EXCLUSIVE: Richard Branson, the entrepreneur who says he is two years away from launching the commercial space travel company Virgin Galactic Airways, wants to make a movie about a guy who could certainly relate to the ambition. Branson, who this summer launched the Virgin Produced banner as a joint venture with Relativity Media, is negotiating to acquire Columbus, a script by T.S. Nowlin that has McG attached to direct a 300-style film about Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America. The script went out last week and a deal’s in the works, sources said. The pic will be produced by McG, who’s currently directing the 20th Century Fox comedy This Means War with Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine.
Hollywood has stayed away from the Columbus story since a race to commemorate the 500th anniversary led to a pair of rival pics. Ridley Scott directed Gerard Depardieu as the explorer with Sigourney Weaver playing Queen Isabella in 1492: Conquest of Paradise, while John Glen directed Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, which was launched from a story by Mario Puzo, had Georges Corraface playing the explorer, Rachel Ward the queen, and a supporting cast that included Marlon Brando, Tom Selleck, and early turns from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Benicio Del Toro. Both pictures discovered the hard way that nobody cared about Columbus back then. With technological advances in visual effects and 3D, maybe a revisit will be different.
Branson’s Virgin Produced banner got off the tarmac with the untitled Kentucky Fried Movie-style R-rated raunchy $8 million budget comedy that continues to expand its all-star cast of actors and filmmakers. The pic, produced by Peter Farrelly, Charlie Wessler and John Penotti, is nearly done with its 18 segments. Farrelly (who already directed a segment with Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet that will be long remembered, trust me) has just signed on for a second, Truth Or Dare, that will star Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. Beyond the just-mentioned thesps, here’s the cast: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Jimmy Bennett, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Katrina Bowden, Gerard Butler, Bobby Cannavale, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, John Hodgman, Terrence Howard, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Aasif Mandvi, Jack McBrayer, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Julianne Moore, Chloe Moretz, Chris Pratt, Liev Schreiber, Seann William Scott, Tony Shalhoub, JB Smoove, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Matt Walsh, Patrick Warburton, Naomi Watts and Anton Yelchin.