Star Wars: Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi approached by Disney to direct new film

Plans to make a new Star Wars film are already underway – and Disney has an idea who they want to guide the franchise.

Just one month after the release of JJ Abrams’ concluding chapter, The Rise of Skywalker, reports state that Lucasfilm is moving ahead with a new project that they want Taika Waititi to direct.

The Hollywood Reporter states that it’s currently unclear whether this project is related to another that is being developed by Marvel president Kevin Feige.

Waititi is already a Disney favourite following the success of Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit, which the studio acquired following the merger with Fox.

The latter picked up six Oscar nominations earlier this week, including one in the Best Picture category, and the former is getting a high-profile sequel titled Thor: Love and Thunder, which Waititi will also direct. 

He also directed the season one finale of Disney+ series The Mandalorian, which is a Star Wars spin-off.

Originally, Lucasfilm planned for Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss to write a trilogy of Star Wars films, but they dropped out ahead of signing a lucrative deal with Netflix.

Rian Johnson, who directed The Last Jedi, was also set to return to the franchise, but is working on a sequel to his 20119 hit Knives Out instead.

Disney and Lucasfilm are yet to comment on the reports.

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Business DealBook

Disney Drops Fox From 20th Century and Searchlight Studio Names

LOS ANGELES — Sound the trumpets: 20th Century Fox, a name and klieg-lit logo that stretches back 85 years in Hollywood, is dropping the word Fox, a move that may prevent consumers from mistakenly thinking the movie studio has anything to do with Rupert Murdoch’s polarizing Fox News media empire.

The Walt Disney Company bought most of Mr. Murdoch’s entertainment assets last year in a $71.3 billion deal. That included the 20th Century Fox studio and its art-house sibling, Fox Searchlight. On Friday, employees at the main movie studio arrived to a new email format (@20thcenturystudios) without the Fox. A Disney spokesman confirmed that both labels, now officially known as 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures, would drop Fox from their logos. Disney had no further comment.

“Downhill,” a comedic drama starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, will be the first movie to bear the Searchlight Pictures name. It arrives in theaters on Feb. 14. “The Call of the Wild,” set for release on Feb. 21 and starring Harrison Ford, will carry the 20th Century logo. The trumpet fanfare (composed by Alfred Newman in 1933), klieg lights and familiar monolith logo will remain.

It is not surprising that Disney would rename the movie operations. In October, 20th Century Fox Television, a small-screen studio that Disney bought as part of the deal, became part of a new entity, Disney Television Studios.

Mr. Murdoch still owns the Fox broadcast network, Fox News and a chain of 28 local Fox television stations, among other media assets. His new company is called Fox Corporation, and one of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch, is chief executive. (The old company was called 21st Century Fox.)

The Fox brand became synonymous with Mr. Murdoch starting in the mid-1980s, when he bought a stake in the 20th Century Fox movie studio and founded the Fox broadcast network to compete with ABC, CBS and NBC. He eventually took full control of the movie studio. Fox News arrived on the cable scene in 1996 as an alternative to CNN and grew into a behemoth that dwarfed the film company as a moneymaker.

Fox News remains a media superpower, but its brand has become a polarizing one. The network’s founding chairman, Roger Ailes, and one of its most popular on-air personalities, Bill O’Reilly, became the focus of sexual harassment scandals in recent years. Its prime-time opinion hosts are vocal supporters of President Trump.

Hollywood figures have grown more vocal in their criticism of Fox News. In 2018, for instance, Steve Levitan, the creator of “Modern Family,” which airs on ABC but is produced by the Fox studio that Disney now owns, wrote on Twitter that he was “disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with @FoxNews.” His comments came amid the 24-hour news channel’s coverage of the Trump administration’s border security policy.

Movies have been branded with the Fox name for more than a century. The name dates to 1915, when William Fox, a Hungarian immigrant, left the fur and garment industry to start a motion picture company. The 1929 stock market crash, among other misfortunes, forced the Fox Film Corporation to merge with a competitor, Twentieth Century Pictures, to form 20th Century Fox in 1935. The combined company made such Hollywood classics as “The Sound of Music,” “All About Eve,” “Alien” and “Die Hard.”

Also on Friday, Disney ended a lavish film-production deal with Peter Chernin, who was once Mr. Murdoch’s second in command. The decade-old agreement was with 20th Century Fox, which released Chernin Entertainment-produced films and paid for all or part of the costs. Films made under the deal included the recent “Planet of the Apes” trilogy and the current Oscar nominee “Ford v Ferrari.”

Mr. Chernin told The New York Times in 2018 that he had about six years remaining on the deal. But the alliance no longer made sense under Disney, which generally does not share ownership of films and plans to pare down 20th Century’s release slate to focus almost entirely on franchise movies. Disney and Chernin Entertainment will continue to work together on a handful of those, including a new “Planet of the Apes” film.

“I have nothing but praise for Disney,” Mr. Chernin said in a statement. “They were gracious, classy and paved the way for me to continue to build the company however we want.”

The news about Chernin Entertainment was first reported by Variety.

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Disney drops the word ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox name

The Walt Disney Company has dropped the word “Fox” from 20th Century Fox’s Name.

According to Variety, the studio is now known as 20th Century Studios, while Fox Searchlight Pictures – another 21st Century Fox asset acquired by Disney will go by Searchlight Pictures.

A Disney spokesman told The New York Times that both entities would remove the word “Fox” from their respective logos.

The Independent has contacted the Walt Disney Company for more information.

Rupert Murdoch was once the chief executive of 21st Century Fox. Fox News, which was founded by Murdoch, remains owned by the Fox Corporation – of which Murdoch is the chairman, while his son Lachlan Murdoch is the CEO.

The changes come after Disney’s $73.1bn purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. The deal, which closed in March last year, was one of the largest media mergers in history.

Downhill, Searchlight’s next film, is expected to be market under the label ”Searchlight Pictures Presents”. The film, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, will be released on 14 February in the US and 28 February in the UK.

The Call of the Wild, featuring Karen Gillan and Harrison Ford, is set to bear the 20th Century Studios name. The movie is planned for release on 19 February in the UK and 21 February in the US.

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Lifestyle Style

Prince Harry reportedly pitched Meghan Markle for voice-overs to Disney CEO in resurfaced video

A newly emerged video appears to show the moment Prince Harry pitched Meghan Markle’s ability to do voice-overs to Disney’s CEO — a job the Duchess of Sussex has reportedly accepted.

Over the weekend, The Times reported Meghan has signed a deal with Disney to do a voice-over in return for a donation to Elephants Without Borders, an organisation that protects the animals from poachers. 

Shortly after the duchess’s new role was reported, TMZ released a video taken in July when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the London premiere of The Lion King, in which Prince Harry appears to pitch the idea to Disney CEO Bob Iger

In the video, Prince Harry told Mr Iger: “You know she does voice-overs,” while pointing towards his wife. 

“Oh, really?” Mr Iger responded. “I did not know that.”

Prince Harry speaks to Bob Iger during The Lion King premiere (Getty)

“You seem surprised,” Prince Harry replied to the CEO, before adding: “But yeah, she’s really interested.”

The conversation ended with Mr Iger telling him: “Sure, we’d love to try.” 

According to The Times, the deal between Meghan and Disney was signed before the royal couple announced last week that they planned to step back as senior members of the royal family and become financially independent

While the announcement initially caused chaos among the other members of the royal family, who reportedly did not know about the couple’s decision ahead of the news breaking, the Queen has since announced her support of the duke and duchess’s plans. 

 Following a summit regarding the couple’s future roles, Buckingham Palace today released a statement from the monarch, in which she said: “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. 

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

The Queen also acknowledged the couple’s desire to become financially independent, adding that “it has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.”

The Independent has contacted Disney for comment.

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Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker actor calls for Disney to release director JJ Abrams’ cut

It’s been a tumultuous month for Star Wars fans.

Not only has The Rise of Skywalker divided critics, but it’s now being claimed that behind-the-scenes issues plagued the JJ Abrams film from the beginning of production.

Since these claims surfaced online, the hashtag “Release the JJ Cut” has been trending on social media.

While actor Dominic Monaghan didn’t confirm the Reddit leak that suggests Abrams was “devastated and blindsided” by the film’s final cut, he did inadvertently corroborate one part – that the director had wanted the film to be 40 minutes longer.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

“I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version,” he continued. “Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

Monaghan, who played Charlie in hit ABC series Lost, revealed he shot a key scene involving the characters rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Lieutenant Connix, who is played by Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd.

He added: “It was just extraordinary to even just be involved in that scene, and unfortunately, with the time constraints, they didn’t make it or they changed things around. So, I’m hoping that if and when the DVD comes out that maybe they’ll add extras or they’ll have deleted, additional scenes.”

Abrams reportedly shot a scene that would have gone down immensely well with die-hard fans.

The moment in question would have seen Star Wars actors Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Samuel L Jackson (Mace Windu) and Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) return as Force ghosts.

The scene is said to have been removed for unknown reasons, but its potential existence could explain why Christensen’s appearance on a Star Wars panel was cancelled at the last minute in September.

The Rise of Skywalker has a score of 54 per cent on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes – one of the lowest for any movie in the long-running Star Wars franchise.

Abrams recently revealed what he believes to be the answer to one of The Rise of Skywalker’​s biggest mysteries: what Finn was about to say to Rey before getting sucked into the quicksand in Pasaana.

Find a list of every unexpected cameos in the film here.

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Grey’s Anatomy and other Disney shows disappear from Sky

Grey’s Anatomy is among the shows that have been removed from Sky ahead of the UK launch of Disney’s streaming service in 2020.

Disney has pulled more than half of its TV box sets from Sky, including Scandal and the Marvel shows.

The company, which also owns hits from the Star Wars franchise and films such as Frozen 2, is gathering up its content to air on Disney+, which will launch in the UK on 31 March 2020.

According to research conducted by Ampere, the number of seasons of TV shows made by Disney-owned ABC and available to Sky customers dropped from 99 to 45 between April and October 2019.

Disney, which expanded its content library by acquiring 21st Century Fox earlier this year, is reinventing its business model by investing billions in Disney+ as the new home for most of its content.

While Sky is steadily losing its Disney content as contracts come up for renewal, WarnerMedia – which owns the Harry Potter films and HBO content – has opted to stick with Sky for at least the next five years.

Find out every movie and TV show joining Disney+ here.

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Asia Pacific World

Disney Removes Same-Sex Kiss From ‘Star Wars’ Film in Singapore

A brief kiss between two female characters was removed from screenings of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in Singapore, a country with restrictive laws against gay people.

Though lasting just a few seconds and hardly a major plot point, the kiss between two minor characters was notable as the first overt appearance of gay characters in a “Star Wars” film. Disney cut the kiss to preserve the film’s PG-13 rating in Singapore, according to reports.

“The applicant has omitted a brief scene which under the film classification guidelines would require a higher rating,” a representative of Singapore’s media regulator, Infocomm Media Development Authority, told The Guardian.

The next-highest rating, NC-16, would have barred children under 16 from attending.

Disney did not respond to a message sent on Tuesday.

There are few mainstream media representations of L.G.B.T. people in Singapore, where sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison and there are no protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Anti-gay sentiment runs high in the conservative nation; 60 percent of Singaporeans surveyed in 2018 opposed gay marriage, according to the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank.

The scene was already hotly debated among gay rights supporters. Some applauded the kiss as an overdue acknowledgment that gay people exist in the “Star Wars” universe. But others thought it was tokenism, saying a more robust gesture was needed to reinforce the message.

Some fans, seeing a palpable chemistry between two of the main characters, Finn and Poe Dameron, played by John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, hoped their bromance might elevate into romance. The actors have said they would have supported the development.

“Personally, I kind of hoped and wished that maybe that would’ve been taken further in the other films, but I don’t have control,” Mr. Isaac told Variety. “It seemed like a natural progression, but sadly enough it’s a time when people are too afraid, I think, of — I don’t know what.”

J.J. Abrams, the film’s director, had hinted before its release that there would be a moment that would please members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, telling Variety that “it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film.” In a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast, he said it was “insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.”

Responding to criticism of the scene, Mr. Abrams told MovieZine this month that it was an opportunity to show a kiss between women “without it being heavy-handed or making too loud of a deal.”

“Part of the whole experience was to see a same-sex couple have a moment together that was explicitly saying in this galaxy, everyone is there and is welcome,” he said.

Major film studios, including Disney, routinely bend to local sensitivities in hopes of maintaining access to viewers, especially in the lucrative Chinese market. The kiss was also cut from screenings in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but China’s censors allowed it.

Disney has tiptoed into including gay characters in its biggest film franchises. Donald Glover, who played Lando Calrissian in the “Star Wars” spinoff “Solo,” said in an interview with HuffPost that the resistance leader was pansexual but it did not figure into the plot. A gay character made a brief appearance in “Avengers: Endgame,” and LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick in “Beauty and the Beast,” was presented as gay in a 2017 live-action remake.

Singapore’s law against gay sex, which applies only to men, has been challenged in its top courts. A verdict is expected in the coming months.

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Star Wars: Disney removes same-sex kiss from The Rise of Skywalker in Singapore

Disney has removed a brief scene of two women kissing from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in Singapore.

The film features the first same-sex kiss in the franchise’s history, and is shown in a flash when two women embrace among a crowd of characters.

Singapore’s media regulatory body told the BBC that Disney cut the scene to avoid it receiving a higher age rating. Without the kiss, the film is rated PG-13 in Singapore.

“The applicant has omitted a brief scene, which under the film classification guidelines would require a higher rating,” said a spokesperson from Infocomm Media Development Authority.

The kiss reportedly went uncensored in China, but was removed in the United Arab Emirates.

In Singapore, same-sex marriages are not recognised and gay sex is illegal.

Since Rise of Skywalker’s release earlier this week, it has divided critics and audiences, with some highlighting its sense of adventure and others criticising it for its moments of fan-service.

Instead of ignoring the mixed reception, Abrams – appearing on a Vanity Fair panel to promote the new film – acknowledged it by telling the audience they are “right” to have that viewpoint.

One Star Wars fan, meanwhile, was so excited to see the new film that he “punched a fellow cinemagoer in the face“ for using his phone during a screening.

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Disney backlash after Aladdin spin-off about minor white character is announced

Disney is under fire after announcing a spin-off movie for a minor white character introduced in their live-action Aladdin reboot.

Billy Magnussen’s Prince Anders, a ditzy potential suitor for Princess Jasmine, will serve as the star of his own spin-off project for the streaming platform Disney+.

Fans have since highlighted the fact that the project was announced in the same week that Mena Massoud, the Canadian actor who portrayed Aladdin, revealed he has struggled to find auditions for follow-up roles in the wake of the film’s release.

“So… uh… just after the news the actor who played Aladdin can’t get work, Disney announces a spin-off about the token white guy in one scene!” read one tweet.

The Prince Anders character had already proved controversial, with Disney accused of “whitewashing” the role for the live-action reboot. In 1992’s original animated Aladdin, the same character was known as Prince Achmed. Prince Anders is similarly the only character not portrayed by an actor of colour in the reboot. 

Massoud, who beat out more than 2,000 actors to win the part of Aladdin, said this week that he hadn’t had “a single audition since Aladdin came out,” adding: “Can I at least get an audition? Like I’m not expecting you to be like, ‘Here’s Batman’. But can I just get in the room? … Can you just give me a chance?”

Will Smith, who played the Genie in the film, subsequently told reporters that Massoud’s struggles reflected an industry that is “hard by design”.

“It’s like the universe, God, whatever you believe, designed it to be hard, right?” he said. “So, if you’re having a hard time, it’s because you’re supposed to.”

Disney’s Prince Anders spin-off will be scripted by Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme, and stream on Disney+.

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John Boyega gives conditions for returning to Star Wars franchise: ‘You ain’t going to Disney+ me!’

John Boyega says he won’t be seen in Disney+ projects – but would be willing to return to the Star Wars universe in feature films.

The actor, who portrays Finn in the movies, was asked by Variety what it would take for him to appear in the franchise again.

“In what?” he responded according to the publication, adding: “You ain’t going to Disney+ me!”

Boyega is also quoted as saying: “I ain’t getting no Disney+! I’m watching it, though, but I’ll stay in the feature films.”

Disney acquired LucasFilm, the studio responsible for the Star Wars franchise, in 2012.

The Mandalorian, a Star Wars series starring Pedro Pascal, premiered on Disney+ on 12 November and has already become a fan favourite.

Ewan McGregor is also set to return to the franchise as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a special Disney+ series.

Boyega told Variety he would be willing to reprise his role as Finn in another Star Wars film “as long as Daisy [Ridley] and Oscar [Isaac] are down for it”.

Isaac, however, said that he views the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, the final instalment in Star Wars’ sequel trilogy, as “the closing of a chapter of my life”.

Ridley expressed a similar sentiment, saying she was unsure whether ”anything could top this one”.

The Rise of Skywalker will be released in the UK on 19 October and in the US on 20 October.

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