Director Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Shot Caller, Angel Has Fallen) anticipated premiering his latest film, the made-in-Atlanta action thriller Greenland at the start of summer movie season last May. By the time his team reached the final stages of post-production, COVID-19 had hit. After delays and some rethinking, Greenland premiered December 18 on Amazon Prime and other direct-to-video services.
Waugh filmed Greenland here in July and August — laughingly calling it the coolest time of year in Georgia — in 35 days at such locations as the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, the Georgia World Congress Center downtown, and in Marietta and Warner Robins. “It was my first time filming extensively in Atlanta,” he says. “You know a city as a tourist, then you really understand a city as a filmmaker. You see it through a different lens and the geography better. “
Greenland features Gerard Butler as a structural engineer in Atlanta. When a comet takes out part of Florida, it also threatens the rest of the world. Butler’s character must take his estranged wife (Morena Baccarin) and diabetic son (Roger Dale Floyd) and flee for sanctuary.
The movie has its share of frightening, effects-laden moments. What Waugh responded to most, he says, is the interactions among people struggling for survival. “It was always about two monsters,” he says. “There’s the monster in the sky, about to lead to extinction, but it’s also about humanity. What happens when it’s life or death? Do we come together or do we fall apart?”
Greenland was shot completely pre-COVID, Waugh says. Once the pandemic did hit, he says, you see how many relevant themes there are. “I love the moral ambiguity of stories like this. Your moral compass is forced into places you never thought it would go.”
Waugh sees metro Atlanta’s appeal. “Atlanta is definitely the main filming hub in the United States outside of Hollywood,” he says. “What I love is that it’s crew-based. I met some new friends, and there is a great communal atmosphere. There are also a lot of looks to get. Our journey starts in Atlanta and goes up through the Northeast to Canada and ends in Greenland.
“Would I have loved for it be theatrical?,” Waugh asks. “Of course, but you have to adapt. I am happy that it’s easy for audiences to find and see.”
It will take Georgia’s film/TV scene some time to reach 2019 levels, but it’s getting closer. TV series seem to be doing most of the shooting, but there are a few movies in the works.
BLACK ADAM, Warner Bros.’ spin-off of Shazam! (2019), features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the title role. The movie is in prep, with filming scheduled for February and a cast that includes Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi and Quintessa Swindell. Hodge is part of the wonderful ensemble of Regina King’s One Night in Miami, which drops today (January 15) on Amazon Prime. Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan) directs Black Adam.
Additional photography is being done locally for THE TOMORROW WAR, featuring Chris Pratt, Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Yvonne Strahovski of The Handmaid’s Tale. It follows a man summoned to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity seems to hang in the balance. Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) directs. Look for it in July.
In Sony’s DEVOTION, Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country and Da 5 Bloods) and Glen Powell (Hidden Figures and Top Gun: Maverick) play elite U.S. Navy fighter pilots. J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) directs. No release date has been announced.
Netflix is almost done with production on THEY CLONED TYRONE, a comedy mystery in which a trio of men track down a government conspiracy. After doing much television, Juel Taylor (Creed II) directs his feature film-debut. His cast includes Jamie Foxx, John Boyega and Teyonah Parris. No release date has been announced.
FIRST LADIES, being shot by Lionsgate Television for Showtime, has Viola Davis in metro Atlanta playing Michelle Obama. Davis, recently seen in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix, is also the executive producer. The first season of the new series takes place in the East Wing of the White House and concentrates on Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt. No other casting is available and no release date has been set.
After filming in New York in December, HAWKEYE has moved to the metro area, with Jeremy Renner returning as his Marvel character in the title role. Look for it in the fall on Disney+. The stellar cast includes Oscar nominees Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Florence Pugh (Little Women) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) as Kate Bishop, the Young Avenger.
Netflix dropped the third season of COBRA KAI early to the delight of many. Filmed here and in Los Angeles, it finds The Karate Kid characters Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as rivals again, decades after their encounters in the first film. Original Karate Kid actor Martin Kove is in the cast, as are Ed Asner and Atlanta actor Matt Lewis.
The fifth season of MACGYVER, a reimagining of the 1985–1992 series with Richard Dean Anderson, is airing on CBS. It follows a young man who creates the Department of External Services and uses his ability to problem-solve in unorthodox ways. Lucas Till plays the title character, with support from William Baldwin, Henry Ian Cusick, Tate Donovan and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The WB’s DOOM PATROL, which features such DC outcast superheroes as Robotman, Negative Man, Crazy Jane and Elasti-Girl, is filming its third season here. Matt Bomer headlines an ensemble that includes Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Alan Tudyk and Atlanta’s Bethany Anne Lind (Ozark, Blood on Her Name, Reprisal. . . . Also in its third season is Shudder’s CREEPSHOW, an anthology series of scary stories. Its first two seasons have attracted the likes of Adrienne Barbeau, Anna Camp, Bruce Davison and Giancarlo Esposito.
A few other titles sound intriguing in this month of heavy new and returning productions. Bounce TV wraps production this month on JOHNSON, a new dramedy about two Black men who are lifelong best friends. D.L. Hughley and Thomas Q. Jones headline. Cedric the Entertainer is an executive producer. . . . BET Plus’ MS. PAT, a series with local flair, is based on the stand-up comedy career of Patricia Williams, at one time a convicted felon but now a mom in suburban Atlanta. Williams will play herself, and Lee Daniels is one of the producers.