An 18-year Discovery veteran, Rita Mullin is moving up from her role as EVP Programming and Development at OWN to General Manager of Science Channel. The announcement was made today by Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity, to whom Mullin will report. Her new position is effective June 2. “I am excited to call myself the newest member of the Science Channel team,” Mullin said. “I want to ignite people’s passions with the stories we have to share. Science is now. We want to capitalize on people’s curiosity for the unknown with thought-provoking programming, bold talent and out-of-this-world entertainment.”
‘Midnight Rider’ Director Randall Miller Attempting To Move Forward With Film In LA Following Sarah Jones Death
EXCLUSIVE: Filming was suspended following the fatal February 20 train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones on the Georgia set of Midnight Rider – but Deadline has learned that director/producer Randall Miller is hoping to move forward with the production as early as June.
A source close to Miller confirms that discussions are underway on proceeding with the Gregg Allman biopic, but not in the Savannah-Atlanta region where the Jones death occurred. According to sources with knowledge of the plans, Miller wants to instead resume filming in the Los Angeles area where he and his Unclaimed Freight banner are based. According to one source with knowledge of the production, Allman, who is the executive producer on Midnight Rider, has to sign off on it too but it’s not clear if he has yet. A rep for Allman did not return calls seeking comment. It appears that Miller and Unclaimed Freight believe they have a legal right to move forward to complete the film.
Atlanta-based Jones, 27, died when a train collided with equipment on active tracks in rural Doctortown, GA where the crew of Midnight Rider was set up for filming on a train trestle overlooking the Altamaha River. The film’s producers were reportedly still trying to rally crew to continue filming in the days immediately following the accident. Production was officially suspended six days later; Open Road Films still has a distribution agreement to release the film.
Sean Penn To Direct Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem In ‘The Last Face’ For River Road’s Bill Pohlad
An interesting film project is quickly coming together now with Sean Penn, Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, which is readying to be shot in Africa. The love story, called The Last Face, will be directed by Penn and is on the verge of getting the go-ahead from River Road and Bill Pohlad, with Bill Gerber and Matt Palmieri also producing. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is The Warmest Color) is also on board. Theron, who is romantically linked with Penn, will star as a doctor who doing humanitarian relief work in Africa amidst violent political conflicts in the region. She meets another doctor (Bardem) who is doing the same work, and the story revolves around tough moral decisions that must be made during time of civil unrest. Exarchopoulos is expected to play a journalist.
This will be Penn and Pohlad’s fourth collaboration. They previously worked together on Into the Wild, which garnered two Oscar noms. Pohlad also produced Terence Malick’s Oscar-nominated Tree Of Life, which Penn narrated and starred, as well as Fair Game. Of course Pohlad was one of the producers of this year’s Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave. Penn, Theron, Bardem and Pohlad are all Oscar winners.
The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia
Anita Busch contributed to this report. First in a series.
Local, state, and federal investigations are underway to determine who from the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider is responsible for the February 20 train collision on location in rural Georgia that left 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones dead and seven others injured. As the production community rallies around the tragedy and calls for stronger guidelines to ensure that similar accidents never happen again, a Deadline investigation that included interviews with people on the ground in and around Savannah has revealed several troubling factors preceding the afternoon when the crew of the movie, directed and produced by Randall Miller through his Unclaimed Freight Productions banner, placed a metal hospital bed on the live train tracks overlooking Southern Georgia’s Altamaha River. Was the “whatever it takes” spirit that’s fueled filmmaking for decades partly to blame for such an avoidable on-set tragedy?
The city of Savannah, GA has been hungry to grow into a contender to rival competing industries in nearby Atlanta and Wilmington since generous incentives started boosting productions locally in 2009. After a busy 2012, however, film business slowed. Last year Paramount sequel SpongeBob SquarePants 2 was the lone feature to film in the city and became the center of a local firestorm when Jay Self, Savannah’s Film Commissioner of 18 years, was terminated after fighting with the studio over permit requests he said did not adequately protect the interests of local business owners and the City of Savannah.
Self publicly accused city officials of ordering him to approve permits for productions like SpongeBob SquarePants 2 in his termination hearing statement. He told me last month in Savannah that his bosses urged him to issue permits against his concerns when an L.A.-based director came to town to make a new movie in 2012. Self said his concerns went unheeded, and the same filmmaker in question prepared to bring his next feature production to Georgia. That filmmaker was Randall Miller.
Midnight Rider And The Accident Of February 20, 2014
The Allman biopic Midnight Rider was set to be Miller’s third feature in three years in the Savannah area. He and his L.A.-based Unclaimed Freight first brought production cash flowing into the city’s local economy in 2011 with the Jim Caveziel / Chiwetel Ejiofor-starrer Savannah. The following year he came back to film the NYC-set punk period piece CBGB. By the time he returned with Midnight Rider, Miller had developed a favored position within the local industry, despite his reputation for instilling a maverick sensibility on his sets and surrounding himself with a team of like-minded production crew.
This was a subtle contrast to last year when the company also highlighted scripted fare and trotted out a parade of celebrities including Mariel Hemingway, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, LaToya Jackson, and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. Filmmaker Ron Howard was perhaps the biggest new name showing up this year: He told Discovery advertisers that New Form — the online content production venture he and Brian Grazer are launching with the pay TV company — expects to “generate great scripted programming for today’s digital viewers.” They’re already weighing “several series” as they delve into “shortform content and all its possibilities.” Howard also intends to encourage other creative types to “bring their talent to New Form.” Oprah Winfrey returned, of course, to promote OWN. With its recent ratings success, “no one is happier than we are right now about what is happening to OWN.” She says the network is heading toward its “next evolution” with its first original scripted movie with Toni Braxton playing legendary studio singer Darlene Love, the focus of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. She also brought out Tyler Perry for a second year; he talked up his soap opera The Haves And The Have Nots.
Related: Discovery Channel Unveils New Slate
Production on the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider has been suspended following the on-set train accident that killed crew member Sarah Jones and injured several others on Thursday. “In light of the tragic loss, we have decided to put the production of Midnight Rider on hold,” a representative for production company Film Allman, LLC told Deadline. The fatal incident occurred when a train collided with a bed set up for filming on live tracks in Jesup, Georgia. Members of the crew as well as star William Hurt were within feet of the accident which killed Jones, the second camera assistant. Co-star Charles S. Dutton had been in wardrobe but was sent home. Director Randall Miller‘s Unclaimed Freight Productions was set to officially begin production Monday before the accident occurred. Open Road was set to release the pic as distributor. The train collision is currently under investigation by and the accident site is being treated as a crime scene. Jones’s funeral service is being held today in Columbia, SC.
UPDATE: Open Road Says It Will Still Release ‘Midnight Rider’; Female Crew Member Killed In On-Set Train Accident Identified
2ND UPDATE, 12:30 PM: The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office said today that the victim’s name is Sarah Elizabeth Jones from Atlanta. The investigation is ongoing, with railroad and film crew personnel cooperating. Here’s the official statement just released about the incident:
Sheriff John Carter reports that on 02/20/2014 at approximately 4:30pm Deputies of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office along with other emergency personnel responded to a call of a train hitting persons on the Doctortown train trestle. Deputies arrived to find that there were several people from Open Road films and the Meddin Studios from Savannah, Georgia filming a movie called Midnight Rider in the area and had gotten onto the train tracks. A north bound train struck some of these persons. There was one fatality and seven others injured. One of the injured was flown to a Savannah hospital while others were taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment. The fatality was a 27 year old white female from Atlanta, Georgia. Her name is Sarah Elizabeth Jones. This investigation is ongoing and CSX Railroad personnel, Rayonier Mill personnel, and the film crew personnel are all cooperating in the investigation. Due to the ongoing investigation no further information can be released at this time.
UPDATE, 9:10 AM: Open Road Films says it is not pulling out of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story, despite information Deadline was told to the contrary by those involved with the film. According to spokesman Liz Biber, the company says it still plans to release the picture in the U.S. but does not have a release date set. We were told that the distributor was close to announcing its plans to pull out before yesterday’s tragic accident during production in Wayne County, GA, in which one female crew member was killed and seven others were injured when they were hit by a train while filming. So time will tell.
Detective Joe Gardner of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department told Deadline that the crew was on the tracks filming a scene in Jesup, GA yesterday at about 4 PM local time and couldn’t get out of the way in time when a CSX train travelling from Memphis to Savannah arrived unexpectedly. The 27-year-old woman, who Variety reported was the second camera assistant, was killed after trying to remove a mattress from the tracks, and it did have permission to shoot in the location, Gardner said during a press conference yesterday. The 20-person crew was from Savannah, GA-based Meddin Studios. “All of us on the production team are devastated by the tragic accident that happened today,” the production said in a release sent late last night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our crew member.”
EXCLUSIVE: Micah Hauptman (Parker, Bread & Butter, Silver Skies) has been cast in Working Title/Universal’s action adventure drama Everest, about the 1996 multi-expedition ascent on Mount Everest that left eight climbers dead. Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jason Clarke, and Jake Gyllenhaal are already aboard the pic directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Hauptman will play filmmaker and mountaineer David Breashears, director of the IMAX docu Everest. He’s repped by Chaotik Media and Fuller Downs.
Charles S. Dutton has joined the cast of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. He will play Chank Middleton, a longtime friend of Allman (William Hurt). Based on Allman’s Autobiography My Cross To Bear, the pic will be directed by Randall Miller. Dutton’s recent credits include Longmire, Zero Hour and American Horror Story. He is repped by Greene & Associates and Lighthouse Entertainment.
Chad Lindberg Catches ‘Midnight Rider’; Cory Michael Smith Joins ‘Carol’; Penelope Mitchell Added To ‘The Fear Of Darkness’
EXCLUSIVE: Chad Lindberg (The Fast & the Furious, Supernatural) has been cast in Open Road’s music biopic Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story. He’ll play Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell, the real life rock ‘n’ roll roadie who had a character named for him in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. Screenplay is by director and Randall Miller and Jody Savin based on Allman’s bestselling autobiography My Cross To Bear. Tyson Ritter, Wyatt Russell, Zoey Deutch and William Hurt also star. Miller and Savin are also producing and Allman and manager Michael Lehman are exec producers on the pic. Lindberg is repped by Creative Partners Group.
EXCLUSIVE: Cory Michael Smith (Camp X-Ray) has signed on to Todd Haynes’ Carol opposite Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Picked up by the Weinstein Company in Cannes last year, Carol chronicles the burgeoning and tempestuous relationship between two very different women in 1950s NYC. Smith will play Tommy, a seemingly charming traveling salesman who meets Blanchett and Mara’s characters on the road. Filming is scheduled to start in mid-March on the Phyllis Nagy penned adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novella The Price Of Salt. Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson also star. Smith appears in Sundance pic Camp X Ray opposite Kristen Stewart and the upcoming HBO mini Olive Kitteridge opposite Frances McDormand. …
Warner Bros has released a new trailer for Winter’s Tale, the adaptation of Mark Helprin’s novel that marks Oscar-winning scribe Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut. Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) and Colin Farrell star in the mythic tale of the love between a dying woman and a thief, in a time-jumping story that spans more than a century. Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint, and Russell Crowe also star. Pic opens wide on February 14.
Palm Springs, CA (December 20, 2013) – The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) announces its complete line-up including Galas, Premieres and New Voices/New Visions. The Festival will launch on Friday, January 3 with the U.S. Premiere of opening night film Belle directed by Amma Asante, and screenings playing throughout the day. The Festival will wrap on Sunday, January 12 with Le Week-End directed by Roger Michell. 187 films from 60 countries, including 77 premieres (8 world, 22 North American and 47 U.S.), will unspool at the Festival, running from January 3-13, 2014 in Palm Springs, California.
“This year’s lineup is particularly diverse in theme and content, encompassing vintage work by established directors alongside auspicious debuts by a vast number of newly emerging talents,” said Festival Director Darryl Macdonald. “The overall quality of the films vividly reflects the banner year we’ve seen in Cinema worldwide, with a trend towards more personal, character-driven stories that defy easy genre labels, making for a much richer, more satisfying cinematic experience.”
“We launch our 25th anniversary edition with Amma Asante’s entertaining and inspiring Belle and wrap with Roger Michell’s enchanting tragi-comic Le Week-end (starring Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), thus illustrating the festival’s commitment to celebrating the work of both emerging and seasoned filmmakers,” said Artistic Director Helen du Toit. “A further pool of exciting new talent is featured in our New Voices/New Visions showcase – which bodes extremely well for the future of international cinema. In addition we will present an archival program of 7 audience favorites, including an outdoor screening of Cinema Paradiso. Many of our archival selections went on to win the foreign language Oscar® making our audience a harbinger of award winners and box office success.”
The Festival will open with the US premiere screening of Belle (UK), followed by a reception at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Directed by Amma Asante, Belle is a period drama inspired by the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Captain in the Royal Navy, stationed in the Caribbean. The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sarah Gadon, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sam Reid, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton and Miranda Richardson. Director Asante is expected to attend the film screening.
Closing the Festival is Le Week-End (UK), directed by Roger Michell. The film stars Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as an old married couple looking to rekindle their love affair with Paris and with one another in this spiky, self-lacerating comedy.
The miniseries’ second night viewership across A+E Networks‘ History, A&E and Lifetime, was down 24% from Night One. Of the 7.4 million viewers, 3.1 million fell into the 25-54 age bracket. On History, the miniseries, starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger in the title roles, logged 2.8 million viewers overall; Lifetime and A&E networks each averaged 2.3 million.
Overall, the two-part miniseries averaged 8.6 million viewers — 3.6 million in that age bracket. That secures Bonnie & Clyde‘s status as basic cable’s third most watched miniseries since ’06, behind History’s mega hits Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible. Bonnie & Clyde had grossed 9.8 million viewers and 4.2 million demo viewers during its world premiere on Sunday. History also led the simulcast that night, with 3.7 million viewers, followed by Lifetime (3.1 million) and A&E (3 million).
The project, which also starred Holly Hunter and William Hurt, marked A+E Networks’ first-ever simulcast across the three networks. Sony Pictures Television produced the mini, from executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, based on the script byJohn Rice and Joe Batteer, directed by Bruce Beresford.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Jean-Claude Van Damme Pic ‘Swelter’ Sells Out; ‘Rising Star’ Headed To Hungary; More
The Exchange Sells Out Jean-Claude Van Damme Pic ‘Swelter’
Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer Swelter had a hot run at the recent AFM. Sales company The Exchange says the film sold out worldwide with a North American deal currently under negotiation. The Muscles from Brussels is joined in the film by Alfred Molina, Lennie James, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Freya Tingley. Keith Parmer (Mob Rules) is director on the movie that sees a group of notorious Las Vegas casino robbers seeking out their former accomplice who’s now a cop with no memory of his past. Swelter is the first completed movie financed by Exchange Peaks Film Capital, a fund that’s financed by production outfit Grand Peaks and run by The Exchange. Among the territory deals secured during the AFM are the UK (Anchor Bay), Germany/Switzerland (Planet Media), Latin America (Swen), France (Happy Audience), Japan (Culture Convenience Club), Australia/NZ (Transmission), South Korea (Sonamu Pictures) and Singapore (Shaw), among many others. Exec producers are Grand Peaks’ Don Simpson and Nat McCormick, Laura Ivey and Brian O’Shea from The Exchange. Film Invaders’ Eleonore Dailly, Alan Simpson and Chris Ranta are producers.
‘Rising Star’ World Tour’s Latest Stop Is Hungary
Keshet International‘s hot singing competition format Rising Star is headed to yet another country. After deals in such places as the U.S. — where ABC is making its own version for next summer — France, Germany and Scandinavia, Rising Star will next visit Hungary. Local commercial network TV2 has ordered 14 episodes of the show for air in fall 2014. A UK deal on the interactive talent format is also understood to be close to fruition with ITV.
A&E Networks, revving up for its first ever triple-cast, of new four-hour two-night miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, announced today it had lined up six “premium sponsors” on the project — including the 20th Century Fox release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, as well as, ironically, Match.com, plus Jeep Cherokee which will use the time to position itself as the “ultimate escape vehicle.”
Lifetime, A&E and History channels will simulcast the miniseries starting Sunday, December 8 at 9 PM ET. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) star in the title roles of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the infamous Depression-era outlaw couple; the cast also includes Holly Hunter (The Piano) and William Hurt (Too Big to Fail).
From today’s announcement:
Here’s a look at WB and Village Roadshow’s Valentine’s Day 2014 romance Winter’s Tale, the adaption of Mark Helprin’s novel that marks Oscar-winning scribe Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut. Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) and Colin Farrell star in the mythic tale of the love between a dying woman and a thief, in a time-jumping story that spans more than a century. Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint, Russell Crowe, and newcomers Ripley Sobo and Mckayla Twiggs of Broadway’s Once round out the cast:
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disaster — when it premieres on November 16 at 9 PM, to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience and because the movie fits Discovery’s footprint. Discovery Channel this calendar year, is averaging 1.3 million viewers – 660,000 of them aged 18-49. Science Channel this year is averaging 304,000 viewers – 117,000 of them in the demo. When Science first announced the project in July, its GM Debbie Myers said it was the “biggest swing” in the network’s history. Produced in collaboration with the BBC and based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the movie details Feynman’s participation in the Presidential Commission put together to investigate the Challenger explosion. William Hurt plays Feynman – the Caltech physicist/Nobel laureate who, in a televised hearing, demonstrated that the Challenger’s O-ring was not sufficiently pliable, submerging a piece of it in a glass of ice water, causing it to grow stiff and bend, and Feynman to note, “I believe that has some significance for our problem,” according to press reports. At the investigation’s conclusion, Feynman’s report, “Appendix F – Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle,” was presented to POTUS, independent of the commission’s report.
The Challenger explosion was one of those where-were-you-then moments in American history; millions of TV viewers watched in horror on January 1986 as the space vehicle burst apart, killing all seven astronauts on board, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been added to the crew because space travel was considered that safe; she was going to provide terrific PR for the space program by teaching some classes to school children from space.
The four-hour two-part Bonnie & Clyde mini is set to air Sunday, December 8th and Monday, December 9th at 9 PM simultaneously on A&E, Lifetime and History. Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) star in the title roles of outlaw couple Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The killer cast also includes Holly Hunter as Bonnie’s mother, Emma Parker, and William Hurt as Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger pursuing the Barrow gang. Bonnie & Clyde follows Barrow, Parker and the notorious Barrow Gang as they sweep through the Central and Southern United States committing small-time robberies and daring bank heists, leaving murdered police officers and civilians in their wake. Cast also includes include Sarah Hyland (Modern Family), Lane Garrison (Prison Break), Elizabeth Reaser (The Twilight Saga), Austin Hebert (True Blood) and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone). The miniseries is produced by Sony Pictures Television and executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. John Rice and Joe Batteer penned the script and Oscar-nominated Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant) directed.
UPDATE: As Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported from Toronto on Wednesday, TWC was nearing a deal to acquire U.S. and multiple territories on The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: His/Hers and The Weinstein Company just made it official. See today’s release below the original break.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: In its second big deal of the Toronto Film Festival, The Weinstein Company is near a deal to acquire U.S. and multiple territories on The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: His/Hers. I hear the deal is around $3 million and covers U.S., Canada, UK and France for the Ned Benson-directed film that stars Jessica Chastain, William Hurt, Viola Davis, James McAvoy, Ciarin Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, Jess Weixler and Nina Arianda. The structure on this one is unusual. It’s the story of a married couple that experiences a difficult time in their relationship, as seen in two films. One is through the eyes of the husband, and the other is from the wife’s perspective. The picture made its debut Monday at the Elgin, and the deal is being brokered by WME Global and the TWC team led by Harvey Weinstein and David Glasser and, as has been the case on most of these deals, they went at it all night.