Well, I certainly wouldn’t have expected Jill Soloway to tackle the Red Sonja movie following the success she had with the award-winning Amazon series Transparent, but here we are. Millennium Films has tapped Soloway to replace Bryan Singer behind the camera, and she’ll also write the script, too, as she apparently has a “bold new take” on the character, according to Deadline.
Here’s the thing… she’s going to need one, because as far as I’m concerned, Red Sonja is a D-list character who offers limited upside at the box office. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I’ve been reporting on this project for the better part of a decade, and I get the feeling that readers just don’t care. I’m not making the old ‘comic book movie fatigue’ argument, I’m just saying that logic dictates that not all of these superhero movies can work. The marketplace is simply too crowded. When a star-studded X-Men movie like Dark Phoenix opens to a weak $32.8 million, just what are the expectations for Red Sonja? A $15 million opening weekend? At best?
Here’s the other way to read this. Obviously, we know that studios rarely hire women to direct big-budget action movies. Hollywood is making strides, of course, as the Kathryn Bigelows, Mimi Leders and Patty Jenkins of the world paved the way for Cate Shortland (Black Widow), Chloe Zhao (The Eternals), and Ava DuVernay (New Gods). But still, it’s rare. And Soloway clearly didn’t want to wait for Marvel or DC to come calling, so she decided to take on a lesser property in the hopes she could put her own imprint on the material. That’s admirable. I just hope she knows what she’s getting into by working with Millennium. I hope I’m not writing an article two years from now about them haggling over final cut, because let’s just say that won’t surprise me. Don’t forget about all the behind-the-scenes drama on Hellboy.
“I can’t wait to bring Red Sonja’s epic world to life,” Soloway told Deadline. “Exploring this powerful mythology and evolving what it means to be a heroine is an artistic dream come true.” Again, a noble goal, but what, exactly, is the “powerful mythology” of Red Sonja? She’s a 1970s comic book character with red hair who was originally played by Brigitte Nielsen. Rose McGowan nearly played the heroine when Robert Rodriguez was attached to direct. What else is there? I know, I’m coming across too negative here, but I just don’t see why Soloway would take on this particular assignment. It’s honestly a head-scratcher to me.
Meanwhile, Deadline claims that studios are already approaching Millennium about partnering on the film, but I don’t buy that for one second. I’m pretty sure Lionsgate learned its lesson on Hellboy. “Studios” is a vague word, though. Are we talking David Glasser’s 101 Studios? Just know that Disney and Warner Bros. aren’t making a bid. That much I’m sure of.
Millennium Media will finance the Red Sonja movie, while Millennium Films will produce with Campbell/Grobman Films, Cinelou Films and Soloway’s Topple Productions banner, whose Andrea Sperling has also boarded the project as a producer. Rights holder Luke Lieberman will serve as an executive producer.
Millennium has been developing Red Sonja for years, and the success of Wonder Woman encouraged the studio to ramp up its efforts. The company had agreed to pay Singer $10 million to direct Red Sonja, even after he’d been fired off of Bohemian Rhapsody for his erratic behavior on set, which he denied. There was also an article in The Atlantic that dug into the sexual assault allegations that have followed Singer for years, and while it seemed Millennium was willing to live with the bad press in order to work with a major tentpole director like Singer, it would have made casting a major star all but impossible. Millennium is also developing another female-driven action movie in Jolt, which will star Kate Beckinsale, and be directed by Tanya Wexler.
Soloway recently directed The Transparent Movie Musicale Finale, which is framed around the death of Jeffrey Tambor‘s Maura, and will debut this fall on Amazon Prime Video. The two-hour movie features 10 original songs, which should excite fans of the Pfefferman family. Interestingly enough, Deadline cautions that Red Sonja is years away from the big screen, and is unlikely to be Soloway’s next film. She previously directed the 2013 indie comedy Afternoon Delight starring Kathryn Hahn and Juno Temple. Soloway is represented by UTA.