House Of Cards‘ Sebastian Arcelus and Gerald McRaney are joining the cast of Relativity’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best Of Me. Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, The Emperor’s Club), The Best Of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today.
Amazon is officially an original drama series player. A month after Amazon Studios uploaded five pilots — two dramas and three comedies — for users to watch and comment on, the company has quietly notified the auspices of four of them that they are being picked up to series. That includes Amazon’s first dramas: The After from Chris Carter, marking The X-Files creator’s return to series television, and Eric Overmyer and Michael Connelly’s Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. Newly picked up half-hour comedy series include Gael Garcia Bernal starrer Mozart In The Jungle, from Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz, and Jill Soloway’s semi-autobiographical Transparent. Amazon’s fifth pilot, comedy The Rebels, from Ice Cube and Michael Strahan, is being put on hold. Five pilots yielding four series represents a much higher batting average than Amazon’s first pilot season, when it tested eight comedy pilots, picking up two — Alpha House and Betas — to series. Of them, Alpha House has been quietly renewed for a second season to begin film in July, while Betas will not be retuning. Here are descriptions of Amazon’s newly greenlighted series, whose pickup was first reported by Variety:
Related: 2014 Amazon Studios Pilots
Global Showbiz Briefs: Arrow Takes UK On ‘God’s Pocket’; Channel 4 Warms To ‘Fargo’; Noah Taylor, Charlotte Riley Join ‘Peaky Blinders’; Amy Poehler At Mip; More
Arrow Films has acquired UK rights to God’s Pocket starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sold by Electric Entertainment, the film is the feature directorial debut of Mad Men’s John Slattery. Electric acquired it at Sundance. IFC has U.S. distribution and Arrow will release later this year in Britain. Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro and Caleb Landry Jones also star in the film written by Slattery and Alex Metcalf. Based on the Pete Dexter novel, the movie follows a man who tries to cover up the accidental death of his stepson in a blue collar neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Arrow’s recent titles include Love Is All You Need, The Hunt and A Hijacking.
The veteran publicist who worked with such luminaries as Bob Hope, Cary Grant and Michael Jackson has died. John Blanchette, who also guided Zsa Zsa Gabor’s career for more than three decades, was 68. He died March 4 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica after a brief battle with leukemia, the Santa Monica Mirror reported. He was the owner and president of Blanchette & Associates Public Relations. He worked on promotions for projects including Best Picture Oscar winner Argo, Emmy winner Behind The Candelabra, Il Postino and L.A. Confidential and his list of clients also had included Debbie Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Delta Burke and Valerie Harper. Before starting his own company, the native of Sudbury, MA, worked in publicity at Fox TV, KCBS Los Angeles and New World Pictures. Since the late 1990s, also wrote syndicates features on travel, wine, and food and was co-producing a TV special on Napa Valley.
Katie Holmes has landed a series regular role in ABC’s Richard LaGravenese drama pilot. In the vein of Dangerous Liaisons, the untitled project is set in New York and revolves around the love and rivalry between two equally matched, powerful socialites, Philip Fitzgerald Julien (Rufus Sewell) and Margot Worth Cole, who play out their obsessive attraction and seduction of each other through their manipulation of others. Holmes will play Ann, a woman of education and breeding who, with her husband, runs a philanthropic foundation that helps bring clean water to African villages.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Patrick Sabongui (Godzilla) has been added to the cast of the CW pilot The Flash, based on the DC comic. It tells the story of scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), who through a freak accident is given the power of super speed that transforms him into the Fastest Man Alive. Sabongui will play another character of the comic, Captain David Singh, a potentially recurring role.
Related: 2014 The CW Pilots
A pair of flicks that were shut out at the Oscars on Sunday lead the field for the erstwhile music network’s film nods. American Hustle and The Wolf Of Wall Street snagged eight noms apiece for the 23rd MTV Movie Awards. Close behind are The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with seven and We’re The Millers with six, including a coveted Best Shirtless Performance nom for Jennifer Aniston. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Dallas Buyers Club, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, This Is The End and Best Picture champ 12 Years A Slave are next with four apiece. Conan O’Brien will serve as host of this year’s festivities, which air live on April 13 at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. The show — which last year switched from its longtime post-Memorial Day date to April — again relishes is such signature categories as Best Kiss, Best Scared-As-S**T Performance and #WTFMoment, The telecast is exec produced by Jesse Ignjatovic. Here are the nominees:
Rufus Sewell is set as the male lead in ABC’s Richard LaGravenese drama pilot. In the vein of Dangerous Liaisons, the untitled project is set in New York and revolves around the love and rivalry between two equally matched, powerful socialites — Philip Fitzgerald Julien (Sewell) and Margot Worth Cole — who play out their obsessive attraction and seduction of each other through their manipulation of others. UK-born Sewell, repped by WME, previously headlined CBS’ drama series Eleventh Hour and recently co-starred in HBO’s Parade’s End. He’ll next be seen in Hercules.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Fox Revives ‘West Side Story’ For Steven Spielberg As Town Ponders Stacey Snider Move And DreamWorks’ Future
ANALYSIS: Even though the Robert Wise original musical West Side Story is about as sacred a cow movie as you are going to find, Fox has unlocked that movie title for a remake specifically because Steven Spielberg is interested in making it. No writer has been set yet and Spielberg hasn’t done anything more than register his interest, which traditionally has always been enough to get a studio hot and bothered. Between this project and the Fox/DreamWorks team-up Robopocalypse, the Daniel H. Wilson sci-fi novel that has a Drew Goddard script and which Spielberg has said he will direct even though he stepped away to make Lincoln, it would be easy to see Spielberg directing movies at Fox for the next several years if in fact Stacey Snider makes a move to that studio after her contract expires at year’s end.
That’s just part of why the town sees Snider’s move over there as such an easy transition. It is an easier fit than when Jeff Robinov eyed Fox at a landing place but he did not want to report to Jim Gianopulos, who likes calling the shots after sharing power so long with Tom Rothman. Snider is apparently willing to do that and she has a lot of experience to offer managing a studio pipeline, skills that are rusting with DreamWorks’ comparatively small output.
Robinov is now well on his way to finding his money to start a company that will allow him to take big swings at Sony, and I’ve heard that there’s a good chance the bulk of that investment will come from Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born billionaire whose worth has been pegged at north of $17 billion. What better way for a man with that kind of money to jump into the perilous Hollywood movie business than with Gravity and Argo architect Robinov and the distribution and marketing might of Sony Pictures?
After a strong run when DreamWorks was sold to Paramount, a nasty divorce that left behind plum properties like the Transformer series, a near move to Snider’s past home Universal, and the Reliance financing/Disney arrangement which has been stepped down and has hobbled the company, I can easily imagine this finally calling a halt to the great DreamWorks experiment. The one that started with Jeffrey Katzenberg being denied the crown at the Mouse House by Disney’s Michael Eisner, and then joined into building what was to become the next great major studio by his pals Spielberg and David Geffen. I look at the recent crop of DreamWorks films, from the upcoming Need For Speed, the good but disappointing at the box office flop The Fifth Estate and the solid hit The Help, and DreamWorks just seems like an ordinary production company to me. That certainly didn’t have to be the case if the supremely ambitious principals hadn’t made all those deals that disrupted the company and instead stayed a solid course from the beginning and kept building a company on a consistent track.
BREAKING: As Deadline was first to reveal after the exits of Lynn Harris and Sarah Schechter, Jon Berg and Courtenay Valenti have been promoted to EVP Development and Production at Warner Bros Pictures by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production. Both execs, who’ve worked forever with Silverman, will report to him. Duties will be expanded for Valenti, a 25-year studio vet, and Berg, who has been rising in the ranks since arriving in 2008. They will take grater roles in oversight and management of Warner Bros’ development team and budget, as well as managing the studio’s film projects.
Verizon’s already talking to content creators about ways to enable subscribers to access video content nationally. “You could do a wireless over-the-top” — the jargon term for an Internet pay TV service — CEO Lowell McAdam told attendees at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “We’re going to work with them and find a model.” That’s been difficult until recently, he says, because many programmers feared that a new service could upset a TV distribution system that’s been lucrative for them. But many now realize that with Internet pay TV “you can get a virtuous cycle” where everybody grows. Verizon took a step toward developing its own wireless over-the-top service in January when it bought Intel’s OnCue platform. “The set top box in an OnCue environment is a little bigger than the tip of my thumb,” McAdam says. Wireless offers Verizon a relatively inexpensive way around its aging copper wire network at a time when he sees signs of video cord cutting. A few years ago his FiOS fiber optic service signed up an equal number of broadband and video customers. “Now we’re seeing significant divergence. People are buying a lot more broadband.”
Netflix has complained that its transmissions to Verizon broadband customers have been slowing — but McAdam says that should be resolved soon with a Netflix payment arrangement similar to the one it just cut with Comcast. “I’ve spoken live and via email with [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings and …
EXCLUSIVE: English actor and writer Jim Piddock has been cast in the dark comedy Kill Your Friends, based on the novel by John Niven. BAFTA-nominated Owen Harris (Holy Flying Circus) directs the pic about an A&R man (X-Men‘s Nicholas Hoult) during the Britpop music wave of the late ’90s who goes to extremes to find the next hit. Piddock, a frequent Christopher Guest player, will play Derek Sommers, the managing director of the record label. Author Niven adapted his own screenplay for Kill Your Friends, which Gregor Cameron and Will Clarke are producing. Piddock next appears in Think Like A Man Too with Kevin Hart. He and Guest co-created last year’s HBO original series Family Tree, in which they also appeared opposite Chris O’Dowd. Piddock is repped by Lighthouse Entertainment, United Agents, and AEF.
OSCARS: A Selfie-Important Academy Awards Honors Our Past And Our Future And Hits Just The Right Notes
In the end the Academy Awards fell right into place with every other awards show this season. Gravity got LOTS of love but it ended with 12 Years A Slave‘s Steve McQueen making the big acceptance speech of the night for Best Picture — just like it went at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards, BAFTA, PGA and others. It’s a weird year when a blockbuster picture like Gravity can win seven Oscars including Best Director yet lose the big one. But science fiction is not a category the Oscars have ever embraced in that way, and this year was no exception. In 1977 Star Wars also won seven Oscars yet lost in the end to Best Pic winner Annie Hall, which only picked up four awards overall much like Slave’s haul of three nods this year. The record still stands though with 1972′s Cabaret winning eight Oscars but losing ultimately to The Godfather which won only three including Best Picture.
How do you explain it? It’s called spreading the wealth but wanting to save your most important award for a movie that has real gravitas, one that breaks barriers over what the Academy has ever done before. A movie directed by a black person has never before won nor has a film that so harrowingly details one aspect of the black experience. 12 Years A Slave may have depicted the dark side of this country in a way Oscar had never before recognized, but the Academy wanted to spotlight that and reward it with its highest prize in a year of great films about the black experience. In fact the whole show was full of diversity including numerous black presenters and the Best Director award to Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron.
Come rain or come more rain, the Oscars‘ red carpet show will go on, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences insisted this evening. Despite a freak winter rain storm causing flooding and power outages throughout L.A. County, organizers anticipate no disruption for the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday in Hollywood despite most forecasts calling for more showers. “We’ve been monitoring weather patterns for weeks,” AMPAS communications chief Teni Melidonian said. “We have this covered literally and figuratively.” To ensure that Jennifer Lawrence and other nominees reach the front door of the Dolby Theatre without getting wet, the Academy has unleashed an army of workers to cover the exposed red carpet. The only area that will be exposed Sunday is on the street where the limos will be dropping off their precious cargo. The plan is to have dozens of Academy staffers on hand with umbrellas to provide the needed cover. “We would prefer viewers at home to see sunshine, but otherwise nothing will be different for the red carpet show than any other year,” Melidonian said.
UPDATE, 12:04 PM: By Warner Bros jumping aboard the high-profile Johnny Depp-Joel Edgerton pic Black Mass, it means the studio won’t be taking on another Whitey Bulger project in its own backyard: the one that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had been developing for a couple of years as a starring vehicle for Damon via their Warners-based Pearl Street Films. I’m hearing that Affleck and Damon were given a day or two advance notice that the studio was putting its eggs in the Black Mass basket, but that news came just a day before the latest rewrite was turned in by Aaron Stockard, who worked with Affleck on The Town and Gone Baby Gone and who rewrote the script by Oscar nominated The Wolf Of Wall Street scribe Terence Winter. There was much enthusiasm, then radio silence, and then…Naturally there are bruised feelings that Warners will have to repair with two of its most valuable players, as this was the first project pitched for Affleck to direct and Damon to star after Pearl Street inked its overall deal there, and I’m told the studio assured the pair it wanted to make their movie.
This is all a part of the big rough and tumble game of studios needing to fill slates, and clearly someone was going to come out first with a Bulger biopic. But there are plenty of reasons to smooth any ruffles here. Affleck is directing and starring in Warner Bros’ Live By Night, an epic period crime drama that he adapted from the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, author of Affleck’s first directorial outing Gone Baby Gone. It’s the follow-up to the Best Picture Oscar winner Argo he made for the studio. He also is playing Batman in Warner Bros’ Batman Vs. Superman.
Danielle Savre (Heroes) is set as one of the female leads in Supernatural: Tribes, the CW’s planted Supernatural spinoff, which will air as an episode of the veteran sci-fi series on April 29. Also set for a lead role in the project is former Vampire Diaries recurring player Stephen Martines, who will be joining fellow TVD alums Nathaniel Buzolic and Sean Faris as well as Lucien Laviscount. Written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Robert Singer, the sweeping drama revolves around the various mafia-esque monster families that unknowingly to humans “run” the underbelly of Chicago and are being tracked by a newly minted Hunter who’s trying to stop them and rid Chicago of anything or anyone supernatural. Savre, repped by TalentWorks and Zero Gravity, plays Margo, the acting head of the leading shapeshifter family, an ex-punk rocker-turned-corporate professional who feels threatened only by the return of her prodigal brother David (Buzolic) into the family. Martines, repped by Global Artists Agency, Luber Roklin and Chad Christopher, plays Detective Freddie Costa, a world-weary Chicago cop who serves as a mentor to Ennis (Laviscount) but also is secretly on the payroll of one of the powerful monster families.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios has given a vote of confidence to the current leadership of MGM Television, extending the contracts for Roma Khanna, President, Television Group and Digital; Chris Ottinger, President, International Television Distribution and Acquisitions; Steve Stark, President, Television Production and Development; and John Bryan, President, Domestic Television Distribution until 2016. Khanna continues to report directly to MGM chairman and CEO Gary Barber, while Ottinger, Stark and Bryan will report to Khanna. “MGM television, under Roma’s direction, is stronger than ever, and is an important producer and distributor of content for television and digital platforms worldwide,” said Barber. MGM TV’s portfolio includes series Vikings and Teen Wolf, upcoming limited series Fargo as well as syndicated Paternity Court, Right This Minute and Let’s Ask America. Projects in development include a re-imagining of Fame with Nigel Lythgoe and Marta Kauffman.
Jack Donnelly has signed with Gersh. He stars as Jason of the Argonauts on the BBC America series Atlantis, which recently was picked up for a second season. Donnelly’s TV credits also include Dancing On The Edge, Misfits and the first season of Nickelodeon’s House Of Anubis. He continues to be repped by Lou Coulson Associates.
Trivia game app QuizUp has signed with WME for representation in all areas to develop its brand and content across entertainment platforms. Plain Vanilla Games’ QuizUp was the most-downloaded free app on iTunes shortly after its November release and has reached more than 10 million users.
Kenneth Choi (Ironside) has landed a regular role in the NBC drama pilot Coercion, from Universal Television and Keshet Media Group. Based on the Israeli format The Gordin Cell, the high-octane thriller revolves around the O’Connor family and their extremely intelligent son, Alex (Gavin Stenhouse), a decorated American war hero and newly minted CIA analyst. Choi, repped by Mosaic, TalentWorks and Derek Kroeger, will play Sam Luttrell, the CIA station chief for New York.
Related: 2014 NBC Pilots
Comedy Central’s Key & Peele stars Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been tapped for a 4-episode guest arc on FX’s first limited series Fargo, executive produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. The duo will appear in the final four episodes of the 10-episode limited series. Inspired by the Coens’ 1996 film, FX’s Fargo features an all-new true crime story, with the series following a new case and new characters. Key and Peele will play FBI partners Webb Pepper (Peele) and Bill Budge (Key), who, after a violent run-in with Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), become obsessed with finding him again. Key and Peele are repped by UTA and Principato-Young Entertainment.
Related: 2014 FX Pilots