Now that you’ve seen the Downton Abbey movie are you ready for the prequel? Because DA creator Julian Fellowes is moving to HBO to tell the story of 19th-century American millionaires and their eventual marriages to broke British aristocrats (the initial premise of Downton Abbey, by the way, for the rest of you just now joining us). Gilded Age will revolve around a young woman, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general who moves into the high society home of her aunts in New York City. Much like on DA, wealthy hijinks and intrigue will ensue, and the servants will probably have the most compelling story lines. So far the cast includes Sex and the City icon and progressive queer activist Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski and Amanda Peet. And with no more Downton on the horizon (for now), we’ll be ready for every bit of this one’s certain lavish period detail. More as it develops.
Lee Daniels, the one-gay entertainment production machine who seems allergic to not having a dozen projects in development at the same time, is about to shoot his next film. He’ll go into production next month in Canada on The United States vs. Billie Holiday. With a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks – the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her play Topdog/Underdog – and inspired by Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, the film will star singer-songwriter Andra Day as the legendary Holiday. The story will be less biopic and more narrowly focused on the time in Holiday’s career when she was strategically targeted by the U.S. government in a narcotics sting operation and involved in an affair with the operation’s black undercover agent. Joining Day are Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound), and Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne. No word on release dates yet but this feels like a late 2020 award contender to us.
They’re bringing back Mr. Ripley and this time he’s being played by Fleabag’s Hot Priest Andrew Scott. Scott will step into the role made famous by Matt Damon in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley for Showtime’s new eight-episode series Ripley, from Oscar and Golden Globe winner Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Based on Patricia Highsmith’s bestselling Tom Ripley novels, the series will be something of an origin story, with young grifter Ripley, living in 1960s New York, finding himself employed by a wealthy man and given the task of traveling to Italy to retrieve the man’s aimless son. In Italy, Ripley begins his career of befriending the moneyed and then murdering them, and the rest is queer vengeance history. Look for this one sometime in 2020, and, in the meantime, get on the _Fleabag train because it really is as good as all your annoying TV addict friends are telling you, for once.
Each year at the Venice Film Festival, one LGBTQ-themed film is awarded the top prize, known as The Queer Lion, and this year’s recipient was the Chilean film, El principe (The Prince). Riding a wave of acclaimed Chilean cinema – last year A Fantastic Woman took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – The Prince is a throwback of sorts to an earlier genre of queer cinema, the homoerotic men’s prison drama. Based on a 1970s pulp novel, Sebastian Munoz’s debut narrative feature concerns a young beautiful man (Juan Carlos Maldonado) thrust into a steamy lockdown where the rules of survival involve scenarios that contemporary queer media has mostly discarded, relegated to the realm of trite porn fantasy. But it’s the castoffs of culture that new generations of filmmakers often find fascinating, and so here we are with a movie featuring a powerful prison-daddy character known as “The Stallion,” and you’ll probably want to watch. It begins its theatrical life in early 2020, and will without a doubt winds it way through the queer film festival circuit here before an arthouse rollout.