Like so many other cities around the globe, the novel coronavirus has all but shuttered Hollywood, with wave after wave of film and TV productions halted in fear of spreading COVID-19. That’s true of Hollywood, Texas, as well, with our state’s conceptual nexus in the entertainment world also closing up shop. Dozens of projects from or featuring Texans—many of them reported right here in these pages, in the “before times”—have been postponed indefinitely.
Among them is Woody Harrelson’s action-comedy The Man From Toronto, announced just last week. Ditto Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, with Elkhart actor Tye Sheridan, which shut down just five days from finishing shooting, after an actor tested positive for the virus. FX has also postponed the fourth season of Fargo, from Austin-based writer-producer Noah Hawley, while HBO paused the second season of The Righteous Gemstones, costarring Texas City’s own Edi Patterson. And Fort Worth’s Kelly Clarkson and her eponymous The Kelly Clarkson Show will also go dark.
The pandemic has even claimed the final season of The CW’s Supernatural, shutting production down a few weeks before the long-running series would have wrapped for good—and creating a domino effect that threatens to derail that Walker, Texas Ranger reboot starring San Antonio’s Jared Padalecki. In short, just about any Texas-based or Texan-starring project you can think of is, like you, on indefinite lockdown and facing a precarious future, and there’s just no telling when things will return to “normal.” This is an especially bitter irony, considering this quarantine has shown us that we need movies and TV shows to distract us more than ever.
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SXSW Film Finds a Way to Carry On
Although the coronavirus also canceled South by Southwest, scrapping many world premieres, denying scores of filmmakers their chance to screen their work, and laying off employees working for the festival, the organization says it’s still forging ahead with juried awards, which this year will be facilitated by online screenings. SXSW director of film Janet Pierson made the announcement late last week on what would have been the first day of the fest, saying filmmakers will be able to opt in to its Shift72 secure online screening library and make their works available for press, potential buyers, and others. Jurors will then be able to watch and vote on films in all the major categories, with Pierson adding that SXSW will remain a qualifying festival for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, as well as the Academy Awards short film categories. As Pierson noted in her statement, they’re aware it’s “no substitute” for getting to screen before a live SXSW audience. Nevertheless, it’s a chance to get some exposure for films that many have spent years working on. And as we’ve all come to realize lately, we have to settle for whatever contact with the outside world we can get. (Disclaimer: A Texas Monthly staffer is a judge for one of these juried awards.)
Hilary Duff’s Lizzie McGuire Reboot Shut Down Over Sex
In times such as these, it’s almost quaint to learn that Disney Plus’s reboot of Lizzie McGuire was halted not over infectious disease, but over old-fashioned prudishness. As we’ve previously reported, the revival of the teen show, starring Houston actress Hilary Duff, was put on indefinite hold after parting ways with its showrunner Terri Minsky, who sparred with the network over its desire to keep things kid-friendly, which clashes with the inconvenient truth that Lizzie McGuire is now a thirty-year-old woman. This week, The Hollywood Reporter got hold of the script for the pilot episode and discovered the likely problem: it “acknowledges the existence of sex, with cheating as a central plot point.” Duff has been vocal about her disappointment, asking Disney to just move the show to Hulu—where sex can indeed be acknowledged—and saying she’d be “doing a disservice to everyone by limiting the realities of a thirty-year-old’s journey to live under the ceiling of a PG rating.” It’s obviously a moot point at the moment, considering that every show has been placed on indefinite hiatus. But maybe those Disney executives will emerge from quarantine with a new and world-weary wisdom, finally ready to accept the grim reality that sometimes adults have sex.
Jamie Foxx to Direct a “Faith-Based’ Film
As of now, Terrell’s own Jamie Foxx is still set to premiere his directorial debut, All-Star Weekend, sometime in 2020, with the celebrity-studded NBA comedy reportedly wrapping up shooting in early 2019, long before the coronavirus crisis set in. While there’s still no release date for that, Deadline reports that Foxx has already signed on to direct his second film, When We Pray, concerning two brothers who become pastors at different churches in the same town, with one putting ATM machines and other flashy technological advances in his chapel, while the other follows a seemingly more humble path. Supposedly, production on that is set to begin sometime this year, marking Foxx’s first foray into the Christian-audience-targeting realm of “faith-based films”—a term that, under these unpredictable circumstances, has taken on a whole new meaning.
And Foxx’s Soul Has a New Trailer
Fortunately, Foxx’s voiceover role in Pixar’s Soul was completed long ago, and it’s still on track to premiere in June, a fact confidently reasserted by a trailer that debuted this week. The animated film finds Foxx playing a music teacher whose spirit leaves his body after an accident, traveling to a metaphysical realm where nascent souls are shaped into humans before being sent to Earth. Tina Fey, Questlove, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett costar in what director Pete Docter has called an exploration of what’s really important in life, a message no doubt tempered with the same balance of quirky fun and merciless tear-jerking Docter gave us in Coco. Seems sort of unfair to hit us with that kind of thing while we’re down, but at least this ensemble cast will probably be funny?
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Right now, your own soul could probably use some words of comfort—assurance from our most trusted leaders that we can and will survive this crisis, so long as we remember to just keep living. Luckily our own homegrown Winston Churchill, Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey, has given us the restorative balm of a ninety-second Instagram video in which he encourages us to take care of each other, to find strength in unity, and defeat this enemy that is “faceless, raceless, sexless, nondenominational, and bipartisan” and that “we all agree we’re gonna beat.”
“In this time, when people are gonna move on, the economy’s gonna be in shambles for who knows how long, there is a green light on the other side of this red light that we’re in right now,” McConaughey adds. “And I believe that green light is gonna be built on the values that we can enact right now—values of fairness, kindness, accountability, resilience, respect, courage. If we practice those things right now, when we get out of this, this virus, this time, might be the one time that brings us all together and unifies us like we have not not been in a long time.”
It’s a speech that (the occasional mixed metaphor aside) manages to soothe and inspire, in a way that stands in stark contrast to so much of what we’ve been hearing lately. Frankly, we could probably use a good Matthew McConaughey pep talk every week that we’re still in this mess. After all, it’s not like he’s got anywhere else to be right now.