Film News Roundup: Janelle Monae to Star in Film From Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz

Dave McNary

In today’s film news roundup, Janelle Monae will star in a Lionsgate movie, Bill Nighy joins “Emma,” and documentaries on surfer Bethany Hamilton and Asbury Park are dated.

CASTINGS

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Janelle Monae will star in an untitled Lionsgate movie directed by the duo Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz.

The film will be produced by QC Entertainment’s Ray Mansfield and Sean McKittrick, along with Zev Foreman and Lezlie Wills. QC Entertainment produced “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman.” McKittrick also recently produced Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

Monae is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who starred in “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.” Bush and Renz have worked on campaigns for the MLK Memorial Foundation and Amnesty International, in addition to directing Jay-Z’s music video “Kill Jay Z” and the police brutality PSA “Against the Wall,” starring Michael B. Jordan, Danny Glover, and Michael K. Williams. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

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Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart have joined the cast of “Emma,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role and Johnny Flynn as George Knightley.

Nighy will play Emma’s father Mr. Woodhouse, with Hart as Miss Bates. Mia Goth, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, and Tanya Reynolds have also been cast.

Autumn de Wilde is directing the adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, written for the screen by Eleanor Catton. The producers are Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Blueprint Pictures’ Graham Broadbent and Pete Czernin.

Principal production began this week in England and will run through the spring. Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film worldwide.

ACQUISITION

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures has bought the documentary “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” and will release it on July 12 in North America.

Hamilton was the subject of the 2011 biopic “Soul Surfer,” starring AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt, and inspired by her real-life experience. As a teenager, she lost one of her arms during a tiger shark attack in 2003.

“Unstoppable” follows her journey from childhood to motherhood, with a focus on her powerful resilience against all odds to become a leading professional surfer. The movie is directed by Aaron Lieber, who also serves as producer. Jane Kelly Kosek of Meritage Pictures and Penny Edmiston are producers on the film.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, and was also featured at both the Los Angeles Film Festival and Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. The project originated with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $116,000 from 1,453 backers to fund development.

The documentary began shooting in 2017 in Hawaii. Hamilton, now 29, wrote about her experience in the 2004 autobiography, “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.”

RELEASE DATE

Trafalgar Releasing has set “Asbury Park: Riot Redemption Rock ‘n Roll” for a two-day theatrical release of May 22 and May 29.

Directed by Tom Jones, the film centers around the troubled town of Asbury Park, N.J., and how music united the divided community following riots in 1970. The pic includes footage of Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny Lyon, David Sancious, and Bruce Springsteen performing at the Upstage Club, where they got their start.

“Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock n Roll” will premiere at the Asbury Park Music & Film Festival on April 28.

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