With less than a month until the upfronts, we’re kicking off our annual Pilot Buzz series. As usual, the first edition only includes a limited number of projects that have been garnering early attention as many pilots are still filming. So, if a pilot is not mentioned, it probably means it is too early to weigh in or the feedback I’ve received is inconclusive at this time.
Shonda Rhimes. Viola Davis. Need we say more? ABC’s sexy suspense legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder, executive produced by Rhimes and starring Davis, is packing some heat early on. Secret & Lies starring Ryan Phillippe also is getting encouraging early response. It also has a seven-figure penalty and is directed by Charles McDougall, whose strong pilot record includes Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife and most recently, Resurrection last season. Then there is Marvel’s stealth Agent Carter project. Last year, the company went into Fort Knox mode on its Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, which was kept under lock and key. They took that a notch further this year with Agent Carter. Because there is a prototype — the project is inspired by a one shot, which was featured on the Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3 — word has been that it would forgo a pilot and go straight to series. The script was finished more than three months ago (“the script is great,” ABC’s Paul Lee said back in January), the option on one-shot’s star Hayley Atwell came up and was extended, but the green light never came. Now there is talk that a pickup for Agent Carter may come along with a renewal for Marvel’s freshman Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with the new series possibly serving as a bridge between the fall and spring portions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also getting various level of early traction at ABC is mystery Sea of Fire and several dark horses, alien drama The Whispers (aka The Visitors), medical drama The Warriors and mystery Clementine. Read More »
XYZ Films has joined Spanish-language actioner Redeemer as executive producer and sales agent. The movie, Redentor in Spanish, stars Chile’s Marko Zaror (Expendables 2, Machete Kills). He’s teaming for the fourth time with writer director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. This time around, the story follows a former hitman who has made a deal with God: Every day he will hold a gun to his own head and pull the trigger; each time he does not die, he will take it as a sign that he is meant to continue hunting down the men he used to work for. Principal photography starts on March 24 in Chile. Zaror is a highly trained martial artist across multiple disciplines who performs all of his own fight and stunt work without any wires or CGI tricks. Espinoza recently was editor on Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno and his credits as director also include Kiltro, The ABCs Of Death anthology and Bring Me The Head Of The Machine Gun Woman. Espinoza, Zaror and Diego Moral Heimpell are producers. Read More »
The Sam Mendes-directed West End musical Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which recently extended its run to May 20, 2015, tied today with the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along to lead the list of Olivier Award nominees with seven each. Charlie grabbed mentions in the Best Actor in a Musical category for Douglas Hodge as well as Best New Musical, among others. The show, from Warner Bros Theatrical Ventures, has twice broken records during its run for the highest weekly gross sales. The other Best New Musical nominees include Once, The Book Of Mormon and The Scottsboro Boys; each received six nominations. In the acting categories, Tom Hiddleston is cited for his lead turn in Coriolanus and Jude Law for his take on Henry V. Judi Dench in Peter And Alice, is up against Hayley Atwell, Anna Chancellor and Lesley Manville for Best Actress. The Olivier Awards ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Opera House on April 13. Click over for a full list of nominations: Read More »
Universal’s May comedy Neighbors, David Gordon Green’s Nic Cage starrer Joe, and Mike Myers’ directorial debut docu Supermensch are just a few of the newly announced titles set to screen at SXSW 2014, which debuted its full Features line-up today. They join previously announced opener Chef, from Jon Favreau, the world premiere of the Veronica Mars movie in a slate packed with over 115 features, 76 world premieres, 10 North American premieres, including the latest films from Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Dance of Reality), Jason Bateman (Bad Words), Nacho Vigalondo (Open Windows), a special screening of 1954′s original Gojira with Q&A with Godzilla remake helmer Gareth Edwards, and a rare Texas appearance by UT grad Wes Anderson who will present his new film Grand Budapest Hotel in an extended Q&A session.
Related: Jon Favreau’s ‘Chef’ To Open SXSW; ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie Among Premieres
In recent years SXSW has increased its television-focused programming, debuting SXSW alum Lena Dunham‘s Girls in 2012 and presenting a Bates Motel panel in 2013. This year the Austin film fest is introducing an entire Episodic programming section devoted to small screen works. In addition to a previously announced screening of Fox’s COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Episodic section will include Hulu and Lionsgate TV’s supernatural comedy Deadbeat starring Tyler Labine with cast and crew Q&A, a screening of El Rey and Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn pilot, AMC’s 1980s-set computer drama Halt and Catch Fire, Showtime’s John Logan-created Penny Dreadful, and HBO’s new sitcom Silicon Valley co-created by Mike Judge. Read More »
Last season, Marvel‘s first series for ABC, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., sailed through development to the schedule surrounded in secrecy. The company’s new ABC effort, Agent Carter, is taking the same route. While it has never been officially announced, the project already has a finished script awaiting green light, and “the script is great,” ABC’s Paul Lee said at TCA this morning. Like with S.H.I.E.L.D. – from Joss Whedon, the man behind Marvel’s blockbuster The Avengers that featured the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization – Agent Carter too was written by writers of the Marvel tenpole that spawned the TV project: Captain America: The First Avenger‘s Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Inspired by a Marvel one shot, Agent Carter brings back Captain America’s girlfriend Peggy Carter, played in the movie by Hayley Atwell. The period drama chronicles her life as a budding secret agent after her boyfriend is stranded in ice. As we reported, Reaper creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas are shepherding the project as executive producers/showrunners. “She is such a strong character,” Butters said of Peggy. “I think this is a great premise that would make a great series.” In other Marvel-ABC TCA news, Lee announced that a Thor character, Lady Sif, played by Jaimie Alexander, will make an appearance on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. later this season.
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EXCLUSIVE: The “one shot” short films featured as extras on Marvel movies’ DVD releases are becoming a hotbed for TV series ideas. After one such short, Item 47 on The Avengers DVD about the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., led to the new ABC/Marvel series, another one may also spawn a series project for ABC. Marvel is notoriously secretive about their development, and no one would comment, but I hear the company is working on a concept for a potential TV series inspired by Agent Carter, a one shot, which will be featured on the upcoming Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3. Directed by Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito, Agent Carter brings back Captain America’s girlfriend Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, and chronicles her life as a budding secret agent after her boyfriend is stranded in ice. (Watch a clip below.) I hear the project is in very early stages, one of several in the works at Marvel, and is in the process of locking in a writer. It is unclear if Atwell would reprise her role if Agent Carter comes to fruition. A Marvel action series with a female lead would fit right into ABC’s wheelhouse of female-skewing dramas with a strong lead and would be a throwback to such network series as Alias. The Iron Man 3 … Read More »
UPDATE: Open Road just confirmed Deadline’s scoop on this deal. Release appears below original story break.
EXCLUSIVE: And the Toronto film deals keep coming. Open Road and XLrator have closed an acquisition deal for U.S. rights to All Is By My Side, the Jimi Hendrix film that John Ridley wrote and directed with OutKast’s Andre Benjamin playing rock’s greatest guitarist in his formative years. The pic also stars Heyley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Ruth Negga and Adrian Lester. All Is By My Side first screened Saturday night at the Elgin. Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg and XLrator’s Barry Gordon made the deal.
The film covers Hendrix’s early years as he failed to find footing in the U.S., found his mojo in England and then returned to America with guitar chops so ferocious that he reportedly made guys like The Who’s Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton contemplate other careers when they first saw his act onstage. Or at least that’s how the apocryphal tale goes. Read More »
iThe Toronto Film Festival got underway last night with the Gala premiere of the Bill Condon-directed DreamWorks Julian Assange film The Fifth Estate. Today, the acquisitions market should get going with the first screening of the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words and Saturday’s premiere of Once helmer John Carney’s Can A Song Save Your Life?
Related: Toronto: Festival Dives Into WikiLeaks Controversy With Powerful ‘Fifth Estate’
Toronto has long served a dual role as a global platform to launch prestige films into the Oscar race, as well as a place where distributors can bolster slates with acquisitions of finished films that need someone to release them. The odd thing about this year’s marketplace: the biggest challenge facing sellers is to get the major buyers to focus, because they are so preoccupied with the films they are launching in the Oscar race from Toronto that dealmaking is a distant second on the priority level. Whether it’s The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, CBS Films or Focus Features, everybody has a viable Oscar horse. Frankly, there is less early chit-chat about deal prospects than there is about how the end-of-year releases of Oscar corridor films will be as crowded and brutally competitive as the summer season that just passed. There are way more films platforming and playing through the winter than was the cast last year. Just as some worthy summer blockbusters underperformed because of the onslaught, upcoming prestige films will be under extreme pressure to perform.
Here, the major distributors that have the funds to create bidding battles have tons of product at Toronto. SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard have nine movies playing, and TWC’s Harvey Weinstein has six. The challenge facing sellers will be to get those buyers to wrap their arms around new product that will fill slate holes in 2014. Everybody is loaded for bear for the fall and early winter. This won’t be a replay of the times past, when films like Shame, The Wrestler and Rabbit Hole were acquired and launched from festivals right into Oscar season.
Related: Toronto 2013: How Did Last Year’s Films Do?
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The Toronto International Film Festival has set its list of 70 gala and premiere screenings, and not surprisingly it includes many of the films that figure to factor in the Oscar discussion. This includes 12 Years A Slave to August: Osage County, Rush, Labor Day, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Parkland, Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D thriller Gravity and Atom Egoyan’s West Memphis 3 film Devil’s Knot. There will be plenty of starpower, including actors-turned first time directors Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), Keanu Reeves (Man Of Tai Chi), Jason Bateman (Bad Words), Mike Myers (Supermensch), as well as Coriolanus helmer Ralph Fiennes (The Invisible Woman).
Related: What Toronto Film Fest Lineup Signals For Oscar Race – Analysis
The festival generally provides a mix of those films as well as acquisition titles that usually get released next year. Also on the list is the opening night film, the Bill Condon-directed The Fifth Estate, the DreamWorks drama about polarizing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Here’s the list made official this morning by Toronto Fest organizers:
Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, unveiled the first round of titles set to premiere in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival®.
“This first round of films offers a taste of the powerhouse lineup at this year’s Festival,” said Handling. “These are
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Lightning Strikes For SXSW Comedy ‘Gus’
Lightning Entertainment has acquired international rights to the comedy Gus, starring Michelle Monaghan, Radha Mitchell and Michael Weston. It premiered at this year’s SXSW and is the feature debut of Jessie McCormack, who wrote and directed. ICM Partners reps Monaghan and Mitchell and is also repping U.S. rights to the film in Cannes, where it will make its market bow May 16. Gus centers on Lizzie (Mitchell), who longs to start a family with her husband Peter but is unable to conceive. Her best friend Andie (Monaghan), single and adrift, gets pregnant from a one-night stand and offers to give Lizzie the baby. Reluctantly, Peter agrees to be the child’s father, and before he knows it Andie has moved into the guest room for the duration of her pregnancy. When Peter invites his ne’er-do-well recovering-addict brother (Weston) to the house, chaos ensues. McCormack produces alongside Kathryn Himoff, Kevin Fitzmaurice Comer and Erik Van Wyck. Richard N. Gladstein is exec producer. Read More »
With filming now underway on Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the studio today unveiled final cast and plot details for the sequel slated for an April 4, 2014 release. Those include confirmation of Deadline’s scoop that Robert Redford has joined the film as Agent Alexander Pierce, a senior leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. The pic is also bumping up Scarlett Johansson‘s role as her Avengers character Natasha Romanoff teams with Captain America (Chris Evans) in the present day “to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, DC”. Anthony and Joe Russo are directing from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script and have filled out their supporting cast with returning Marvel actors and new faces: Sebastian Stan is back as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger‘s 1943 timeline, along with Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and Toby Jones as Arnim Zola. Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), and Maximiliano Hernandez (Agent Jasper Sitwell) return, joined by Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, and UFC champ Georges St-Pierre as Georges Batroc. Emily VanCamp is aboard as Steve Rogers’ new love interest, Agent 13. Filming is underway in LA and will move to Cleveland and Washington DC.
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Keshet International‘s UK office has hired producer Amelia Hann as head of unscripted programming to oversee a new factual production venture. Hann was most recently executive producer on Channel 4’s The Undateables and her other credits include the BAFTA winning Ross Kemp On Gangs, Wife Swap USA, Baby Bible Bashers, Scrapheap Challenge/Junkyard Wars and The Hunt For Britain’s Sex Traffickers. Read More »
Rising British actress Hayley Atwell will play a policewoman who becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer of a 15-year-old girl in ITV’s just-commissioned Life Of Crime. The series comes from Ecosse Films, the company behind the upcoming Princess Diana biopic with Naomi Watts and the original UK format of Mistresses, whose U.S. version ABC picked up for next summer. Told in three parts over three decades, the series begins against the backdrop of London’s Brixton riots in 1985 when Atwell’s rookie cop discovers the body of a murdered girl. The drama then follows her professional and personal struggles picking up again in 1997 and 2013. Waking The Dead and Ripper Street‘s Declan Croghan is writing the drama that Oranges & Sunshine‘s Jim Loach will direct. Life Of Crime is produced by Emma Kingsman-Lloyd with Ecosse’s Douglas Rae and Michael Parke exec producing. Ireland’s Octagon Films is co-producer. Atwell, repped by CAA and UK-based Hamilton Hodell, recently appeared in Captain America and The Sweeney and will be seen in the upcoming Sundance Channel/BBC miniseries adaptation of William Boyd’s Restless alongside Rufus Sewell, Michelle Dockery, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon.
Jane Campion Mulls More Minis
Director Jane Campion is no stranger to Cannes, but she’s usually here for the film festival. In town for Mipcom this week, she’s here in support of her BBC/Sundance Channel limited series Top Of The Lake. The six-hour drama is produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech) and stars Elisabeth Moss. The move to longform TV 20 years after leaving the medium put Campion in a new environment where she “really gained a lot of respect” for folks who work in the business all the time. “It’s so different to map out six hours; we were shooting a feature ever four and a half weeks,” she says. Undaunted, Campion and her co-writer Gerard Lee tell me they’re already thinking about doing another similar project that would be set in Thailand. Top Of The Lake, set in Campion’s home country of New Zealand, centers on a female detective (Moss) investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl, who is the daughter of a local drug lord. Campion’s The Piano star Holly Hunter also appears as a sort of enlightened woman that Campion says she based on a man she once knew. BBC Two and Sundance will sked the series for next year.
‘Defiance’ Finds Canadian Home
Shaw Media has acquired Syfy’s Defiance for broadcast on Canada’s Showcase. The deal was made with NBCUniversal Television Canada on the future-set series. Showcase will air in the spring. Defiance introduces a completely transformed planet Earth, inhabited by the survivors of a universal war. It centers on Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler), the law-keeper in frontier boomtown Defiance that is one of the new world’s few oases of civility and inclusion. The Syfy Trion Worlds partnership is the first-ever convergence of TV and Massive Multiplayer Online gaming. Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner also star. The series is executive produced by Kevin Murphy and Michael Taylor. Production is currently underway in Toronto. Read More »
The BFI London Film Festival will screen 225 features including 14 world premieres and a further 111 live-action and animated shorts. Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is the previously announced opener and Mike Newell’s Great Expectations closes the fest. There are 12 films in the main competition, and gala presentations include Ben Affleck’s Argo, Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet, Roger Michell’s Hyde Park On Hudson and the world premiere of Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane. The festival runs Oct. 10-21 in the British capital. Full details follow: Read More »
As it increases its investment in original British fare, Sky has acquired Parthenon Media Group to establish an international distribution arm within the company. Parthenon founder and CEO Carl Hall will oversee the new business. Sky has said it intends to up its annual spend on British content creation to £600M by 2014. Funds generated by sales of its original programming will be funneled back into UK production. Among shows commissioned this year are dramas and comedies starring Hayley Atwell, Brenda Blethyn, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, Eddie Marsan, Stellan Skarsgård, David Tennant, Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams. Sky1 comedies Stella, Starlings and Trollied have all been ordered for a second run and drama Hit & Miss, starring Chloe Sevigny, started its run in May. The indie Parthenon has distributed and produced factual and children’s programming since 2002 and has 1,400 hours in its catalog, according to its website. As of June 30, 2011 it had gross assets of £18.2M, although financial terms for the Sky deal were not disclosed.
In association with The Sundance Channel, Endor Productions will bring the adaptation of William Boyd’s espionage thriller/love story Reckless to BBC One later this year. Cast has now been set with Hayley Atwell, Rufus Sewell, Michelle Dockery, Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling starring. Downton Abbey‘s Dockery plays a young woman in 1979 who learns that her mother (Rampling) has been living a double life and is really a former spy for the British Secret Service. In flashbacks to 1939 Paris, Atwell plays Rampling’s younger self who’s recruited into the service by and falls in love with Sewell’s spymaster. After a crucial mission collapses, she must go into hiding, but 30 years later wants to resurface and enlists her daughter to track down her former lover, now played by Gambon.
Boyd wrote the screeplay based on his 2006 best-seller. Theater director Edward Hall is helming the three-hour drama that’s produced by State Of Play‘s Hilary Bevan Jones and Paul Frift. Executive producers are Boyd, Matthew Read for the BBC and Christian Vesper for Sundance. Shooting begins this summer in South Africa and the UK. Restless is the first commission to go into production for Endor since Red Arrow Entertainment acquired a majority stake in the company last March. Red Arrow’s SevenOne International will handle international sales.
Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
EXCLUSIVE: China Lion Film Distribution is set to ramp up its North American release schedule after acquiring five titles at Cannes as well as targeting films it hopes will cross over to U.S. art house audiences. Its acquisitions for the States, where it has a deal with AMC Entertainment to screen up to 15 titles a year, include the raunchy Hong Kong comedy Vulgaria, Taiwanese romantic comedies Girlfriend Boyfriend and When A Wolf Falls In Love With A Sheep, warlord actioner The Bullet Vanishes and Thai martial arts pic Rebirth. China Lion CEO Milt Barlow told Deadline that Vulgaria fits with its strategy of targeting art houses as well as Chinese-speaking cinemagoers; films such as Starry Starry Night and A Simple Life, which have already screened for Chinese communities, would have second runs in art houses. The company, which launched in 2010, also picked up The Sweeney – a crime drama starring Ray Winstone, Ben Drew and Hayley Atwell inspired by the 1970s British TV series — as its first release in China and Hong Kong. China Lion’s major shareholders are Jiang Yanming and the Chinese studios Huayi Brothers Media Corp and Bona Film Group. Bona is the Chinese producer-distributor that recently received a strategic investment from News Corp.
Related: China’s Wanda Group Agrees To Pay $2.6B For AMC Entertainment