For Variety‘s Writers on Writers, Jonathan Raymond pens a tribute to “Red Rocket” (screenplay by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch.)
Often, there’s a slight delay before an era finds its shape. The Nixon years blossomed gradually in Alan Pakula’s paranoia trilogy, and the Vietnam era played out for decades as a kind of see-sawing national argument on film. And now, already, the Trump era is returning to us in the form of “Red Rocket,” a patriotic comet sailing from the year 2016, the dawn of whatever the fuck this epoch has been. Written by Chris Bergoch and director Sean Baker, the film feels like the best kind of voyeurism — a medium-long bus ride with people you’ve been dying to eavesdrop on your whole life.
Does this character sound familiar? A white guy who lies constantly; who claims to be a lot richer than he is; who gaslights women; who brags about blow jobs; who causes disasters and blames them on his friends; who pines for power but lives in a state of grievance and outright fantasy. Yep. The main difference between our former president and the main character of “Red Rocket,” Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), is that Saber — a porn star aging out of the industry’s beauty standards — has an unusually huge dick and actually seems to give some pleasure to women.
Saber is an immediately knowable yet constantly shifting, constantly surprising person. The same goes for his estranged wife (Bree Elrod), teenage girlfriend (Suzanna Son), drug supplier (Judy Hill) and drug supplier’s son (Marlon Lambert). These characters feel so real, one suspects, because they’re constructed from direct observation. Mikey Saber is partly Trump, sure, but he’s also Simon Rex, and probably three or four other people whose voices Bergoch and Baker have clocked over the years.
By divining affinities, they’ve combined these inspirations into a convincing genotype, far removed from any rom-com stereotype or stock superhero role, and the same goes for all the humans they’ve pinned in the story. What happens is amazing. We end up watching this asshole, Saber, pulling his tricks, and queasily become cheerleaders to his scams, as almost ineluctably, the camera transforms him from an object of moral repugnance into an object of fascination, and even sympathy. He gathers dimensions, as do all the members of his neighborhood, until, by the end, to misquote Neil Young, even Donald Trump has got soul.
Raymond is a novelist and screenwriter.
BTS Online Comic ‘7Fates: CHAKHO’ Hits 15 Million Views – Global Bulletin
“7Fates: CHAKHO,” the online comic created by digital comics platform Webtoon, HYBE and K-pop sensation BTS, has surpassed 15 million views in just two days of global launch. The title is now the highest viewed title ever launched by Webtoon. “7Fates: CHAKHO,” has taken first place on Webtoon’s new and trending chart and all genre charts. South Korean boy band Enhyphen’s “Dark Moon: The Blood Altar,” released Jan. 15, took second place in the new and trending chart and placed fourth in the fantasy genre chart.
Another South Korean boy band Tomorrow X Together‘s “The Star Seekers,” placed third in the new and trending chart on Webtoon’s English, German, and Spanish services within a day of release. The comics have also earned high fan review scores around the world.
The BTS online comics collaboration with Webtoon and HYBE was revealed in Nov. 2021.
“This project, in collaboration with HYBE, is an industry-first, simultaneously launching a webcomic and a web novel in 10 languages, with strong fan fractions for all three works,” said Ken Kim, CEO, Webtoon Entertainment. “These are pop idols that fans truly love, so we’re thrilled to see fans celebrate the dynamic storytelling and unique illustrations for these webcomics and webnovels. These stories are helping people around the world discover webcomics, and giving existing Webtoon users an exciting new way to imagine their favorite idols.”
Leading Scottish actors Lorn Macdonald and Henry Pettigrew will take on the roles of Utterson and Dr Jekyll in “The Levelling” director Hope Dickson Leach‘s hybrid adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” They will be supported by Tam Dean Burn, Caroline Deyga, Lois Hagerty, David Hayman, Scott Miller, Alison Peebles, Peter Singh and Ali Watts.
The adaptation will kick off as a theatrical live experience, where audiences will enter a live filmset built within the atmospheric setting of Edinburgh’s historic Leith Theatre, over Feb. 25, 26 and 27, 2022. Following the final performance on Feb. 27, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” will be livestreamed to selected Scottish cinemas.
The show will then be screened “as live” — meaning that it will be performed as though live but broadcast after a short delay — during the week of Feb. 28 in U.K. cinemas. The footage captured during the performances will subsequently be edited into a full feature film, which will be broadcast on Sky Arts in the fall of 2023.
The project is presented by the National Theatre of Scotland and Selkie Productions in association with Screen Scotland and Sky Arts.
Screen Australia and Google Australia have revealed the recipients of this year’s Skip Ahead initiative who will share in A$480,000 ($347,000) of production funding. Luke Goodall and Marc Gallagher will receive coin for “The Followers,” a true crime parody about a wellness cult in the Aussie bush, which will air on the Goodall & Gallagher YouTube channel. In series “Quantum Experiments At Home,” physicist Mithuna Yoganathan will demystify quantum mechanics and the project will release on YouTube channel Looking Glass Universe. Saksham Sharma‘s thriller series “Unknown Filter” centers on a university student who goes viral on his YouTube live stream and will show on the Saksham Magic channel. Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva‘s “Hot Department: Dark Web” comedy series will explore the strangest parts of the internet and will release on the Grouse House channel.
FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has appointed Emilia Nuccio to the newly created position of VP, international sales, reporting into Melissa Wohl, senior VP, head of sales. Nuccio will oversee all international deals, be responsible for selling the FilmRise catalogue and new release and FilmRise co-productions into the international marketplace. The executive’s previous roles have included senior VP of sales at Dynamic Television and president of international sales at Echo Bridge.
Meanwhile, London-based global streaming aggregator ScreenHits TV has named former Sky Television marketing and digital executive Arianna Saita as chief marketing officer. Saita began her career at Sky Italia and has served as director of brand and content marketing and later senior VP, at Sky Germany and Austria. The executive has also served Foxtel Group as chief brand officer.
Germany’s ZDF Enterprises has sold “Agatha Christie’s Hjerson” to Japan’s AXN Mystery; pay-TV rights for “Top Dog” to Japan’s WOWOW; and VOD rights of “Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles” to Reeva Films India.
Victorian era-set family adventure series “Dodger” will air on CBBC and BBC iPlayer from Feb. 6. Written by Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery, the series follows Dodger, Fagin and his gang through the tough London streets trying to keep one step ahead of the police as they embark on their latest madcap scheme – whether it’s acting in a haunted theatre, sneaking into Madame Tussauds or posing as a long-lost boy.
The cast includes Christopher Eccleston, David Threlfall, Rhys Thomas, Saira Choudhry, Sam C. Wilson and Billy Jenkins as Dodger. Guest stars include Colin McFarlane, Alex Kingston, James Fleet, Frances Barber, Danny John Jules, John Thomson, Tanya Reynolds, Phil Cornwell, Simon Day, Alexei Sayle, Catherine Shepherd, Samantha Spiro, Nadine Marshall, Cheryl Fergison, David Fleeshman, Julian Barratt, Andy Nyman, Paul Reynolds and Tim Downie.
“Dodger” is produced by Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Mark Freeland is executive producer for Universal International Studios. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Amy Buscombe.
Amy Poehler on Her Sundance Documentary ‘Lucy and Desi’ and Being ‘Open’ to Hosting Oscars
Believe it or not (actually, it’s probably easy to believe), there was a time when pregnant women were deemed too risqué for broadcast television. That changed when Lucille Ball was memorably rushed to the hospital to give birth on “I Love Lucy,” the groundbreaking sitcom that co-starred her real-life husband Desi Arnaz and left an indelible mark on show business.
“Lucy and Desi,” a new documentary from director Amy Poehler, explores the unlikely rise to fame and enduring legacy of two comedy icons who broke barriers and subverted expectations about what it means to be an all-American couple. In advance of the movie’s premiere at Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 22, the former “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Recreation” star spoke to Variety about her deep dive into all things Ball and Arnaz, the impressive longevity of “I Love Lucy” — a show that debuted in 1951 and continues to find fans in reruns — and her affinity for TikTok.
What interested you in directing a documentary about Lucy and Desi?
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, over the years, have been kind of flattened out and made two dimensional. I was really interested in seeing the people behind the images. People use words like “genius” and “icon” and “trailblazer,” but those aren’t human words. [Laughs] Those were words for machines and astronauts, which — they were both astronauts, for sure, and they were ahead of their time. But they were also people.
How much did you know about Lucy and Desi’s personal lives before you started your research?
I knew about them as performers, not as people. These two incredible outsiders worked hard to become powerful, influential figures at a time when women and immigrants were not running the system. But at the end of the day, the attempt was to tell a love story: Their long journey of falling in love, working, and staying in love with each other through thick and thin was echoed in their show. And then to watch America’s most powerful couple — they created the idea of a power couple — split up after being on TV, as this example of how things will always be OK, it was interesting. So much is made of their work and comedy, and it should be. But I also think it is also an equal triumph to have a relationship that was the kind that they had. It is hard to maintain a working relationship, as well as a relationship with someone you love and is your partner in raising kids.
The structure of Hollywood and the studio system is very different now. What stands out to you about the way the entertainment industry has changed?
[The way] power was kept held, hoarded, and traded. There is, thank goodness, some more straight up access to things. The questions, the judgments, and the projections we make about women, working women, especially working mothers, has not changed that much. I was like, “Wow, what a different industry we’re in. There’s so much opportunity, especially for people of color.” And then also like, “Oh, we’re just doing the same stuff. We’re making the same assumptions about people.” It was a strange combination of, “Look how far we’ve come” and then also, “There’s still only a certain amount of gatekeepers who have power, who are still running the show.” To answer your question, I’m not answering the question. Nothing’s changed, and everything’s changed.
Comedy has a reputation for not aging well. Does that apply to “I Love Lucy”?
There are a couple things about “I Love Lucy” that keep it from being tough to watch. One is that “I Love Lucy” didn’t really go into topical, political stuff. But they did stay in this domestic-relationship world that — certainly, when you watch the very specific gender roles of the ’50s come into play — there are times when you’re like, “Ummm…. interesting.” The other reason why “I Love Lucy” is still so watchable is that it started everything. It’s the suis generis of so many sitcom premises and shows we still watch. It has this inherent television DNA: Something went wrong. There was a misunderstanding. How can we fix it? Let’s go crazy. OK, kiss and make up.
Your film notes that Lucy mentored younger comedians and actors. Was that surprising to learn?
Lucy, as she got older, was really supportive, through friendship and advice, but also through her presence. I heard so many stories of her showing up and watching Mary Tyler Moore shoot her show, watching Bette Midler and going backstage, being a genuine champion of young Carol Burnett and supporting her by being on her show. Her generosity with other young comedians and actors, especially women, is not talked about enough. I found it really inspiring that she spent a lot of her later life doing workshops, trying to mentor young people, and laughing — just going to people’s shows and laughing. I mean, can you imagine how much good it must have felt to have red hair Lucy in the audience laughing at your work?
You’ve dabbled in sketch comedy, hosting, acting on TV and in movies and directing. What interests you professionally now?
That’s a great existential question to answer for 2022. I love producing. Selfishly, I loved listening to Lucy and Desi talk about how they supported other shows because there is this very special feeling about being with a show from the bottom of show mountain. I really related to when Lucy and Desi talked about their Desilu family and, certainly, I’m not Desilu Productions — at one point, I think they had 40 shows on the air or in development. But I understand what it feels like, in my small way, to make something blossom and grow. It’s a great feeling. I want to do a bunch of different stuff. [Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions] is doing film, animation and some TV. We’re doing a bunch of different things with great people. And I just want to keep doing more of that.
Are you in a position where you can just go to a network or studio head and get a project greenlit?
You mean like just slam my hand on the desk? [Laughs] The business is always changing. I really try to have my work speak for itself. I’d like to think I have a good track record of making shows and hopefully making shows work.
Would you ever veer into dramatic work?
The world has been a little serious. Everybody’s lives have turned into an hour-long drama right now. Or, I should say, a two-year drama. I try not to limit myself as to what kind of producer or actor I want to be. My tastes are all over the place. What is comedy? What is drama? Who’s to say? Everything’s in a big old soup. When it’s not terrifying, it’s delicious.
In my opinion, you and Tina Fey are two of the best award show hosts ever. Would you host the Oscars?
Oh, I think that’s a different deal. It’s an interesting time. So again, who knows what any of that stuff will… Everything feels like it’s truly in flux in every way. I’m open to all things. I try to keep an open mind to all things.
What are you watching these days?
Well, what are these days? We’re coming up in two years of the pandemic. In the very beginning, everybody retreated to the shows that gave them comfort. I thought it was fascinating on a sociological level. Then there was this branching out. I’m trying to think of something that I’ve watched recently. We’re gearing up for “Russian Doll” season two, which is this incredible tour de force performance by Natasha Lyonne, so I’ve been watching all of those episodes again to get ready for the launch. And “Baking It” with Maya Rudolph Andy Samberg, I’m watching with my family.
Are you on TikTok? I noticed you have a profile but haven’t posted anything.
I don’t post on TikTok, but I love it. It’s some of the best comedy out there I’ve seen. Especially during the pandemic, it was a very interesting way to be home but not feel alone. I dig it. It’s very inspiring and creative.
Things you didn’t know about Amy Poehler:
Age: 50 Birthplace: Burlington, Mass. Favorite “I Love Lucy” episode: All of them Movie that always makes her cry: “Terms of Endearment” Best on-set snack: Nasal swabs