News Round-up – Whedon leaves Batgirl, Three Billboards leads BAFTAs, Bond 25 and more

It has been a big week in the world of movies. With the Oscars just a week away, the BAFTA Film Awards marked the final step on the road to the Academy Awards. Elsewhere, Joss Whedon took a step away from the DC Extended Universe, just as he seemed poised to be handed the keys to that particular kingdom and Danny Boyle moved closer to a dream role at the helm of a James Bond movie.

Meanwhile, the first casting tidbit was unveiled for the sequel to horror smash hit It and Lupita Nyong’o lined up a meaty role to follow up her brilliant work in Black Panther.

Here’s your movie news round-up…


Whedon departs Batgirl after “failure”

Joss Whedon speaking at WonderCon in 2013
Joss Whedon speaking at WonderCon in 2013 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In shocking news this week, Joss Whedon has stepped down from the director’s chair of the solo movie for DC heroine Batgirl. Whedon gave a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, in which he admitted he “really didn’t have a story” and had “failed” in putting the project together. Sources told the publication that, as well as his story issues, concerns about a male filmmaker taking charge of a project with feminist importance played a part in the decision.

This was a surprising development, particularly given Whedon’s admission that the film had beaten him. He is a director with clear superhero movie capability in his past and a good working relationship with DC having been brought on to finish Justice League at the eleventh hour. With that said, Batgirl is the sort of project that a female director could really turn into something special, so this gives a real opportunity to a talented woman filmmaker, who could make the next Wonder Woman.


Three Billboards leads BAFTA Film Awards

Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The fierce battle between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for Oscar glory took another twist this week with the BAFTAs. It was Martin McDonagh‘s acerbic drama that emerged victorious on the night, with five awards including Best Film and Best Original Screenplay as well as, bafflingly, the gong for Outstanding British Film. Shape of Water had to settle for three prizes, including Best Director for Guillermo del Toro. Highly fancied homegrown contender Dunkirk left with just one award, for Best Sound.

This was an odd night of awards, but one that once again saw Three Billboards showcase its strength. It’s now looking like a formidable Best Picture frontrunner, albeit one that has a very close competitor snapping at its heels. The rest of the awards handed out were fairly predictable, with the acting prizes going to the expected recipients. The BAFTAs aren’t the greatest precursor for the Oscars, but they certainly give a potentially interesting glimpse of the big night to come.


Jessica Chastain in the frame for It sequel

Jessica Chastain promotes Crimson Peak at Comic-Con in 2015
Jessica Chastain promotes Crimson Peak at Comic-Con in 2015 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In news that confirms what months of speculation have suggested, Variety reported that Jessica Chastain is in talks to play the adult incarnation of Beverly in the sequel to ItAndy Muschietti‘s horror hit from last year. Chastain has been talked about as a potential Beverly ever since the first movie given her resemblance to Sophia Lillis, who played the role first time around, and the fact she has worked with Muschietti before on his debut studio feature Mama.

Chastain would be very strong casting for the role of Beverly and it seems Muschietti is looking for a more A-list vibe in this sequel. The first movie made $700m globally and is the highest-grossing horror film ever made, which means it will be able to attract an impressive cast for the sequel. Shooting is expected to take place this summer on It: Chapter 2, with a September 2019 release date in place.


Boyle first choice for Bond 25 as Nolan says no

Danny Boyle at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008
Danny Boyle at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008 (Photo: Gordon Correll)

The ongoing saga of the personnel for Bond 25 continued this week, with two slices of news around the currently vacant director’s chair. Variety reported that Danny Boyle is now high on the list of favourites for Eon, with former frontrunner Yann Demange potentially turning second fiddle to the more recognisable name. Daniel Craig is already in place to return for one last hurrah as Bond.

Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan has “categorically” ruled out helming Bond 25, though he did tell Desert Island Discs that he would love to helm one of these films in the future. Boyle and Demange would both be better choices for the Bond chair than Nolan, so this was a welcome week for 007 news.


Paddington director lined up for Pinocchio

Disney's take on Pinocchio is one of its most beloved animated movies
Disney’s take on Pinocchio is one of its most beloved animated movies

It has been a busy couple of weeks for Paddington director Paul King. Last week, he was connected to the upcoming Willy Wonka movie and, this week, Variety has revealed that King is also in the frame to make the new live-action take on Pinocchio for Disney. Jack Thorne is currently working on the script for this movie – the latest cog in the new Disney live-action machine.

It’s great to see King getting major Hollywood studio work after the success of the Paddington movies. The Wonka project is interesting and the prospect of him moving into the new world of Disney live-action remakes is exciting. The childlike fun of the Pinocchio story feels like a good fit for the man behind two of the sweetest films of recent years.


Lupita Nyong’o to star in memoir adaptation

Lupita Nyong'o at the 2015 Oscars
Lupita Nyong’o at the 2015 Oscars (Photo: Disney / ABC Television Group)

Lupita Nyong’o is currently packing out cinema screens as the heroic Nakia in Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, but she has lined up something rather different for the future. Deadline revealed this week that Nyong’o will play the mother of Daily Show host Trevor Noah in a film adaptation of his first memoir Born a Crime. The book tells of Noah’s childhood in apartheid South Africa, where he was born of a then-illegal interracial relationship, with Nyong’o taking on the leading role.

This sounds like a very interesting project and one that’s a good fit for Nyong’o, offering her a chance to re-engage with the kind of meaty dramatic part that won her an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. It’s refreshing to see her talents deployed outside of blockbuster voice roles and this sounds like a truly compelling real-life story that’s ripe for a big screen adaptation.


Lego Batman Movie helmer up for D&D film

Chris McKay promotes The Lego Movie at Comic-Con in 2013
Chris McKay promotes The Lego Movie at Comic-Con in 2013 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Chris McKay has been a major name in the Warner Bros world for several years, most recently as the director of The Lego Batman Movie. He is also in line to direct a Nightwing film for the studio. He is now close to landing another big studio gig, though, as the helmer of Dungeons and Dragons for Paramount, according to Variety. The film is part of the same Hasbro world that has kept the Transformers franchise pushing on for so long, against every notion of quality control.

It seems bizarre that there has never been a major movie based around the world of Dungeons and Dragons given its ubiquity as an evocation of geekdom. The 2000 flop, which went direct-to-DVD in the UK, definitely doesn’t count. McKay is a solid pair of hands for such a project and hopefully he will be able to inject some part of the no holds barred silliness that made Lego Batman Movie as enjoyable as it ultimately was.


Who do you think should replace Joss Whedon for Batgirl? Were you pleased to see Three Billboards win big at the BAFTAs? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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