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With ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘Joker’ Likely, Venice Set for Strong Showing by U.S., Bolstered by Streamers

Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra,” Noah Baumbach’s untitled new project, “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” Fernando Meirelles’ “The Pope,” the new “Rambo” installment, and heist thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive art dealer, all look bound for the Venice Film Festival, sources tell Variety.

The fest is scheduled to unveil its initial lineup July 25. With just six weeks before the festival kicks off, director Alberto Barbera is scrambling to firm up his official selection, a process more down to the wire than usual.

At the moment, this year’s U.S. studio presence on the Lido does not look as if it will be as dominant as in recent editions, possibly because the Disney-Fox merger has slowed down the Hollywood pipeline a bit. But where the majors might be pulling back, the streamers are stepping in.

Netflix looks set to have a strong presence with the Baumbach pic, which stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver and Laura Dern and is reportedly a divorce drama. The streaming giant is also expected to unveil “The Pope,” starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as pontiffs Francis and Benedict XVI, and David Michod’s “The King,” an adaptation of several Shakespeare plays with an ensemble cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson and Lily-Rose Depp. 

But Martin Scorsese’s hotly anticipated mob saga “The Irishman,” which is bankrolled by Netflix, is not expected to be ready for Venice, despite reports to the contrary. Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch,” an adaptation of the novel by Donna Tartt, is also not expected to have a Lido premiere. Nor is Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man,” from Paramount.

Amazon Studios will likely be launching “The Aeronauts” at Venice, a movie that reunites Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. The two Brits previously worked together in James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything,” for which Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor, while Jones was nominated for best actress. 

Amazon’s U.S. political thriller “Against All Enemies” starring Kristen Stewart as actress Jean Seberg, may also be headed for the Lido. The story centers on covert attempts by the FBI to discredit Seberg in retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party.

“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” directed by Italy’s Giuseppe Capotondi, is an English-language art-world heist movie shot near Lake Como with a stellar cast that, besides Jagger, includes Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki and Donald Sutherland. Producers are David Zander of MJZ, William Horberg of Wonderful Films and David Lancaster of Rumble Films.

European fare likely to land a Venice slot includes new works from France’s Robert Guediguian with “Gloria Mundi,” Philippe Garrel with “The Salt of Tears” and Roman Polanski with “An Officer and a Spy.” Polanski’s new film stars Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin as the French army officer who works to get to the bottom of the Dreyfus affair, a notorious case of anti-Semitism in France. Polanski’s arrival on the Lido is likely to cause a stir in the wake of his expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

Czech director Vaclav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel, “The Painted Bird,” with an ensemble cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Julian Sands and Harvey Keitel, is a near-certainty for a Lido premiere, as is the Roger Waters concert tour film “Us + Them,” in which the Pink Floyd co-founder plays tracks from his career with the band as well as his solo work.

Veteran Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, who won the 2014 Golden Lion with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” appears headed back to Venice with his similarly absurdist “About Endlessness.”

Asian fare with an expected lock on a Lido bow includes Hirokazu Kore-eda’s new project “The Truth,” his followup to 2018 Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters.” “The Truth” stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke, and marks the director’s first work set outside his native Japan.

Hong Kong helmer Yonfan’s animation debut, “No. 7 Cherry Lane,” about a love triangle involving a university student, a single mother and her teenage daughter, is also a sure bet for a competition slot (also in Toronto). Chinese director Lou Ye’s black-and-white thriller, “Saturday Fiction,” starring Gong Li as an iconic actress and set in 1941 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, is a possibility. But whether that film receives its official Dragon Seal release permit from Chinese censors, and whether it remains in Chinese authorities’ good graces all the way to the Lido, is not certain.

From Italy itself, the pickings are somewhat slim. There will almost certainly be Mario Martone’s “The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” a contemporary adaptation of the play by late Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo; Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden,” which takes Jack London’s novel about a young American sailor struggling to become a writer and transposes it to a 19th-century Neapolitan setting; “Hidden Away,” a biopic by Giorgio Diritti (“There Will Come a Day”) of tormented Italian-Swiss painter Antonio Ligabue, played by Elio Germano, who won the 2010 Cannes acting prize for “Our Life”; and Alessandro Rossetto’s economic crisis drama “Effetto Domino.”

Two hotly anticipated Italian TV series, Paolo Sorrentino’s new limited series “The New Pope” and Stefano Sollima’s Cocaine trafficking drama “Zero Zero Zero” are both likely. Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope” screened on the Lido in 2016.

Other possible titles include Pablo Larrain’s “Ema”; Olivier Assayas’ English-language spy thriller “Wasp Network,” with Penélope Cruz and Gael García Bernal; and Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski’s drama “Willow.”

Patrick Frater and Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

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