EXCLUSIVE: New Regency, RatPac Entertainment and Plan B have acquired 3 Videotapes, a pitch by Ian McCulloch that puts both companies in the low-budget genre game. The film is an elevated thriller with aspects of The Ring and Memento. RatPac’s Brett Ratner is executive producer. New Regency’s Arnon Milchan and Brad Weston brought in Plan B last fall after they collaborated on Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave. They recently acquired The Operators, which will be developed as a star vehicle for Brad Pitt with Animal Kingdom helmer David Michôd to write and direct The latter project is also being done with RatPac, with Pitt producing with his Plan B partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, and Ratner exec producing. WME reps McCulloch.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Commit To September Start For New Regency’s ‘The Revenant’
EXCLUSIVE: Leonardo DiCaprio has committed to star this September in The Revenant, a gritty thriller that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will direct for New Regency, for fall 2015 release through Fox. Gonzalez Inarritu and Mark L. Smith co-wrote the script. DiCaprio had been attached to team with Gonzalez Inarritu, but he is attached to many projects; getting the star to commit off his Oscar-nominated The Wolf Of Wall Street performance is a big development for Arnon Milchan and Brad Weston’s game plan to make tasteful, star- and director-driven fare.
Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin, Keith Redmon and David Kanter will produce with Gonzalez Iñárritu, Milchan and James Skotchdopole. Brett Ratner and Paul Green are exec producers. The film will be co-financed by RatPac and Worldview Entertainment, latter of which just partnered with Regency and Fox Searchlight in the Inarritu-directed Birdman, which was just set for release on October 17.
An adaptation of the Michael Punke novel The Revenant: A Novel Of Revenge, Inarritu Gonzalez’s next film will star DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a 19th century fur trapper who gets mauled by a grizzly bear, and then is left for dead by cohorts who rob him. When he survives, he is as pissed as a bee-stung bear and sets out on a treacherous journey to exact revenge on those who betrayed him. Sean Penn had been circling as one of those bad guys, but he won’t be in the film.
EXCLUSIVE: On the eve of its publication, Harlan Coben‘s new mystery novel Missing You has been acquired in a preemptive screen rights deal by Warner Bros and RatPac Entertainment. The book is published tomorrow by Dutton. For RatPac, Brett Ratner will produce and John Cheng and James Packer will be exec producers.
In Coben’s latest, a New York City Police Department detective named Kat Donovan is exploring a dating website and discovers the profile and photo of the ex-fiance who dumped her 18 years ago. She soon she begins to unravel an intricate catfish scheme led by a brilliant and calculating killer. Coben, whose page-turners get better and better and whose last six novels debuted atop The New York Times Bestseller list, seems poised to finally pop on the big screen. Besides Missing You, his novel Tell No One is being adapted by Argo scribe Chris Terrio for Universal and director Gavin O’Connor; Six Years is at Paramount with Mark Gordon producing and Hugh Jackman attached to star, with Jonathan Stokes adapting. Coben made a deal with Lawrence Kasdan directly to team on the Coben novel Stay Close, until that process slowed when Kasdan got the call to return to draft the new Star Wars movie for J.J. Abrams to direct.
Missing You was brought in Chantal Nong, the first major project for her since being minted VP Production. …
EXCLUSIVE: Joseph Fiennes has been set to star with Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving in Strangerland, the Kim Farrant-directed film that shoots in Australia. He replaces Guy Pearce, who dropped from the project. The mystery revolves around a couple whose teen kids turn up missing in the Outback. Script is by Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons. Pic was written about by my old Variety pal Patrick Frater last fall, and he said that its financing came from Screen Australia, the Irish Film Board and equity financier Worldview Entertainment, with Wild Bunch selling international territories.
Fiennes will next be seen in the Brett Ratner-directed Hercules, which stars Dwayne Johnson. Fiennes is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and UK-based The Artists Partnership.
EXCLUSIVE: Martin Sheen has joined the cast of Warren Beatty‘s untitled Howard Hughes project, the script of which is being kept tightly under wraps. Sheen and Beatty are old friends but this is the first time they’ve worked together. Sheen, who will next be seen opposite Rooney Mara in Stephen Daldry’s Trash, been on and off the set for director Beatty, who is also producing and plays Howard Hughes. The story centers Hughes’ assistant (played by Alden Ehrenreich) and his love interest (Lily Collins). The pic, known around town as the untitled Warren Beatty project, also includes Annette Bening and Matthew Broderick.
The project was funded by billionaires Ron Burkle, Steve Bing, Windsor Media’s Terry Semel, Arnon Milchan’s New Regency and James Packer and Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment. It’s a $26.7M negative. Ratner and Beatty are producing with Packer exec producing.
Before tonight’s Academy Awards, catch up on the top stories you missed this week on Deadline:
Oscars Finally Here – Record Voting Turnout According To Academy But What Does It All Mean?
By Pete Hammond – The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick as Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.
OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
By Pete Hammond – With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important.
Relativity’s sketch comedy pic Movie 43 tied with Sony’s Will Smith starrer After Earth tonight at the 34th Golden Raspberry Awards “honoring” the worst movies and performances of the year. Worst Picture winner Movie 43‘s trio of Razzies include Worst Director Honors for a whopping 13 directors including Peter Farrelly, Elizabeth Banks, Brett Ratner, and Bob Odenkirk, with the Razzie for Worst Screenplay split between the anthology’s 29 screenwriters. After Earth took home Worst Supporting Actor for Will Smith and Worst Lead Actor for son Jaden, who also teamed up to nab the Razzie for Worst Screen Combo. Votes were culled online from 800 voting members with additional Razzies going to Tyler Perry (Worst Actress, A Madea Christmas), Kim Kardashian (Worst Supporting Actress, Tyler Perry’s Temptation), and Disney’s big budget bomb The Lone Ranger (Worst Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel). Meanwhile, six-time Razzie winner Adam Sandler was nominated this year in two categories for comedy sequel Grown Ups 2 while Sylvester Stallone was nominated for three pics from 2013, but both went home empty-handed.
Warren Beatty’s Untitled Howard Hughes Pic Finally Takes Flight Financed By Billionaire Boys’ Club; Ehrenreich, Collins To Star In Love Story; Bening And Broderick Also In
EXCLUSIVE: It took two decades, but it’s finally getting off the ground thanks to billionaires Ron Burkle and Steve Bing, Windsor Media’s Terry Semel, Arnon Milchan’s New Regency and James Packer’s and Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment. The heavies have come together to finance Warren Beatty’s long-gestating Howard Hughes-based project. The roughly $26.7M production, which Beatty will direct and star in as Hughes, will revolve around Hughes’ assistant (Alden Ehrenreich, Beautiful Creatures) and his love interest (Lily Collins, Mirror, Mirror). New Regency, Beatty and Ratner are producing, with Packer executive producing. Regency will handle foreign through Fox. They’ve already shot a small amount of film on the picture, but it starts rolling in earnest today. Beatty’s wife Annette Bening and Matthew Broderick and other surprises are expected (a la Jack Nicholson, maybe? One can only hope). The focus of the film is the love story of the two younger characters.
EXCLUSIVE: It may have taken him 15 years to get there, but Edward Norton will star in and direct Motherless Brooklyn, his scripted adaptation inspired by the Jonathan Lethem novel. Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment have stepped up to fully finance the film for a late 2014 production start in New York. Ratner will join Norton and his Class 5 Films’ cohort William Migliore as producers, and Packer will be executive producer with Class 5’s Stuart Blumberg.
While Lethem’s novel is contemporary, Norton has set the story in New York in 1954, a time of great change in the city. He plays Lionel Essrog, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, who tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend. Armed only with few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel slowly unravels closely guarded secrets that have major ramifications. It leads him through Harlem jazz clubs, Brooklyn slums and sets him against thugs and Gotham power brokers to honor his friend and save a woman who might his own salvation.
This will be Norton’s second time behind the camera after he made his debut on Keeping The Faith. He set this up at New Line as the book was published, right after Norton got an Oscar nomination there for his mesmerizing performance in American History X. Norton currently stars in the Wes Anderson-directed The Grand Budapest Hotel, and most recently wrapped the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed comedy Birdman, both for Fox Searchlight. He’s repped by UTA and attorney Robert Offer.
Atlas Independent has set Ian McShane to star with Patrick Wilson in The Man On Carrion Road, which Open Grave’s Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego will direct based on Nils Lyew’s script. McShane will play an aging retired Sheriff of a small border town with violent tendencies. He teams with the town’s new sheriff (Wilson) to stop a mysterious cartel butcher who’s brutalizing the town’s residents. William Green, Aaron Ginsburg, and Andy Horwitz will produce through Atlas Independent, an offshoot of Charles Roven’s Atlas Entertainment. MICA Entertainment is financing with Relativity International selling the picture overseas. Production begins in April in Utah.
McShane just wrapped the Brett Ratner-directed Hercules and will next be seen in the comedy Cuban Fury. Pic comes after the William Monahan-directed Mojave with Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, also a collaboration between Atlas Independent, MICA Entertainment and Relativity International. McShane is represented by ICM, Independent Talent, Gallant Management and Nelson Davis Wetzstein.
Tom Sherak probably has a couple of words of advice for God about how he could improve things in heaven, Rabbi Uri Herscher told a packed Temple Aliyah today during Sherak’s memorial service. “And God should listen,” Sherak’s longtime friend added to hearty laughter from the more than 1,000 mourners attending the funeral in Woodland Hills, CA. The laughter was welcomed in a moving morning funeral that saw his widow Madeline, daughters Melissa and Barbara, and daughter-in-law Ginger speak of the loss of the man they loved so deeply. Madeline Sherak brought many of her husband’s fellow Hollywood power players and family friends to tears as she spoke of the life she and the former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president built from their meeting on a blind date in 1967 to his death Tuesday. She said how at peace Sherak was in his final days and how he told her he was “happy.”
Related: Tom Sherak: “It’s About Love”
Sherak’s children memorialized their father, sharing personal moments and remembrances — from how he, as “Papa,” interacted with his 10 grandchildren and the moments of laughter and love between them all. He would say, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and keep repeating until the little one said, “I know Papa.” All of them spoke about the unconditional love Tom and Madeline had for each other.
Madeline Sherak also spoke about how the couple’s numbers were 22 and 18: They met on the 22nd of the month and were married on the 22nd when Tom was 22 years old and she was 18. Madeline said Tom told his parents that he knew he was going to marry her after their first date. Madeleine’s tears came as she said she would miss having his arms wrapped around her.
EXCLUSIVE: Iconic Hollywood producer and former studio head Robert Evans has partnered with Television 360 to develop a pay cable TV series about Hollywood in the 1970s. They’ve made a deal with Fox 21, and Evans is exec producing with Guymon Casady, Dean Schnider, Scott Lambert and Brett Ratner. They are out to writers right now. The vision of the series is much darker than the contemporary inside Hollywood depicted in Entourage. Set in the ’70s with a creative tone similar to Casino, it involves the last days before studios were taken over by conglomerates, when they were run by wily entrepreneurs, and where there was a mob influence, drugs, sex, excess, casting couches, and some of the best movies made in the 20th century. The protagonist is an outsider who against the odds rises to become a king in Hollywood in a tale of power, legacy, and the American dream.
The series isn’t based on Evans — real anecdotes will be used in a fictitious storyline — but everyone who either read or, better yet, heard him read the audio of The Kid Stays In The Picture knows that Evans started as an actor and rose to the top of Paramount Pictures when that studio was nearly out on its feet. He, with a scrappy team of execs that included my former Variety editor Peter Bart, saved the studio by making classics including …
Esquire network has started production on a new series with Joel Silver, “My Friends Call Me Johnny” — an interview show hosted by Jean Pigozzi, Esquire Network president, Adam Stotsky announced this afternoon at Winter TV Press Tour 2014. It’ll be different from all the other interview shows because Pigozzi will travel the globe to ask the most personal questions of his celebrity friends, including Michael Douglas, Brett Ratner, Calvin Klein, and Martha Stewart, among others.
Stotsky also wanted TV critics to know that in its first 16 weeks on the air, Esquire network has transitioned from a 20% male audience for Style, to 60% male for Esquire, exceeding the network’s audience composition goals. This proves, Stotsky said, the network is moving in the right direction and, to that end, they’ve ordered second seasons on the following:
· KNIFE FIGHT: Executive produced by Flower Films and Authentic Entertainment, and hosted by chef Ilan Hall, KNIFE FIGHT is an underground cooking competition featuring mystery ingredients, a one-hour time limit and a crowd of die-hard foodies. Twenty-four half-hour episodes are expected to premiere in 2nd Quarter 2014.
· BREW DOGS: Scottish rebels James Watt and Martin Dickie are returning to America to spread their love of craft beer. They’re touring the country, celebrating our finest craft breweries and creating some truly unique brews of their own. Ten one-hour episodes have been ordered from Custom Productions and Redtail Media for 2nd Quarter 2014.
· BOUNDLESS: To conquer the world’s most intense endurance competitions, athleticism and willpower
Brett Ratner came to Winter TV Press Tour 2014 to talk about his ESPN soccer documentary and to remind TV critics the Hercules movie that just opened anemically at the box office is not his Dwayne Johnson-starring Hercules movie.
“I honestly feel ESPN is one of the greatest brands” enthused Ratner, who shared the stage with documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney and ESPN Films director of development Libby Geist.
Ratner said he’s been obsessed with the sports network’s 30 for 30 documentary franchise and had been trying to find a way to get involved when someone at his company hit on an idea. “One of my passions and one of the opportunities that I’ve never gotten is to make a film that has Nazis in them. All my contemporaries, from Quentin Tarantino to, you know, obviously Spielberg, and all these guys have made their Nazi film, and I haven’t been able to tackle it yet.”
EXCLUSIVE: Fresh from completing the Biblical epic Noah with Russell Crowe, Darren Aronofsky has set his Protozoa Pictures to new three-year first look deals to develop film and TV projects. Aronofsky has made a feature deal with New Regency, which backed his film The Fountain as well as Noah. Aronofsky has set his first ever TV deal with HBO, where Protozoa will develop material for Aronofsky to direct and for the company to produce.
Noah, which New Regency made in partnership with Paramount Pictures, will be released March 28. This marks the second major talent deal made by Arnon Milchan’s financier/production company under Brad Weston, after Brad Pitt last month moved his Plan B producing banner from Paramount and into a 3-year deal with New Regency (which co-financed Plan B’s 12 Years A Slave) and RatPac partners James Packer and Brett Ratner. Noah was Aronofsky’s first film since he helmed the sleeper blockbuster Black Swan. The deal was confirmed for Deadline and Aronofsky issued this statement:
Year-End: Hollywood Film Biz Still Cautious, But Slow Boat To China Speeding Up After Busy & Edifying 2013
While Hollywood continues figuring out how to do business in China, and execs remain cautious, there is a sense that 2013 was a tipping point in the complex relationship between the world’s two box office leaders. As Hollywood’s focus turns to maximizing global grosses, the town is increasingly looking for ways to cozy up to the territory that adds 10 theaters a day to service its 1.3B+ population. And China is also strongly courting Hollywood. In September, Wanda’s Wang Jianlin unveiled ambitious plans to bring the industry closer to the Mainland and emphasized China’s place at the center of the global biz, urging players to cooperate for a piece of the pie. Then, at November’s U.S./China Film Summit in L.A., China Film Co-Production Company’s Zhang Xun offered, “We have a huge market and we want to share it with you.” Here’s a look at some of the key happenings in China in 2013 and a taste of what to look out for in the coming year:
Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a mostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.
Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:
*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.
*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating a big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.
*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down, a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.
Paramount will distribute the film worldwide theatrically and on home video while MGM will handle select international territories. MGM/United Artists paired on the first movie in 2010 which grossed $50.3 million domestically, a mild success theatrically but the pic did well digitally and on demand. Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke return for the sequel, along with Steve Pink who directs from a screenplay by Josh Heald. Adam Scott also stars. In the sequel, when Lou (Corddry) finds himself in trouble, Nick (Robinson) and Jacob (Duke) fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future. Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past… which is really the present. The pic is produced by Andrew Panay. It’s slated for a 2014 release. MGM and Paramount have partnered on several projects including the upcoming Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner, due for release July 25, 2014 as well as G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
EXCLUSIVE: Radical Studios has signed with CAA as the company builds itself in film, TV, publishing and interactive. The venture, founded by Barry Levine and Jesse Berger, has created print intellectual properties that already have translated to other platforms. It has more than 40 titles and 1000 characters, and came out of the gate with the Tom Cruise-starrer Oblivion – which began as a Radical Publishing graphic novel from an idea by Joseph Kosinski, who directed the film. Radical has wrapped its second intellectual property transfer, the Brett Ratner-directed Hercules with Dwayne Johnson for MGM/Paramount, which the latter releases next July. That was based on the Radical Publishing comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Radical recently set a multimillion-dollar China-based joint venture with Le Vision Pictures which enables the company to access stories, talent and distribution through the partnership. First project in that venture is Mandate Of Heaven, which was formerly developed under the title Clans Of The Sacred Stone.