Annapurna Pictures has experienced a massive and sudden shake-up. Within a day, the studio found itself without a president amid reports that two of its big-ticket movies have also been dropped. Chelsea Barnard is said to have amicably stepped down from overseeing film production at the young studio, as CEO Megan Ellison will personally adopt a more hands-on approach in the production arm of the company in the interim period.
Yet, promising developments have risen simultaneously, and any worries over Annapurna’s internal rumblings are further satiated. Initially, the highly-anticipated Fox News film starring Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman was put in jeopardy, and so was Jennifer Lopez’s starring vehicle The Hustlers at Scores. Thankfully, they both found new homes practically immediately.
As reported by Variety, Theron and Kidman’s officially untitled Fox News movie, christened with the working moniker Fair and Balanced, is looking to go ahead at Focus Features, which sports recent credits such as BlacKkKlansman and the Theron-led Tully. Prior to Annapurna’s current developments, the pricey Roger Ailes takedown film, which reportedly gets more expensive by day, was set to start production in a few weeks, and over the last few months has booked some of the buzziest names in Hollywood for its cast.
Really, a film headlined by Theron, Kidman, Margot Robbie, Kate McKinnon, and John Lithgow deserves its day in the sun either way. However, we welcome the particular timeliness of this Fox News project, too. Although Annapurna’s shuffle raises concerns about the movie’s possible postponement, here’s to hoping we’ll be able to witness this brilliant cast in action dishing out some much-needed social critique sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, The Hustlers at Scores now sets up shop at STX, the company responsible for Molly’s Game and The Edge of Seventeen, among others. Incidentally, STX has another Jennifer Lopez movie — a comedy titled Second Act — due for release in December 2018, as well.
Deadline also announced that Constance Wu of Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians fame has nabbed one of the leading roles in The Hustlers at Scores. She will star alongside Lopez.
The Hustlers at Scores is an adaptation of Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine feature of the same name that will be written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (The Meddler). The film tracks the exploits of strip club employees who band together and swindle thousands from mostly wealthy men through credit card scams.
At the center of Pressler’s piece are two women named Roselyn Keo (Wu’s presumed role) and Samantha Barbash (who Lopez is likely playing), go-getters who are swept up in their questionable but exhilarating enterprise. “The Hustlers at Scores” is an engaging character study of working women and fluctuating morals, although of course neither concept necessarily correlates to or mutually excludes one another.
From reading “The Hustlers at Scores,” it’s hard to truly get a handle on its main players. The potentially unreliable narration within the feature — Pressler clearly describes Keo as “an admitted liar” at one point — is definitely part of its overall appeal, lending suspenseful fictionalized possibilities to the story. The article does a fabulous job of balancing a humorous tone even amongst the undisputed criminality of its subjects, as well. There’s definitely something gleeful and amusing about this “modern Robin Hood story.”
In my book, that sounds like a great film waiting to happen. Everyone is so far from perfect in “The Hustlers at Scores” and in fact, I don’t hope to see likable versions of these characters on screen. The cheeky glint of personality that Pressler injects into her feature presents both Keo and Barbash — particularly the former — absolutely complexly.
This fits in fantastically with a steady stream of films in the entertainment industry that actually portray well-rounded women regardless of how “likable” they end up. Some movies — think modern-day Jessica Chastain movies like Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game — play this straight and serious with dramatic beats and thrilling sequences. Others such as Young Adult and I, Tonya go down the dark comedy route. These films are, more often than not, coupled with a sense of grit and sometimes even an uncanny spirit.
The Hustlers at Scores sounds like it could exist as a happy medium of sorts compared to the films listed above. I’m definitely partial to it being both a little comedic and dramatic, especially since it would be perfect given Scafaria’s directorial background. Both her feature film debut (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and follow-up (The Meddler) are categorically sweeter than the realities of The Hustlers at Scores. Regardless, Scafaria is great at drawing honesty from her performers and creating quietly memorable films.
And after Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, Wu deserves to be a rising star and lead yet another project. Wu is no stranger to depicting determined characters, which would make her an excellent choice to play Keo opposite Lopez’s Barbash. Jessica Huang in Fresh Off the Boat is truly competitive and even rather criminal as the series progresses. Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians is oftentimes overwhelmed but learns to trust her instincts and stand up for what she believes in.
Pair that with the fact that Wu hasn’t really had a chance to sink her teeth into the seedier and grimmer details promised in The Hustlers at Scores. This makes for the perfect opportunity for her. Wu has been branching out of late anyway; for example, did you know she has a horror film coming out over the Christmas holidays?
Movies like The Hustlers at Scores and the Fox News feature don’t deserve to be shelved, and it’s encouraging to know that these essential and daring women-led narratives will make it to the big screen one way or another.
Related Topics: Casting