Idris Elba is heading out on an international driving tour in two-part documentary King Of Speed. The Shine North/Shine TV production is a look at the origins of the car racing scene. The two hours will air on BBC Two; Elba’s detective series Luther airs on BBC One. Elba will visit racetracks in the U.S., Scotland and Finland among other locales to trace the political, social and historical evolution of racing from prohibition to today. The shows will include elements of NASCAR, vintage police chases and Japanese drifting. Among his co-pilots will be Cannonball Run creator Brock Yates. Rick Murray is exec producing with Tim Whitwell; Southan Morris is producing and directing. Production is currently underway, but no airdate has been set.
EXCLUSIVE: Red Crown Productions has set Idris Elba to star and Cary Fukunaga to direct Beasts of No Nation, an adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s bestselling novel. The story follows the journey of a young boy, Agu, who, when civil war engulfs his West African country is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters. Not only must Agu face the death of his father and disappearance of his mother and sister, but must also join a life of violence and brutality. Agu befriends a mute boy named Strika and together they face the crimes and hardships of war. Elba will play the lead role of Commander and he will serve in a producing capacity as well.
Elba joins Red Crown Productions’ Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Riva Marker, Parliament Of Owls’ Cary Fukunaga and Primary Productions principal Amy Kaufman as producers on the film. Daniel Crown and Bill Benenson will serve as executive producers. Red Crown is funding the film.
Beasts Of No Nation was packaged by WME Global, which arranged the financing and will make the domestic deal. IM Global’s specialty label Acclaim will make international sales at the Toronto Film Festival. Fukunaga has helmed Jane Eyre and Sin Nombre and is currently helming the HBO series True Detective. Elba is really hitting stride. He reprises his title role in a new season of Neil Cross’s celebrated detective series Luther, which premieres …
EXCLUSIVE: Idris Elba, the talented star of Luther and The Wire who has been in play for the past couple months, has just signed with WME for all areas. This comes at a great time for Elba, who is finally poised to get his due as a movie star, I think. He reprises his role as the existentially tortured British detective John Luther in the final season of Luther, which premieres September in the U.S. He’s also starring in the Guillermo del Toro-directed Pacific Rim for Legendary and Warner Bros, which opens July 12. Then, he reprises his role as Heimdall in Thor 2: The Dark World, which Marvel and Disney release in November. He finishes the year playing Nelson Mandela in Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom, which is released in the heat of Oscar season by The Weinstein Company. Elba continues to be managed by Nicole Romano and Michael Sugar at Anonymous Content, Headshell Management and he is repped by Roger Charteris at Ken McReddie in the UK. Fred Toczek is his attorney.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Sky Arts Talks With Music Legends; Idris Elba To Produce ‘One Square Mile’; More
UK’s Sky Arts ‘Talks Music’ With The Stars
Britain’s Sky Arts is launching a new music interview series, …Talks Music. The 10-part show will look at the careers of some of the world’s most iconic music legends. Confirmed guests so far include Nile Rodgers, Boy George, Jeff Beck and Blondie’s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein. Whizz Kid Entertainment is producing, with Malcolm Gerrie conducting the sit-downs in front of a live studio audience. Gerrie and guests will also take questions from the floor. Jeff Wurtz, of Inside The Actors Studio, is directing and Gerrie is exec producing. A fall debut is planned.
Modern Times Group Buys Into UK Market For $23.6M
Modern Times Group, an international broadcasting outfit that operates free and pay-TV in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Russia and Africa, has added a UK-based international distributor to its portfolio with the acquisition of 92.4% of Digital Rights Group for £15M ($23.6M). Titles in the Digital Rights Group stable include The Inbetweeners, The Singing Bee, Kingdom, Sea Patrol and Criminal Justice. DRG founder and former CEO Jeremy Fox will return to the company, replacing exiting managing director Jonathan Jackson. MTG also picked up a 51% stake in Norwegian producer Novemberfilm for an undisclosed sum. The Oslo-based company produces series and commercials including key formats The Zookeepers, Insider and Missing.
After quietly leaving UTA last week, Idris Elba is the hot actor in play, and it’s suspected he’ll either land at WME or CAA. Elba seems poised to finally make that transition from great actor to movie star, so he’s a real catch. But the gang at UTA certainly did their job; the agency booked him into Prometheus, Thor, Pacific Rim and Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom, the latter a film the agency packaged around director client Justin Chadwick. By the time he’s done starring in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim this summer and following up by playing Nelson Mandela in the Oscar-bait Weinstein Company release later this year, Elba should finally reach that level of stardom that has inexplicably eluded him. I must say that after watching his turns in The Wire and especially Neil Cross’s British crime series Luther, I find it baffling it has taken this long; how many actors out there are as good as this guy? Elba has also established himself as a serial agency jumper in the U.S. He moved from ICM to CAA, back to ICM, and then chose UTA over WME and CAA two years ago. He remains managed by Anonymous Content and agented by Ken McReddie Associates in the UK.
While its sister channel Sky Atlantic gears up BBC America co-production Fleming, Sky Arts has assembled an all-star roster for its new Playhouse Presents showcase. The slate of new shows is part of the paybox’s commitment to increase investment in original content to £600M by 2014. The previous Playhouse Presents series, which included such talent as Jon Hamm, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Thompson and David Tenant, was the most successful ever for the Sky Arts channel. This year’s lineup includes Kylie Minogue, David Harewood, Anna Friel, Matt Smith, Idris Elba and Vanessa Redgrave, among others. Doctor Who‘s Smith will make his directing debut with Cargese starring Being Human‘s Craig Roberts and A Long Way Down‘s Joe Cole. Luther star Elba will helm The Pavement Psychologist from his own script that centers on Friel as a woman whose world is turned upside down when she meets a homeless man. Stephen Fry‘s Sprout Pictures produces. Also from Sprout, dark comedy Hey Diddly Dee will star Minogue and Homeland‘s Harewood while Redgrave stars in Union Square, a story of loneliness in the big city, written and directed by her son Carlo Nero. The series of programs starts in the UK in March.
UPDATED: British producer Vivek J. Tiwary (The Fifth Beatle) and writer Warren Ellis (Red) have teamed for adventure/thriller miniseries Ascension, which revolves around the history and future of astronomy and mankind’s impulse for the stars. Luther star Idris Elba is considering a potential double-starring in the project, as the Egyptian polymath Imhotep in 3000 B.C. as well as a brilliant astronomer in the near future. Based on an original idea by Tiwary and his wife, Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Ascension was co-created by Tiwary and Ellis, with Ellis writing the script. Elba, who would executive produce it, will next be seen in Prometheus.
Idris Elba has closed his deal to play the lead role of Sensi in the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros sci-fi action film Pacific Rim. Guillermo del Toro is directing as his next film and production gets underway in November. The film’s produced by Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni. Elba joins Son of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam, with Elba playing the role originally developed for Tom Cruise. While Elba has been knocking on the door of big things in Hollywood for some time, I think that his work in the British series Luther really helped show his considerable range. I’d watched the first season of that series in one sitting right as I was reading Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained script, and couldn’t help but have Elba in my mind as the lead character. He was one of the top names mentioned, but that went south when Tarantino went through a long and fruitless dance with Will Smith. I am persuaded that the role will likely go to Jamie Foxx, but Tarantino hasn’t finalized anything. Elba, who starred this summer in Thor, is currently shooting Prometheus for director Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox. Elba is repped by UTA, The Schiff Co and UK agent Roger Charteris.
EXCLUSIVE: Idris Elba has signed to play Dr. Alex Cross in Cross, a new installment of James Patterson’s bestselling murder mystery series that will be directed by David Twohy. Kerry Williamson wrote the script. Elba takes over the role originated by Morgan Freeman, who played the sleuth in the Paramount Pictures thrillers, 1997′s Kiss the Girls and 2001′s Along Came A Spider. Twohy is doing a rewrite.
In the novel, Cross tracks a serial rapist who may have murdered his pregnant wife years before. The film is being produced by Lloyd Levin, Belle Avery and Leopoldo Gout, along with the author and Steve Bowen.
Production will begin in 2011, likely in the spring. The film will be privately financed and distribution is being set. Paramount is a possibility.
There are few franchises out there with a black actor in the lead role. So this is a big star-making step for the British actor who emerged from the HBO series The Wire and into films like RocknRolla, American Gangster, Obsessed and The Losers. He just wrapped the role of Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor, and next stars in the Screen Gems heist film Takers, which opens August 27.
Elba has also kept his hand in TV. After a memorable arc in NBC’s The Office last season, he played the title role in the British detective miniseries drama Luther, and will next be seen in an arc …
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Hollywood is mourning the loss today of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. Here are some of the thoughts on his passing:
Idris Elba, portrayed Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:
“I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba’s family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth; I only feel honored to be associated with him. He is in a better place now. What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, U.S. distributor of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:
“One of the privileges of making movies is having the opportunity to immortalize those who have made a profound impact on humanity. We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy. It’s been an honor to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of history’s greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice. I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humor was as great as his optimism. We are deeply saddened by his loss; our hearts go out to his family and the entire South African nation.”
Morgan Freeman, portrayed Mandela in Invictus:
“Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve—a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind. As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us.”
Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, who fought to end apartheid, served from 1994-99 as the first black president elected to office in his country and became a global popular hero, died today. He was 95. Mandela was hospitalized June 8 for a lung infection following a history of recurring health issues, and his family began gathering at his Johannesburg home earlier today. South Africa President Jacob Zuma made the announcement just now in a national address.
The passing comes as the Weinstein Co’s biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is having its UK premiere, with members of the royal family in attendance. The news broke during the premiere screening and was announced to the guests after the credits had rolled when a two minutes’ silence was held.
Jailed in 1962, Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in his own country before his 1990 release and subsequently led the charge to end apartheid with the African National Congress. His fight made him an international symbol for peace and progress, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Less than five months after his release from prison, Mandela embarked on a grueling, eight-city tour of the U.S., which included an address before Congress and a speech on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. The visit helped cement his hero status, and he became a pop …
‘Mandela’s’ Long Walk To Oscar Race: With Renewed Heat And A+ CinemaScore Now Was Rushing It To Make Toronto Fest A Misstep? (Video)
EXCLUSIVE: When Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom had its World Premiere in early September at the Toronto International Film Festival, the critical reaction and audience buzz wasn’t exactly all what distributor The Weinstein Company was hoping for. The epic film, which chronicles the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela, was overshadowed by many other films including August: Osage County and Philomena from Weinstein itself. What was hoped to be a significant launch that would ignite Oscar talk instead left the prestige film back in the pack, a rare awards-season misstep for the Oscar-savvy company. For director Justin Chadwick it was a clear disappointment, and the Weinsteins now are second-guessing that decision to rush the film, essentially still a rough cut, into a high-profile Toronto slot before it was ready. Now that it is finished and won top notices last weekend from both the Los Angeles Times and NY Times as well as an A+ CinemaScore from first-night audiences, the director and Weinsteins are hoping to turn around the initial impressions out of Toronto (overall, it has a 58% fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes).
This all underscores the fact that while festivals can be enormously important, they can also be full of landmines as the opening-night …
Specialty Box Office: ‘Mandela,’ ‘Philomena’ Holiday Pushes Pay Off For TWC; Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ Bombs (UPDATED)
By Deadline’s Brian Brooks and Jen Yamato.
Thanksgiving weekend yielded a box office bounty for The Weinstein Co. and a turkey for FilmDistrict and Spike Lee in a holiday weekend with slim competition from indie comers. TWC made a pair of bold moves, opening awards hopeful Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom on 4 screens to a strong $100,306 take averaging $25,076 per screen; the drama starring Idris Elba as South African president Nelson Mandela built up word of mouth on the fest circuit at Toronto, Mill Valley, The Hamptons, Chicago, and AFI Fest. TWC also seized the chance to bump last week’s Judi Dench-starrer Philomena from 4 theaters to 835 theaters and the pic subsequently broke into the Top 10 with a $4,538 average and a $3.789M weekend. Dench stars alongside Steve Coogan in the true story of a woman searching for the son she gave up for adoption decades earlier, a heartwarming family tale that was primed for holiday viewing. Alas, Thanksgiving weekend wasn’t quite so kind to FilmDistrict’s Oldboy which in its own bloody way is also about the ties that bind. Spike Lee‘s remake of the brutally violent Korean thriller from Park Chan-Wook, stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharlto Copley in a vengeance saga with extreme twists and turns not for the faint of heart. It took in a paltry $850K on the weekend, averaging $1,458 in 583 theaters.
In other openers this weekend, IFC Films’ doc The Punk Singer bowed to a $24K gross in three locations from Friday to Sunday. The company noted that the doc “sold out multiple shows in New York and LA for its debut. The documentary on punk singer icon Kathleen Hanna will roll out to the top 10 markets in December. And Vitagraph opened Caught In The Web in one location. It was a slow start with a $330 gross.
IFC Films added three additional theaters for Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? in its second frame, grossing just under $20K for a $3,390 PSA. The feature averaged $10,620 in its opening last weekend in a trio of locations.
This is a year with such quality acting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should seriously consider following the example set with the best picture category a few years back and expand to 10 potential nominees. It’s an embarrassment of riches with some history-making possibilities.
Consider the battle of the 77-year-olds: Robert Redford in All Is Lost and Bruce Dern in Nebraska. Neither has won an acting Oscar and both have only been nominated once before for their onscreen work. If either manages to take the gold, they would be the oldest ever to win in the best actor category. Or consider that on the 50th anniversary of Sidney Poitier’s groundbreaking best actor victory in 1963 for Lilies Of The Field, there’s such a diverse list of candidates this year, including African-Americans Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) and the UK-born Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) and Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom). You could even throw in another fine performance from April’s 42, in which Chadwick Boseman memorably starred as Jackie Robinson. We could also see two-time winner Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks) and never-been-nominated Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud) grabbing nominations in both lead and supporting.
Just ahead of its U.S. bow today, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom has set a record in South Africa where it opened on Thursday — and where moviegoers reportedly took the day off work to attend screenings in cities and in the countryside. The Videovision Entertainment release (through United International Pictures) was No. 1 at the box office with 751,000 rands ($73,747) for a per-screen average of 8,620 rands ($858). That’s about 23,000 admissions and is a record for a non-holiday Thursday according to Videovision. Starring Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom chronicles Nelson Mandela’s journey from his childhood in rural South Africa to his inauguration as the country’s first democratically elected president. The Weinstein Co releases the film today in New York and Los Angeles.
There’s a parade in New York that might get weathered out. Disney’s Frozen is icing up across the country and even TWC’s Philomena is nearly wide. Good, here are some alternatives. TWC likely has this weekend’s obvious choice among the Specialties with film festival favorite Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. By the way, this won’t be the last film-going aficionados will see of the South African icon. South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane’s A Letter To Nelson Mandela debuted at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), the world’s biggest doc fest. Just saying — no doubt there will be a lot said about one of the biggest historical figures in recent decades. Also this weekend, FilmDistrict is launching Oldboy, the American remake courtesy of Spike Lee. Originally made in movie form by Korean director Park Chan-wook (2003) this Oldboy stars a good plethora of starrage from Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and more. On the doc front, IFC Films will open a SXSW premiere, The Punk Singer in limited release theatrically in NYC and LA (along with that ever elusive VOD/digital). The distributor says it expects it to do well across all platforms.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Director: Justin Chadwick
Writer: William Nicholson
Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Simo Mogwaza
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
South Africa’s maverick anti-Apartheid leader turned President Nelson Mandela has been the focus of worldwide reverence for years and it has more recently gone into full throttle as the now 95 year-old leader’s health deteriorates. Based on the 1994 autobiography of the same name, the Toronto/Mill Valley/Hamptons/Chicago/AFI Fest (and more) bio-drama Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom chronicles the near saintly figure’s journey from his childhood in rural South Africa, activism and long imprisonment on Robben Island through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected President of South Africa.
EXCLUSIVE: Andrew Lauren Productions has committed to finance Three To Kill, an adaptation of the novel by French author Jean-Patrick Manchette. Christopher McQuarrie has signed on to direct and Colin Firth will star. Howard Rodman will write the script and Lauren will produce with Laura Bickford. Pic is a thriller set on the coast of France. A disillusioned businessman witnesses a murder and finds himself being hunted by two relentless sociopaths. The novel was adapted by Jacques Tardi into the graphic novel West Coast Blues, and that was nominated for two Eisner Awards in 2010. Manchette’s The Prone Gunman was separately turned into The Gunman, a Studio Canal Silver Pictures co-production that was directed by Pierre Morel with Sean Penn, Javier Bardem and Idris Elba starring.
Captain Phillips newcomer and Oscar-buzzed Barkhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somalian pirate in the film, told me he thought the Governors Awards meant prizes actually handed out by the Governor and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole occasion. Of course these honorary awards bestowed on Saturday night at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom are not presented by Jerry Brown, but rather voted on by the Board of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And in addition to the formal duty of putting a shiny new Oscar statuette in the hands of Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Claudia Cardinale (standing in for absent Costume Designer Piero Tosi who couldn’t make the trip from Italy), this signature awards season event now in its fifth year also has become the official “must schmooze” event of the entire six month awards corridor, a place where Oscar nominee hopefuls can jump from table to table full of Academy members. As presenter Martin Short put it, “the Governors Awards are the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” And there can be no question the timing of the event is extremely important for those out on the campaign trail.
But ultimately this event is about honoring those the Academy feels are worthy of career recognition, generally a lifetime achievement award. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, new president of the Academy, welcomed each of the honorees and noted the importance of the honor. “Congratulations to all of you. Your work on screen and off captivates and invigorates society. You challenge us to see each other and the world in different ways. We are all richer for your brilliance,” she said before breaking for dinner.
Once the 90-minute show began, Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey cast, actress Gena Rowlands, and George Lucas presented Jolie, the youngest winner of the Hersholt award, with her Oscar. A detailed film package clearly explained why this tireless global humanitarian is getting the award but she seemed overcome by it, saluting her late mother for the inspiration (father Jon Voight was in the audience).