We are always rooting for Britney Spears. We know that right now, as of this column, her personal life has hit a bit of a rough patch, and the messages coming through to the public are mixed, so it’s tough to know what’s really happening. But we live in hope that all will be well. In the meantime, her professional life keeps looking up. There’s the upcoming stage musical built around her hits, called Once Upon a One More Time to be directed by Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages, which seems appropriate) with a book by Jon Hartmere, coming to Broadway in 2020. And news just broke that Sony just bid up the film rights, a movie that Spears will produce with her manager, Larry Rudolph, as well as John Davis. And the plot is fascinating, too, concerning four fairy-tale princesses who read Betty Friedan’s pioneering second-wave feminist book, The Feminine Mystique. And no, we’re not making that up, and yes, it does sound more radical than Mamma Mia’s which-one-of-you-old-guys-is-my-father nonsense. So go Britney! We’re ready for anything and everything.
You have to hand it to Lee Daniels, he knows how to keep the conversation going and how to steer it in his own direction. Recently, at the Time 100 Summit, he breezed right past Van Jones’ questions about Empire and Jussie Smollett in order to dish about his own past using money from drug sales to take his career to the next level, and then to hype up the project called Superbitch. Based on a real-life Instagram personality of the same name, a cape-wearing queen who does backflips (meanwhile every Drag Race contestant is thinking, “Oh yeah?”), Daniels will produce the film but not direct. And the star? Will it be Superbitch bitchself? Or an actor with superbitchy qualities? It’s unknown at this time, and Daniels isn’t ready with more details, but you know it’ll be wild when it hits. Casting tip to drive the media wild: put Jussie in it.
In 1929, a Harlem Renaissance writer named Nella Larsen published a novel titled Passing, about a very provocative topic: the practice of light skinned black people living their lives as white in order to get more opportunities and avoid Jim Crow laws that codified white supremacy. Unlike other more celebrated and well known books by black authors of that era, Passing is notable for its contribution to literary history yet still hadn’t made the leap to a film version, at least until now. The book is in production from actor-director Rebecca Hall and will star Tessa Thompson (Avengers: Endgame) and Ruth Negga (Loving). The women will play school friends who are reunited several years later as adults, their relationship fraught with difficulty as one of the women lives as white for the sake of her husband. The project, currently in pre-production, should go before the cameras soon, so there’s no scheduled release date just yet, but Thompson’s star is on the rise, so expect this to make some noise when it finally makes it to screen.
Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino leapt from the swooning, romantic Call Me By Your Name to the death-obsessed Suspiria. And he seems to like it in the dark corners of human experience, because his next project (OK, after the Call Me sequel) is called Born to Be Murdered. Starring John David Washington (BlacKKKlansman) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), BTBM is set in Athens, Greece, where a couple on vacation inadvertently becomes involved in a conspiracy plot that leads to violence and tragedy. That’s all the plot we know right now, and no, we cannot be sure that Guadagnino muse Tilda Swinton won’t pop up unannounced, playing three different characters in wacky prosthetic make-up, but if she does we won’t be angry about it. Bring on the freaky murders and all the Swinton the project requires, that’s our official position.