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SYFY WIRE Emma Thompson

Development news: Emma Thompson leaves Skydance project after John Lasseter arrival, more

By Matthew Jackson
Emma Thompson November 2018

A major star has departed a project at John Lasseter's Skydance Animation, The Wheel of Time series has found a director, and a new horror anthology announces it's hitting theaters next month, all in our latest development roundup.

It's been a little more than a month since Pixar co-founder and animation legend John Lasseter announced his return to filmmaking as the head of Skydance Media's animation department after admitting to workplace misconduct, and it looks like the fallout from that decision has begun. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee and the Harry Potter franchise) has backed out of work on Skydance's upcoming animated project Luck, a film that will show the relationship between two groups that control "good luck" and "bad luck." Thompson had reportedly already begun recording for the film, in which she was set to play the leader of the good luck group, but "quietly left" after Lasseter's hiring, THR's sources said. 

Lasseter, who co-founded Pixar and went on to become the chief creative officer at Disney Animation after a string of hits, took a leave of absence in November 2017, citing "missteps" amid reports of inappropriate conduct and alleged touching of employees. He later announced that he would be departing both Pixar and Disney for good at the end of 2018, and his hiring at Skydance was announced last month. The decision was immediately met with criticism, and it looks like that criticism is already affecting potential collaborations. Luck is expected to hit theaters sometime in 2021, and the full cast for the film has not yet been announced. 

Last week, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke promised that while there's "no specific timeframe" for its release, the studio is "building an incredible team" to tackle The Wheel of Time, the long-awaited adaptation of Robert Jordan's beloved series of fantasy novels. Now, that team includes a director. 

Deadline reports that director Uta Briesewitz — whose credits include The DefendersJessica JonesWestworld, and the upcoming third season of Stranger Things — has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the series, which tells the story of an epic struggle between good and evil on a fictional continent populated with various kingdoms, threats, and magic users. 

Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) will serve as showrunner and executive producer on the series, while Jordan's widow Harriet McDougal (who also oversaw the completion of the books by fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson) will serve as consulting producer. 

The Wheel of Time is one of the most celebrated fantasy sagas of all time, with more than 90 million copies sold since its debut in 1990. Ever since The Lord of the Rings was transformed into a successful franchise, it's been on a wish list for fantasy fans eager for more live-action stories, and the success of Game of Thrones (Jordan and Thrones creator George R.R. Martin are both frequently cited as examples of "an American Tolkien") only spurred that on. Now, the series is set to launch in more than 200 territories via Amazon. What we don't know yet is when. 

If you're into horror anthology films, you won't have to wait much longer for the next big one to surface. Distributor SuperLtd announced Tuesday that it will release The Field Guide to Evil, a new anthology featuring eight shorts from exciting horror voices, in theaters and on digital platforms March 29. The announcement brought with it a creepy new trailer, which you can check out below.

Field Guide features segments by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy), Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy), Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure), Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen), Can Evrenol (Baskin), Calvin Reeder (The Rambler), Ashim Ahluwalia (Miss Lovely), and Yannis Veslemes (Norway). Each filmmaker was asked to take inspiration from their own home country's folklore, "reimagining a legend through their own unique (and often twisted) creative lens." The result is a folk horror showcase from the producers of the ABCs of Death horror franchise. 

In addition to ABCs of Death producers Tim League and Ant Thompson, The Field Guide to Evil was also "equity crowd-funded" by 255 equity investors (a first for an American film), and was executive-produced by investors Christos V. Konstantakopoulos (The Lobster), Keith and Jess Calder (Blair Witch), and Legion M, the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company (Mandy). As part of its commitment to fan experiences, Legion M will also be hosting meet-up events around the country, featuring Q&As and exclusive merch. For more details, head over to the film's official website.