‘Oh, I’m in this’: Ahmed Best reflects on returning to ‘Star Wars’

The Jar Jar Binks actor received a hero’s welcome for his ‘Mandalorian’ role. PLUS: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ sets a franchise box office record, and why did Marvel fire Victoria Alonso?

‘Oh, I’m in this’: Ahmed Best reflects on returning to ‘Star Wars’
Ahmed Best as Kelleran Beq. / Lucasfilm

The entire top of today’s newsletter is a spoiler if you haven’t watched the latest episode of The Mandalorian yet. And now that I’m looking at it, so are the headline and main photo. So if you haven’t watched that episode yet … um, I’m sorry?

If we’re going by the rules of Star Wars promotion, though, the blinders are off when it comes to talking about Ahmed Best’s return to Star Wars. “The Foundling” revealed that Jedi Master Kelleran Beq was the one to rescue Grogu from the Jedi Temple as Darth Vader led his division of Clone Troopers. The character of Kelleran was first seen as the host of Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, a game show for kids. While it was a fun Easter egg to have Best, the actor who brought Jar Jar Binks to life in the prequels play Kelleran in that show, Jedi Temple Challenge lived online and wasn’t even a big enough project to score a home on Disney+.

Turns of out the Star Wars braintrust had bigger plans for Kelleran.

“Honestly, I had to think about it,” Best told StarWars.com about The Mandalorian creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni approaching him to bring Kelleran into that show. “I’ve been in the Star Wars world for such a long time and my story is such a rollercoaster ride of emotions. So coming back to Star Wars wasn’t an easy decision for me. It wasn’t something I could have immediately said yes to. I did have to marinate over it for a bit.”

Star Wars fans were infamously awful to Best in the wake of the prequels. The actor revealed a few years ago that the response to his work almost caused him to commit suicide. Who would blame him for not wanting to jump back into the Star Wars ecosystem?

“I mean, I was excited,” Best continued. “I don’t think people really understand how much I care about Star Wars. Like, I really care. I really, really care about the storytelling, about the mythology, about the fans. I really want Star Wars to deliver, and if I become an obstacle to that, then I shouldn’t be in it. I don’t want to be bigger than the story. I don’t want to be bigger than the mythology. I want to contribute, I want to add to it. So it took me a minute.”

Thankfully the vibe in 2023 is much different than it was back when the prequels came out. The past few years have seen the prequel trilogy become a celebrated and central part of Star Wars. Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor returned for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Temuera Morrison assumed the role of Boba Fett while voicing clones across multiple love-action series. The Mandalorian’s biggest new toy is a modified Naboo starfighter.

Fans have celebrated the reveal that Best’s Kelleran was the Jedi who rescued Grogu. Check out the replies to this tweet from Star Wars.

Some (myself included) have even excitedly theorized that a certain Gungan on Naboo might be who Kelleran is now taking Grogu to.

And it sounds like Best is eager to do more.

“Now, coming back, being in The Mandalorian, part of me doesn’t want to let it go,” he told StarWars.com. “In The Phantom Menace days, you had to let it go. It was just George doing it. Now, you can do it for a while. You can tell stories in Star Wars and have them be in multiple mediums. As a writer, as a director now, as a teacher now, there is so much more that I want to do that this universe is perfect for, that I don’t want this to be the end of legacy. I don’t want this to be the end of the story. I want this to be the beginning, and a new beginning. Especially through Kelleran Beq.”

Katee Sackhoff in The Mandalorian. / Lucasfilm

StarWars.com also had a feature this week with Katee Sackhoff and how she’s brought Bo-Katan into the live-action world of The Mandalorian.

“I don't think anybody really anticipated that she would be back to this extent. And if they did, they didn't tell me!” Sackhoff told the site. “For this season, I wanted to lean in and own pieces of her more. We worked on the hair and her freckles might be a little bit more pronounced. I wanted her to look slightly different, not so much just cut out of animation, but that she looks like she belongs in this world.”

I’ve been continuously impressed in how well Bo-Katan has been brought to life during the new season of The Mandalorian. With the character now fully embraced by Din Djarin’s cult, er, covert, Sackhoff has had to lean into acting as the character while her helmet never comes off. Between Sackhoff’s performance and how Bo-Katan is shot, they’re really selling it.

Programming note

Like with The Last of Us, new episodes of Succession go live too late on Sunday night for me to turn around for the Monday edition of Popculturology. Expect to see them in the Thursday editions.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter.

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The News
A promotional image for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. / Columbia Pictures

Kumail Nanjiani and Patton Oswalt join Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel

The Ghostbusters reboot from Paul Feig and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the legacyquel that romanticized the original film, are very similar when it comes to box office results and reviews.

The 2016 Ghostbusters movie opened with $46 million on the way to $128.4 million domestic and $229 million worldwide. Afterlife opened with $44 million on the way to $129.4 million domestic and $203.6 million worldwide.

The Ghostbusters film starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones has a 73 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Afterlife has a 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

One of these films is getting a sequel — and it’s not the one with the bigger worldwide gross and higher Rotten Tomatoes score. (Hmmm, if only I could place my finger on the difference …)

Anyways, there’s an untitled sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife in the works. Deadline reported on Friday that Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, James Acaster and Emily Alyn Lind had joined its cast.

Did Marvel Studios fire Victoria Alonso because she was promoting another studio’s film?

Yeesh, the Victoria Alonso situation over at Marvel Studios is messier than it originally seemed. When news broke that the longtime Marvel Cinematic Universe executive had left Marvel Studios, the news came without a reason why. Some people pointed to how the MCU’s visual effects work — Alonso’s department — had suffered both in quality and in terms on contractor relations.

According to new reporting, Alonso’s role and a producer and promoter on the film Argentina, 1985 is what caused Disney to dismiss her. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Alonso was one of eight producers on the Argentine historical drama, which was distributed by Amazon and competed for the best international feature Oscar. However, by assuming that role, she breached her contract — several times — according to sources. After repeated warnings, the situation came to a head the week after the Academy Awards and ultimately led to her termination. It was a seismic shake-up at Marvel, where for years Alonso was part of the holy trinity — along with Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito — who led the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ever-greater heights.

THR reports that Alonso appearing at the Oscars on behalf of Amazon Studios’ Argentina, 1985 instead of Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may have been the final straw.

Alonso is pushing back on this narrative, though, with Variety reporting that Alonso has hired attorney Patty Glaser.

“The idea that Victoria was fired over a handful of press interviews relating to a personal passion project about human rights and democracy that was nominated for an Oscar and which she got Disney’s blessing to work on is absolutely ridiculous,” Glaser told Variety. “Disney and Marvel made a really poor decision that will have serious consequences. There is a lot more to this story and Victoria will be telling it shortly — in one forum or another.”

Peaky Blinders creator replaces Damon Lindelof as writer of new Star Wars movie

Lucasfilm has reportedly found its replacement to write the Star Wars movie that Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson departed from. Variety reported on Wednesday that Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight (not to be confused with Pacific Rim: Uprising director Steven DeKnight) had come aboard to write the film set to be directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Hopefully we’ll get some more info on this film at Star Wars Celebration next month. Lots of projects in the graveyard of canceled Star Wars movies and shows …

Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers: Endgame. / Marvel Studios

Robert Downey Jr. may star in Vertigo remake

It’s a bold move to attempt a remake of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films, but it’s 2023 and studios need to keep cranking out content. Deadline reported on Thursday that Paramount is working on a remake of Vertigo, with Robert Downey Jr. possibly in the lead role. In addition to that Star Wars movie, Knight will rewrite the script for this one too.

I’m still not sure about Downey as a leading man these days. Yes, he led the MCU and made boatloads of money doing so, but his post-Iron Man filmography is pretty spotty. If you take the Sherlock Holmes films out of the mix, his biggest films were Tropic Thunder, The Soloist, Due Date, The Judge and the abysmal Dolittle. Do we consider any of those other than Tropic Thunder to be a hit?

💬 💬 💬 Wanna share your comments, questions or recommendations? Leave a comment at the bottom of the newsletter.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4. / Lionsgate

Weekend of March 24-26, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4 (N)
Weekend gross: $73.5M / Total domestic gross: $73.5M / Percent drop: NA

The first John Wick film grossed $76 million worldwide. John Wick: Chapter 4 almost matched that with its opening domestic weekend alone. A $73.5 million opening weekend is a great first frame for just about anything other than an MCU or Star Wars movie. John Wick: Chapter 4 is the third biggest domestic debut for Keanu Reeves, behind only Toy Story 4 ($120.9 million) and The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8 million).

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (1)
Weekend gross: $9.7M / Total domestic gross: $46.3M / Percent drop: -68

There’ll be no resurrection for Shazam! Fury of the Gods. While its predecessor brought in $24.5 million its second weekend, Fury of the Gods managed to cobble together just $9.7 million.

Scream VI (2)
Weekend gross: $8.4M / Total domestic gross: $89.9M / Percent drop: -52

The sixth Scream movie inches up the franchise’s box office rankings. On the domestic charts, it trails only the original Scream ($103 million) and Scream 2 ($101.4), while on the worldwide chart it trails the original Scream ($173 million), Scream 2 ($172.4 million) and Scream 3 ($161.8 million.)

Creed III (3)
Weekend gross: $8.4M / Total domestic gross: $140.9M / Percent drop: -46

With the exception of Fury of the Gods, it was a good weekend for the sequels in the top five. Creed III is the highest grossing Rocky/Creed film at the domestic box office and sits at No. 2 on the worldwide chart, behind only Rocky IV ($300.4 million).

  1. 65 (4)
    Weekend gross: $3.3M / Total domestic gross: $27.8M / Percent drop: -44

Box office numbers via The Numbers

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Dev Patel in The Green Knight. / A24

The Green Knight

We finally got around to watching The Green Knight on Saturday. After countless attempts to turn the Arthurian legends into modern cinematic franchises David Lowery and Dev Patel went a very different direction with this one.

Honestly, I need to watch this again. While I’ve always been intrigued by the Arthurian legends, it’s easy to get bogged down in the different versions that were built upon each other over the years. A quick Wikipedia dive showed me that my knowledge of Sir Gawain barely scratches the surface of what’s out there.

This has nothing to do with the content of The Green Knight, but I actually wound up buying a physical copy of this film over the weekend. We almost watched it on Friday night, but the only option was to buy a digital copy for like sixteen bucks. The 4K Blu-ray with a digital copy was $18. For an extra two dollars, I’m not passing up the chance to have a physical copy of a movie to guard against the possibility of a digital copy disappearing in the future. You only own digital copies of movies and music until a studio decides you don’t anymore.

Hot Ones

“Bob Odenkirk Has a Fire in His Belly While Eating Spicy Wings”

I wasn’t sure if Bob Odenkirk was going to make it through this episode of Hot Ones. Some guests come aboard fully prepared, knowledgeable of the show and how it works. I didn’t get that vibe from Odenkirk right away.

But, as Hot Ones often does, the show got Odenkirk to open up. Not only did he make it through all ten wings, but he shared some touching stories about his time on Saturday Night Live with Chris Farley in the process.

Working with Farley was “the most fun I had in show business,” Odenkirk told Sean Evans that he was revealed to his daughter when she asked him about his career.

The Links

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