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.
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.
HBO has given a straight-to-series order to Family Tree, a single-camera comedy from Christopher Guest starring Bridesmaids‘ Chris O’Dowd. Written and created by Guest and frequent collaborator Jim Piddock and to be be directed by Guest, Family Tree is a documentary-style comedy in the style of Christopher Guest’s films, which follows the world and journey of 30-year-old Tom Chadwick (O’Dowd). Having recently lost his job and girlfriend, Tom has a rather unsure sense of his own identity. But when he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt that he never met, he starts investigating his family lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters and a growing sense of who he is and who his real family are. Like he does with his movies, Guest will appear on the show along with Piddock, who had roles in Guest’s three most recent features, For Your Consideration, A Mighty Wind and Best In Show. The two will executive produce the series with Karen Murphy, who has produced all of Guest’s films.
The order for Family Tree, which will air on BBC Two in the UK, is yet to be finalized but is expected to be around 8 episodes. The series is being produced by NBCUniversal International TV Production-owned U.K. company A Lucky Giant, which developed the project with UTA-repped Guest. Casting begins right away with David Rubin …
EXCLUSIVE: After a lengthy four-way bidding war among ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS, Big Men, a comedy from Irish actor-comedian (and Bridesmaids standout) Chris O’Dowd and writer-producers Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, has landed at NBC with a script commitment plus significant penalty. Setting the single-camera project at the network of The Biggest Loser seems appropriate as it revolves around a group of men who meet at a weight loss clinic. O’Dowd will write the script based on his idea, with Port and Wiseman on board as showrunners. The three will executive produce with 3 Arts’ Dave Becky and Nick Frenkel for 20th Century Fox TV.
O’Dowd had been enjoying a solid acting career in the U.K., including starring on the popular series The IT Crowd. His career shifted into high gear this summer with his breakout performance in the runaway hit Bridesmaids. This marks O’Dowd’s American writing debut. In Britain, he recently created and co-wrote Moone Boy, a comedy series for Sky TV inspired by his childhood, which is now filming. He also is penning a comedy feature funded by the Irish Film Board. UTA-repped Port and Wiseman, who are under an overall deal at 20th TV, serve as co-executive produces on the red-hot new comedy series New Girl. Last season, they created the Fox comedy pilot Family Album. Coincidentally, …
UPDATED: Family Tree has added three more recurring guest stars: Matt Griesser as Greg, the American cousin of Chris O’Dowd’s character Tom; Maria Blasucci as Greg’s girlfriend; and Lisa Palfrey as the wife of Tom’s father, played by Michael McKean.
PREVIOUS, 8:26 AM: Nina Conti and Tom Bennett have joined as regulars the cast of Family Tree, HBO‘s single-camera documentary-style comedy from Christopher Guest that stars Bridesmaids‘ Chris O’Dowd. Amy Seimetz has also joined as a recurring on the project, which received a straight-to-series order in August. O’Dowd plays 30-year-old Tom Chadwick, who, having recently lost his job and girlfriend, has a rather unsure sense of his own identity. When he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt that he never met, he starts investigating his family lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters and a growing sense of who he and his real family are. Conti, who appeared in Guest’s film For Your Consideration, will play Tom’s sister; Bennett will play his best friend. Seimetz will play Ally, an aspiring writer who works in a bookstore and who Tom meets in unusual circumstances when he visits Los Angeles. Eight episodes have been ordered for Family Tree, …
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.”
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.
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:
After an all-male lineup last year, BAFTA’s shortlist for the 2013 EE Rising Star Award includes four gals and a guy. The nominees are “actors and actresses who are destined to be bright stars in the future of cinema.” Like last year’s crop, which included Chris O’Dowd and Chris Hemsworth, this year’s group is already pretty well-known. It includes: Elizabeth Olsen, who’ll next be seen in Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake; Andrea Riseborough who stars opposite Tom Cruise in Oblivion; Life Of Pi star Suraj Sharma; Juno Temple, who’s got three films in Sundance including Lovelace and Alicia Vikander of A Royal Affair and Anna Karenina. Jury members who selected the nominees were BAFTA film committee deputy chairman Pippa Harris, director Kevin Macdonald, actor Benedict Cumberbatch and film critic Mark Kermode. Previous winners have included James McAvoy, Eva Green, Shia LaBeouf, Noel Clarke, Kristen Stewart, Tom Hardy and last year’s Adam Deacon. This year’s winner will be announced at the BAFTA ceremony on February 10.
Wayne Blair’s Cannes crowd pleaser The Sapphires leads the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts feature film nominations for 2012 with 12 nods including picture, director, actor and actress. A close second is Jonathan Teplitzky’s Burning Man with 10, followed by PJ Hogan’s Mental, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Wish You Were Here and Cate Shortland’s Lore at 8 apiece. Lore is Australia’s entry for the foreign language Oscar. AACTA held its inaugural prize ceremony earlier this year, acting as a continuum of the Australian Film Institute Awards which were established in 1958. Considered Oz’s equivalent to the Oscars, the second annual AACTA awards will be handed out in late January in Sydney. Following is the list of feature nominees:
HBO Picks Up To Series ‘Hello Ladies’ Comedy Pilot From Stephen Merchant, Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given an eight-episode series order to Hello Ladies, its comedy pilot co-written, directed by and starring Stephen Merchant. The project, which The Office co-creator co-wrote with former Office writer-producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, stars the 6 foot-7 Merchant as a gawky Englishman searching for the woman of his dreams in Los Angeles. Half as charming as he thinks he is — and twice as desperate — he’s obsessed with infiltrating the glamorous world of beautiful people. Unfortunately the beautiful people won’t let him in. Merchant, who also explored the theme in his Hello Ladies standup show last year, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky executive produce the series, which HBO is producing in association with ABC Studios. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky are under an overall deal at ABC Studios, which blessed their involvement in the project, including its sale to HBO. The Hello Ladies pilot co-starred Christine Woods, Nate Torrence and Kevin Weisman.
HBO Orders ‘Criminal Justice’ Drama Pilot Starring James Gandolfini, From Steven Zaillian & Richard Price
The Sopranos star James Gandolfini is a step closer to returning to HBO‘s drama lineup with a starring role in the network’s Criminal Justice. HBO has given a pilot order to the drama project, written by Oscar nominee Richard Price (The Color Of Money) and to be directed by Oscar-wining writer Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Criminal Justice is a New York-set crime drama loosely based on the acclaimed 2008 BBC series of the same name created by Peter Moffat. Joining the ensemble cast led by Gandolfini are Rizwan Ahmed, Bill Camp, Peyman Moadi and Poorna Jagannathan.
The original series consisted of two five-episode seasons, each chronicling the journey of a person charged with murder through the justice system, and each featuring new characters and cast. HBO’s version follows the plot of the first season of the British series, which starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a man who takes his father’s cab for a drive and picks up a party girl who takes him to her apartment for a drunken and drug-filled night out. When he wakes up in the morning, Ben finds the girl stabbed to death and, though he can’t remember committing the crime, he is soon charged with it. (Watch a trailer below) The season earned Criminal Justice BAFTA Awards for best drama and best writer, three Royal Television Society Awards and an International Emmy.
I’ve learned that in the U.S. version, the young man is an American-born Pakistani named Naz (Ahmed). Gandolfini plays Jack Stone, a disheveled jailhouse lawyer wearing cheap suits and sandals, who trolls for clients at police precincts. That’s where he sees Naz in a holding cell and appoints himself his attorney. (The character is expected to continue if the series is renewed for additional seasons.) Camp plays the lead detective on the case; Jagannathan — repped by Hartig Hilepo and Smith Talent Group — and Moadi play Naz’s parents.
Here’s the Toronto International Film Festival trailer for The Weinstein Company’s Cannes pickup The Sapphires. The movie about an Aboriginal girl group stars Chris O’Dowd as an unlikely talent scout, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. Screenplay is by playwright Tony Briggs, whose mother and family members were part of the original Sapphires, and Keith Thompson. Directed by actor and theater director Wayne Blair, The Sapphires is also screening this weekend in Telluride.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australian musical The Sapphires rang up $A2.3M ($2.4M) in its debut Down Under this weekend, ranking 2nd behind the The Dark Knight Rises in its 4th frame and ahead of the opening of The Campaign. The film’s four-day tally bodes well for the feel-good pic which The Weinstein Co. acquired on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival in May. Last year’s Oz-made hit, Red Dog, took $1.8M in its first weekend and went on to be the biggest local picture of 2011. It was also crowned Best Film by the Australian Academy. Although The Sapphires is a sort of Aboriginal Dreamgirls that could tune up awards heat, Harvey Weinstein told Deadline’s Pete Hammond in Cannes that he doesn’t see it following in the Oscar dancesteps of The Artist. Rather, he said the film was an entertaining comedy-musical he hopes will draw good word of mouth and turn out to be a sleeper hit. Directed by Wayne Blair, it’s based on the true story of four singers from the Outback who entertained U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968. Chris O’Dowd co-stars. The Weinstein Co. acquired worldwide rights to The Sapphires, with the exclusion of the UK & Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, Israel, and Portugal. There’s no date yet for the U.S.
The first leg of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival was announced this morning, and the slate of premieres and galas has a good mix of star power and potential acquisition titles. Looper was confirmed as the Gala Opening film, which is unusual in that festival organizers have traditionally chosen Canadian titles or documentaries. Here’s the full slate in the fest’s announcement:
Toronto – Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, made the first announcement of films to premiere at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival. Films announced include titles in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes. The announced films include 17 Galas and 45 Special Presentations, including 38 world premieres.
Toronto audiences will be the first to see the world premieres of films from directors Andrew Adamson, Ben Affleck, David Ayer, Maiken Baird, Noah Baumbach, J.A. Bayona, Stuart Blumberg, Josh Boone, Laurent Cantet, Sergio Castellitto, Stephen Chbosky, Lu Chuan, Derek Cianfrance, Nenad Cicin-Sain, Costa-Gavras, Ziad Doueiri, Liz Garbus, Dustin Hoffman, Rian Johnson, Neil Jordan, Baltasar Kormákur, Shola Lynch, Deepa Mehta, Roger Michell, Nishikawa Miwa, Ruba Nadda, Mike Newell, François Ozon, Sally Potter, Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, Eran Riklis, David O. Russell, Gauri Shinde, Ben Timlett & Bill Jones & Jeff Simpson, Tom Tykwer & Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski, Margarethe von Trotta, Joss Whedon and Yaron Zilberman.
“We are thrilled to announce