EXCLUSIVE: Former Heroes star Hayden Panettiere is heading back to primetime with a starring role in ABC’s drama pilot Nashville. Written by Callie Khouri, directed by R.J. Cutler and produced by Lionsgate and ABC Studios, Nashville is described as a family soap about love, country music, family, politics and sex set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. It centers on 40-year-old Nashville superstar Rayna James who is stunned to find that her star is fading and her label requires her to team up with teen sensation Juliette Barnes (Panettiere) on tour–or else face the loss of her own tour and the label’s promotion of her latest record, whose sales have been underwhelming. On Nashville, Panettiere, repped by WME and Brookside Artist Management, joins previously cast Robert Wisdom, Powers Boothe, Clare Bowen and Jonathan Jackson. The actress, best known for her role as cheerleader Claire Bennett on the NBC drama Heroes, recently toplined the Lifetime telefilm Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial In Italy and co-starred in the feature Scream 4. In addition to acting, Panettiere also has done singing on the side, recording several songs. Here is the music video for her debut single, the 2008 Wake Up Call:
EXCLUSIVE: Fox 2000 has set Downton Abbey helmer Brian Percival to direct The Book Thief, the Michael Petroni-scripted adaptation of the Marcus Zusak novel that has been on the Children’s Chapter Paperback New York Times bestseller list for 228 weeks. Twilight Saga‘s Karen Rosenfelt is producing, and a summer production start is being eyed. The WWII story involves Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich who survives by stealing books. Aided by her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with neighbors during bombing raids. One of those who benefits from the books is the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. The helmer’s repped by Gotham Group and Independent Talent in the UK.
Weeds alumna Elizabeth Perkins is set to star opposite Sarah Chalke in Claudia Lonow’s ABC comedy pilot How to Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life. The multi-camera/hybrid comedy, from 20th TV and Imagine, centers on Polly (Chalke), a recently divorced single mom, who moves in with her eccentric parents, Elaine (Perkins) and Max, a couple who’s full of life but knows no boundaries. I hear that the role, originally written a bit older, has been reworked for Perkins. Perkins, repped by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment, got 3 pilot offers this season. In an interesting twist, her decision came down to How To Live With Your Parents and Lonow’s other ABC comedy pilot, Counter Culture. Perkins’ five-year run on Showtime’s Weeds earned her 3 Emmy noms.
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Nolan has just left CAA, in the wake of the firing of Dan Aloni. A source close to the situation tells me that Nolan and his producer/wife Emma Thomas, will be going wherever Aloni lands. This makes Aloni a prime commodity in the marketplace, whether he goes to an agency like WME or becomes a manager. I broke the story earlier today when CAA abruptly fired Aloni, on the grounds that he didn’t mesh with the agency’s culture. Nolan directed the three Batman films as well as Inception. He also produced Superman film Man of Steel. He’s a billion dollar director that any agency would kill to represent. Nolan is only 41 and he’s going to make a lot more movies.
I’d heard early today that while CAA tried to keep Nolan in the fold, the agency more or less expected this might happen. The agency is due about $12 million in commissions from past and upcoming film deals brokered for Nolan, which cushioned the blow somewhat. What a crazy development this has been. Nolan’s move underscores what I’ve heard about Aloni: he can be a prick with co-workers, but he kills for his clients and they are loyal in return. I’m waiting to see if Aloni’s other clients feel the same. Aside from the directors I mentioned earlier, he’s got Jay Roach and David Dobkin, and producers like Neal …
Veteran Christpher Lloyd has been tapped to star opposite John Leguizamo and Dustin Ybarra in ABC’s multicamera comedy pilot Only Fools And Horses. Based on the British format, the multicamera comedy chronicles the misadventures of two streetwise brothers, Del (Leguizamo) and Rodney (Ybarra), and their aging grandfather (Lloyd) as they concoct outrageous, morally questionable get-rich-quick schemes in their quest to become millionaires. Also cast in the pilot is BJ Bales (Happy Endings) as Trigger, a ghetto-talking con man who is Del and Rodney’s perpetual enemy. Lloyd is with Gersh and Freedman Management; Bales is with APA and Principato-Young,
Majandra Delfino (The Great State Of Georgia) has been cast in ABC’s single-camera pilot starring Mandy Moore and directed by Shawn Levy. The project, written by Bob Fisher and Stacy Traub, centers on newlyweds Annie (Moore) and Ben, who get the opportunity of a lifetime to run a hip, new restaurant in Annie’s hometown bringing her closer to her needy and high-maintenance family. APA-repped Delfino will play one of Annie’s sisters, who is divorced and living at home. 20th Century Fox TV is producing with Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein’s studio-based banner.
EXCLUSIVE: Almost a decade after Romeo Miller first teamed with Tom Lynch for the Nickelodeon series Romeo!, the actor/rapper is back in business with the pre-eminent producer of comedy series for the tween and teen set. The two are collaborating on RESQ3, a high-school show that focuses on teen social issues. The musical sitcom with drama elements features Miller and his new rap/rock band RESQ3, including drummer Christian Brock and guitarist/vocalist Myles Eberhardt. ”It’s the first teen TV show with a Hip Hop, Rock and Pop sound,” Miller said. RESQ3 is produced by the Tom Lynch Co., which is financing the production of a pilot in the fall. The show has already been sold in several international markets, while talks with U.S. networks are underway. Nickelodeon and its sibling networks would be a natural home, having aired Miller/Lynch’s Romeo! as well as most other series produced by Lynch. “It’s great to be back in business with Romeo,” Lynch said. “From 2003 to 2006 we had a #1 series on Nickelodeon, and with Romeo’s experience, poised acting skills, comedic timing, built-in fan base, and musical success, we are expecting to repeat history with another hit TV show.” Romeo is currently filming Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection and will go on tour with RESQ3 in April.
EXCLUSIVE: Another movie has gotten an NC-17. Killer Joe, the Billy Friedkin-directed adaptation of the Tracy Letts play just got an NC-17 rating. That is one of the first releases by LD Entertainment, the new distribution company started by Mickey Liddell and run by David Dinerstein. They will appeal the rating and it’s unusual; Letts is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning playwright of August: Osage County.This one is a garish, sexy black comedy that stars Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gerson and Thomas Haden Church and it’s slated for a summer release.
The pic premiered at Venice and it has been called Tennessee Williams meets Quentin Tarantino. It played Toronto, where it was acquired by LD, and will makes its US premiere at SXSW. It’s racy and violent, but LD thinks it’s an R film. “We will use our best efforts to overturn this decision,” Dinerstein said. “We stand by our filmmakers and remain faithful to their visions.” Stay tuned.
EXCLUSIVE: After a decade at Warner Bros TV, writer-producer Rina Mimoun is moving to ABC Studios where she has signed a two-year overall deal. Under the rich seven-figure pact, Mimoun will develop new projects for the studio and join its upcoming series Mistresses as an executive producer. The soap, based on the British format, was recently given a straight-to-series order for a summer 2013 launch. It was written by The Nine co-creator KJ Steinberg, who is executive producing with Bob Sertner, Ecosse Films’ Douglas Rae and now Mimoun. With Steinberg busy working on her ABC/ABC Studios pilot Gilded Lilys, Mimoun and Sertner will oversee day-to-day operations on Mistresses for the time being. Mimoun’s deal with ABC Studios starts in June, but I hear she is been loaned out by Warner Bros TV so that she can start work on Mistresses right away.
UPDATE: Nicollette Sheridan Will Be First On Stand As ‘Desperate Housewives’ Trial Wraps Opening Statements
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
3RD UPDATE, 4:35 PM: Stephen McPherson killed Edie Britt. That’s according to defense lawyer Adam Levin in his opening statement late this afternoon. Levin claims that the former ABC Entertainment president gave Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer Cherry the OK to kill off Nicollette Sheridan’s character on the series — months before an alleged head-slapping incident between the actress and Cherry. Levin told jurors that on May 22, 2008, Cherry along with fellow Housewives exec producer Bob Daily went to then-ABC Studios boss Pedowitz and asked him if they could kill off Sheridan’s character in a “tentpole” Season 5 story arc. Pedowitz agreed, and that same day the group went to McPherson with the idea. “The evidence will show,” Levin said, “that Mr. McPherson agreed”. Along with Sheridan and Cherry, who were both in court today, Pedowitz, Daily and McPherson are scheduled to testify in the two-week trial. “People die all the time on television”, Levin said, citing the collective decision. “It can increase buzz and revenue”. Levin also all but claimed that Sheridan’s assertion that Cherry hit her on set in September 2008 was the actress attempting to generate buzz and revenue for herself. Sheridan, “suffered no injury” when Cherry “lightly tapped” her on the head while giving her on-set direction that day. “She didn’t even have a red mark; she didn’t even take an aspirin,” Levin told the jury, dismissing the plaintiff’s contention that the actress was “hit hard,” as her lawyer claimed earlier. “The evidence will show she went to her trailer and the first call she made was to check her voicemail”. Concluded Levin: “Ms. Sheridan was not battered nor wrongfully terminated”. The trial continues Thursday.
2ND UPDATE, 4:15 PM: Both opening arguments have ended. Sheridan is schedule to be the first witness on the stand tomorrow morning at 9:15 and is expected to testify all day Thursday and the entire half-day session Friday.
Dane Cook is set to star in the NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot Next Caller Please. The Lionsgate/Universal TV project, written by Stephen Falk, centers on Cam Doherty (Cook), a brash, hard-drinking, no-filter maverick DJ of a satellite radio show whose world is rocked with the arrival of perky, feminist new on-air co-host Stella Stoobler (Collette Wolfe). Cook’s casting stems from the NBC development deal he signed last fall. Cook most recently guest starred on the FX comedy Louie and appeared in the features Answers to Nothing, Detention and Guns and Girls & Gambling. UTA-repped Cook has a very successful stand-up career: He has sold out arena venues such as Madison Square Garden and Staples Center, released several multi-platinum comedy albums and DVDs and starred in a slew of cable standup specials.
EXCLUSIVE: Simon & Schuster has moved the publication date of the Don Winslow novel The Kings Of Cool from fall to June 26. The move was made to bring the book closer to the launch of Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of Winslow’s novel that stars Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively. The Kings Of Cool is a prequel to Savages. After seeing Stone’s cut, Universal Pictures moved Savages from September 28 to July 6, where the film’s summer setting seemed more appropriate and because it seemed like a neat counterprogramming to some of those summer behemoths. S&S is also releasing the Savages movie tie-in novel May 29, and the trade paperback movie tie-in novel on June 5.
The high-profile documentary directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) debuted at the recent Sundance Film Festival. Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson produced the film with first-time producers Damien Echols (a subject of the film) and Lorri Davis. West Of Memphis centers on the new investigation surrounding the the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in the town of West Memphis, Ark., that ultimately broke the case open and led to the release of the so-called West Memphis 3 — Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. The film examines the flawed police investigation and reveals personal insight into Echols’ fight to save his own life from Death Row. SPC negotiated the deal with Jackson and Walsh’s manager, Ken Kamins, who also serves as the film’s executive producer. Sony Pictures Classics has previously worked with Kamins on John Boorman’s The General.
Justified alumna Natalie Zea has joined Fox’s untitled Kevin Williamson drama pilot. The project, from Warner Bros TV, is a thriller about ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) who leads the search to catch diabolical serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has created a cult of serial killers. Zea will play Claire Matthews, Carroll’s ex-wife who finds herself in the middle of a nightmare when he escapes from prison. Zea, repped by UTA and manager Robert Semon, has been hot coming off 3 seasons on the FX drama Justified, fielding multiple pilot offers until settling on Kevin Williamson. Her series credits also include Hung and Californication. Zea is the second Justified alumna to book a broadcast pilot today. A few hours ago, Margo Mortindale landed a lead in the ABC comedy Counter Culture.
The Wire alum Robert Wisdom has been cast in ABC’s drama pilot Nashville. Written by Oscar winner Callie Khouri, directed by R.J. Cutler and produced by Lionsgate and ABC Studios, Nashville is described as a family soap about love, country music, family, politics and sex set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. Wisdom, repped by by The Kohner Agency and KLWGN, will play Coleman Caldwell, a charismatic candidate for the next mayor of Nashville. He was most recently seen in Rampart.
EXCLUSIVE: With two drama series orders under its belt, Hannibal at NBC and Hemlock Grove at Netflix, five-month-old Gaumont International Television is staffing up. The company, a Los Angeles-based TV production division of French movie studio Gaumont, has hired veteran executives Elisa Roth, Marc Hirschfeld and Andy House in top executive positions under Gaumont CEO Katie O’Connell and COO Richard Frankie. This marks a reunion for O’Connell, Roth and Hirschfeld who worked together at NBC as head of departments: NBC drama (O’Connell), Universal TV drama (Roth) NBC/Universal casting (Hirschfeld). All 3 left in the big executive shakeup at the network in December 2008.
At GIT, House will serve as Head of Production, Elisa Roth as Head of Creative Affairs and Marc Hirschfeld will supervise casting. Also on board is Alison Engel as VP of Creative Affairs. “As part of our growth strategy it was the perfect time to bring Andy, Elisa and Marc on board,” said O’Connell, while Franke called them “highly respected senior television executives with deep relationships in the global television community.” The deal with Hirschfeld is non-exclusive.
EXCLUSIVE: Radius-TWC, the upstart distribution company that The Weinstein Company started with Tom Quinn and Jason Janego at the helm, is in negotiations to acquire U.S. distribution rights to Only God Forgives, the re-team of Drive helmer Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling that is getting underway in Thailand. I’m hearing that the negotiation is in the range of a $2.5 million minimum guarantee.
It is the second recent deal that Quinn and Janego made that involved Refn, after Radius acquired a remake of Pusher, the first film that Refn directed. Only God Forgives was a surprise entry in the marketplace. It was all but acquired last summer by Drive distributor FilmDistrict, but the deal never closed. The distributor didn’t see eye to eye with the filmmakers, and it once again became available. CBS Films, which just turned the acquisition The Woman In Black into a hit, was among the other suitors, I’ve heard.
Radius’s multi-platform strategy seems ideal for this picture, a hard R drama which has way more explosive violence than Drive. Gosling plays the son of a Florida-based crime syndicate boss (Kristen Scott Thomas), who is plying the drug trade in Thailand with his brother. When his addicted sibling gets involved in a murder and gets tangled up with a cop who calls himself the Angel of Vengeance, Gosling’s character, who is proficient in mixed martial arts, …
In his first executive hire, NBC Entertainment’s EVP Communications Richard Licata has brought in a former member of his team at Showtime. Dianne Hatlestad, who exited Showtime in the recent restructuring of the network’s communications department under new head Trisha Cardoso, has joined her old boss as VP Talent Management, NBC Entertainment. She will oversee the integration of program-related talent throughout all promotional arms of NBC Entertainment. Hatlestad, who will report to Rebecca Marks, EVP NBC Entertainment Publicity, spent the last six years at Showtime, where she served as Director, Talent Relations. “Dianne’s expertise in talent relations is second to none,” said Licata. “She has a miraculous way of balancing the needs of the network and the artists who produce the shows — critical skills in shaping a brand.” Hatlestad is the latest Showtime executive to migrate to NBC, joining NBC topper Bob Greenblatt, Licata and head of marketing Len Fogge.
If you were watching the Oscar Red Carpet arrivals on Sunday, you saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s character from The Dictator get handled roughly by two burly security guys after dumping what he said were the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il over Ryan Seacrest’s tuxedo. It looked like he was going to be carted off in handcuffs, but what happened after?
Baron Cohen wasn’t removed. He was merely hustled away from the ash-covered Seacrest, and while he was relieved of his urn, Baron Cohen continued to parade in character for a quarter mile of Red Carpet soundbites. He didn’t attend the Oscars, but that wasn’t the Academy’s choice. I’m told the Academy bent over backwards to welcome Baron Cohen. Aside from okaying his Dictator garb choice, they set aside a dressing room so that he could change into a tux after and attend the ceremony. Once he completed that lap, Baron Cohen then entered the dressing room and emerged in his tux. But he did not use the Oscar tickets; he ducked out, got in a limo and headed right over to Vanity Fair’s viewing dinner party at the Tower Hotel. He never even sat down in the auditorium.
EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Zegers has been cast as the lead in the independent film The Colony, directed by Jeff Renfroe. Renfroe co-wrote the script with Patrick Tarr and Pascal Trottier. Zegers, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton star in the feature about a small group of survivors in the aftermath of a future Ice Age who live underground fighting for their lives in a society that disintegrates into cannibalism and violence. Paul Barkin will produce. Zegers recently completed filming on the 12-part, $28 million British miniseries Titanic: Blood & Steel alongside Chris Noth, Derek Jacobi and Neve Campbell. His credits include Transamerica and 50 Dead Men Walking, in which he starred with Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess. He is repped by ICM.