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Next Big Thing: ‘Scream’ Star Jenna Ortega on Her New School-Shooting Drama ‘The Fallout’

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Next Big Thing: ‘Scream’ Star Jenna Ortega on Her New School-Shooting Drama ‘The Fallout’

At age 19, Jenna Ortega is already one decade into her career. The actress — who rose to prominence playing Young Jane on The CW’s dramedy Jane the Virgin, followed by roles in You and Yes Day — stars in two movies out in January, Paramount’s Scream reboot, the first hit of 2022, and The Fallout (premiering Jan. 27 on HBO Max), which follows two teenage classmates navigating grief after surviving a school shooting. The Hollywood Reporter‘s review of the latter — one of the most talked-about films out of SXSW last year — praised Ortega for her “beautifully nuanced” performance. Ortega, who was born in the Coachella Valley, spoke to THR about her new films and about the project she’s now filming with Tim Burton.

How are you feeling about Scream and The Fallout opening back-to-back?

Scream I’m thrilled for. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had on a set. It’s a continuation of the story — we’re not trying to redo anything; we’re just trying to expand the world and introduce it to an audience that may not be so familiar, and also give some newfound excitement and a new look at the original characters for fans of the franchise.

As far as The Fallout goes, the script is incredibly special to me. I love that it’s the director Megan Park’s feature film debut; she wrote the script in literally two weeks. The dialogue and series of events are all so natural and so grounded in Gen Z culture. We touched on a really important subject that is serious, real and horrific. But I think we tried to do it in the most caring way we possibly could. I view the film as more of an apology letter to this generation, and all that our youth has to fear. I’m curious to see how it affects people.

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Maddie Ziegler (left) and Ortega in a scene from The Fallout.
Courtesy of HBO Max

You’re working in Romania as the star of Wednesday, a new Addams Family spinoff series for Netflix, which also marks Tim Burton’s television directorial debut. How have you approached working on it with him?

It’s been quite an insane experience. I’ve been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with an iconic director who just so happens to be one of the sweetest directors I’ve worked with, and also the most detail-oriented.

To step into the shoes of somebody who’s a bit more eccentric and frightening has been really exciting for me, and definitely a challenge — especially with such a beloved character, I really want to take care of her and do her justice.

Have you felt any pressure stepping into playing a character with an iconic legacy that audiences are already familiar with?

The thing is, there are several different paths that anyone could have taken for this character. We’ve never seen Wednesday Addams as a teenage girl, so some of her harsh mannerisms may come off as hilarious when she’s younger, but as you get older, how much of that can you get away with? Or how do you keep that at the forefront of her personality without people growing to dislike her or find her annoying? So just trying to balance that … I’ve never felt so much pressure on a job, and I’m trying to keep my cool.

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What do you think your audience will be most excited by or most surprised by in your role as Wednesday? Are you bringing something new to the table that we haven’t seen you stretch yourself in this way before?

I think it’s probably the most physical transformation I’ve ever done; I cut my hair, and it’s black, and mannerism-wise, speaking cadence-wise, expression-wise, I’m trying to pull from a different toolbox this time around. I think it’s a surprise to the audience, but myself as well.

You started out as a child actress, and we first met Wednesday as a child. And now you’re talking about her moving into her teenage years, so I’m wondering how you’ve handled that transition within yourself from a child actress to a more adult one. What has that matriculation has been like for you?

Honestly, my years as an actress have kind of flown by. I have been acting for almost 10 years. And that kind of blows my mind because it doesn’t feel that long.

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Jenna Ortega stars as Tara in “Scream.”
Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

As far as transition goes, I honestly can’t say that it’s something that I’m very attentive toward. I think that the transition, honestly, a big one is not being around my mom so much, I would say, just because child actors, I think they tend to rely on certain parents for things in terms of always being there for you on set and helping you out. So I think that progression of not being with her and taking things on my own has been [different]. But the internal change, I think, has been pretty generic, in terms of just growing up and experiencing things.

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What types of roles and projects do you hope to do in the future?

Film has always been my goal. I’ll do anything, but I think specifically my interest is indies, just because I love a good passion project. And it’s always really exciting to provide or contribute to people’s outlets of creativity, or artistry. And if there’s any way that I could be supportive in that, or beneficial in that process, I jump at the opportunity to do so. I like making people feel things, and I hope that the projects that I do in the future do that.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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