahjong Showdown: ‘No One Was Giving in’

Does ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Have a Post-Credits Scene?

A sequel to “Crazy Rich Asians” is in development, with plans for director Jon M. Chu to return, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force and John Penotti of Ivanhoe are planning to reunite for the follow-up, as well as screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim.

Warner Bros., which hasn’t officially greenlighted the film, has the option for the entire trilogy written by Kevin Kwan, which includes “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.” Henry Golding, Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh also have options for the sequels.

Do not read on if you don’t want to read spoilers for “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Of course, the end of “Crazy Rich Asians,” which hit theaters last week, teases a follow-up film. The mid-credit scene focuses on Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan) and Charlie Wu (Harry Shum, Jr.), the latter being a big character in the second and third book.

When asked about a potential sequel, Chu told TheWrap, “We would love to, of course — we wouldn’t put that in if we didn’t have the intention [to make a sequel]. However, we don’t get to decide — the audience does.”

According to Thrillist, producer Nina Jacobson told reporters earlier this month, “We’ll just tease [it] a little bit at the end and hope that audiences ask for more movies so we can continue to tell the story.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Crazy Rich Asians' Rolls Up No. 1 at Box Office With $34 Million 5-Day Opening

'Crazy Rich Asians' Stars Dueled Over Epic Mahjong Showdown: 'No One Was Giving in'

Does 'Crazy Rich Asians' Have a Post-Credits Scene?

Does ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Have a Post-Credits Scene?

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you don’t want to know spoilers for “Crazy Rich Asians.”)

“Crazy Rich Asians,” director John M. Chu’s rom-com adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, may not seem like the sort of movie that would demand a Marvel-style post-credits scene.

But the book is the first installment in a trilogy about sweethearts Nick Young (Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and their families and hangers-on.

And there’s in fact good reason to stick around after Nick and Rachel celebrate their engagement on the glorious rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore at the very end of the movie.

The credits roll, but there’s a bonus scene still to come. (Seriously, last chance before the spoilers.)

Also Read: Don’t Be Surprised If ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Blows Away Box Office Expectations

Midway through the credits, we get a short scene of Nick’s model-perfect cousin Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan) walking up to the bar at the rooftop engagement party.

She catches the eye of billionaire Charlie Wu, played by “Glee” alum Harry Shum, Jr. They smile at each other knowingly, which may lead fans to believe this sets up a potential sequel since Charlie is a big character in the second and third books in Kwan’s trilogy.

In the books, the two were engaged to be married when they were younger but her family disapproved of Charlie. Of course, Astrid then married Michael Teo, an aspiring entrepreneur who does not remain faithful to her.

In the books, Charlie and Astrid lovers reunite at Colin and Araminata’s wedding — and she goes to stay with him after she finds out about Michael’s affair. The events don’t transpire quite that way in the movie, so it seems like the mid-credit scene is setting up Astrid’s major storyline for a potential sequel.

Also Read: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Wows Critics: ‘Tour de Force of Lifestyle Pornography’

When asked about a potential sequel, Chu told TheWrap, “We would love to, of course — we wouldn’t put that in if we didn’t have the intention [to make a sequel]. However, we don’t get to decide — the audience does.”

According to Thrillist, producer Nina Jacobson told reporters earlier this month, “We’ll just tease [it] a little bit at the end and hope that audiences ask for more movies so we can continue to tell the story.”

“Crazy Rich Asians,” in theaters now, also stars Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Chris Pang, and Jimmy O. Yang.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Film Review: Constance Wu Stands Out in Culturally Rich Rom-Com

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Director Jon Chu to Develop Second Thai Cave Rescue Movie

‘Crazy Rich Asians’: You Can Have Fun With Representation, Constance Wu Says

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you don’t want to know spoilers for “Crazy Rich Asians.”)

“Crazy Rich Asians,” director John M. Chu’s rom-com adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, may not seem like the sort of movie that would demand a Marvel-style post-credits scene.

But the book is the first installment in a trilogy about sweethearts Nick Young (Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and their families and hangers-on.

And there’s in fact good reason to stick around after Nick and Rachel celebrate their engagement on the glorious rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore at the very end of the movie.

The credits roll, but there’s a bonus scene still to come. (Seriously, last chance before the spoilers.)

Midway through the credits, we get a short scene of Nick’s model-perfect cousin Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan) walking up to the bar at the rooftop engagement party.

She catches the eye of billionaire Charlie Wu, played by “Glee” alum Harry Shum, Jr. They smile at each other knowingly, which may lead fans to believe this sets up a potential sequel since Charlie is a big character in the second and third books in Kwan’s trilogy.

In the books, the two were engaged to be married when they were younger but her family disapproved of Charlie. Of course, Astrid then married Michael Teo, an aspiring entrepreneur who does not remain faithful to her.

In the books, Charlie and Astrid lovers reunite at Colin and Araminata’s wedding — and she goes to stay with him after she finds out about Michael’s affair. The events don’t transpire quite that way in the movie, so it seems like the mid-credit scene is setting up Astrid’s major storyline for a potential sequel.

When asked about a potential sequel, Chu told TheWrap, “We would love to, of course — we wouldn’t put that in if we didn’t have the intention [to make a sequel]. However, we don’t get to decide — the audience does.”

According to Thrillist, producer Nina Jacobson told reporters earlier this month, “We’ll just tease [it] a little bit at the end and hope that audiences ask for more movies so we can continue to tell the story.”

“Crazy Rich Asians,” in theaters now, also stars Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Chris Pang, and Jimmy O. Yang.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Crazy Rich Asians' Film Review: Constance Wu Stands Out in Culturally Rich Rom-Com

'Crazy Rich Asians' Director Jon Chu to Develop Second Thai Cave Rescue Movie

'Crazy Rich Asians': You Can Have Fun With Representation, Constance Wu Says

PBS Orders Documentaries on Woodstock, Reconstruction and a Ken Burns Look at Genes

PBS has ordered a trio of documentaries: “Woodstock,” “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” and Ken Burns’ “The Gene: An Intimate History,” the public broadcaster announced Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour.

“Woodstock” is a two-hour Barak Goodman doc tied to the 50th anniversary of the legendary 1969 concert held in upstate New York.

The four-hour “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” is executive produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and chronicles the confusing years immediately after the Union Army defeated the Confederacy in a divided America. Like “Woodstock,” “Reconstruction” is set to air next year.

“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History” is a three-hour adaptation of Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.’s book “The Gene: An Intimate History.” That one, in which Burns (pictured above) explores the breakthroughs in understanding the impact genes play on heredity, disease and behavior, will have to wait until Spring 2020.

Below are the docs with their official descriptions, all in PBS’ own words:

“Woodstock”
PBS and American Experience announced the new two-hour documentary “Woodstock,” scheduled to premiere on PBS in 2019 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the historic three-day concert that defined a generation. In August 1969, half a million people from all walks of life journeyed from every corner of the country to a dairy farm in upstate New York for a concert unprecedented in scope and influence. “Woodstock” examines the tumultuous decade that led to those three historic days — years that saw the nation deeply divided by Vietnam and racial, generational and sexual politics — through the voices of those who were present for the event that would become the defining moment of the counterculture revolution.

The film is directed by award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman, written by Goodman and Don Kleszy, and produced by Goodman and Jamila Ephron, with Mark Samels as executive producer.

“Reconstruction: America After the Civil War”
“Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” (working title), a new four-hour documentary executive produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., will premiere next spring on PBS stations nationwide. Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, will present the definitive history of one of the least understood chapters in American history — the transformative years following the American Civil War when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction and revolutionary social change.

Also Read: Beth Hoppe Leaves PBS to Oversee Long-Form Programming at ABC News

“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History”
“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History,” a new three-hour documentary executive produced by Ken Burns, will premiere over three nights in Spring 2020 on PBS. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., and acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns will collaborate on the new documentary inspired by Mukherjee’s best-selling 2016 book, The Gene: An Intimate History.

Now in active production, Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History, much like the book, will use science, social history and personal stories to weave together a historical biography of the human genome while also exploring the stunning breakthroughs in understanding the impact genes play on heredity, disease and behavior. From the story of the remarkable achievements of the earliest gene hunters and the bitterly fought race to read the entire human genome, to the unparalleled ethical challenges of gene editing, the documentary will journey through key genetics discoveries that are some of the greatest achievements in the history of science.

Award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman will produce and, in addition to Burns and Goodman, the film will largely have the same production team behind the Emmy Award-nominated “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” an adaption of Mukherjee’s earlier 2010 book that aired in 2015 on PBS.

Related stories from TheWrap:

PBS’ ‘Independent Lens’ Executive Producer Talks Season 17, Power of Public Media and Documentary ‘Boon’

PBS Hires Paula Deen’s Former Lawyer in Legal Battle With Tavis Smiley (Exclusive)

PBS Chief Says She Hopes Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, New #MeToo Series Will ‘Tee Up a Conversation’

PBS has ordered a trio of documentaries: “Woodstock,” “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” and Ken Burns’ “The Gene: An Intimate History,” the public broadcaster announced Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour.

“Woodstock” is a two-hour Barak Goodman doc tied to the 50th anniversary of the legendary 1969 concert held in upstate New York.

The four-hour “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” is executive produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and chronicles the confusing years immediately after the Union Army defeated the Confederacy in a divided America. Like “Woodstock,” “Reconstruction” is set to air next year.

“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History” is a three-hour adaptation of Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.’s book “The Gene: An Intimate History.” That one, in which Burns (pictured above) explores the breakthroughs in understanding the impact genes play on heredity, disease and behavior, will have to wait until Spring 2020.

Below are the docs with their official descriptions, all in PBS’ own words:

“Woodstock”
PBS and American Experience announced the new two-hour documentary “Woodstock,” scheduled to premiere on PBS in 2019 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the historic three-day concert that defined a generation. In August 1969, half a million people from all walks of life journeyed from every corner of the country to a dairy farm in upstate New York for a concert unprecedented in scope and influence. “Woodstock” examines the tumultuous decade that led to those three historic days — years that saw the nation deeply divided by Vietnam and racial, generational and sexual politics — through the voices of those who were present for the event that would become the defining moment of the counterculture revolution.

The film is directed by award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman, written by Goodman and Don Kleszy, and produced by Goodman and Jamila Ephron, with Mark Samels as executive producer.

“Reconstruction: America After the Civil War”
“Reconstruction: America After the Civil War” (working title), a new four-hour documentary executive produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., will premiere next spring on PBS stations nationwide. Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, will present the definitive history of one of the least understood chapters in American history — the transformative years following the American Civil War when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction and revolutionary social change.

“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History”
“Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History,” a new three-hour documentary executive produced by Ken Burns, will premiere over three nights in Spring 2020 on PBS. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., and acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns will collaborate on the new documentary inspired by Mukherjee’s best-selling 2016 book, The Gene: An Intimate History.

Now in active production, Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History, much like the book, will use science, social history and personal stories to weave together a historical biography of the human genome while also exploring the stunning breakthroughs in understanding the impact genes play on heredity, disease and behavior. From the story of the remarkable achievements of the earliest gene hunters and the bitterly fought race to read the entire human genome, to the unparalleled ethical challenges of gene editing, the documentary will journey through key genetics discoveries that are some of the greatest achievements in the history of science.

Award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman will produce and, in addition to Burns and Goodman, the film will largely have the same production team behind the Emmy Award-nominated “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” an adaption of Mukherjee’s earlier 2010 book that aired in 2015 on PBS.

Related stories from TheWrap:

PBS' 'Independent Lens' Executive Producer Talks Season 17, Power of Public Media and Documentary 'Boon'

PBS Hires Paula Deen's Former Lawyer in Legal Battle With Tavis Smiley (Exclusive)

PBS Chief Says She Hopes Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, New #MeToo Series Will 'Tee Up a Conversation'

Harvey Weinstein Indicted on Charges of Rape, Sex Crimes

Harvey Weinstein has been indicted on charges of rape in the first and third degrees, as well as on charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree.

“A Grand Jury has voted to indict Harvey Weinstein on charges of Rape in the First and Third Degrees, and Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree,” the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced Wednesday.

“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” added the statement. “Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs. The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand.”

Also Read: Harvey Weinstein Scandal: What We Know About the Unnamed Accuser’s Rape Case

In response, Weinstein’s attorney Ben Brafman said in a statement, “The announcement of Mr. Weinstein’s Indictment, does not come as a surprise… Mr. Weinstein intends to enter a plea of Not Guilty and vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies. We will soon formally move to dismiss the indictment and if this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted.”

Weinstein was arrested on Friday in New York City on three felony charges of rape and criminal sex act stemming from a months-long investigation by the NYPD into accusations by multiple women.

Though the Hollywood mogul has been accused of misconduct by more than 80 women, the criminal charges by New York prosecutors stem from the accusations of two women. The first-degree criminal sex act charge comes from a case involving aspiring actress Lucia Evans in 2004.

The two rape charges stem from an unidentified accuser who accused Weinstein of keeping her against her will in a room at the DoubleTree Metropolitan hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013. According to the complaint, Weinstein “engaged in sexual intercourse with informant by forcible compulsion, to wit, defendant penetrated informant’s vagina with his penis and, at the time of the incident informant had clearly expressed her lack of consent to the act.”

Also Read: Harvey Weinstein Arrested on Sex Crime Charges in New York City

Weinstein entered a not guilty plea. He also faces several lawsuits, including a class-action RICO suit filed by several of his accusers and a separate one filed by actress Ashley Judd, who accused him of sabotaging her career.

Weinstein, 66, surrendered to authorities at Manhattan’s first precinct in Tribeca, just blocks away from the offices of his former film and TV empire, The Weinstein Company (and before that, Miramax) which he had founded and run with brother, Bob Weinstein. The company filed for bankruptcy in March, and was acquired by Lantern Capital earlier this month for $310 million.

He was fired by TWC’s board just days after the New York Times first reported accusations of misconduct over decades — and was subsequently expelled from the academies that sponsor the Oscars, Emmys and BAFTA Awards as well as the Producers Guild of America.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Twitter Taunts Harvey Weinstein Over Arrest: ‘Burn in Hell,’ ‘#TimesUp,’ ‘Today’s a Great Day’

Watch Handcuffed Harvey Weinstein Perp-Walked After Arrest (Video)

Harvey Weinstein Accuser Asia Argento Praises Arrest: ‘First Step on His Inevitable Descent to Hell’

Harvey Weinstein has been indicted on charges of rape in the first and third degrees, as well as on charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree.

“A Grand Jury has voted to indict Harvey Weinstein on charges of Rape in the First and Third Degrees, and Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree,” the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced Wednesday.

“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” added the statement. “Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs. The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand.”

In response, Weinstein’s attorney Ben Brafman said in a statement, “The announcement of Mr. Weinstein’s Indictment, does not come as a surprise… Mr. Weinstein intends to enter a plea of Not Guilty and vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies. We will soon formally move to dismiss the indictment and if this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted.”

Weinstein was arrested on Friday in New York City on three felony charges of rape and criminal sex act stemming from a months-long investigation by the NYPD into accusations by multiple women.

Though the Hollywood mogul has been accused of misconduct by more than 80 women, the criminal charges by New York prosecutors stem from the accusations of two women. The first-degree criminal sex act charge comes from a case involving aspiring actress Lucia Evans in 2004.

The two rape charges stem from an unidentified accuser who accused Weinstein of keeping her against her will in a room at the DoubleTree Metropolitan hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013. According to the complaint, Weinstein “engaged in sexual intercourse with informant by forcible compulsion, to wit, defendant penetrated informant’s vagina with his penis and, at the time of the incident informant had clearly expressed her lack of consent to the act.”

Weinstein entered a not guilty plea. He also faces several lawsuits, including a class-action RICO suit filed by several of his accusers and a separate one filed by actress Ashley Judd, who accused him of sabotaging her career.

Weinstein, 66, surrendered to authorities at Manhattan’s first precinct in Tribeca, just blocks away from the offices of his former film and TV empire, The Weinstein Company (and before that, Miramax) which he had founded and run with brother, Bob Weinstein. The company filed for bankruptcy in March, and was acquired by Lantern Capital earlier this month for $310 million.

He was fired by TWC’s board just days after the New York Times first reported accusations of misconduct over decades — and was subsequently expelled from the academies that sponsor the Oscars, Emmys and BAFTA Awards as well as the Producers Guild of America.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Twitter Taunts Harvey Weinstein Over Arrest: 'Burn in Hell,' '#TimesUp,' 'Today's a Great Day'

Watch Handcuffed Harvey Weinstein Perp-Walked After Arrest (Video)

Harvey Weinstein Accuser Asia Argento Praises Arrest: 'First Step on His Inevitable Descent to Hell'

‘Book Club’ Film Review: Women-of-a-Certain-Age Sex Comedy Has Poignancy Beneath the Pratfalls

It’s a credit to TV’s greater curiosity and openmindedness that when I beheld the four stars of “Book Club” — actresses ranging in age from 65 to 80 — my thoughts turned to how recently I’d seen them on their respective shows or in headlines about their upcoming series.

The ensemble romantic comedy benefits enormously from Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen keeping their comedic and dramatic muscles warmed up (though a stiffer Candice Bergen has her bravura moments, too). None of the women are asked to do anything too strenuous in “Book Club,” but their collective charisma — along with their male co-stars’ — add up to an irresistible charmfest.

The premise of “Book Club” sounds, to be honest, excruciatingly dumb: A quartet of elderly friends are inspired by the “50 Shades of Grey” books to spice up their sex lives. But first-time director Bill Holderman, who penned the script with Erin Simms, smartly adds a pinch of salt to the sweetness to amplify both sides of the flavor spectrum.

Also Read: ‘Grace and Frankie’ Renewed for Season 5 at Netflix

The film’s aspirational, 60-is-the-new-40 fantasies feel grounded enough in emotional truths and aging concerns that the most unrealistic thing about these literate ladies, who deliver guffaw-worthy lines about Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” is that they never once mock “50 Shades” author E.L. James’ atrocious prose.

“Book Club” opens with an awkwardly Photoshopped snapshot of the four main characters in their youth, clinging to their copies of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.” Now a few years shy of 70, all but one feels erotically adrift. The exception is commitment-phobic Vivian (Fonda), a luxury hotel owner (in attention-grabbing animal prints) who’s happy as a lifelong bachelorette but finds herself drawn to an old boyfriend (Don Johnson) who’s visiting Los Angeles.

Also Read: Diane Keaton: ‘Woody Allen Is My Friend And I Continue to Believe Him’

The others are in various stages of sexual shutdown. The most resistant to an erotic rekindling is federal judge Sharon (Bergen), who internet-stalks her ex-husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his decades-younger new fiancée and seemingly hasn’t been on a date since her divorce 18 years ago. Chef Carol (Steenburgen), the only one friend still married, struggles with her husband’s (Craig T. Nelson) utter lack of interest in sex.

Widowed homemaker Diane (Keaton, in a first-rate set of her signature androgynous garb) is needled by her condescending daughters (Katie Aselton and Alicia Silverstone) to move to Scottsdale, where she can be stuffed into the basement and supervised 24/7. Diane shows resistance even before she meets a stranger on a plane (a positively smoldering Andy Garcia) who’s willing to show her everything she missed out on during her lackluster marriage. Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn make brief appearances, but somehow Sam Elliott does not.

Also Read: ‘Murphy Brown’ Revival With Candice Bergen Coming to CBS

To be sure, “Book Club” has more goofy gags than it does witticisms. An arrow on a plant moisture meter twitches from “dry” to “wet” when a character gets lost in Christian Grey’s Red Room, and Nelson’s character is marched into several situations fly-first after a Viagra accident leaves him fuming and erect. The cast is just as game for the broad humor as it is for the emotional beats; the latter’s familiarity doesn’t detract from its poignancy.

As movingly as each character’s romantic and/or familial storyline wraps up, though, I wish the core cast had a few more scenes to themselves. They share such an easygoing chemistry — and the inevitable scene where the friends diagnose one another on what they’re doing wrong hints at such layers of friendship — that it felt disappointing that their decades-long bond wasn’t the focus of the movie. The men are a treat. But there isn’t quite enough of the women to comprise a feast.



Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Jane Fonda in Five Acts’ Film Review: Doc Explores the Many Lives of the Actress-Activist

Judd Apatow Rips Diane Keaton’s Defense of Woody Allen

‘Murphy Brown:’ Jake McDorman to Play Candice Bergen’s Son on CBS Reboot

Deadpool Struts and Dances Through Celine Dion’s New Music Video ‘Ashes’ (Video)

It’s a credit to TV’s greater curiosity and openmindedness that when I beheld the four stars of “Book Club” — actresses ranging in age from 65 to 80 — my thoughts turned to how recently I’d seen them on their respective shows or in headlines about their upcoming series.

The ensemble romantic comedy benefits enormously from Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen keeping their comedic and dramatic muscles warmed up (though a stiffer Candice Bergen has her bravura moments, too). None of the women are asked to do anything too strenuous in “Book Club,” but their collective charisma — along with their male co-stars’ — add up to an irresistible charmfest.

The premise of “Book Club” sounds, to be honest, excruciatingly dumb: A quartet of elderly friends are inspired by the “50 Shades of Grey” books to spice up their sex lives. But first-time director Bill Holderman, who penned the script with Erin Simms, smartly adds a pinch of salt to the sweetness to amplify both sides of the flavor spectrum.

The film’s aspirational, 60-is-the-new-40 fantasies feel grounded enough in emotional truths and aging concerns that the most unrealistic thing about these literate ladies, who deliver guffaw-worthy lines about Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” is that they never once mock “50 Shades” author E.L. James’ atrocious prose.

“Book Club” opens with an awkwardly Photoshopped snapshot of the four main characters in their youth, clinging to their copies of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.” Now a few years shy of 70, all but one feels erotically adrift. The exception is commitment-phobic Vivian (Fonda), a luxury hotel owner (in attention-grabbing animal prints) who’s happy as a lifelong bachelorette but finds herself drawn to an old boyfriend (Don Johnson) who’s visiting Los Angeles.

The others are in various stages of sexual shutdown. The most resistant to an erotic rekindling is federal judge Sharon (Bergen), who internet-stalks her ex-husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his decades-younger new fiancée and seemingly hasn’t been on a date since her divorce 18 years ago. Chef Carol (Steenburgen), the only one friend still married, struggles with her husband’s (Craig T. Nelson) utter lack of interest in sex.

Widowed homemaker Diane (Keaton, in a first-rate set of her signature androgynous garb) is needled by her condescending daughters (Katie Aselton and Alicia Silverstone) to move to Scottsdale, where she can be stuffed into the basement and supervised 24/7. Diane shows resistance even before she meets a stranger on a plane (a positively smoldering Andy Garcia) who’s willing to show her everything she missed out on during her lackluster marriage. Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn make brief appearances, but somehow Sam Elliott does not.

To be sure, “Book Club” has more goofy gags than it does witticisms. An arrow on a plant moisture meter twitches from “dry” to “wet” when a character gets lost in Christian Grey’s Red Room, and Nelson’s character is marched into several situations fly-first after a Viagra accident leaves him fuming and erect. The cast is just as game for the broad humor as it is for the emotional beats; the latter’s familiarity doesn’t detract from its poignancy.

As movingly as each character’s romantic and/or familial storyline wraps up, though, I wish the core cast had a few more scenes to themselves. They share such an easygoing chemistry — and the inevitable scene where the friends diagnose one another on what they’re doing wrong hints at such layers of friendship — that it felt disappointing that their decades-long bond wasn’t the focus of the movie. The men are a treat. But there isn’t quite enough of the women to comprise a feast.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Jane Fonda in Five Acts' Film Review: Doc Explores the Many Lives of the Actress-Activist

Judd Apatow Rips Diane Keaton's Defense of Woody Allen

'Murphy Brown:' Jake McDorman to Play Candice Bergen's Son on CBS Reboot

Deadpool Struts and Dances Through Celine Dion's New Music Video 'Ashes' (Video)

CBS Orders 5 Pilots to Series, Including ‘Magnum PI’ Remake and Ava DuVernay’s ‘The Red Line’

CBS just picked up five more pilots to series — one comedy and four dramas. Included in the latest bushel of new 2018-19 shows is the network’s “Magnum P.I.” remake and Ava DuVernay’s “The Red Line,” which stars Noah Wyle.

Greg Berlanti is an executive producer on two of these new series, including DuVernay’s. His other one, “God Friended Me,” is through his own studio.

The final (for now) pair of projects ordered from pilots include multi-camera comedy “Fam,” which stars Nina Dobrev, and Craig Sweeny’s military drama “The Code.”

Also Read: Fall TV 2018: Every Broadcast Show Canceled, Renewed and Ordered So Far (Updating)

Here are the available details for each from this batch of new series:

Comedy
“Fam”
Multi Camera
EP/Writer: Corinne Kingsbury
EPs: Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor; Wendi Trilling, Bob Kushell
EP/Director: Scott Ellis (pilot only)
Studio: CBS Television Studios/Kapital Entertainment
Logline: A woman’s dreams of an upstanding life with her new fiancé and his upstanding family are dashed when her younger train wreck half-sister comes to live with her to escape their train wreck of a father.
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Tone Bell, Odessa Adlon, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sheryl Lee Ralph

Also Read: ‘Taken’ Is Being Shopped Around by Universal TV After NBC Cancellation

Dramas
“God Friended Me”
EPs/Writers: Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt
EPs: Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter (Berlanti Productions)
EP/Director: Marcos Siega
Studio: Warner Bros. Television
Logline: Questions of faith, existence and science are explored in this humorous, uplifting series about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is “friended” by God on social media. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.
Cast: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Suraj Sharma, Javicia Leslie, Joe Morton

Also Read: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Saved? Other Networks and Platforms Have Already Expressed Interest

“Magnum P.I.”
EPs/Writers: Peter Lenkov, Eric Guggenheim
EPs: John Davis and John Fox (Davis Entertainment); Danielle Woodrow
EP/Director: Justin Lin (Perfect Storm Entertainment)
Studio: CBS Television Studios/Universal Television
Logline: An update of the classic television series set in Hawaii, MAGNUM P.I. follows Thomas Magnum, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL who, upon returning home from Afghanistan, repurposes his military skills to become a private investigator.
Cast: Jay Hernandez, Perdita Weeks, Zachary Knighton, Stephen Hill

Also Read: Why Fox Canceled ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ ‘The Mick’ and ‘The Last Man on Earth’

“The Code”
EP/Showrunner: Craig Sweeny
Writers: Teleplay by Craig Sweeny, story by Craig Sweeny and Craig Turk
EPs: Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman
EP/Director: Marc Webb
Studio: CBS Television Studios
Logline: The military’s brightest minds take on our country’s toughest challenges – inside the courtroom and out – where each attorney is trained as a prosecutor, a defense lawyer, an investigator – and a Marine.
Cast: Anna Wood, Ato Essandoh, Phillipa Soo, Raffi Barsoumian

Also Read: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ ‘The Mick’ and ‘Last Man on Earth’ Canceled by Fox

“The Red Line”
Co-Eps/Writers: Caitlin Parrish, Erica Weiss
EPs: Ava DuVernay, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter
Director: Victoria Mahoney
Studio: Warner Bros. Television
Logline: After a white cop in Chicago mistakenly shoots and kills a black doctor, we follow three vastly different families that all have connections with the case as the story is told from each perspective.
Cast: Noah Wyle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Aliyah Royale, Noel Fisher, Michael Patrick Thornton, Vinny Chhibber, Howard Charles, Elizabeth Laidlaw

Also Read: Peak MD? NBC’s ‘New Amsterdam’ Series Order Makes 6 Medical Dramas on Broadcast TV

CBS previously ordered “Murphy Brown,” “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” an Untitled Damon Wayans, Jr. project, and the drama “FBI” to series for the 2018-19 season.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Damon Wayans Jr, Cedric the Entertainer Sitcoms Set for CBS’ 2018-19 Season

‘Living Biblically’ Pulled From CBS’ Schedule

CBS Renews ‘Survivor,’ ‘The Amazing Race,’ 9 More Series

CBS just picked up five more pilots to series — one comedy and four dramas. Included in the latest bushel of new 2018-19 shows is the network’s “Magnum P.I.” remake and Ava DuVernay’s “The Red Line,” which stars Noah Wyle.

Greg Berlanti is an executive producer on two of these new series, including DuVernay’s. His other one, “God Friended Me,” is through his own studio.

The final (for now) pair of projects ordered from pilots include multi-camera comedy “Fam,” which stars Nina Dobrev, and Craig Sweeny’s military drama “The Code.”

Here are the available details for each from this batch of new series:

Comedy
“Fam”
Multi Camera
EP/Writer: Corinne Kingsbury
EPs: Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor; Wendi Trilling, Bob Kushell
EP/Director: Scott Ellis (pilot only)
Studio: CBS Television Studios/Kapital Entertainment
Logline: A woman’s dreams of an upstanding life with her new fiancé and his upstanding family are dashed when her younger train wreck half-sister comes to live with her to escape their train wreck of a father.
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Tone Bell, Odessa Adlon, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sheryl Lee Ralph

Dramas
“God Friended Me”
EPs/Writers: Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt
EPs: Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter (Berlanti Productions)
EP/Director: Marcos Siega
Studio: Warner Bros. Television
Logline: Questions of faith, existence and science are explored in this humorous, uplifting series about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is “friended” by God on social media. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.
Cast: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Suraj Sharma, Javicia Leslie, Joe Morton

“Magnum P.I.”
EPs/Writers: Peter Lenkov, Eric Guggenheim
EPs: John Davis and John Fox (Davis Entertainment); Danielle Woodrow
EP/Director: Justin Lin (Perfect Storm Entertainment)
Studio: CBS Television Studios/Universal Television
Logline: An update of the classic television series set in Hawaii, MAGNUM P.I. follows Thomas Magnum, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL who, upon returning home from Afghanistan, repurposes his military skills to become a private investigator.
Cast: Jay Hernandez, Perdita Weeks, Zachary Knighton, Stephen Hill

“The Code”
EP/Showrunner: Craig Sweeny
Writers: Teleplay by Craig Sweeny, story by Craig Sweeny and Craig Turk
EPs: Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman
EP/Director: Marc Webb
Studio: CBS Television Studios
Logline: The military’s brightest minds take on our country’s toughest challenges – inside the courtroom and out – where each attorney is trained as a prosecutor, a defense lawyer, an investigator – and a Marine.
Cast: Anna Wood, Ato Essandoh, Phillipa Soo, Raffi Barsoumian

“The Red Line”
Co-Eps/Writers: Caitlin Parrish, Erica Weiss
EPs: Ava DuVernay, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter
Director: Victoria Mahoney
Studio: Warner Bros. Television
Logline: After a white cop in Chicago mistakenly shoots and kills a black doctor, we follow three vastly different families that all have connections with the case as the story is told from each perspective.
Cast: Noah Wyle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Aliyah Royale, Noel Fisher, Michael Patrick Thornton, Vinny Chhibber, Howard Charles, Elizabeth Laidlaw

CBS previously ordered “Murphy Brown,” “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” an Untitled Damon Wayans, Jr. project, and the drama “FBI” to series for the 2018-19 season.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Damon Wayans Jr, Cedric the Entertainer Sitcoms Set for CBS' 2018-19 Season

'Living Biblically' Pulled From CBS' Schedule

CBS Renews 'Survivor,' 'The Amazing Race,' 9 More Series

‘Rampage’ Breakout Star Jason Liles Joins ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’ (Exclusive)

Jason Liles, who most recently played the albino gorilla in Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage,” has been cast as one of several motion-capture actors playing Godzilla’s three-headed archenemy in Legendary and Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” TheWrap has learned exclusively.

King Ghidorah is a kaiju film monster that has golden-scaled wings and three heads. Liles plays the middle head, while Alan Maxson is the right head and Richard Dorton is the left head in the epic action-adventure film that pits Godzilla against some of the biggest monsters in pop culture history; additional mo-cap actors contribute to the body movement of the creature.

Michael Dougherty is directing from a screenplay he wrote with Zach Shields. Liles is joining the previously announced cast of Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, O’Shea Jackson, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch and Bradley Whitford.

Also Read: Thomas Middleditch Cast in ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’

Liles has starred in “Men in Black III” and “Death Note” as a stellar performance capture actor, entering the blockbuster arena alongside actors like Andy Serkis and Doug Jones. Liles will work with “Godzilla’s” Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Guillaume Rocheron.

Most recently, Liles portrayed the silverback albino gorilla in “Rampage,” a performance for which he was praised. The film has grossed $286.5 million worldwide.

Also Read: O’Shea Jackson, Jr. in Talks to Join ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’

“Godzilla: King of Monsters” will hit theaters on March 22, 2019.

Liles is represented by Jeff Witjas at the Agency for the Performing Arts and Integrated PR.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Rampage’ Star Jason Liles Tells Us Why Dwayne Johnson Was His ‘Han Solo’

‘Rampage’: Dwayne Johnson Is Back to Save the World in New Trailer (Video)

‘Rampage’ Reaction Video: Ridiculously Fun Monster Movie Has Heart (Video)

Jason Liles, who most recently played the albino gorilla in Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage,” has been cast as one of several motion-capture actors playing Godzilla’s three-headed archenemy in Legendary and Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” TheWrap has learned exclusively.

King Ghidorah is a kaiju film monster that has golden-scaled wings and three heads. Liles plays the middle head, while Alan Maxson is the right head and Richard Dorton is the left head in the epic action-adventure film that pits Godzilla against some of the biggest monsters in pop culture history; additional mo-cap actors contribute to the body movement of the creature.

Michael Dougherty is directing from a screenplay he wrote with Zach Shields. Liles is joining the previously announced cast of Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, O’Shea Jackson, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch and Bradley Whitford.

Liles has starred in “Men in Black III” and “Death Note” as a stellar performance capture actor, entering the blockbuster arena alongside actors like Andy Serkis and Doug Jones. Liles will work with “Godzilla’s” Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Guillaume Rocheron.

Most recently, Liles portrayed the silverback albino gorilla in “Rampage,” a performance for which he was praised. The film has grossed $286.5 million worldwide.

“Godzilla: King of Monsters” will hit theaters on March 22, 2019.

Liles is represented by Jeff Witjas at the Agency for the Performing Arts and Integrated PR.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Rampage' Star Jason Liles Tells Us Why Dwayne Johnson Was His 'Han Solo'

'Rampage': Dwayne Johnson Is Back to Save the World in New Trailer (Video)

'Rampage' Reaction Video: Ridiculously Fun Monster Movie Has Heart (Video)

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Film Review: Suppose They Gave an Infinity War and Everybody Came?

There’s an old joke among comics fans: No one in superhero stories ever stays dead except for Bruce Wayne’s parents. So if there’s a body count in “Avengers: Infinity War” — and relax, this review aims to be as spoiler-free as possible, lest Disney unleash the hounds — it might be a little premature to start carving headstones.

After all, this entire movie revolves around an all-powerful deus ex MacGuffin known as the Infinity Gauntlet, which Thanos (Josh Brolin) seeks to possess. A most Malthusian supervillain, Thanos intends to wipe out half of the beings in existence so that the other half may know peace, prosperity and plenty. Sure, Ebenezer Scrooge might talk about decreasing the surplus population, but here’s a guy with an action plan to Make the Universe Great Again.

Thanos and the individual Infinity Stones that bedazzle the gauntlet have been woven throughout almost all of the preceding Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so there’s an inescapable “It’s all been leading to this” portent about “Infinity War.” On the plus side, mashing up the entire MCU means we get to witness, for instance, the first meeting between New Yorkers Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to say nothing of the interactions between, oh, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the royal house of Wakanda.

Watch Video: Doctor Strange and Star-Lord Team Up: See New ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Footage

On the down side, there are some 25 or so major characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of 18 MCU titles. This sort of mammoth crossover is a staple of comic books over the years, and in that medium, creators have splash pages and double spreads to spatially accommodate so many superheroes.

The solution that “Infinity War” devises to get them all into one movie is that it doesn’t; there’s a sequel coming, for which this film is in some ways a two-hour-plus trailer. The story ends with a very jarring cliffhanger, which fans may compare to “The Empire Strikes Back” while detractors cite the Part 1 of any recent bifurcated YA franchise finale.

Watch Video: Marvel Was So Secretive About ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Even Robert Downey Jr Wrote Fake Scripts

There will, I suspect, be more admirers of “Infinity War,” because it’s almost an archetypal example of fan service. Yes, the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: Civil War”) scatters its many characters to various corners of the far-flung universe, leading to occasional whiplash-inducing “Meanwhile, in Scotland” cross-cutting, but the simplicity of the plotting (“Stop Thanos”) allows room for the character interaction and adrenaline-packed combat for which these films are famous.

But for all the delicious banter between Stark and Peter Parker (Tom Holland), or sweet nothings exchanged by Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany), there are still a few missed opportunities for meaningful dialogue moments — looking at you, awkward reunion between Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) — that we can only hope will be seized in the as-yet-untitled “Avengers 4.”

Watch Video: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’: Bruce Banner and Doctor Strange Explain Thanos to Tony Stark

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo move their many playing pieces around with as much grace as possible, and they offer up jolts of pleasure throughout. The violence is ratcheted higher than usual — parents, please note we get both torture and genocide this time around — but the wisecracks still work; on this outing, the audience needs them more than usual, and the experienced cast knows how to throw them around as a way to keep their characters sane in the face of Armageddon.

The gargantuan ensemble does consistently fine work; the stand-outs include Holland, whose gee-whiz demeanor provides a welcome respite from the grim mood here, and new-to-the-MCU Carrie Coon, as one of Thanos’ fearsome lieutenants; when her character faces off with two of the series’ most ferocious female combatants, it still feels like a fair fight.

See Photos: A Brief History of James Cameron Dumping on Beloved Movies, From ‘Avengers’ to ‘Star Wars’

If there’s one disappointment here, it’s Thanos as a villain, and that’s not in any way Brolin’s fault. (To be honest, part of the problem is a crude joke that Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord makes about Thanos’ face early on, which I couldn’t stop thinking about for the rest of the movie.) The character is more fearsome by his actions — he takes down a seemingly insurmountable foe with shocking ease — than in his dialogue, and his intent to wipe out trillions of living creatures gets subsumed by his chill demeanor. It’s like how Earth gets wiped out because of a bureaucratic error in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” only that bit of banal destruction was meant to be a joke.

Ultimately, Thanos is just a bland sociopath who will stop at nothing to complete his collection, which is a bold choice for a movie aimed at comic-book fans. It also doesn’t help that “Avengers: Infinity War” can’t seem to make up its mind about how powerful Thanos is. Even when his gauntlet is only half-full, it would appear that he could flick aside the worst that the Avengers aim his way, but then there’d be no movie.

Also Read: The Complete Timeline of Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies, From ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Infinity War’

And in a way, there isn’t, or at least there won’t be a whole one until the sequel comes out. Anything we say now is still contingent on how the Russos and the writers wrap everything up next time. (And if they’re taking suggestions for how to reach their denouement, let me point out that Howard the Duck is still alive and well somewhere in the MCU.)

If you’re a viewer who binges TV dramas because you can’t wait a week to find out what happens, the implied “to be continued” at the end of “Infinity War” may drive you batty. But if you’ve been solidly along for the Marvel ride up to this point, you’ll enjoy this leg of the journey even if it hasn’t yet reached the terminal.



Related stories from TheWrap:

James Cameron Says He Hopes We’ll Get ‘Avengers’ Fatigue Soon

Who’s Going to Die in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’? We Put Odds on Every Major Hero Biting the Dust

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ — Where and How Will the Soul Stone Show Up?

Indonesia’s Censorship of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Isn’t Happening, Disney Says

There’s an old joke among comics fans: No one in superhero stories ever stays dead except for Bruce Wayne’s parents. So if there’s a body count in “Avengers: Infinity War” — and relax, this review aims to be as spoiler-free as possible, lest Disney unleash the hounds — it might be a little premature to start carving headstones.

After all, this entire movie revolves around an all-powerful deus ex MacGuffin known as the Infinity Gauntlet, which Thanos (Josh Brolin) seeks to possess. A most Malthusian supervillain, Thanos intends to wipe out half of the beings in existence so that the other half may know peace, prosperity and plenty. Sure, Ebenezer Scrooge might talk about decreasing the surplus population, but here’s a guy with an action plan to Make the Universe Great Again.

Thanos and the individual Infinity Stones that bedazzle the gauntlet have been woven throughout almost all of the preceding Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so there’s an inescapable “It’s all been leading to this” portent about “Infinity War.” On the plus side, mashing up the entire MCU means we get to witness, for instance, the first meeting between New Yorkers Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to say nothing of the interactions between, oh, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the royal house of Wakanda.

On the down side, there are some 25 or so major characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of 18 MCU titles. This sort of mammoth crossover is a staple of comic books over the years, and in that medium, creators have splash pages and double spreads to spatially accommodate so many superheroes.

The solution that “Infinity War” devises to get them all into one movie is that it doesn’t; there’s a sequel coming, for which this film is in some ways a two-hour-plus trailer. The story ends with a very jarring cliffhanger, which fans may compare to “The Empire Strikes Back” while detractors cite the Part 1 of any recent bifurcated YA franchise finale.

There will, I suspect, be more admirers of “Infinity War,” because it’s almost an archetypal example of fan service. Yes, the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: Civil War”) scatters its many characters to various corners of the far-flung universe, leading to occasional whiplash-inducing “Meanwhile, in Scotland” cross-cutting, but the simplicity of the plotting (“Stop Thanos”) allows room for the character interaction and adrenaline-packed combat for which these films are famous.

But for all the delicious banter between Stark and Peter Parker (Tom Holland), or sweet nothings exchanged by Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany), there are still a few missed opportunities for meaningful dialogue moments — looking at you, awkward reunion between Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) — that we can only hope will be seized in the as-yet-untitled “Avengers 4.”

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo move their many playing pieces around with as much grace as possible, and they offer up jolts of pleasure throughout. The violence is ratcheted higher than usual — parents, please note we get both torture and genocide this time around — but the wisecracks still work; on this outing, the audience needs them more than usual, and the experienced cast knows how to throw them around as a way to keep their characters sane in the face of Armageddon.

The gargantuan ensemble does consistently fine work; the stand-outs include Holland, whose gee-whiz demeanor provides a welcome respite from the grim mood here, and new-to-the-MCU Carrie Coon, as one of Thanos’ fearsome lieutenants; when her character faces off with two of the series’ most ferocious female combatants, it still feels like a fair fight.

If there’s one disappointment here, it’s Thanos as a villain, and that’s not in any way Brolin’s fault. (To be honest, part of the problem is a crude joke that Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord makes about Thanos’ face early on, which I couldn’t stop thinking about for the rest of the movie.) The character is more fearsome by his actions — he takes down a seemingly insurmountable foe with shocking ease — than in his dialogue, and his intent to wipe out trillions of living creatures gets subsumed by his chill demeanor. It’s like how Earth gets wiped out because of a bureaucratic error in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” only that bit of banal destruction was meant to be a joke.

Ultimately, Thanos is just a bland sociopath who will stop at nothing to complete his collection, which is a bold choice for a movie aimed at comic-book fans. It also doesn’t help that “Avengers: Infinity War” can’t seem to make up its mind about how powerful Thanos is. Even when his gauntlet is only half-full, it would appear that he could flick aside the worst that the Avengers aim his way, but then there’d be no movie.

And in a way, there isn’t, or at least there won’t be a whole one until the sequel comes out. Anything we say now is still contingent on how the Russos and the writers wrap everything up next time. (And if they’re taking suggestions for how to reach their denouement, let me point out that Howard the Duck is still alive and well somewhere in the MCU.)

If you’re a viewer who binges TV dramas because you can’t wait a week to find out what happens, the implied “to be continued” at the end of “Infinity War” may drive you batty. But if you’ve been solidly along for the Marvel ride up to this point, you’ll enjoy this leg of the journey even if it hasn’t yet reached the terminal.

Related stories from TheWrap:

James Cameron Says He Hopes We'll Get 'Avengers' Fatigue Soon

Who's Going to Die in 'Avengers: Infinity War'? We Put Odds on Every Major Hero Biting the Dust

'Avengers: Infinity War' — Where and How Will the Soul Stone Show Up?

Indonesia's Censorship of 'Avengers: Infinity War' Isn't Happening, Disney Says

Cuba Gooding Jr. Recalls His ’10 Years in the Wilderness’ — and Turning Down ‘Ray’ and ‘The Last King of Scotland’

“I felt I needed to show people that I can do more, I can do better.”

Few actors have had a career trajectory quite like that of Cuba Gooding, Jr. 20 years after winning an Oscar for his role in “Jerry Maguire,” the actor has mounted a comeback of sorts after what he describes as “10 years in the wilderness” marked by forgettable straight-to-DVD projects. Now he’s done a far-reaching interview with the Guardian to discuss how he always wanted to be an actor who does all the parts” — and how that may have harmed his career as much as it helped it.

After admitting that he’s starred in “some real clunkers,” Gooding, Jr. is asked whether he made them for the money. “Not for me,” he says. “For me, it was always about protecting the sanctity of that golden statue… Because I felt I needed to show people that I can do more, I can do better.”

That mindset dates back to his breakthrough role: “I remember when I did ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ everybody was like, ‘Yeah, but can he do comedy?’ Then I won for ‘Jerry Maguire’ and they’re, ‘Yeah, but can he do drama?’”

The years between those two films, which were highlighted by performances in “Outbreak” and “A Few Good Men,” represented a shift for him: “Now I’m moved away from the title ‘black actor’ and now I’m just an entertainer.” They also made him not want to repeat himself, which seems to be why he turned down “Ray,” “Hotel Rwanda,” and “The Last King of Scotland.” “I was offered Idi Amin in ‘The Last King of Scotland,'” he recalls. “And I said to myself, ‘I can’t do that. He’s a bad guy!’”

Gooding, Jr. has that on his mind when discussing the likes of Ryan Coogler and Barry Jenkins. “It will be interesting to see if they get put in the same box, like they did with the Singletons and Spike Lees, or if they’re accepted as just film-makers who have their ways to tell a story.” Read his full interview here.

‘Tomb Raider’ Runs to $2.1 Million at Thursday Box Office

Warner Bros. and MGM’s “Tomb Raider” grossed $2.1 million at the Thursday box office.

Inspired by Square-Enix’s 2013 reboot of the long-running video game series, the action film is looking at a start of $27-29 million from 3,854 screens, with WB projecting a start of $23-25 million against a reported budget of $90 million.

Valuable comps are “The Mummy,” which scored $2.7 million in previews before it grossed $31.8 million its opening weekend, and “Red Sparrow,” which earned $1.2 million in previews and $16.8 million over the weekend.

Also Read: Does ‘Tomb Raider’ Have a Post-Credits Scene?

“Tomb Raider” is expected to fight “Black Panther” for the No. 1 spot, after the latter has held first place at the box office for four consecutive weekends. With $1.09 billion grossed worldwide so far, “Black Panther” is expected to have a fifth weekend total in the high $20 million range.

Directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” features Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft as she goes off on her first adventure in search of her missing father (Dominic West). Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Kristin Scott Thomas also star. It holds a score of 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fox’s “Love, Simon” grossed $850,000 in previews on Thursday and is expected to open in the $10-$12 million range. In comparison, “Everything, Everything” grossed $525,000 in Thursday previews last year, and went on to earn $11.7 million its opening weekend.

Also Read: ‘Tomb Raider’ Film Review: Alicia Vikander Gamely Attempts to Resuscitate Dead Franchise

Based on the book “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, “Love, Simon” stars Nick Robinson as Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen who forms a relationship with an anonymous gay classmate online. His life is thrown into disarray when a blackmailer finds his online chats and threatens to out him to his family and school. Greg Berlanti directs the film, with Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., Katherine Langford and Alexandra Shipp also starring. The film currently holds a score of 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ faith-based film, “I Can Only Imagine,” is also opening this weekend. Based on the story behind the hit song of the same name by Christian rock band MercyMe, it stars J. Michael Finley as MercyMe vocalist Bart Millard and Dennis Quaid as his father, Arthur. The film is expected to open outside the top ten with a $2-4 million opening from 1,620 screens, with a reported budget of $7 million.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Will ‘Tomb Raider’ Be the Movie to Finally Knock ‘Black Panther’ From Box Office Perch?

‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘Tomb Raider’ Writers Take on Sony’s ‘Silver and Black’

Warner Bros. and MGM’s “Tomb Raider” grossed $2.1 million at the Thursday box office.

Inspired by Square-Enix’s 2013 reboot of the long-running video game series, the action film is looking at a start of $27-29 million from 3,854 screens, with WB projecting a start of $23-25 million against a reported budget of $90 million.

Valuable comps are “The Mummy,” which scored $2.7 million in previews before it grossed $31.8 million its opening weekend, and “Red Sparrow,” which earned $1.2 million in previews and $16.8 million over the weekend.

“Tomb Raider” is expected to fight “Black Panther” for the No. 1 spot, after the latter has held first place at the box office for four consecutive weekends. With $1.09 billion grossed worldwide so far, “Black Panther” is expected to have a fifth weekend total in the high $20 million range.

Directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” features Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft as she goes off on her first adventure in search of her missing father (Dominic West). Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Kristin Scott Thomas also star. It holds a score of 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fox’s “Love, Simon” grossed $850,000 in previews on Thursday and is expected to open in the $10-$12 million range. In comparison, “Everything, Everything” grossed $525,000 in Thursday previews last year, and went on to earn $11.7 million its opening weekend.

Based on the book “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, “Love, Simon” stars Nick Robinson as Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen who forms a relationship with an anonymous gay classmate online. His life is thrown into disarray when a blackmailer finds his online chats and threatens to out him to his family and school. Greg Berlanti directs the film, with Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., Katherine Langford and Alexandra Shipp also starring. The film currently holds a score of 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ faith-based film, “I Can Only Imagine,” is also opening this weekend. Based on the story behind the hit song of the same name by Christian rock band MercyMe, it stars J. Michael Finley as MercyMe vocalist Bart Millard and Dennis Quaid as his father, Arthur. The film is expected to open outside the top ten with a $2-4 million opening from 1,620 screens, with a reported budget of $7 million.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Will 'Tomb Raider' Be the Movie to Finally Knock 'Black Panther' From Box Office Perch?

'Captain Marvel,' 'Tomb Raider' Writers Take on Sony's 'Silver and Black'

‘Shot’ Picked Up By Showtime In Wake Of Parkland Mass Shooting; Movie Shows True Impact Of Gun Violence

EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED, March 1, 2108: In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, FL which took the lives of three educators and 14 students, Showtime has acquired distribution rights of Shot, a drama about how three people’s lives are turned upside down from gun violence. The film stars Noah Wyle as a movie sound mixer who is randomly shot and the reveals the damage a single bullet can cause not only to his body but to his entire world. Also…

EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED, March 1, 2108: In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, FL which took the lives of three educators and 14 students, Showtime has acquired distribution rights of Shot, a drama about how three people’s lives are turned upside down from gun violence. The film stars Noah Wyle as a movie sound mixer who is randomly shot and the reveals the damage a single bullet can cause not only to his body but to his entire world. Also…

Agnès Varda & JR On ‘Faces Places,’ And The Real Story On That Agnès Cardboard Cutout

For a documentary that has won numerous awards and enters the Oscar homestretch a strong contender, Faces Places began modestly enough.
“We didn’t aim big at the beginning, we aimed to just work together and do it on a scale that would be small enough that it would be no pressure and we could have fun,” co-director JR tells Deadline. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we do a three-minute video and just put it on YouTube?'”
That proposed small-scale collaboration with French New…

For a documentary that has won numerous awards and enters the Oscar homestretch a strong contender, Faces Places began modestly enough. "We didn’t aim big at the beginning, we aimed to just work together and do it on a scale that would be small enough that it would be no pressure and we could have fun," co-director JR tells Deadline. "I was like, ‘Why don’t we do a three-minute video and just put it on YouTube?'" That proposed small-scale collaboration with French New…

‘Faces Places’ Director JR Explains Agnes Varda Cardboard Cutout at Oscars Luncheon (Video)

Lurking in the very back row next to Meryl Streep and Greta Gerwig in the Class Photo of 2018 Oscar nominees is French New Wave director Agnes Varda. But if you’re wondering why she’s standing there looking away from the camera with a perplexed expression glued to her face, it’s because it really is glued there.

With Varda unable to attend the luncheon, her “Faces Places” co-director JR brought as his companion a life-size cardboard cutout of Varda to stand next to him in the photo. At first glance, it’s just a cute moment. But JR told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman as part of our screening series that it was actually a perfect embodiment of their project’s spirit.

“That moment of going to that lunch was almost like taking an image from the film and bringing it into reality and just moving on with it and seeing the world changing around just because of a cardboard, because of the idea that you can take photos and change enough context,” JR said. “That’s what we’ve been doing with Agnes — take photos of people, enlarge them bigger than life in their own village where people know them, but people would reinterpret them.”

Also Read: Oscar Nominees Explain What Makes Documentaries Feel ‘Alive’ (Video)

“Faces Places” finds Varda and JR taking a delightful, whimsical road trip through Europe in JR’s traveling photo booth. They’d take photos of locals in small villages, print them out, blow them up and paste massive versions on the sides of buildings. It’s a film about how an image can change your perspective on a location, open up emotions and spark conversations that no one ever imagined before. They take ordinary people in quaint locations, and with some simple street art, they’ve found a way to immortalize them.

“We were two kids trying to do crazy things and see if it works,” JR said. “She’s always tuned in because she’s curious about everything. She showed me how to be curious about everything around you. It’s a real gift to be able to work with her.”

JR said he and Varda have become fast friends since beginning filming on “Faces Places.” And prior to the luncheon, they had never done a screening apart. He decided he would print the cardboard cutout, but was nervous about trying to take it to Los Angeles on a plane.

Also Read: ‘Faces Places’ Review: Agnès Varda Takes a Joyful Artist’s Journey Into Rural France

“People have been so nice, ‘let’s get you a seat, let’s get you through security!’ They didn’t know her, but the idea that she’s 90 years old and she’s never been Oscar nominated in her whole life, they were like, we need to help her, and suddenly everything has become open,” JR said.

JR himself appeared larger than life in front of TheWrap’s screening audience on Wednesday. He Skyped into the panel discussion, his face dwarfing his other panelists on the massive movie screen behind them, which likewise felt like a reminder of the film’s ideas. But of course, he kept his signature dark sunglasses on throughout the Q&A, even at one point pantomiming a bad video connection during the moment when he was about to take off his glasses for the audience to see.

“The reason I wear the sunglasses is because the work that I do, not in France but in other countries, is considered illegal. In some countries I’ve been in jail, and in others I’ve been invited into a museum,” JR explained.

Also Read: ‘Faces Places’ Directors Agnès Varda and JR Look for Fun in a ‘Disgusting’ World

But Varda might still be the best person to Skype with, as whenever JR gets on a call with her, he only ever sees the top of her head. And as a perfect capper to the evening, he dug out the life-size cardboard he brought with him to the Oscars as well as another adorable looking still of her peeking out over the frame.

Check out the video of him talking about the cardboard stand-up above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

10 Best Documentaries of 2017, From ‘Faces Places’ to ‘Kiki’ (Photos)

‘Faces Places’ Directors Agnès Varda and JR Look for Fun in a ‘Disgusting’ World

‘Faces Places’ Review: Agnès Varda Takes a Joyful Artist’s Journey Into Rural France

Lurking in the very back row next to Meryl Streep and Greta Gerwig in the Class Photo of 2018 Oscar nominees is French New Wave director Agnes Varda. But if you’re wondering why she’s standing there looking away from the camera with a perplexed expression glued to her face, it’s because it really is glued there.

With Varda unable to attend the luncheon, her “Faces Places” co-director JR brought as his companion a life-size cardboard cutout of Varda to stand next to him in the photo. At first glance, it’s just a cute moment. But JR told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman as part of our screening series that it was actually a perfect embodiment of their project’s spirit.

“That moment of going to that lunch was almost like taking an image from the film and bringing it into reality and just moving on with it and seeing the world changing around just because of a cardboard, because of the idea that you can take photos and change enough context,” JR said. “That’s what we’ve been doing with Agnes — take photos of people, enlarge them bigger than life in their own village where people know them, but people would reinterpret them.”

“Faces Places” finds Varda and JR taking a delightful, whimsical road trip through Europe in JR’s traveling photo booth. They’d take photos of locals in small villages, print them out, blow them up and paste massive versions on the sides of buildings. It’s a film about how an image can change your perspective on a location, open up emotions and spark conversations that no one ever imagined before. They take ordinary people in quaint locations, and with some simple street art, they’ve found a way to immortalize them.

“We were two kids trying to do crazy things and see if it works,” JR said. “She’s always tuned in because she’s curious about everything. She showed me how to be curious about everything around you. It’s a real gift to be able to work with her.”

JR said he and Varda have become fast friends since beginning filming on “Faces Places.” And prior to the luncheon, they had never done a screening apart. He decided he would print the cardboard cutout, but was nervous about trying to take it to Los Angeles on a plane.

“People have been so nice, ‘let’s get you a seat, let’s get you through security!’ They didn’t know her, but the idea that she’s 90 years old and she’s never been Oscar nominated in her whole life, they were like, we need to help her, and suddenly everything has become open,” JR said.

JR himself appeared larger than life in front of TheWrap’s screening audience on Wednesday. He Skyped into the panel discussion, his face dwarfing his other panelists on the massive movie screen behind them, which likewise felt like a reminder of the film’s ideas. But of course, he kept his signature dark sunglasses on throughout the Q&A, even at one point pantomiming a bad video connection during the moment when he was about to take off his glasses for the audience to see.

“The reason I wear the sunglasses is because the work that I do, not in France but in other countries, is considered illegal. In some countries I’ve been in jail, and in others I’ve been invited into a museum,” JR explained.

But Varda might still be the best person to Skype with, as whenever JR gets on a call with her, he only ever sees the top of her head. And as a perfect capper to the evening, he dug out the life-size cardboard he brought with him to the Oscars as well as another adorable looking still of her peeking out over the frame.

Check out the video of him talking about the cardboard stand-up above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

10 Best Documentaries of 2017, From 'Faces Places' to 'Kiki' (Photos)

'Faces Places' Directors Agnès Varda and JR Look for Fun in a 'Disgusting' World

'Faces Places' Review: Agnès Varda Takes a Joyful Artist's Journey Into Rural France

Oscar Nominees Explain What Makes Documentaries Feel ‘Alive’ (Video)

One of the axioms of great documentary filmmaking is the idea that you start making your movie expecting one thing, but find the story is something completely different during the course of filming.

It doesn’t feel like it’s true of every documentary you see, but it certainly is true for the five Oscar nominated documentary features this year. And if you ask these filmmakers, they’ll tell you that discovery process is essential for anyone who is being true to their medium.

“If you made a documentary film and had an idea of what it was going to be and the film was exactly that at the end, it would be a totally dead product,” Dan Cogan, the co-director of “Icarus,” told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman. “The thing that makes it alive is discovering how it changes and running with that and following that, and the skill of it is to recognize what’s unfolding and follow the essence of that story and follow it as it goes.”

Also Read: Short Documentary Oscar Nominees on Advantages, Intimacy of Short Form (Exclusive Video)

Filmmakers from each of the five documentary features spoke as part of TheWrap’s panel discussion at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The films are wildly different, ranging from tragedies personal and global to more lighthearted journeys, but each grew into the powerful movies we see today.

“Icarus” seems to most clearly embody that philosophy of how a good documentary evolves, with Cogan and Bryan Fogel drastically changing course once they realized their subject, Grigory Rodchenkov, was the mastermind behind the Russian doping scandal and that his life was in grave danger.

“I was in way deeper than I had expected to be,” Fogel said. “That process was essentially two and a half years in the making before we were in so deep and realized that we were sitting on a whistleblower and a trove of evidence that was irrefutable and so spectacular in scope it changed essentially all of Olympic history, because what Russia had been doing in Sochi was just the icing on the cake.”

Also Read: ‘Heroin(e)’ Director Investigates How Small Towns Battle With Opioids: ‘It Was Pills, It Was Heroin’

But the other four documentaries followed a similar trajectory. Yance Ford spent 10 years trying to make his personal crime story “Strong Island,” and two years into the course of filming, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The film is a hybrid of a true-crime documentary and a family portrait about how his brother William was shot and killed by a white man. And time and again, Ford watched the movie’s narrative unfold before him. As a result, “Strong Island” had to change to react to the changing culture.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that the same narrative about fear and hyper-physicality would actually repeat itself in some instances in the Zimmerman case,” Ford said. “I realized that this history of racialized violence, this use of fear as a justification for homicide, was much older than the Martin case. It was much older than my brother’s.”

Mark Mitten, the producer of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” was close with the Sung family, who operated the family-run bank Abacus located in New York’s Chinatown. When they were indicted and chose to fight the government by going to court, he had no idea how the trial was going to pan out and what the fate of this family would be.

Also Read: Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’ – and Was ‘Blown Away’

“Nobody was covering this story,” Mitten said. “I did some investigating and found out they were the only bank going to be indicted for mortgage fraud as part of the 2008 financial crisis, which is pretty remarkable.”

And of course Mitten’s director on “Abacus,” Steve James, knows a thing or two about not knowing the ending of a documentary before he starts. This is James’s first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, but he previously directed the famous ’90s film “Hoop Dreams,” spending four years with the two Chicago high school students at its center. James spoke about the challenges of not being able to film during the court proceedings and how he still managed to tell the Sung family’s story.

“It’s the lesson of how you make a film with great limitations. It’s figuring out how to still try to tell the story needs to be told and tell it in a hopefully compelling way despite those limitations. ” James said. “Sometimes limitations can be a great inspiration to and can lead to focusing in different ways.”

Also Read: ‘Strong Island’ Review: Poignant Netflix Doc Covers Race, Crime and a Family’s Pain

Feras Fayyad, the director of the harrowing Syrian documentary “Last Men in Aleppo,” got out of being tortured in a Syrian prison and picked up a camera. He put his camera right at the eye lines of the local Syrian first responders, or the White Helmets, and saw through their eyes the horrors they were witnesses to. Fayyad had no idea whether his subjects would even one day make it out of Aleppo alive.

“If you want to tell something, keep it in your mind and show it in a different way,” Fayyad said. “When I got out of prison, I had in my mind to do this film, but I knew I would be facing the war machine and the intelligent services and all that. But I’m not the only one. There were many artists and filmmakers who were arrested in the same time, trying to do this. I’m the lucky one who gets this idea to bring it in front of people and watch it here.”

Ted Soqui

And then there’s JR, the French artist who along with the legendary French New Wave director Agnes Varda made the delightful European road trip movie “Faces Places.” He charmingly Skyped into the panel discussion, with his face appearing larger than life on the movie screen behind the panelists. The frivolity of “Faces Places” doesn’t suggest the same sort of challenges or sense of danger some of these filmmakers faced. The truck they toured the countryside in didn’t break down, and they didn’t run out of equipment during a job. But it wasn’t until months into their journey that they realized they would even be making a film.

Also Read: ‘Faces Places’ Directors Agnès Varda and JR Look for Fun in a ‘Disgusting’ World

“We actually got to know each other making this film,” JR said. “That’s why we were moving with such lightness because there was never this weight of. what will be the story? Where is this taking us?”

One of these five films will win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature on March 4. So we don’t know how this story ends either.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Short Documentary Oscar Nominees on Advantages, Intimacy of Short Form (Exclusive Video)

Gilda Radner Documentary ‘Love, Gilda’ to Open Tribeca Film Festival

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Documentary ‘RBG’ Sold to Magnolia, Participant in Worldwide Deal

Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’ – and Was ‘Blown Away’

One of the axioms of great documentary filmmaking is the idea that you start making your movie expecting one thing, but find the story is something completely different during the course of filming.

It doesn’t feel like it’s true of every documentary you see, but it certainly is true for the five Oscar nominated documentary features this year. And if you ask these filmmakers, they’ll tell you that discovery process is essential for anyone who is being true to their medium.

“If you made a documentary film and had an idea of what it was going to be and the film was exactly that at the end, it would be a totally dead product,” Dan Cogan, the co-director of “Icarus,” told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman. “The thing that makes it alive is discovering how it changes and running with that and following that, and the skill of it is to recognize what’s unfolding and follow the essence of that story and follow it as it goes.”

Filmmakers from each of the five documentary features spoke as part of TheWrap’s panel discussion at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The films are wildly different, ranging from tragedies personal and global to more lighthearted journeys, but each grew into the powerful movies we see today.

“Icarus” seems to most clearly embody that philosophy of how a good documentary evolves, with Cogan and Bryan Fogel drastically changing course once they realized their subject, Grigory Rodchenkov, was the mastermind behind the Russian doping scandal and that his life was in grave danger.

“I was in way deeper than I had expected to be,” Fogel said. “That process was essentially two and a half years in the making before we were in so deep and realized that we were sitting on a whistleblower and a trove of evidence that was irrefutable and so spectacular in scope it changed essentially all of Olympic history, because what Russia had been doing in Sochi was just the icing on the cake.”

But the other four documentaries followed a similar trajectory. Yance Ford spent 10 years trying to make his personal crime story “Strong Island,” and two years into the course of filming, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The film is a hybrid of a true-crime documentary and a family portrait about how his brother William was shot and killed by a white man. And time and again, Ford watched the movie’s narrative unfold before him. As a result, “Strong Island” had to change to react to the changing culture.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that the same narrative about fear and hyper-physicality would actually repeat itself in some instances in the Zimmerman case,” Ford said. “I realized that this history of racialized violence, this use of fear as a justification for homicide, was much older than the Martin case. It was much older than my brother’s.”

Mark Mitten, the producer of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” was close with the Sung family, who operated the family-run bank Abacus located in New York’s Chinatown. When they were indicted and chose to fight the government by going to court, he had no idea how the trial was going to pan out and what the fate of this family would be.

“Nobody was covering this story,” Mitten said. “I did some investigating and found out they were the only bank going to be indicted for mortgage fraud as part of the 2008 financial crisis, which is pretty remarkable.”

And of course Mitten’s director on “Abacus,” Steve James, knows a thing or two about not knowing the ending of a documentary before he starts. This is James’s first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, but he previously directed the famous ’90s film “Hoop Dreams,” spending four years with the two Chicago high school students at its center. James spoke about the challenges of not being able to film during the court proceedings and how he still managed to tell the Sung family’s story.

“It’s the lesson of how you make a film with great limitations. It’s figuring out how to still try to tell the story needs to be told and tell it in a hopefully compelling way despite those limitations. ” James said. “Sometimes limitations can be a great inspiration to and can lead to focusing in different ways.”

Feras Fayyad, the director of the harrowing Syrian documentary “Last Men in Aleppo,” got out of being tortured in a Syrian prison and picked up a camera. He put his camera right at the eye lines of the local Syrian first responders, or the White Helmets, and saw through their eyes the horrors they were witnesses to. Fayyad had no idea whether his subjects would even one day make it out of Aleppo alive.

“If you want to tell something, keep it in your mind and show it in a different way,” Fayyad said. “When I got out of prison, I had in my mind to do this film, but I knew I would be facing the war machine and the intelligent services and all that. But I’m not the only one. There were many artists and filmmakers who were arrested in the same time, trying to do this. I’m the lucky one who gets this idea to bring it in front of people and watch it here.”

Ted Soqui

And then there’s JR, the French artist who along with the legendary French New Wave director Agnes Varda made the delightful European road trip movie “Faces Places.” He charmingly Skyped into the panel discussion, with his face appearing larger than life on the movie screen behind the panelists. The frivolity of “Faces Places” doesn’t suggest the same sort of challenges or sense of danger some of these filmmakers faced. The truck they toured the countryside in didn’t break down, and they didn’t run out of equipment during a job. But it wasn’t until months into their journey that they realized they would even be making a film.

“We actually got to know each other making this film,” JR said. “That’s why we were moving with such lightness because there was never this weight of. what will be the story? Where is this taking us?”

One of these five films will win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature on March 4. So we don’t know how this story ends either.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Short Documentary Oscar Nominees on Advantages, Intimacy of Short Form (Exclusive Video)

Gilda Radner Documentary 'Love, Gilda' to Open Tribeca Film Festival

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Documentary 'RBG' Sold to Magnolia, Participant in Worldwide Deal

Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary 'Icarus' – and Was 'Blown Away'

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Children Slam Trump for ‘Shithole’ Countries Comment

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children are criticizing President Trump on what would be the civil right’s activist’s 89th birthday over the president’s recent private comments referring to “shithole” countries.

“When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is,” said King’s son, Martin Luther King III said Monday in Washington, according to the Associated Press. “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

King’s daughter Rev. Bernice King also told her Atlanta church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”

Also Read: Trump Blasted for ‘Racist’ Comments Questioning Immigrants From ‘Shithole Countries’

“We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny … All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa,” she said, per the AP. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said on Friday, according to several people briefed on the meeting in which he said the comment, according to the Washington Post.

The president went on to say that the country should instead bring more people from countries like Norway. Some observers have called Trump’s remark “racist,” noting that Norway is predominantly white, while the countries he derided — such as Haiti and African nations — are not.

Also Read: Sean Penn: ‘Shithole’ Comments Make Donald Trump ‘An Enemy of Mankind’

Trump denied using that quote the next day on Twitter, saying “the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018

Related stories from TheWrap:

CNN Tweets Martin Luther King Was a Socialist ‘Before It Was Cool,’ Internet Freaks

Martin Luther King Jr’s Niece Defends Trump: ‘I Don’t Believe He Is a Racist’ (Video)

Watch Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech (Video)

MLK Day: 11 Most Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Memes

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children are criticizing President Trump on what would be the civil right’s activist’s 89th birthday over the president’s recent private comments referring to “shithole” countries.

“When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is,” said King’s son, Martin Luther King III said Monday in Washington, according to the Associated Press. “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

King’s daughter Rev. Bernice King also told her Atlanta church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”

“We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny … All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa,” she said, per the AP. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said on Friday, according to several people briefed on the meeting in which he said the comment, according to the Washington Post.

The president went on to say that the country should instead bring more people from countries like Norway. Some observers have called Trump’s remark “racist,” noting that Norway is predominantly white, while the countries he derided — such as Haiti and African nations — are not.

Trump denied using that quote the next day on Twitter, saying “the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

CNN Tweets Martin Luther King Was a Socialist 'Before It Was Cool,' Internet Freaks

Martin Luther King Jr's Niece Defends Trump: 'I Don't Believe He Is a Racist' (Video)

Watch Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have a Dream' Speech (Video)

MLK Day: 11 Most Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Memes

Watch Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech (Video)

On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired America — and shamed it into honoring the principles on which it was founded.

Clarence Jones, who co-wrote an early draft of the speech, recalled to TheWrap in 2013 how King came to deliver the most famous part of his speech for the March on Washington.

As he looked out at the crowd, King said it would “go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”

Also Read: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Turns 50: How the Networks Are Covering

King was well into his prepared remarks, Jones said, when his favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, cried out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.”

And then King went off his script — and the speech became known as “I Have a Dream.”

“When Mahalia shouted to him, I was standing about 50 feet behind him… and I saw it happening in real time. He just took the text of his speech and moved it to the left side of the lectern. … And I said to somebody standing next to me: ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.’ I said that because I could see his body language change from the rear. Where he had been reading, like giving a lecture, but then going into his Baptist preacher mode,” said Jones.

Also Read: How MLK Ad-Libbed the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

“Had there been anyone else — anyone else — who had shouted anything to him — I think he would have been a little taken aback. I’m not so sure he would have departed from the text of his speech. But Mahalia Jackson was his favorite gospel singer. When Mahalia said that it was almost like a mandate to respond.”

Watch the video:

Related stories from TheWrap:

TCA: The Amazing Story of How MLK Ad-Libbed the ‘I Have a Dream Speech’

On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired America — and shamed it into honoring the principles on which it was founded.

Clarence Jones, who co-wrote an early draft of the speech, recalled to TheWrap in 2013 how King came to deliver the most famous part of his speech for the March on Washington.

As he looked out at the crowd, King said it would “go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”

King was well into his prepared remarks, Jones said, when his favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, cried out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.”

And then King went off his script — and the speech became known as “I Have a Dream.”

“When Mahalia shouted to him, I was standing about 50 feet behind him… and I saw it happening in real time. He just took the text of his speech and moved it to the left side of the lectern. … And I said to somebody standing next to me: ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.’ I said that because I could see his body language change from the rear. Where he had been reading, like giving a lecture, but then going into his Baptist preacher mode,” said Jones.

“Had there been anyone else — anyone else — who had shouted anything to him — I think he would have been a little taken aback. I’m not so sure he would have departed from the text of his speech. But Mahalia Jackson was his favorite gospel singer. When Mahalia said that it was almost like a mandate to respond.”

Watch the video:

Related stories from TheWrap:

TCA: The Amazing Story of How MLK Ad-Libbed the 'I Have a Dream Speech'

How MLK Ad-Libbed the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Clarence Jones, who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. write the “I Have A Dream Speech,” told a Television Critics Association panel in 2013 how the most famous part of the speech came spontaneously. It was Aug. 28, 1963: King was speaking to hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial, and millions watching on TV, when suddenly singer Mahalia Jackson called out.

Jones:

Very few people know — most people do not know — that the speech that he gave was not the speech that he had intended to give. … As he was reading from the text of his prepared remarks, there came a point when Mahalia Jackson, who was sitting on the platform, said, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.”

Also Read: Why the MLK Holiday Has Become a Major Box Office Weekend

Now I have often speculated that she had heard him talk in other places… and make reference to the dream. On June 23, 1963, in Detroit, he had made very express reference to the dream.

When Mahalia shouted to him, I was standing about 50 feet behind him… and I saw it happening in real time. He just took the text of his speech and moved it to the left side of the lectern. … And I said to somebody standing next to me: “These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.”

I said that because I could see his body language change from the rear. Where he had been reading, like giving a lecture, but then going into his Baptist preacher mode.

Also Read: Black Hollywood Calls Out Oscars for Lack of Diversity: It’s ‘Embarrassing’

Had there been anyone else — anyone else — who had shouted anything to him, I think he would have been a little taken aback. I’m not so sure he would have departed from the text of his speech. But Mahalia Jackson was his favorite gospel singer. When Mahalia said that it was almost like a mandate to respond.

You can watch the speech above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Why the MLK Holiday Has Become a Major Box Office Weekend

MLK Day: 12 Inspirational Movies You Must See

Obama on MLK Legacy: ‘I Know That Flame Remains’

Clarence Jones, who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. write the “I Have A Dream Speech,” told a Television Critics Association panel in 2013 how the most famous part of the speech came spontaneously. It was Aug. 28, 1963: King was speaking to hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial, and millions watching on TV, when suddenly singer Mahalia Jackson called out.

Jones:

Very few people know — most people do not know — that the speech that he gave was not the speech that he had intended to give. … As he was reading from the text of his prepared remarks, there came a point when Mahalia Jackson, who was sitting on the platform, said, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.”

Now I have often speculated that she had heard him talk in other places… and make reference to the dream. On June 23, 1963, in Detroit, he had made very express reference to the dream.

When Mahalia shouted to him, I was standing about 50 feet behind him… and I saw it happening in real time. He just took the text of his speech and moved it to the left side of the lectern. … And I said to somebody standing next to me: “These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.”

I said that because I could see his body language change from the rear. Where he had been reading, like giving a lecture, but then going into his Baptist preacher mode.

Had there been anyone else — anyone else — who had shouted anything to him, I think he would have been a little taken aback. I’m not so sure he would have departed from the text of his speech. But Mahalia Jackson was his favorite gospel singer. When Mahalia said that it was almost like a mandate to respond.

You can watch the speech above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Why the MLK Holiday Has Become a Major Box Office Weekend

MLK Day: 12 Inspirational Movies You Must See

Obama on MLK Legacy: 'I Know That Flame Remains'