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WIRE Buzz: Willow pilot gets a script; The Emperor’s Blades recruits Weta Workshop; more

By Benjamin Bullard
Warwick Davis in Willow

For a while now, buzz has been wisping around the possibility that Disney could revive Willow — that other 1980s Lucasfilm franchise whose name isn’t Indiana Jones or Star Wars. Now it appears a small-screen version is one step closer from bringing that fantasy to reality.

In a far-ranging report about Disney’s plans for new original content on the still-young Disney+ streaming platform, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Solo: A Star Wars Story co-writer Jonathan Kasdan has finished a script for a Willow pilot episode, evidently affirming earlier reports that the Mouse House is eyeing the Ron Howard-directed 1988 feature for a series adaptation.

There’s not a lot of new info beyond that, so don’t get too excited about speculating who could play Warwick Davis’ Willow Ufgood or Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan in a Willow reboot just yet. Kasdan “has completed a pilot script for a series based on the cult classic Willow,” the report states — and leaves things at that. 

A finished script is still a definite step in the same direction as previous reports about Disney’s interest in refreshing the Lucasfilm franchise. Back in May of 2018, Howard confirmed on Twitter that he and other Disney creatives were “seriously exploring” a new Willow TV treatment “with Lucasfilm folks.” 

At the top of that pecking order is, of course, Lucasfilm president Katheleen Kennedy, who told the Los Angeles Times that she’s keen to look farther than Star Wars — whether with existing Lucasfilm properties or entirely new ones — to help round out Disney’s offerings on both the big and small screens. “I’m very excited at the possibility of being able to do things that expand our portfolio a little bit,” said Kennedy. “You realize there’s so much potential to do some pretty great things, and to expand beyond just Star Wars is pretty exciting to think about.”

The race to find the next Game of Thrones-style hit TV series continues, with all the breathless abandon of Joffrey Lannister celebrating his own coronation. In this case, though, there’s some serious talent behind the effort.

Deadline reports that fledgling fan-owned production company Legion M has recruited Lord of the Rings effects studio Weta Workshop to “begin the visual concept work for a one-hour fantasy drama series” based on The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne — the bestselling fantasy book trilogy from author Brian Staveley.

The Emperors Blades book cover

Via the report, the early in-development series doesn’t yet have a TV home, but will be titled The Emperor’s Blades — the name of the first book in Staveley’s triology. The involvement of Weta Workshop (whose credits also include Avatar and The Hobbit) will reportedly extend beyond the concept phase and through the series’ deeper development. LOTR co-producer and second-unit director Rick Porras is also on board as an executive producer. 

There's no early word on when we might see The Emperor's Blades, though Deadline does note Legion M plans to shop the series to potential TV suitors sometime early next year.

The Hawkline Monster, a strange, allegorical fantasy novel from the 1970s that's set in the early-1900s American West, has already defied previous attempts at a film adaptation from intrepid directors like Tim Burton and the late Hal Ashby. But the offbeat story, which finds a houseful of strange acquaintances grappling with metaphysical beings for control over their own minds, may actually be heading to the big screen for real this time.

Via The Hollywood Reporter, director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite; The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is in talks to direct a feature-length movie for New Regency based on author Richard Brautigan’s The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. If the project moves forward, it would resolve a decades-long quest to adapt Brautigan’s story after past efforts to bring onboard big-name acting talent like Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Dustin Hoffman all failed. 

There’s no word on whom Lanthimos — an Oscar-nominated director who’s previously worked with stars like Emma Stone, Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Rachel Weisz — might be eyeing to star. But the story’s distinctive mix of austere western themes and supernatural phenomena definitely offers plenty of unusual material for a capable cast to sink its teeth into — so stay tuned.