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.
Magnolia has dropped a new trailer for The Double. Richard Ayoade directed and co-wrote with Avi Korine and Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in the adaptation of Dostoevsky’s doppelganger tale. Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid, isolated man who’s overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams (Wasikowska). The arrival of a new co-worker, James (also played by Eisenberg), serves to upset the balance. Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, James Fox, Cathy Moriarty, Chris O’Dowd, Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts and Paddy Considine also star. The Double premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Magnolia releases the pic in theaters and iTunes/OnDemand on May 9.
HBO’s ‘Family Tree’ Will Not Be Renewed, ‘Hello Ladies’ Will Wrap Run With Special, ‘Getting On’ Eyes Second Season Pickup
HBO is making decisions on the three new comedy series that premiered last year. The pay cable network has opted not to order a second season of Family Tree. Also not going to second season is Hello Ladies, which will wrap the story of Stuart Pritchard (Stephen Merchant) and his group of friends with a special — similar to the way HBO ended Ricky Gervais’ Life’s Too Short. There is no final decision on medical comedy Getting On but it is expected to get a second-season renewal pending the sorting out of budget issues.
Unlike HBO’s dramas, which in many cases are big crowd-pleasers like True Blood and Game Of Thrones, its comedies, by design, have been very specific. None of the three freshman 2013 series – all with strong British pedigrees — have been as noisy as Girls for example, but they have been relatively well received (especially Getting On), and their viewership deliveries have been OK for the price point. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree, starring Chris O’Dowd, was originally designed for an arc. I hear being a co-producing with the BBC made a second installment even more complicated, contributing to HBO’s decision not to go forward.
Gearing up for the European Film Market in Berlin next month, the feature division of Bill O’Dowd’s family-based producer Dolphin Entertainment is launching a new sales operation to go by the name of Dolphin Films International. The outfit will operate under a multi-year partnership with IM Global which will provide support and give Dolphin a strong physical presence at markets as well as access to its relationships. Dolphin vet Christine Perrin-Stocco will run the division which kicks off with the live-action feature adaptation of Mattel’s Max Steel. Dolphin is the second sales operation to announce its launch this week; on Tuesday, finance and sales outfit Fortitude International hung its shingle. Here are full details on Dolphin Films International:
UPDATE, 12:50 PM: Fox Searchlight has confirmed a deal for rights in the U.S. and select overseas territories for the black comedy/drama and plans a 2014 release. Check out the release after the main break.
PREVIOUS BREAKING, 10:29 AM: I’m hearing from the airport here that Calvary has sold to Fox Searchlight for $2.5 million. The Irish-UK pic starring Brendan Gleeson and directed by John Michael McDonagh co-stars Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, and Aidan Gillen. It screened Sunday in Park City in the fest’s Premieres section. The pic centers on a priest (Gleeson) who one day is told by an unseen man that he’s going to kill him precisely because he’s done nothing wrong. Given a week to make his peace with God, the priest ministers to sundry lost souls — visits that double as a guided tour of suspects. His preparation for death is further complicated by the arrival of his daughter, who has recently attempted suicide. It recently was added to the Panorama sidebar at Berlin and will screen there next month.
Hulu will premiere its new supernatural comedy Deadbeat on April 9. Directed by Troy Miller, the series is Hulu’s first co-production with Lionsgate TV. Hulu also announced today it is re-upping teen drama East Los High for a second season and will distribute reality TV satire The Hotwives Of Orlando from Paramount Digital Entertainment. Casey Wilson, Angela Kinsey, Kristen Schaal, Tymberlee Hill, Danielle Schneider, and Andrea Savage star as six of Orlando, Florida’s hottest housewives who are ready to drink, fight, and cry, sometimes all at the same time. In addition, Hulu will release the original Scandinavian version of the drama series The Bridge, recently adapted for U.S. audiences by FX, as well as the Canadian reality-style dance drama The Next Step, acquired from BBC Worldwide North America. And the second season of Chris O’Dowd’s semi-autobiographical comedy Moone Boy will make a return in the spring.
In the second half of 2014, Hulu will release second seasons of Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker’s animated The Awesomes, Josh Greenbaum’s docu-series Behind The Mask and John Lehr and Nancy Hower’s Western comedy Quick Draw. Tom Hollander also returns in season three of Rev. Click over for the full lineup:
The Berlin Film Festival will ultimately line up 50 narrative and documentary features for its Panorama section that showcases innovative mainstream and radical alternative films. Today, it’s offered up the first 19 titles. Included among them are Michel Gondry‘s Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary and Tsai Ming-liang’s Journey To The West. Jalil Lespert’s biopic Yves Saint Laurent will open Panorama Special on February 7th at the newly-renovated Zoo Palast cinema. The Berlin Fest runs from February 6-16. Below is the list of Panorama films announced today:
Arrête Ou Je Continue (If You Don’t, I Will)
By Sophie Fillières
With Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric
Bai Mi Zha Dan Ke (The Rice Bomber)
By Cho Li
With Huang Chien-wei, Nikki Hsieh, Michael Chang
Bing Du (Ice Poison)
Taiwan / Myanmar
By Midi Z
With Wang Shin-Hong, Wu Ke-Xi
Ireland / Great Britain
By John Michael McDonagh
With Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen
Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester will play Curley’s wife in Of Mice And Men, joining James Franco & Chris O’Dowd in the first Broadway stage production of the John Steinbeck tale in 40 years. This one’s directed by Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro and produced by David Binder.
Meester started her career in regional theatre before getting the Gossip Girl gig. She also starred with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw in Country Strong. The play officially opens April 16 at the Longacre Theatre, and will run through July 27.
James Franco and Chris O’Dowd have signed on to make their Broadway debuts in Of Mice And Men, the first new production of the John Steinbeck novel in 40 years. It will be directed by Anna D. Shapiro, who won the Tony for August: Osage County. Franco, who has now tried just about every outlet an actor can try, will play George, while The Sapphires star O’Dowd will play Lennie. The play will be staged at the Longacre Theatre with previews starting March 19. It officially opens April 16 and will run through July 27. They’ll start selling tickets January 11. David Binder is producing Of Mice And Men with Darren Bagert, Kate Lear and Barbara Whitman.
AFM kicked off today, and my has that indie business changed over the years. The schlock is almost all gone, and the chase is on for fewer movies of higher quality, with recognizable stars and filmmakers who have classed up a business. The elevated level of product has been made possible by studios vacating the tweener film space, leaving a lot of orphaned development available to the indies.
That means it’s a lot less fun. When I first got to Variety in the ’90s, I was dispatched to AFM and asked to come back with a report about what it all meant. A distributor friend recounted observing a stranger who was going around making tiny offers on films for his obscure home territory. Based on what he was buying, he seemed to have zero taste. Finally, somebody stopped the guy to see what he was doing. Turned out he was a distributor — but produce, not movies. He had a chain of outdoor vegetable stands, and showed movies to his customers. The worse the film, the more vegetables his patrons bought to throw at the screen.
Any thoughts I had that this was a too-good-to-be-true story faded when I got there. You could throw a rock and hit Fred Williamson, the gridiron great-turned-star of many forgettable action films. And hey, be careful, you almost stepped on Nelson de la Rosa, the world’s smallest man who would go on to become Brando’s sidekick in The Island Of Dr. Moreau. The halls were lined with one-sheets where all the creativity went into the titles. And while the Weekly Variety AFM issue was thick as a phone book, I’d hear salesmen grumble about getting stiffed for ads on movies that didn’t sell.
Aside from a few titles still exploiting the bogus Sharknado craze, it’s a world of different now. The schlock meisters are relics, and the projects ringing the bell with distributors coming from all over the world are the ones that have name directors like Woody Allen, David Koepp, Tom Tykwer, Tommy Lee Jones, and stars like Meryl Streep, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Ian McKellen, Jesse Eisenberg, Tom Hardy, Andrew Garfield, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Russell Crowe, Michael Fassbender and Nicole Kidman. These are studio-caliber names.
“You will see the occasional hilarious poster, but since the high end studios abandoned everything but superheroes, the independent financiers and producers have been the beneficiaries,” said Millennium Films president Mark Gill. “Olympus Has Fallen would have had studios all over it five years ago. We were able to do it.”
Paramount was once set to adapt Mattel‘s popular Max Steel toy line into a live-action pic with Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner to star. Instead Mattel will now team up with Dolphin Entertainment and Open Road to bring the action figure franchise to the big screen. Max Steel centers on teen Maxwell McGrath who with his alien companion Steel combines forces to become the eponymous superhero. Christopher Yost (Thor: The Dark World) will script. Stewart Hendler (Sorority Row, Halo: Forward Unto Dawn) is attached to direct after helming and exec producing the award-winning digital series H+ for Dolphin Entertainment and WB.
EXCLUSIVE: Ted Melfi, currently directing a cast of Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Chris O’Dowd in his directorial debut St. Vincent De Van Nuys for The Weinstein Company, is moving closer to his next picture. I’m told that Sony Pictures and Chernin Entertainment are nearing a rights deal for the J.R. Moehringer memoir The Tender Bar, with Melfi to write the script and direct. Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping will produce. Mark Bauch will be exec producer. Chernin Entertainment is producing St. Vincent De Van Nuys.
The bestselling memoir was published in 2005 and told the story of how as a youth, the author grew up without a father but surrounded him with unlikely surrogates: the patrons who haunted a pub in Manhasset, Long Island where his uncle tended bar. Moehringer broke into journalism as a copyboy at The New York Times and won a Pulitzer for feature writing at the L.A. Times.
The movie Melfi’s currently shooting melded personal episodes in Melfi’s life. Part of it came after Melfi’s brother died tragically five years ago at age 38, and Melfi and his wife adopted his 11-year old daughter. Told to write about someone in her life reminiscent of a saint, she chose Melfi and St. Will of Rochester, the patron saint of adopted children.
EXCLUSIVE: Naomi Watts is in talks to star in St. Vincent De Van Nuys, the film that Ted Melfi will direct from his script for The Weinstein Company, Chernin Entertainment and Don Cheadle’s Crescendo. Watts will join Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd. Watts will play a Russian prostitute who develops a close relationship with the title character (Murray), a cantankerous guy who becomes a chief influence on an angelic 12-year old boy whose hardworking single mother (McCarthy) foists child care duties on Murray’s character. The project, which Chernin Entertainment developed for two years with Melfi’s Black List script, has been compared to As Good As It Gets or even TWC’s recent Silver Linings Playbook for the way it mixes comedy and human pathos. Watts is coming off an Oscar-nominated performance in The Impossible. Every age appropriate hot actress in town chased this role. She’s repped by CAA and Untitled.
EXCLUSIVE: Chris O’Dowd, who opens today in The Sapphires, is in early talks to join Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in St. Vincent De Van Nuys, the film that Ted Melfi will direct from his script for The Weinstein Company and Chernin Entertainment. O’Dowd will play a sympathetic Catholic priest shocked to see the influence that the title character has on an angelic 12-year-old boy whose hardworking single mother (McCarthy) foists the child care duties on Murray’s character. He is a cantankerous train wreck who takes the kid under his corrupt wing. The project, which Chernin Entertainment developed for two years with Melfi’s Black List script, has been compared to As Good As It Gets or even TWC’s recent Silver Linings Playbook for the way it mixes comedy and human pathos.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Sapphires,’ ‘Gimme The Loot,’ ‘Hunky Dory,’ ‘Come Out And Play,’ ‘Starbuck,’ ‘New World’
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Only a handful of new specialty movies opened during the early part of 2013, but spring has brought an onslaught of indies and foreign titles. The Weinstein Company opens the Cannes debut The Sapphires this weekend, while two titles from last year’s SXSW, Hunky Dory starring Minnie Driver and Gimme The Loot from Sundance Selects, bow in select locations. Thriller Come Out And Play makes its way to theaters after a very unconventional production. Paladin’s My Brother The Devil enjoyed the support of Sundance but faced riots during its filming in London. Entertainment One brings a French-Canadian comedy that has already landed an English-language remake deal, and Well Go USA will launch New World, hoping once again to capitalize on past successes with Korean thrillers.
Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
TWC picked up the biographical comedy/drama ahead of its Cannes Film Festival premiere in the Official Selection last year, picking up U.S. rights and other territories for low seven figures. “It’s a really, really strong film with great performances,” said TWC president of theatrical distribution & home entertainment Erik Lomis. “Chris O Dowd is terrific”, said Lomis. Set against a backdrop of racial strife in Australia in the late ’60s, the film centers on four Australian Aboriginal girls who form a group and head out to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam, escaping the tensions and limitations of their rural community. “It plays well to an audience and hopefully will crack the formula,” said Lomis. “It’s not a four-quadrant movie, but it’s has appeal across the spectrum. It’s an audience pleaser and it has scored through the roof.”
TWC tested the feature in New York and in the Midwest where Lomis said audiences in both regions responded well. “The trick is getting them in,” he noted. “We’re hoping word-of-mouth will propel its theatrical run.” The Sapphires will have a traditional first weekend opening in New York and LA, playing at two locations in each city before expanding.
Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) stars in Christopher Guest‘s spring HBO series as a recently single and unemployed 30-something man who discovers himself by investigating his wacky extended family. Frequent Guest players Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Don Lake, Ed Begley Jr., and Jim Piddock (who co-wrote and exec produces the series with Guest) join Matt Griesser, Maria Blasucci, Amy Seimetz, Nina Conti, and Tom Bennett in the single camera docu-style series. Family Tree debuts in May on HBO and BBC Two in the UK. Here’s the show’s teaser:
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The Weinstein Co. has confirmed The Sapphires will open March 22 in the U.S. TWC bought multi-territory rights for the musical drama at last year’s Cannes festival. Director Wayne Blair’s film based on the real-life story of an Aboriginal singing group that shot to fame in the 1960s was the top-grossing Australian film in 2012 with $A14.4 million ($14.9 million). Pic has 12 nominations for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, including best film, direction, actress (Deborah Mailman), actor (Chris O’Dowd) and supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy). The major awards will be presented Wednesday night in Sydney, hosted by Russell Crowe.
The Santa Barbara Film Festival has announced its 2013 lineup. The 28th edition features films from 49 countries and runs January 24-February 3. The Jason Bateman-starring drama Disconnect is the opening-night film and Rowan Athale’s Wasteland closes it. Here’s the full lineup of movies by category: