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The Franchise - What We Know So Far

HBO has tapped two auteurs to spearhead its next big comedy.

Armando Iannucci is no stranger to tackling large and complicated ideas with hilarious twists. Joining forces with HBO in 2012 for "Veep," the satirist shed light on the chaotic and often ridiculous inner-workings of the United States government. The series went on to become a critical hit, nabbing over 15 Emmys during its seven season run, making it one of HBO"s most popular offerings in the 2010s. Iannucci has since spearheaded the sci-fi satire "Avenue 5" for the network. He's also dabbled with the silver screen, with his cinematic credits including the biting "The Death of Stalin," which comedically retells the aftermath of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death. After holding a mirror to the world of politics and space, Iannucci's next project is set to be super heroic in nature. This time, he's got a surprising collaborator for his next effort. 

Joining Iannucci for an HBO comedy is "1917" director Sam Mendes. With several Oscar nominations and over $3 billion worldwide in box office receipts (via The Numbers), Mendes stands out as a creative who is always worth watching. Mostly known for his dramatic offerings like "Jarhead" and the gritty "Skyfall," Mendes will be jumping into the world of comedy for HBO. With Iannucci, Mendes will bring "The Franchise" to life, a series which is set to be a scathing critique of the modern cinematic landscape.

When will The Franchise be released?

No premiere date has been set for "The Franchise" as of this writing. 

A report from Deadline in mid-December 2022 revealed that the pilot is moving forward at HBO with a confirmed cast. Cameras should begin rolling on the satire sometime in early to mid 2023. Should the pilot be a success, it's possible that the series could debut in late 2023 or early 2024.

This timeline should make sense considering Armando Iannucci doesn't seem to be occupied with "Avenue 5," his most recent HBO series. The sci-fi spectacle debuted in early 2020, with a second season releasing in 2022. While speculation suggested that Iannucci's collaboration with HBO would be coming to an end with its sophomore outing, the creator confirmed to Entertainment Weekly in October 2022 that the series still has some life in it. "We'll make more when we can corral everyone together again," Iannucci said regarding the HBO show's future. With a third season of "Avenue 5" in limbo, it's possible that Iannucci is focusing all his efforts on bringing "The Franchise" to life, fast tracking it for a late 2023 release.

Sam Mendes, as of this writing, doesn't have any publicly confirmed future projects besides "The Franchise." He most recently released "Empire of Light" in late 2022.

What is the plot of The Franchise?

Concrete plot details on "The Franchise" are slim but the general concept has been revealed, and it's something truly special. The HBO series is set to follow a crew of creatives who are "trapped" inside of the superhero movie-making machine. Finding it to be nonsensical and filled with misery, they hope to one day break out of it. The official logline for the pilot asks: "Is this Hollywood's new dawn or cinema's last stand? Is this a dream factory or a chemical plant?"

Variety says Sam Mendes came up with the idea and is the driving force behind the show. Mendes, who has helmed two "James Bond" films in the past, hasn't shied away from discussing his issues with superhero flicks, which have largely dominated the popular culture over the last decade.

While promoting "Skyfall" in 2012, the director revealed that he was offered the opportunity to submit a pitch for Marvel Studios' "The Avengers." While speaking with MovieFone (via /Film), Mendes confirmed that the packet he received didn't contain a script. It did, however, prominently feature the film's release date. "With a lot of these movies, the date's announced before anything exists, let alone a script," the "American Beauty" director said. "... I got a package, which was full of comic books, but no treatment; there was no script. But the cover letter said 'Marvel's 'Avengers' will be released on May 3, 2012' or whatever it was. That was the first sentence of the cover letter." No wonder Mendes feels disdain for the superhero movie making machine. 

Who is starring in The Franchise?

Sam Mendes and Armando Iannucci have tapped a slew of stars to headline the upcoming pilot. Deadline says that "Game Night" standout Billy Magnussen will play Adam. Magnussen was most recently seen in Disney's live-action "Aladdin" remake and "No Time To Die," the final "James Bond" film starring Daniel Craig. Joining Magnussen in "The Franchise" is Lolly Adefope. The English comedian was most notably seen in "Shrill" and has also lent her talents to the "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared" series. Adefope will play Dag. "W1A" actress Jessica Hynes has also been brought on board for the HBO series. She will play Steph in the pilot. Broadway sensation and "American Horror Story" regular Isaac Powell will star as Peter, while "Ozark" actor Darren Goldstein will appear as Pat. All the aforementioned actors have been brought on board as series regulars.

"Inglourious Basterds" actor Daniel Brühl has signed on as a recurring guest star. The actor, who has an occasional role as the villain Zemo in the "Captain America" franchise/larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, will star as Eric. Joining Brühl as a guest star is Richard E. Grant, who recently appeared in Marvel Studios' "Loki" as a variant of the titular trickster. Grant will star as Peter. No character descriptions have been released as of this writing.

Who is directing The Franchise?

Sam Mendes is on track to direct and produce the pilot. While Mendes has previously helmed television shows and programs in his native U.K., "The Franchise" will mark the first time he directs a U.S. series. Mendes' frequent collaborator Pippa Harris will also executive produce the series. She previously helped the director bring "Revolutionary Road" and the war action-drama "1917" to life.

Armando Iannucci will executive produce the series through his Dundee Productions banner. Surprisingly, Mendes and Iannucci won't serve as showrunners.

That distinction will go to Jon Brown, who has written the pilot. Brown, who will also serve as an executive producer, has worked with Iannucci extensively (via IMDB). The writer has penned several "Avenue 5" episodes and served as an associate producer on "Veep." Most notably, however, Brown has written multiple "Succession" episodes and continues to serve as a producer in various capacities.

There's no word yet on who will join "The Franchise's" writer's room.