The fallout from the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has been painful to watch, as has so much of the drama surrounding the team of late. On the other hand, what if that drama were being told through the prism of a true-crime series that everybody loves? You’d watch it then, wouldn’t you? That’s the (totally aboveboard!) bet being made by Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons, cocreators of the Slate podcast Slow Burn, who will add the Astros to their roster, which includes stories on Watergate, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and the murders of the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter will host the first of what will be a whole new franchise of sports documentary podcasts, beginning with this look at the Astros’s now permanently asterisked 2017 season. From there, producers hope to turn that whole saga into a TV series, which will allow Astros fans to relive those cringe-inducing memories as though they’re just another prestige show.
Will Ferrell Heads to Collin Street Bakery
A similarly comforting veneer will be applied to the true-crime story of Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery, where accountant Sandy Jenkins and his wife, Kay, embezzled more than $17 million from the company before finally being caught in 2013. Will Ferrell is set to play Jenkins in Fruitcake, so named for the bakery’s most famous export, which begins filming this year, presumably including at least a few shots of that iconic sign. (Laura Dern was slated to play Kay but has reportedly dropped out, according to KWTX.) The film, directed by Max Winkler from a script by Texan screenwriter Trey Selman, is somehow not an adaptation of Katy Vine’s excellent longform recounting of the whole colorful saga for Texas Monthly—even if you could basically just read that and imagine Will Ferrell the whole time and essentially get the gist, right now, for free.
Tye Sheridan Joins Paul Schrader’s Next Movie
We’ve expressed concern over the trajectory of Elkhart-born actor Tye Sheridan in these pages—prompted largely by his starring role in the arthouse-after-dark thriller The Night Clerk—but we’re feeling somewhat assuaged by his latest project. The Wrap notes that Sheridan will join Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, and Tiffany Haddish in The Card Counter, the next drama from First Reformed writer-director Paul Schrader and executive producer Martin Scorsese. Sheridan will play a “vulnerable and angry young man” who lures Isaac’s card cheat into a revenge scheme against Dafoe’s military man, all while Haddish bankrolls their tension-filled road trip to the World Series of Poker. And, okay, that doesn’t sound very good either, at least on paper—but surely a team like that knows what it’s doing.
Robert De Niro Will Play a Texan for Martin Scorsese
Scorsese’s next directorial project, meanwhile, will be his long-rumored adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann’s harrowing account of the 1920 murders of Osage tribes over oil discovered on their land. The filmmaker recently told Cahiers du Cinema that he sees it as his first “Western”—and while that Western takes place in Oklahoma, it also has a few Texas ties. Most notably, Robert De Niro is set to play William Hale, the Greenville-born Texas cattleman who orchestrated the killings. And while we don’t know exactly who his costar Leonardo DiCaprio will be playing just yet, there’s a decent chance it could be FBI agent Tom White, the son of an Austin sheriff and a former Texas Ranger who was tasked by J. Edgar Hoover with investigating the tragedy. We can probably expect to hear De Niro and DiCaprio trying on some Texas accents, which could be a selling point in and of itself.
Artificial Intelligence Creates Its Own Travis Scott
If De Niro finds he can’t do a convincing drawl, perhaps Scorsese can turn to machine learning? After all, artificial intelligence and “deepfake” technology have apparently advanced to the point where we can now create a convincing replica of Houston rapper Travis Scott, as the digital agency space150 recently demonstrated. By feeding lyrics into a text generator model, space150 was able to make a reasonable facsimile Scott song called “Jack Park Canny Dope Man,” which comes replete with the rapper’s usual “it’s lit” ad libs and plenty of absurdist non sequiturs that are frighteningly close to the real deal. (Frankly, “I don’t really wanna f–k your party food” is pretty solid.) While the accompanying music, designed using neural network programs, still feels a bit canned, you could probably slip this “TravisBott” track into your playlist, and nobody would even realize the machines are taking over until it’s far too late. There’s even an appropriately disconcerting video accompanying the AI!
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Can we get one of those AI bots to pick up Matthew McConaughey’s slack for a while? The man is still enjoying a well-deserved rest from the grind of promoting The Gentlemen—which is obviously great for him, but bad for columnists who are, say, dedicated to documenting his every move as some whimsical, self-imposed lark. This week saw near-total radio silence from the usually loquacious actor, an arid stretch punctuated solely by this drawing of what appears to be the University of Texas’s new basketball arena that McConaughey maybe did, or maybe just looked at. Either way, doesn’t he have better, more actor-ly things to do—things that would necessitate his leaving the house in colorful outfits and dropping crazy quotes to the press? Can’t someone else figure out stadium seating capacities and the like? Some of us have a job to do.