This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Must the show go on?
- Absolutely bonkers casting news.
- Bemasked couture, the new normal.
- The only movie I want to see.
- I’ll take “Big Jeopardy News” for 400.
Tracking Hollywood casting news—who’s been cast in what roles for which projects—is a major part of entertainment journalism and one that I’ve always felt was kind of silly. Outside of it, sure, being fun to find out what performances to look forward to or be absolutely terrified of (the entire season of Cats casting announcements), the level of fawning or outrage never made sense to me.
We generally never learn who was approached for the part and turned it down, who nailed a surprising audition, or what other motivations—publicity, magazine covers, studio contracts, existing director/producer relationships—trumped all others in decision making. So the histrionics whenever Deadline blasts out that so-and-so was just cast in this-and-that seemed beside the point.
And now I’m going to histrionically react to recent casting news.
At roughly 11:45 am ET last Friday, time momentarily halted, everyone’s days interrupted by a distracting, piercing sound ringing in their ears like a siren, rendering it impossible to do anything but wait for it to subside.
Variety at that moment published the news that Amy Adams had been cast in the movie version of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, and any gay, musical theater lover, and Amy Adams Deserves an Oscar and I Will Not Ever Shut Up About It cult member (beware of their power) simultaneously erupted in a shriek.
A few things: Dear Evan Hansen, about an awkward high schooler who lies about having been best friends with a classmate who committed suicide and is rewarded with a surrogate family, popularity, and a girlfriend, is one of the most upsetting narratives I’ve ever seen so blindly championed by superfans on Broadway. It also boasts some of the most moving music and best performances I’ve seen on the stage, and I cried like a baby each time I saw it.
Both Ben Platt, who played Evan, and Rachel Bay Jones, who was his mother, won Tonys. Amy Adams! In this movie musical! Here comes that Oscar! Except Adams is not going to be playing that mother, but the other one, the one who, if I remember correctly, spends three hours crying in a corner in yoga pants. Make no mistake, Adams will be iconic in tear-stained athleisure wear. But it was a confusing choice.
Then came the subsequent news that it would actually be Julianne Moore taking on the Tony-winning mom role, and the explosion of several of my brain cells. Two icons singing songs together in a joint effort to make me cry, a dream too big to dream. That little, teeny question of whether Julianne Moore can actually sing? Well I am both asking it and choosing to ignore it.
But the reason to bring up all this talk about casting decisions this week in particular is because, by Wednesday morning, I felt I truly had lost my mind.
A new season’s Dancing With the Stars casting announcement is always a Nobel Prize-worthy effort in the category of Trolling for Headlines. Yet even knowing this, the news that Tiger King lunatic Carole Baskin would be dancing in the upcoming new season got me so worked up, the only way to get through the rest of the day was to feed those feelings to the tigers and bury them in the backyard.
The thing with Dancing With the Stars and its years of instigating blood-pressure spikes with these castings is that I don’t really begrudge them doing it, or even the F-list manifestations of desperation sweat who agree to mambo for attention, knowing full well that most of it will be negative.
Those 15 minutes are a powerful drug. If I ever, I don’t know, went viral for shitting my pants while a hot mic caught my expletive-ridden true feelings about the film Vice during an appearance on a children’s news show or something, and the world both laughed at and hated me...yeah, I would come out of my canceled shame bunker to cha-cha with Cheryl Burke.
But there is still something about Carole Baskin quarantining for two weeks in order to, in the middle of a pandemic, appear on a TV show and presumably dance to “Eye of the Tiger” while wearing bedazzled tiger print after becoming famous for a murder conspiracy in a show that exploited animal abuse, addiction, and mental illness has me feeling insane.
Perfectly 2020 vibes, I guess.
There is an image of Tilda Swinton arriving at the Venice Film Festival in, yes, Italy, the country that not long ago was the coronavirus hot zone, wearing a mask over her face and doing the Wakanda salute in memory of Chadwick Boseman, who had died days earlier.
It’s a striking photo, one that stirs lots of emotions, such as, “What the hell even is this flaming port-a-potty of a timeline we’re in?”
The phrase “the new abnormal” keeps cropping up, and I guess that’s what this is. A country that actually got its shit together is helping to kickstart again a flailing industry with a prestigious festival, trying to imbue it with the familiar glamour of the old times but in a way that is safe amid a still-active pandemic.
Like photos of Cate Blanchett walking a red carpet in couture while wearing a surgical mask while socially distanced photographers take her photograph, it’s a lot to take in. It’s inspiring. It’s vaguely dystopian. It’s Hollywood.
There’s an upcoming gay Christmas rom-com starring Kristen Stewart and McKenzie Davis as a lesbian couple that is written and directed by queer icon Clea DuVall and features a supporting cast that includes Dan Levy, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber as parental units.
Everything about this film feels specifically engineered to excite me. It will be released Nov. 25 and rumors are the film is so powerful it radiates antibodies from the screen and so watching it in theaters during a pandemic is completely safe.
Truthfully just knowing this film exists is an unprecedented delight to me. Just-released press stills this week prove it’s real. I can’t get enough of them. Just send out press stills of every frame. I don’t even need to see the movie. This is all I need. I’ll just make a flip book about it, and even that will be my personal frontrunner for the Oscar in every category.
I threw a miniature fit this week when I realized that night’s episode of Jeopardy! had already aired once during the pandemic and I had seen it. For 30 brief minutes a day, I watch Alex Trebek quiz nerds about 19th century Supreme Court justices and am at peace. Such a recent repeat seemed cruel.
And so my heart fluttered itself out of my chest when I read that the show is coming back with new episodes starting Sept. 14, with a new socially distanced set and a newfangled role for Ken Jennings that all-but ensures he will eventually succeed Trebek as the show’s host.
All I can say is that when I tune in next week, Trebek better be standing in a hermetically sealed bubble. Protect our king at all costs.
The Boys: It’s a fun time!
Woke: If you liked the Winston character in New Girl, a) you have taste and b) you’ll like this.
Mulan: It’s good! Don’t overthink it!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things: The people who loved this insane movie really, really loved it.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things: And the ones who hated it really, really hated it.