Cholodenko is ‘in’ for a change… and Nicholson is out (not that way, though)

Toni Erdmann loses Nicholson, gains Cholodenko
Update time: that American version of Toni Erdmann is still happening, but everything has changed. We loved the critically acclaimed German comedy from filmmaker Maren Ade. It’s about an unhappy, middle-aged woman stuck in a joyless, dead-end corporate job and her elderly weirdo of a father who keeps trying to jolt her out of her miserable rut by forcing her to participate in a series of pranks played on the world around them. The English-language version went into development almost immediately, with Lena Dunham attached to direct, and Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson — in his comeback role (he hasn’t been in a feature film since 2010’s How Do You Know) to star. At this point, however, Wiig is still in, Nicholson has dropped out, and so has Dunham. That opened the way The Kids Are All Right’s lesbian director, Lisa Cholodenko, pictured, to step in. We think Cholodenko is a wise choice here; the story requires a strong female perspective. And though we’re a little bummed not to see Nicholson make his comeback here, because the role seems tailor made for him, now the field is wide open for any number of older actors looking for a chance to go very, very odd. Somebody call Gene Hackman… who hasn’t make a movie since 2004!

Silent Life explores Hollywood’s bisexual golden age
Twin Peaks’ Audrey Horne, actress Sherilyn Fenn, has a new role. She’s playing bisexual silent film star Alla Nazimova in what’s being called a “fantasy biopic” about Rudolph Valentino (translation: maybe it happened, maybe not, probably not, but it’s fine). From director Vladislav Kozlov, Silent Life will explore cinema’s first male sex symbol in a story that toggles from past to present. It co-stars Isabella Rossellini, Franco Nero and director Kozlov as Valentino, but we’re most excited about Fenn’s character, the legendary Nazimova. The acclaimed Russian stage actress moved to Hollywood and earned a lot of money in silent films, eventually opting to produce and write them, too. She was also notorious for her Hollywood lesbian clique, known as the “Sewing Circle,” and for the wild parties she threw at her mansion called “The Garden of Alla.” In post-production now, expect this one sometime in 2019.

Documentary Now! loves Company
We see you out there, those of you devoted to Documentary Now! You’re not the mainstream TV viewer, to be sure, but you know a good Bill Hader-as-Spalding Gray segment and Errol Morris parody when you see one, and that means you deserve some kind of television entertainment. Well, the upcoming season of the acclaimed IFC series, created by former Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Hader, which in each episode parodies a different classic documentary — from Grey Gardens to Stop Making Sense — is going to get even more specific. The show will be tackling D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 film, Original Cast Album: Company. It featured the first cast of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical — Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch, Beth Howland, Donna McKechnie — as they spent all night in a recording studio working on the cast album for that show. The DN! version of this will be called Original Cast Album: Co-Op, and will feature guest stars Taran Killam (SNL), James Urbaniak (Venture Bros.), comedian John Mulaney, Renee Elise Goldsberry (Tony Award-winning star of Hamilton), and School of Rock’s Alex Brightman. We’ll be watching… if for no other reason than to see who’ll be singing the fake version of “Ladies Who Lunch.”

Brace yourself for more Less Than Zero
If you were around during the 1980s, you remember Less Than Zero, the shocking novel that exposed the depraved lives of a bunch of fictional rich kids in Los Angeles. There were things in that book that cannot be described in polite company even now, and it put its young author, Bret Easton Ellis, on the map. Then came a hilariously dorky just-say-no-to-drugs-and-behave-yourself film version in 1987 starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz and Robert Downey Jr. What endures from that debacle is a very cool soundtrack album and a cult following of snickering Gen Xers. Now Hulu has decided to give it another go, this time as a TV series from Lost writer-producer Craig Wright. It’ll star The Walking Dead’s Austin Abrams as Clay, the bisexual drug-addicted college freshman home for Christmas break contending with his equally drugged friends, as well as Lily Donoghue (The Goldbergs) and Cooper Koch (Fracture). We’re hoping it’s a nice period 1982 series, with all the fashion adventures and new wavey details that promises. And it had better be bleak, like no-holds-barred, really, really, bleak. Otherwise you might as well just watch Degrassi.

Andrew Rannells and Clea Duvall cast in The Romanoffs
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, has a new series in development, The Romanoffs, and it has a huge cast. That’s because it’s an anthology series that will revolve around eight different stories of people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family. Listing them all would take up every bit of room in this column, so here’s a few: Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Diane Lane, Radha Mitchell, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Isabelle Huppert, as well as Mad Men alums Christina Hendricks, John Slattery and Jay R. Ferguson. But all we care about for now is the queer inclusive casting of Veep’s Clea DuVall and Girls’ Andrew Rannells. DuVall’s career assortment of characters have been all over the map, but Rannells tends to play funny gay men, which always makes us happy from a funny gay man representation standpoint. All of that to say we assume he’ll play a funny gay man here, too, and even if we weren’t already in because we’re hardcore stans for Mad Men, we’d make this appointment television. The show hits Amazon in October.

Robin Roberts is having the Lifetime of her life
Robin Roberts is making movies for Lifetime now. The cable network is already known for their original movies (our favorite: Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear) but now they’re really planning to do battle with Hallmark, presumably improve the quality — hopefully not too much — pushing out 75 of them in 2019. Roberts has signed on to produce a series under the banner Robin Roberts Presents, and they’ll be a mix of narrative features and documentaries. The first two will feature singer-activist Mahalia Jackson and adult kidnap survivor Alexis Manigo, and both films will be accompanied by documentaries about their respective subjects. Now, Lifetime, please keep the prestige angle balanced and hand the producing reins over to someone like John Waters. We need more stuff like Pregnancy Pact.