Summit, Participant Media Acquire ‘The Burglary;’ The Story Of 8 Whistleblowers Who Stole Hoover’s FBI Secrets

Mike Fleming

burlEXCLUSIVE: Decades before Julian Assange and Edward Snowden became the scourge of U.S. intelligence organizations by leaking secret documents, an unheralded group of eight anti-war activists broke into an FBI branch office one night in Philadelphia and made off with a treasure trove of classified documents they fed to newspapers that bared the ruthlessness displayed by the FBI in spying on and blackmailing those it considered troublemakers. Summit Entertainment has teamed with Participant Media to acquire the rights to tell the story of those bandits, acquiring the Betty Medsger book The Burglary: The Discovery Of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, which was published in January by Knopf, and an accompanying article by Mark Mazzetti published in The New York Times the same month.

hoover__140319224839-275x154They’ve set Scott Z. Burns to write the script and produce with Anonymous Content’s Michael Sugar, with Todd Hoffman exec producing. Ashley Zalta is a co-producer. Burns’ script work includes The Bourne Ultimatum, the Steven Soderbergh-directed Contagion and Side Effects and Fox’s summer sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. The project was championed by Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group President Erik Feig, who’ll oversee with Meredith Milton and Participant’s Jonathan King. Read More »

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UPDATE: Benedict Cumberbatch Sentimental About ‘Sherlock’ But Mum About More Seasons After Season 3 Premiere Scores In Ratings

sherlock-season-3-finaleUPDATED WITH TCA PANEL, 4:24 PM: Moving Sherlock has paid off for PBS. Last night’s third-season debut clocked an average audience of nearly 4 million viewers — the franchise’s biggest audience yet, according to Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton. That’s compared to the 3.2 million who’d watched the Season 2 launch. Sherlock’s move also boosted Downton Abbey last night — the drawing-room drama’s third episode of its fourth season reached an average audience of 8.4 million, up compared to the second episode’s audience of 7.9 million.

Star Benedict Cumberbatch ducked a question as to how many more three-episode seasons of Sherlock he thinks he can handle while appearing this afternoon at the TCA Winter TV Press Tour. Someone with him onstage noted BBC reportedly has said they’ll continue making them until Cumberbatch gets too famous and refuses. “Why is it always me,” Cuberbatch complained/simpered. Masterpiece chief Rebecca Eaton asked PBS chief Paula Kerger to commit to taking as many seasons as Cumberbatch thought he could handle. Kerger, seated in the audience, agreed. Read More »

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25th Annual PGA Awards: First-Ever Tie For Best Motion Picture — ‘Gravity’ And ‘12 Years A Slave’; ‘Breaking Bad’ & ‘Modern Family’ Take Top TV Awards; Winners List

pga67UPDATED WITH WINNERS AND BACKSTAGE REACTIONS: The Producers Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton ended with a stunner: The first tie for the top film prize in the PGAs’ 25-year history. Gravity and 12 Years A Slave shared the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. The award for Gravity catapults the Warner Bros picture squarely into the Best Picture Oscar race, whereas up until now, it seems that 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle were the front-runners. Deadline’s Pete Hammond will post an analysis of the awards later tonight.

On the TV side, AMC’s now-wrapped Breaking Bad won The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama, and ABC’s Modern Family took the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy, for a fourth consecutive year. The wins mirror last night’s SAG Awards and the Emmys. Breaking Bad also won the Golden Globe last week, but rookie Brooklyn Nine-Nine took the comedy prize.

PGA Awards GravityIf it weren’t for Jeff Robinov, former president of Warner Bros Motion Picture Group, Gravity would not have gotten made. The picture that stars Oscar nominee Sandra Bullock and George Clooney got shoved aside by Universal after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Enter Robinov, who took the project under his wing and was its behind-the-scenes champion. Read More »

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WGAW Honors Alex Gibney For Docu ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks’

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 10:52am PST

wgaawards15Los Angeles – Three-time Writers Guild Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has been named the WGAW’s 2014 Paul Selvin Award honoree for his screenplay for the documentary film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, the first time in Writers Guild Awards history that a documentary has received the Selvin Award.

Gibney and his work will be recognized, along with other honorees, at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 1, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Named after the late Paul Selvin, who served as counsel to the WGAW, the award is given to a WGA member whose script best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties, which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere – and to whose defense Selvin committed his professional life.

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OSCARS Q&A: Daniel Bruhl Talks ‘Rush’ & ‘The Fifth Estate’

By | Thursday November 28, 2013 @ 3:00pm PST

AwardsLine.LogoBWAfter elevating his profile with the 2010 best picture nominee Inglourious Basterds, in which he played a loathsome Nazi soldier, Daniel Bruhl is back in the spotlight for portraying two real-life mavericks this year: Racing legend Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush, and former Julian Assange ally Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. Though he says “there’s always an awkward moment when you meet the characters for the first time,” Bruhl is pleased that both of his living subjects were happy with the way he interpreted their lives. Next up for the trilingual, Berlin-based actor? Tending to the tapas bar he owns and starring opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man.

AwardsLine: You were able to spend some time with Niki Lauda to research your role in Rush. RWhat was the most valuable information you learned about him in those meetings?
Daniel Bruhl: I was blown away by his bluntness—something that I still envy, and I love playing characters that I partly envy. To be so 100% honest and direct with certain people, and to be fearless when it comes to solving problems or facing conflict with people face to face, is striking. I don’t know anyone who is like that. And the nice thing about him is that underneath it all is that charm, that sense of humor. The more time I spent with him, and the more times he had seen the movie, the more emotional he got. So that surprised me a bit. I’m half-Spanish, so I love hugging people. I do that all the time with friends. And he didn’t like that at first, the contact with men, and he always kept his distance from me. The first few times I stood there like an idiot. Later on, he saw me, and he said, “Daniel! Come here!” And he had that smile on his face. It’s such a relief to know that he is proud of the movie. Read More »

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AFM Briefs: Roger Daltrey’s Keith Moon Biopic Leads Multi-Pic Pact; Sam Worthington Sets 3D ‘Paper Planes’; eOne Takes ‘The Hunted’ & Zom-Com ‘April Apocalypse’; Alvernia & Fu Works Productions Team On Poland Incentives

By | Saturday November 9, 2013 @ 5:00pm PST

Refresh for latest…

Exclusive Media and Da Vinci Media Ventures are making the untitled Keith Moon biopic the first joint development title in a newly announced multi-picture agreement. The Who’s Roger Daltrey, who’s been developing the project with Exclusive Media‘s Nigel Sinclair, is guiding the pic with Da Vinci’s Wendy Rutland also exec producing. They’re seeking a screenwriter for the film about legendary Who drummer Moon, who died in 1978. The biopic is expected to be a European co-production.

Sam Worthington, Anthony LaPaglia, and Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) have been set to star in Arclight Films’ 3D family pic Paper Planes. The inspired-by-true-events tale follows 11-year-old Dylan (Oxenbould), who lives with his father (Worthington) in the Australian countryside. His life is changed forever when he wins his way up to the World Paper Plane Championship in Japan. Filming is underway in Perth, Western Australia, and Tokyo under writer-director Robert Connolly (Underground: The Julian Assange Story). Author Steve Worland scripted with Connolly. Arenamedia’s Liz Kearney and Maggie Miles are producing with Screen Australia, ScreenWest, the ACTF and MIFF. Eric Bana, Gary Hamilton, Ying Ye, Jonathan Chissick, Andrew Myer, and Bernadette O’Mahony are exec producers. Arclight Films is handling international sales.

Entertainment One Films US has acquired N.A. rights on a pair of indie horror pics. The Hunted, from director/star Josh Stewart, follows two hunters who head into the secluded mountains of West Virginia with dreams of landing their own hunting show, only to realize they’re not alone. Brett Forbes and Patrick Rizzotti produced for Fortress Features. It’s Stewart’s first outing as director after starring in pics like The Collector, The Collection, and the upcoming Transcendence. WME Global negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with eOne’s Dan Fisher; Cinema Management Group is repping international sales.

EOne also picked up zombie comedy April Apocalypse, about Artie (Reece Thompson), who wakes up from a car crash to find he’s in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse. With newfound courage and power he becomes a bad-ass zombie slayer to protect his dream girl April before the bite on his hand turns him into a full-fledged flesh-eater. Jarret Tarnol directs the pic from brother Brent Tarnol’s script; the pair (Barrio Tales, See You In Valhalla) produced together for their Tarnol Group Pictures. Bellflower‘s Rebekah Brandes, Brent Tarnol, Stephanie Hunt, Todd Stashwick, Mark Rolston, Sarah Hyland, Roger Bart, and George Lopez also star. Preferred Content’s Zac Bright negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers with eOne’s Dan Fisher. Arclight Films is handling international sales. Another zombie indie eOne acquired at the 2011 AFM for a number of territories, including the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Valeri Milev’s Code Red, is back at the Santa Monica market as a finished product, shopped in the rest of the world by Outsider Pictures. Read More »

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Vince Vaughn Changes Pace And Delivers For DreamWorks At ‘Delivery Man’ Premiere

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 2:14pm PST
Pete Hammond

Hoping to gain some traction not only at the box office but also this awards season, DreamWorks and Disney unveiled their holiday comedy Delivery Man on Sunday night at the El Capitan in Hollywood. And judging from audience reaction (which included several members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), star Vince Vaughn could find himself in the running for a Golden Globe as Lead Actor in a Musical or Comedy. It’s a career-best change-of-pace role for him as this is a rare studio comedy — or “dramedy,” or he puts it — that’s full of heart and poignant moments mixed with the laughs. Vaughn plays a meat truck driver who unknowingly fathered 533 kids thanks to endless sperm bank donations he made in the early ’90s to earn cash to pay off debts. Now about 150 of them have filed a class action to try to determine the true identity of the biological father they know only as Starbuck. It is based on writer-director Ken Scott’s 2011 Canadian film Starbuck. Scott helmed the American version as well.

Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Delivery Man’

DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider and Disney Chair Alan Horn were among those gauging reaction to the November 22 release, which goes head to head that day against juggernaut sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Snider told me … Read More »

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PBS Makes It Official: ‘Sherlock’ Returning January 19 At 10 PM, Following ‘Downton Abbey’

By | Wednesday October 23, 2013 @ 9:30am PDT

UPDATED, 9:30 AM: Benedict Cumberbatch, fresh off his feature film flop The Fifth Estate, will return in the better-reviewed Sherlock starting January 19 in the 10 PM time slot following Downton Abbey, PBS announced this morning. In the UK, BBC has not yet announced Sherlock’s return date, but promises the three episodes will launch there before the PBS debut. PBS also confirmed Downton Abbey’s January 5 return. Scheduling Sherlock’s three 90-minute episodes to follow Downton, PBS said in its first-quarter scheduling news, “reinforces PBS’ move into 10 PM programming on several key nights.”

In this morning’s flurry of PBS announcements, the network made a special fuss over “Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office UK) returning as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in the contemporary reinvention of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss. In a separate announcement, Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton cooed, “The genius Sherlock team has done it again,” adding, “These people are GOOD!” The Fifth Estate, in which Cumberbatch received good reviews playing WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, has nonetheless gone into the books as having the worst opening weekend this year to date.

PBS also said it was announcing a number of new programs, though we’ve known for ages that American Masters had gotten its hands on the much-ballyhooed biopic Salinger. Anyway, in this morning’s announcement, PBS also says per Nielsen that its 2012-13 primetime programming saw an overall average ratings increase of 7% over the previous season and that PBS now ranks eighth among all broadcast and cable networks “in overall general audience content.” We’ll get back to when we figure out what PBS is talking about, and we advise you not to hold your breath while you wait for numbers. PBS also claimed this morning it is now surpassed, in this PBS metric, by only the four major broadcast networks, USA, Univision, and Disney — overtaking ESPN, History and TNT in the ratings. Previously, PBS says, it ranked No. 11.

PBS’s upcoming primetime schedule is, per usual, thick with Brit on Sundays, science and nature shows on Wednesday, and arts and performance programming on Fridays: Read More »

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‘Everest’ Update: Sony Eyes March For Doug Liman’s Pic; Universal, Baltasar Kormakur Lose Co-Fi But Still Plan November Climb

By | Monday October 21, 2013 @ 4:40pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: What’s going on with the two studio-backed movies titled Everest, about two spectacularly different incidents that took place on the same hill? Well let me tell you. Both films have weathered missteps, but the filmmakers behind each say they intend to scale the mountain soon. Everest, the Doug Liman-directed film at Sony, is now bent on starting production in March, and that meant losing Tom Hardy, who was going to play George Mallory, the famous British mountaineer who rallied a nation with his attempts to conquer Everest. Scheduling didn’t work with Hardy.

The front-runner to replace Hardy right now is Benedict Cumberbatch, but other actors in the mix to play Mallory and Australian rival George Finch include Joel Kinnaman, James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston, Henry Cavill, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Matthew Goode, and Jim Sturgess. I’ve seen press speculation that Cumberbatch may have lost his luster because the Julian Assange pic The Fifth Estate failed at the box office, but that seems harsh. None of the current batch of emerging stars means much of anything at the box office, so the question becomes, is Cumberbatch an actor who elevates a film with his presence? The answer is a resounding yes, and he has Mallory’s regal bearing. The film is being produced by Jennifer Klein along with Liman and his Hypnotic partner Dave Bartis. Sheldon Turner … Read More »

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Pink Slip Monday At Focus Features

By | Monday October 21, 2013 @ 2:40pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The 103 employees of Focus Features knew layoffs were inevitable when Peter Schlessel took over the label with the intention to meld the unit with his FilmDistrict staff. That doesn’t make it any easier as it has unfolded today. I don’t have a head count, but staffers are being informed in New York and Los Angeles whether or not they are being let go in the restructuring. Marketing, distribution and publicity are the areas getting hit hardest. This comes after my colleague Nancy Tartaglione reported a little while ago that the London office of Focus Features International is likely to shutter. “It’s the saddest day here,” said a source stating the obvious. The intention is to eliminate staff duplication, and the exit time of those being laid off will vary. Those who are working on the Focus Oscar campaigns for Dallas Buyers Club, the Julian Assange documentary We Steal Secrets and The Place Beyond The Pines, will stay on until those tasks are carried out. I’ll let you know the head count when I confirm it.

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Halloween Horror: ‘Carrie’ Falls Flat After ‘Gravity’ Wins 3rd Weekend And #1 Global, ‘Escape Plan’ Trapped, ‘Fifth Estate’ Flops

By | Sunday October 20, 2013 @ 12:00pm PDT

Technical problems delayed box office updates.

SUNDAY NOON, 5TH UPDATEFirst the good news: Warner Bros’ Gravity continued Box Office Results Carrieto defy the laws of box office playing in the widest release of 3,820 theaters. The only question mark was whether the Alfonso Cuaron/Sandra Bullock 3D space drama could orbit #1 for its 3rd straight domestic weekend despite a trio of newcomers in the marketplace. But none of the openers could muster strong openings or even 50% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. So no surprise Fandango reported that Gravity was pre-selling more tickets this weekend than most movies do at opening. (Remember: the studio mogul Jeff Robinov responsible for this yowza was forced out.) Its $31M weekend led a fresh $170.5M cume. Internationally pic has earned $114.2M from 51 territories for a new worldwide cume through Sunday of $284.7M and #1.

True to life or not (and many say not), Sony Pictures’ Paul Greengrass/Tom Hanks sea pirates drama Captain Phillips holds in 3,020 theaters for a healthy -33% and #2 with a new 10-day cume of $53.3M. Grosses rose a stunning 45% from Friday to Saturday. Overseas pic’s total is $9.1M from just 18 territories for a new worldwide cume of $62.3M.

But the Halloween horror is how Sony’s Screen Gems’ and MGM’s completely unnecessary Carrie remake fell flat on its bloody face. It couldn’t scare up $20M even as the only horror movie opening this October. Audiences gave it a ‘B-’ CinemaScore which hurt word of mouth. Weekend opening in 3,157 theaters was a disappointing $17M. Pic at first levitated $725K in Thursday late shows and Friday midnights and seemed promising based on matinee trends. Especially considering it was made for what the studios claim is $30M but also marketed with a full frills TV spend. Brian De Palma’s 1976 United Artists adaptation of the Stephen King classic novel has spawned a 1999 sequel and a 2002 made-for-TV movie and now this movie directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore. But it’s an R-rated teen drama masquerading as a horror film and didn’t satisfy either Saw fans wanting gore or Paranormal Activity addicts seeking supernatural thrills. Both those genre pics have dominated the pre-Halloween box office since 2004. But Paramount decided to delay PA5 from this month to October 2014. Carrie was no substitute. Opening weekend exit polling showed the audience was 46% male and 54% female. with 56% under age 25 and 44% at 25 and older.

Lionsgate/Summit’s been there and done that Escape Plan (opening in 2,883 theaters) paired Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the kind of film their fans used to flock to. Um, those fans have vanished now that both action heroes are more likely to break a hip than open a movie. (Even Letterman joked it’s ‘Escape From Assisted Living’.) “Fans didn’t turn out for them individually in Last Stand or Bullet In The Head,” one exec points out. “Now audiences are rejecting them together.” Opening at #4 for only a $9.5M weekend, its ‘B+’ CinemaScore helped word of mouth. Directed by Mikael Håfström with screenplay and story by Miles Chapman with credited scripter Arnell Jesko, movie cost around $50 million because it was shot in Louisiana where there are hefty tax incentives. Summit claims limited financial exposure because it had many international presales and licensings and because Emmett/Furla was in for about 1/3 of the budget. Exit polling showed audience was 55% male vs. 45% female with 61% over age 30 and 39% under 30. Overseas, the duo earned $14.1M day and date from 25 territories for a worldwide cume of $23.9M.

Placing #7 is DreamWorks Studios’ The Fifth Estate flopping worse than forecast with only a $1.7M weekend even factoring its low 1,769 theater count. The per screen average was under $1,000, meaning each location played nearly empty. No wonder this hyperbolic melodrama earned only a ‘B-’ CinemaScore. Its multiple trailers and high-spend TV ads were as misguided as WikiLeaker Julian Assange played by Benedict Cumberbatch who deserved better than director Bill Condon. (He helmed among the worst reviewed installments of the Twilight series.) Pic has now earned $2M internationally for a $3.3M worldwide cume, including $1.4M in the UK where Assange is holed up inside London’s Ecuadorian embassy which has granted him diplomatic asylum. This should have been an HBO flock, which DreamWorks realizes now. With the exception of The Help and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar bait Lincoln, DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider just keeps presiding over disappointing openings like I Am Number Four, Cowboys & Aliens, Fright Night, Real Steel, Spielberg’s own War Horse, and now this. Given how small the studio’s annual output is, you’d think Snider could stop whining about financing long enough to oversee better product.

Not only does Assange hate the movie but he plotted to steal the tell-all manuscript being penned by his former second-in-command Daniel Domscheit-Berg which became one of the two books that formed the basis of The Fifth Estate film. Josh Singer (Fringe, The West Wing) adapted. But Condon claims credit for broadening the film’s scope to a “multiplicity of perspectives” ascribed to real-life and representative figures involved which is what critics panned as the weakest part of the pic. The project began shortly after DreamWorks acquired the rights to Domscheit-Berg’s Inside WikiLeaks:  My Time With Julian Assange At the World’s Most Dangerous Website. And then producers Michael Sugar and Steve Golin of Anonymous Content took the book to Singer who pitched the studio. “You could make several movies out of this material,” Singer has said, “but we had to choose one, and ultimately, the story of Daniel’s journey with Julian was the most relatable.” Cumberbatch donned  prosthetic makeup, colored contacts, bleached eyebrows, and Assange’s signature white hair, as well as intensive vocal work to capture Assange’s particular way of speaking. He reached out directly to Assange and established an email connection. Assange asked Cumberbatch not to do the role. The WikiLeaker was right.

Finishing in 16th place, Fox Searchlight/New Regency’s Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave platformed in 6 markets for a total of 19 theaters. There was tremendous curiosity in Hollywood as to its box office potential because pre-sales showed the strongest per-screen opening of the weekend before it opens wide November 1. Director Steve McQueen’s pre-U.S. Civil War drama grossed $960K for an impressive per screen average of over $50,000 a theater. Written by John Ridley based on the book by Solomon Northup) the film features a stellar cast including Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodward. Financed and produced by New Regency, pic is being marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight to a satisfied audience of mostly cinephiles and African-Americans for an ‘A’ CinemaScore. Next weekend adds 6 cities and expands theater count to about 125.
Read More »

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WikiLeaks Continues Anti-‘Fifth Estate’ Campaign, Posts Assange Letter To Cumberbatch Online

By | Wednesday October 9, 2013 @ 1:46pm PDT

WikiLeaks and its embattled founder Julian Assange keep trying to make it crystal clear they don’t support DreamWorks‘ upcoming The Fifth Estate. Today WikiLeaks published the first of Assange’s letters to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays him in the October 18 release, denying the actor’s request to meet prior to production. The pic directed by Bill Condon is based on Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding, which Assange calls “toxic” and “the two most discredited books on the market”. WikiLeaks previously posted a version of the Fifth Estate script online along with a rather exhaustive memo detailing everything the film gets wrong. Here’s the Assange letter:

Related: Julian Assange Calls ‘Fifth Estate’ A “Massive Propaganda Attack”

Dear Benedict,

Thank you for trying to contact me. It is the first approach by anyone from the Dreamworks production to me or WikiLeaks.

My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of.

I think I would enjoy meeting you.

The bond that develops between an actor and a living subject is significant.

If the film reaches distribution we will forever be correlated in the public imagination. Our paths will be forever entwined. Each of us will be granted standing to comment on the other for many years to come and others will compare our characters and trajectories.

But I must speak directly.

Read More »

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Eric Bana To Distribute Focus Features Thriller ‘Closed Circuit’ In Australia

By | Monday October 7, 2013 @ 8:22am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Actor Eric Bana is making his first foray into film distribution. Before the shakeup at Focus Features last week, Bana met with and got the company’s top executives James Schamus and Andrew Karpen to agree to sell him the Australian distribution rights to Closed Circuit, the John Crowley-directed paranoid thriller that stars Bana and Rebecca Hall as defense lawyers representing a terrorist charged with blowing up London’s Borough Market. The former lovers realize a conspiracy is afoot and their lives are in danger. Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles and Ciaran Hinds also star. They plan a December 5 theatrical release.

The film opened to mixed reviews in the U.S. in August and grossed $5.7 million, with marketing that played up timely subjects like hi-tech surveillance and government leakers. Bana has teamed on the deal with Robert Connolly, who directed the Julian Assange pic Underground, and produced and was second unit director on the Bana-starrer Romulus, My Father. “We share an office and bounce idea off each other all the time, but this is the first time since Romulus we connected on something,” Bana told me. “We thought there was no reason we couldn’t look at distributing boutique releases in our backyard. Robert has navigated those waters before with his company Cinema Plus, and has been extremely involved in securing cinemas and has longstanding relationships with exhibitors here. I have logged many years on the publicity trail, and the relevant outlets know me and I know them. On paper, it’s fresh waters, but in reality it isn’t really. We can have a level of control, and to us it makes a helluva lot of sense and is something I wish I had done earlier. I have a great relationship with Focus, presented the offer in New York, and James and Andrew liked the idea.” Read More »

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Toronto: Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ Takes Victory Lap At Emotional Fest Debut Screening

Pete Hammond

And the hits just keep on coming.

You could tell from the smiles on the faces of Universal executives that Sunday night’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of the Formula 1 racing drama Rush was a smash hit at the Roy Thomson Hall. Not only did the filmmakers, including director Ron Howard, receive enthusiastic standing ovations, but the real-life subject of the film, Niki Lauda, received a rousing standing O when introduced after the film finished.

The story is a powerful one, revolving around the intense rivalry during one season in the 1970s between drivers Lauda and James Hunt, and what happens during the course of that year is the stuff of great human drama. Initially Universal passed on the film when first pitched, even with studio golden boy and Oscar-winner Ron Howard involved. But as circumstance would have it, it all came around again after the film was produced independently (Howard’s first indie since the start of his career with Grand Theft Auto) for a reported $45 million, and Universal is proudly releasing it after all. Universal chairman Adam Fogelson told me he is extremely excited to be launching the film and has great confidence in it. “We are going to make this work,” he said with certainty. The reaction here Sunday night can only increase his confidence.

At the Thompson Hotel post-screening party, everyone involved was getting great compliments on the finished film across the board. Especially Howard, who noted that not only men were responding but surprisingly women, too. “Women responded to the movie differently, but even with more emotion and intensity than men, both genders testing it super high,” he said of the film, which is not your typical Formula 1 racing movie, but a great character study that happens to be set in the world of auto racing. I first saw it early in the marketing process in May and thought then, and still now, that the pure  emotion of the story of the rivalry between these racing icons would have great appeal way beyond the partisans of the sport. I also think it has Academy potential with no-brainer nominations for Anthony Dod Mantle’s superb cinematography, the editing, sound, Hans Zimmer’s score and Daniel Bruhl‘s stunning supporting turn as Lauda, who endures a horrific accident on the track. That’s all in addition to possible directing, writing and picture considerations. Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off this week, Telluride and Venice wrapped up and Fifty Shades of Grey got its leads. If you missed these and Deadline’s other top film stories this week, here’s your chance to check them out now:

Toronto 2013: Will Deals Take Back Seat As Buyers Focus On Fest Oscar Hopefuls?
By Mike Fleming Jr - The Toronto Film Festival got underway last night with the Gala premiere of the Bill Condon-directed DreamWorks Julian Assange film The Fifth Estate.

Vin Diesel’s ‘Riddick’ Opens Weak Weekend
By Nikki Finke - Welcome to one of the slowest weekends at the domestic box office. The movie season is off to a weak start – just $70M total filmgoing

Dakota Johnson Lands ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Role
By Mike Fleming Jr - EXCLUSIVE: The coveted role of Anastasia Steele has gone to Dakota Johnson in the Universal Pictures and Focus Features adaptation of Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Related: Charlie Hunnam Cast As Christian Grey In ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Read More »

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Toronto 2013: Will Deals Take Back Seat As Buyers Focus On Fest Oscar Hopefuls?

Mike Fleming

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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Toronto: Festival Dives Into WikiLeaks Controversy With Powerful ‘Fifth Estate’ Opening Night

Pete Hammond

The Toronto Film Festival got off to a strong start with Bill Condon‘s penetrating and thought-provoking The Fifth Estate, the story of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. But it’s not a dry procedural or recital of recent headlines. This riveting drama is a character study of a narcissistic personality out of control, a man not afraid to leak everyone else’s secrets but his own. Benedict Cumberbatch, who can do no wrong lately, is brilliant as Assange. And Daniel Bruhl, who plays his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg, clearly is going to have a problem this awards season: He’s not only absolutely terrific in this role, he’s equally great in Ron Howard’s Rush which premieres here Sunday. When I told him right after the film he was going to be the breakout star of this festival, he just laughed. But take my word, this guy is the real deal and this is his year — if these two stirring supporting turns don’t cannibalize each other. As the film credits finished, Bruhl came up and hugged Condon, throwing superlatives his way. Bruhl had only previously seen a very rough cut of the film and was blown away by the final results.

Related: Toronto 2013: Will Deals Take Back Seat As Buyers Focus On Fest Oscar Hopefuls?

He should be. This film is reminiscent of the great political thrillers of the 1970s. Most will probably compare it to the recent The Social Network, since it deals with the Internet and all its possibilities, but it is far more akin to the social dramas that defined ’70s Hollywood filmmaking. In fact, let me go out on a limb: This is the best film of its kind to hit the screen since All The President’s Men in 1976Condon’s direction is reminiscent of the style employed by Alan Pakula in that film and others from the era like The Parallax View and Klute. And it moves like a freight train. Naysayers may quibble with the dense storyline but the acting is uniformly excellent (David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney are other standouts). Where The Fifth Estate succeeds so strongly is in taking a fluid ripped-from-the-headlines story and making it timeless. Unlike last year’s Zero Dark Thirty, which had to completely rework its story when Osama bin Laden was suddenly captured and killed, this film is a complete character study and won’t be judged by ever-changing events. Some people may not care and that’s their problem but hopefully there’s an audience out there for a smart adult drama like this, but what you take away from it could depend what, from your own experience, you bring to it. I know this much: As a study of a person whose whole world view revolves only around themselves, this is as good as it gets. Assange has, sight unseen, already dismissed the film, but in a clever coda the movie even addresses that criticism. That’s how smart this thing is. Read More »

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Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond, Episode 40

By | Thursday September 5, 2013 @ 3:55pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Listen to (and share) episode 40 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about the many highlights from the Telluride Film Festival, including a made-over 1928 Mickey Mouse short, Gravity, Twelve Years A Slave, Tracks, Prisoners, and a revamped Nebraska. They also talk about lively tributes to Robert Redford, and the Coen Brothers with their musical muse, T-Bone Burnett, and why Bruce Dern doesn’t want anyone to call him a supporting actor for his fine turn in Nebraska. Pete also previews the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens today with The Fifth Estate, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; the film version of Tony-winning play August: Osage County, and much more in a sprawling event that will serve as the North American launchpad for many Oscar contenders this year. Read More »

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Benedict Cumberbatch On BAFTA/LA Honors List

By | Thursday September 5, 2013 @ 9:40am PDT

Benedict Cumberbatch has been named British Artist of the Year by BAFTA’s LA branch. He will be honored at the org’s 2013 Britannia Awards for representing “the best of UK talent.” The busy actor has three films bowing in Toronto starting with today’s world premiere of The Fifth Estate, in which he plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He also appears in fest titles 12 Years A Slave and August: Osage County. As Deadline reported yesterday, he is negotiating to star in James Gray’s Lost City Of Z. He’s also due to return to television in the upcoming third season of the BBC’s Sherlock. The Britannia Awards will be held on November 9 in Beverly Hills and will air on BBC America the following evening. Other honorees this year include George Clooney, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Kingsley.

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