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SYFY WIRE The Lord of the Rings

WIRE Buzz: Amazon’s ‘funny looking’ Lord of the Rings casting call; Mulan delayed again & more

By Benjamin Bullard
lord of the rings two towers gimli

How’s this for a commitment to high fantasy realism: Amazon is reportedly seeking visually distinctive actors — or, in its casting agency’s own words, “funny looking” people — who’re believed to be potential candidates for its Lord of the Rings prequel series in New Zealand.

Yahoo! Entertainment reports that BGT Actors Models & Talent — the same Auckland-based agency that helped cast extras for Peter Jackson’s LOTR film trilogy — has put out an open call for “funny looking” New Zealanders who have out-of-the-ordinary facial features and body types.

Via The Guardian, which first reported on the eye-catching ad, the long list of traits that just might land you in Middle-earth include “facial burns, ‘long skinny’ limbs, acne scars, deep cheekbones, facial lines, missing bones, large eyes, and skinny faces.” Well, that’s one way of populating J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional realm of hobbits, dwarves, orcs, and Ents without leaning too heavily on CGI.

While preproduction on the lavishly expensive LOTR series was halted earlier this year to give the coronavirus pandemic a wide berth, work is expected to pick up again sometime this summer, according to Deadline. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona, who’s also executive-producing the series, is directing its first two episodes.

The yet-untitled series had been slated to debut sometime next year before the pandemic disrupted production. It’s not clear whether Amazon will stick to that timeline — though we’ll definitely be on the lookout for any distinctive-looking actors who made the casting cut.

Just a day after coronavirus concerns and the timing of summer theatrical reopenings moved Warner Bros. to bump Christopher Nolan’s Tenet yet again to a new Aug. 12 release date, Disney’s live-action Mulan is following suit, delaying until Aug. 21 our hero’s next hope for bringing honor to us all.

Variety reports that Disney made the call on Friday to delay Mulan — already postponed beyond its original March 27 debut date — from its previously rescheduled July 24 premiere. Together with Tenet, the two films had been eyeing summer release windows that, assuming theater doors are open, would make for a one-two blockbuster punch to welcome guests back to the big screen.

“While the pandemic has changed our release plans for Mulan and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance,” Disney’s co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn and co-chairman Alan Bergman said in a statement quoted by Variety. “Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together.”

Put on your 1980s wayback cap for this one. If you grew up during the heyday of sci-fi movies that found their way into theaters without tons of focus group testing and high-level corporate hand-wringing, you might just remember D.A.R.Y.L. (that’s Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform, for the uninitiated), a strange little 1985 science fiction movie about an advanced robot who looked like a real 10-year-old boy.

Thanks to the people at TBS (who, to their credit, must have a strong sense of nostalgia), a TV sequel series to D.A.R.Y.L. is in the works, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The news came out of a far-ranging interview with TNT and TBS General Manager Brett Weitz, who told THR that the planned scripted original series will feature Tony Hale, a two-time Emmy winner for his performance as Gary Walsh on HBO’s Veep.

The new series picks up where the movie left off, and the pitch sounds ripe with sci-fi comedic potential. “What if a top-secret, 10-year-old human weapon grew up to be a 44-year-old guy just trying to keep up with a world that he was never designed for?” reads the logline, via THR. “And what if the story morphed from an '80s sci-fi adventure movie about a child with a computer in his skull … into a single-camera comedy starring Tony Hale? The boy everyone wanted ... has become the man no one needs ... in the TV adaptation nobody asked for.”

Starring Barret Oliver (who played Bastian in The NeverEnding Story), with an appearance by Better Call Saul’s Michael McKean long before he was Jimmy McGill’s neurotic brother, the original D.A.R.Y.L. followed a sort of reverse-Pinocchio plotline. Gifted with computational and reflexive powers out of reach of humans, the government-created AI-boy (who ends up going by the less intimidating “Daryl”) loses his memory following a helicopter crash, piecing together his uniqueness with his human hosts after his abilities come to light while living with foster parents in a small town.

Needless to say, we don’t know exactly when D.A.R.Y.L. will debut at TBS, but the Paramount Television Studios project is among the network’s planned slate of upcoming scripted originals, with Jody Lambert (People Like Us) and Matt Oberg (The Warren Klein Voicemails) set to write the half-hour comedy. And if you need a D.A.R.Y.L. crash course, you’re in luck: The original movie’s just a click away at Amazon Prime Video.