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WIRE Buzz: MGM adapting Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Water Dancer; Godmothered first look; more

By Josh Weiss
ta-nehisi coates

MGM has landed the screen rights to a film adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Water Dancer, Deadline confirmed this morning. Published last year, the novel takes place during the shameful period of slavery in the United States. It marked Coates' first foray into the world of fiction, though he's also been on a memorable comic-writing run with Captain America and Black Panther. He won the National Book Award in 2015 for Between the World and Me.

The book's protagonist is Hiram Walker, a young man who was separated from his mother when he was just a child. Hiram's lost all memory of her, but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, he nearly drowns in a river, but is saved by that same power. Imbued with a new lease on life, Hiram sets out to break free of bondage, setting off on a quest that takes him "from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North," reads the official synopsis.

The Water Dancer cover

Kamilah Forbes (American Masters), Brad Pitt's Plan B, and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions will produce the feature, whose screenplay is being adapted by Coates himself. Harpo and Plan B previously worked together on 2014's Selma. Winfrey also chose The Water Dancer for her book club.

Godmothered, Disney's upcoming film about a fairy godmother-in-training, will officially debut on Disney+ Friday, Dec. 4. The streaming service has conjured up two first look images from the fantasy project, which co-stars Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) and Jillian Bell (Rough Night).

Helmed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary), the film, which is set around the Christmas seasons, puts a new twist on the Mouse House's grand tradition of fairy godmothers helping characters in need. When Eleanor (Bell), a young and inexperienced godmother learns that her intended profession is about to go extinct, she must prove to the world that fairy godmothers are — to borrow some parlance from the current times — essential workers. She discovers a mislaid letter from a troubled 10-year-old girl named Mackenzie (Fisher) and decides to track her down, only to discover that the girl is now a 40-year-old mother working a Boston news station. Mackenzie recently lost her husband and no longer believes in the concept of  “Happily Ever After," but  Eleanor is determined to rectify that cynical outlook, whether Mackenzie likes it or not.

Check out two production stills below:


Written by Kari Granlund (Lady and the Tramp) and Melissa Stack (The Other Woman), the feature was first announced back in late March. Santiago Cabrera, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Jane Curtin, June Squibb, Jillian Shea Spaeder, Willa Skye, Artemis Pebdani, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Stephnie Weir make up the rest of the cast. 

Justin Springer (TRON: Legacy) produced the film, while  Diane L. Sabatini (Lady and the Tramp), Tom Pollock (Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), and Amie Karp (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) served as executive producers.

IFC Films is delving into the profound cultural impact of Kurt Vonnegut after scooping up the North American distribution rights to a feature-length documentary about the celebrated science fiction author, SYFY WIRE has confirmed.

The project — titled Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time — hails from co-directors Robert B. Weide (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Don Argott (The Art of the Steal). In particular, Weide was close friends with Vonnegut (known for penning such classics as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions) prior to the writer's death in 2007 at the age of 84. The filmmaker fell in love with Vonnegut's writing in high school and reached out to him in the early '80s, asking for permission to make a documentary about the writer's life. Vonnegut agreed and Weide began filming as far back as 1988.

“When I first approached Vonnegut to authorize this film in 1982, I envisioned a fairly conventional author documentary," Weide said in a statements. "As the decades rolled by, fate stepped in, and what I wound up with was far from conventional. As my friendship with my literary idol grew, full disclosure was called for, and Don Argott came on to document the meta element of this story, as I continued to focus on Vonnegut’s biography. What we wound up with was a hybrid that combined our respective strengths as filmmakers and will hopefully be seen as a worthy tribute by Vonnegut’s fans and a compelling introduction for the uninitiated. I’m grateful to IFC for stepping up and bringing this lifelong passion project to the public.”

"As a lifelong Vonnegut fan, it was an honor to be a part of this film. Kurt’s unique voice has been sorely missed, and I’m looking forward to audiences re-discovering his genius," added Argott.

"IFC Films has a proud history of supporting long-evolving film projects and we are thrilled to partner with Bob Weide on this 40-year journey of documenting the legacy of Kurt Vonnegut. The portrait that Bob and Don have created is an unparalleled look at an icon who has shaped modern culture and we are honored to bring that rare glimpse to audiences across the country," said Arianna Bocco, IFC Films' Executive VP of Acquisitions and Productions. IFC plans to release the film in summer 2021.

The official synopsis for the documentary is as follows:

The feature documentary, the first of its kind on Vonnegut, is a deep, immersive dive into the author’s upbringing and his creative output. It spans back through his childhood in Indianapolis, his experience as a Prisoner of War in World War II, his marriage and family, his early careers as a publicist for General Electric and a car salesman, and his years as a struggling writer, leading to eventual superstardom in 1969 following the publication of his lightning-bolt anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five.