Philip Marshak, who wrote and directed several cult classic films in the late ’70s and ’80s, including Night Train To Terror, Cataclysm and Dracula Sucks, has died. He passed away last night surrounded by his family at his Los Angeles home after a long battle with leukemia, diabetes and heart disease. his son, talent manager Darryl Marshak said. He was 80. Philip Marshak began his Hollywood career as an actor studying with Lee Strasberg, but then took a turn as an underground/guerrilla filmmaker in the late 60’s/70’s.
EXCLUSIVE: In recent years Universal Pictures has become defined by its The Fast And The Furious, Despicable Me, Bourne and Jurassic Park franchises. But the studio’s most enduring legacy is its library of classic movie monsters that include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature Of The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Universal is now dedicating renewed resources and an unprecedented, far-reaching commitment to revitalize its monster heritage.
The studio is in early stages of developing a substantial new production endeavor that will expand and unify a network of classic characters and stories. The architects of that narrative will be Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. Kurtzman recently broke with partner Roberto Orci, but his big-scale projects have included Transformers, Star Trek and The Amazing Spider-Man. Morgan is the writer behind five installments of The Fast And The Furious, which has been Universal’s most reliably lucrative franchise. It’s not set in stone yet if either will write, but they will soon be going around town enlisting talent to bring new cinematic life to these enduring characters from lore, literature and Universal’s own library. While Universal has selectively tapped its Movie Monster library for The Mummy, Van Helsing, The Wolfman, and the upcoming Dracula Untold, this will be the first time that the studio has formalized an approach to these classic characters in a cohesive, connected way rather than as a series of stand-alone projects by disparate filmmaking teams.
Lothaire Bluteau (The Tudors), Kevin Durand (The Strain) and Morgane Polanski (The Ghost) have joined the cast of History’s original scripted series Vikings for Season 3. They join previously announced Ben Robson (Dracula: The Dark Prince) who will play Kalf, Lagertha’s trusted second in command. Vikings centers on Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), a restless young warrior and family man who longs to find and conquer new lands across the sea and claim the spoils as his own. Bluteau will play Emperor Charles of France, a powerful man who views the Vikings as spiritual and earthly; Durand will play The Wanderer, a mysterious man who is not what he seems; and Polanski will play Princess Gisla, the elegant, self-possessed daughter of Emperor Charles and his most trusted advisor. Vikings Season 3 begins production this summer for a 2015 premiere.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has acquired Leviathan, an original sci-fi spec script by Cole Haddon. 22 Jump Street‘s Neal Moritz will produce through his Original Films banner, and Toby Ascher will be executive producer. Production president Michael De Luca steered the deal. They are keeping the logline under wraps. At Sony, Haddon wrote Dodge And Twist and Savage Planet.
IMAX, Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures are expanding their relationships with a new pact to release up to 15 of the studios’ films in IMAX theaters through 2017. Under the agreement, IMAX will be part of Universal and Legendary’s release strategy for such live-action tentpoles as Dracula Untold (October 2014), Seventh Son (February 2015), Fast & Furious 7 (April 2015), Jurassic World (June 2015), Everest (September 2015), Crimson Peak (October 2015) and Warcraft (March 2016). This is the first multi-picture deal IMAX has made with both studios. It has released recent Universal pics Despicable Me 2, Les Misérables and The Bourne Legacy in the format as well as Legendary’s Godzilla, although that film went through Warner Bros, pre-dating Legendary’s five-year deal with Universal.
Six-part BBC One crime drama Happy Valley hails from Sally Wainwright, the prolific UK TV writer and BAFTA-winning creator of Last Tango In Halifax. The series that has had Britain all abuzz over the past month and a half came to its climactic concludsion Tuesday night and drew 6.18M viewers for a 28% share. The finale, which should rise a fair bit when delayed viewings are included, was the second-highest rated of the run after the April 29 debut episode attracted 7.64M viewers. Over the series, it averaged about 6.9M and consistently won its slot. The contemporary show is being called the best drama of the year and Wainwright has said there is potential for a second season. There is no deal for the first season to air in the U.S. as yet, but it’s easily the kind that could turn up on BBC America or PBS. It could even be remade à la Broadchurch, the last new drama to have such an effect in Britain. It’s also been compared to Breaking Bad, and there’s already awards talk for next year. (See the trailer below.)
History has added cast to its drama series Vikings and miniseries Texas Rising. Ben Robson (Dracula: The Dark Prince) has landed a series regular role in Season 3 of Vikings. It centers on Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), a restless young warrior and family man who longs to find and conquer new lands across the sea and claim the spoils as his own. Robson, repped by UTA and Management 360, will play Kalf, the trusted second-in-command to Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Produced by MGM Television, Vikings Season 3 begins production this summer for a 2015 premiere.
Rob Morrow has joined the cast of Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ThinkFactory Media. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Morrow, repped by Gersh, Berwick & Kovacik, and Jackson Tyerman, will play Col. Fannin, a passionate member of the Texas Army who follows his heart instead of orders. He next will be seen in the upcoming John Carney film Begin Again.
TNT is tweaking its branding. After the cable network introduced its signature We Know Drama tagline in 2001 and shortened it to Drama. in 2008, it is now expanding it to TNT Drama. Boom. The brand update reflects TNT’s new direction, with more action-adventure, sci-fi/fantasy and mystery/suspense series alongside crime dramas or, as TNT programming chief Michael Wright put it, more “drama that thrills.” It will be unveiled at TNT and TBS’ upfront presentation today where TNT will tout its slate of new series The Last Ship, Legends, Murder In The First, Public Morals, Proof and The Librarians, a take on TNT’s Librarian original movie franchise. Its development slate includes projects (some previously announced) from Vince Vaughn, Greg Berlanti, Scott Winant, Donnie Wahlberg, Mark Gordon and Joe Carnahan, as well as a sequel to King’s 1980 bestseller Firestarter. TBS, which just picked up new half-hour series Angie Tribeca, Buzzy’s and Your Family Or Mine, is developing projects from Ed Helms and John Krasinski. Here are details about TNT and TBS’ development slates:
I don’t want dampen the euphoria of the writers, producers and actors who just got their pilots picked up to series — big congrats to you all! — but let’s not forget the extremely high casualty rate of the broadcast business. As a somber reminder, here is a list of the series that got the axe this season, most in the span of the last few days. They will be missed… well, some of them.
Back in the Game
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Super Fun Night
The Crazy Ones
Friends with Better Lives
We Are Men
The X Factor
Growing Up Fisher
The Michael J. Fox Show
Sean Saves the World
Welcome to the Family
The Carrie Diaries
The Tomorrow People
One more piece has fallen into place for NBC‘s schedule next season with the network opting not to bring back vampire drama Dracula for a second season. That leaves us with Parenthood, which is still in a holding pattern for a 13-episode sixth season. The deadline for the actors to agree to a cost-cutting episodic guarantee reduction, that would have them appear in as few as 9 of the final episodes, came and went yesterday afternoon with no agreement reached for some of the key cast members. Things have been mostly quiet since though there is still hope that the beloved family drama will come back for a final chapter.
Both Dracula and Hannibal, which shared the Friday 10 PM slot this season, are produced under a different model that allows for a lower license fee, making them advantageous for NBC. Dracula (1.8) premiered stronger than Hannibal (1.6 in Season 1, 1.1 in Season 2). It lost steam after the solid debut, and there had been some issues with star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who received good reviews, during the shoot. With Hannibal‘s license fee poised to become even more lucrative for Season 3, the network renewed that series.
David Schulner is staying at Universal TV with a new two-year overall deal, his third consecutive overall pact there. Through Uni TV, Schulner has sold hourlong drama Pharaoh to HBO with Ridley Scott attached to direct and executive produce. The series explores an alternate explanation for the foundation and ascent of the ancient Egyptian empire—one in which greatness was bestowed upon us by beings from another world, calling into question what it means to be a ‘god.’ Another ancient Egypt drama, Hieroglyph, has a series order at Fox. Under his Uni TV deal, Schulner also is developing projects for sister networks USA and Syfy. He previously was the creator, executive producer and showrunner of NBC/Uni TV’s drama Do No Harm and served as consulting producer on NBC’s Dracula and Ironside. Schulner began his tenure at Universal TV (then UMS) with stints as co-executive producer on drama series Kings and Trauma, leading to his first overall deal with the studio in 2010. Schulner started off as a playwright before becoming a staff writer on ABC’s Once And Again. He rose to prominence with his high-concept 2007 spec The Oaks, which landed at Fox after a bidding frenzy with Shawn Ryan executive producing. Schulner’s series credits also include the WB’s Everwood, ABC’s Desperate Housewives and ITV’s Marchlands. Schulner, repped by UTA and Myman Abel, also is the author of the comic book Clone.
Cannes: 2014 Directors’ Fortnight Lineup Unveiled; ‘Whiplash’, ‘Cold In July’, ‘Catch Me Daddy’, ‘Pride’, John Boorman & More
UPDATE, 3:45 AM PT, WRITETHRU: The 19 features that will make up what looks like a particularly strong Directors’ Fortnight sidebar at the Cannes Film Festival were revealed this morning in Paris with a hefty dose of genre in the mix. Along with a special 4K restoration of Tobe Hooper’s classic 1974 frightfest The Texas Chain Saw Massacre comes Alleluia, a psychological horror pic from Belgium’s Fabrice Du Welz that’s inspired by the 1940s serial murdering Lonely Hearts Killers. Also on the roster are Australian helmer Zach Hilditch’s thriller These Final Hours with Jessica De Gouw (Dracula, Arrow); and Jim Mickle‘s Sundance pic Cold In July with Michael C. Hall as a small town Texas man who kills a home intruder and finds his life unraveling into a dark underworld of corruption and violence. This is the second year in a row that Mickle is appearing in the Fortnight following a bow in Sundance. Also out of Park City is Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, the Grand Jury prize-winner spearheaded by producers Jason Blum and Jason Reitman. (See below for the full list of Fortnight features and shorts.)
It is very difficult for showrunners to wrap production on a season without knowing if their series would get another season. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the network business, and about two dozen shows go though that every year. Here is a look at each network’s comedy and drama series in peril and their odds for survival.
With all the drama carnage at ABC this season (Lucky 7, Betrayal, Killer Women, Mind Games, The Assets), the network is pretty lean on the hourlong side, and all shows currently on the air have a good shot at coming back. That includes two freshman series, fall drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite slipping in the ratings, and midseason entry Resurrection. Of returning dramas, there is no doubt about renewals for Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, especially with stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey signed on, and Scandal, as well as Castle and Once Upon A Time. While it was heavily on the bubble last season, country music drama Nashville appears in a stronger position this spring and looks likely to continue. And, despite its ratings erosion, Revenge remains a signature, upscale drama for ABC that the network also owns. Because of its heavy mythology with a revenge storyline that has been central to the show since the pilot, it is unlikely that ABC would abruptly end the series without giving it a final chapter to wrap things up.
Things are far murkier on the comedy side where there are three shoe-ins, anchors Modern Family and The Middle and freshman The Goldbergs. None of these hail from ABC’s sister studio, and building a steady comedy pipeline at ABC Studios has been important for the overall health of the company. There are three ABC Studios-produced comedy series on ABC at the moment, all on the bubble: freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology and sophomore The Neighbors. The network will likely renew at least one comedy from its own studio. (Last year, it picked The Neighbors vs. 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents.) Of the three, Trophy Wife seems to have the biggest support and is the most promotable, with a star cast led by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford. But the name cast also makes Trophy Wife the most expensive, and its ratings are pretty soft. The Neighbors, which comes from prominent Disney writer Dan Fogelman, costs way less, and, while only doing so-so on Fridays, it could deliver something ABC Studios has not seen in a while: a third-year comedy. (Fogelman also has comedy pilot Galavant in the running at ABC.) Then there is Mixology, which has not done well behind Modern Family. It stands out with its unusual structure — set in a bar over the course of one night — it has quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC. But relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge and growing ratings for such a show with a continues storyline would be very difficult. ABC has a recent history of sticking with narrow, quirky relationship comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- but all were eventually cancelled. 20th TV’s Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen is quietly wrapping its third season. It has done a decent job as a Friday 8 PM anchor and is ABC’s only multi-camera series. With several high-proile multi-camera pilots, the network could use Last Man Standing as a building block. (How about Allen paired with another comedy vet, Henry Winkler of The Winklers?).
Q&A: Producer Colin Callender On His Next Chapter, Converging Theater, Film & Television And Taking On Harry Potter
Colin Callender‘s first producing effort, a nine-hour TV adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production of The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby launched UK’s Channel 4 and won him his first Emmy in 1983. After a stint as an independent producer in his native Britain, Callender joined HBO where he shepherded films and miniseries like Angels In America, John Adams, Maria Full Of Grace and American Splendor to the tune of 104 Emmy Awards, 29 Golden Globes, 3 Oscars, and top awards at the Sundance Film Festival. Since leaving HBO in 2008, he has kept a low profile. Having started his career in theater, as stage manager at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Callender returned to his roots and built a theater slate during a break from television because of a three-year non-compete with HBO. His first play ever as a producer was Nora Ephron‘s Lucky Guy starring Tom Hanks, which was a hit last year. A year later, he is probably the busiest Broadway producer at the moment with three high-profile shows, Hedwig And The Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris, which already is sizzling at the boxoffice, Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina and Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth in his New York debut. Callender also has teamed with J.K. Rowling and British theater producer Sonia Friedman for an original stage play for UK theatre based on the Harry Potter stories.
New York, NY [March 11, 2014] The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by AT&T, today announced its lineup of 58 short films, 29 of which are world premieres. The selections were curated from 3,074 submissions. The 2014 program includes shorts from 16 countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, India, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The shorts will be presented in 9 thematic programs —5 narrative, 3 documentary, and 1 experimental. Last year’s popular genre-specific program returns this year as “Totally Twisted” with some added unusual comedies. Here’s the full list of the short film selections within the nine programs is as follows:
Literary and cinematic roots run deep in Showtime’s new psychosexual horror series Penny Dreadful, which debuts in May with an episode helmed by The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Harry Treadaway star in the show created by Oscar-nominated scribe John Logan and exec produced by Sam Mendes which crosses the mythologies of iconic horror figures from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray lore in a Victorian England setting. “We wanted to pay respects to the mythology but bring them to a new level,” said Bayona of the show’s twisty take on well-known stories and characters.
Coincidentally, another thread connects the Penny Dreadful gang in front of and behind the camera. “There’s a lot of James Bond on this show: John wrote Skyfall, Sam directed it, Eva was in Casino Royale – I said to someone, I think I’m being groomed for the next Bond movie,” said Hartnett at a Q&A following the premiere of Penny Dreadful’s first episode Sunday at SXSW. Hartnett plays American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, who is recruited by Sir Malcolm (Dalton, a former 007 himself) and the enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Green) for a supernatural mission in London. The gothic series is one of a handful of television projects highlighted this year in SXSW’s new programming slate devoted to episodic /TV content.
ITV has set the roster for its upcoming four-part miniseries that follows the lives and loves of both historical and fictional characters in 1666 London as The Great Fire rages. Broadchurch‘s Andrew Buchan, Rose Leslie (Utopia, Game Of Thrones, Downton Abbey), Jack Huston (American Hustle, Boardwalk Empire) and Daniel Mays (Mrs Biggs, Welcome To The Punch) have each taken on key roles in the production from Fleming and Mistresses‘ Ecosse Films. Inspired by the real events of 1666 when nearly half of London was destroyed in less than a week, the drama is written by Tom Bradby, political editor of ITN and author of Shadow Dancer. The story unfolds over four consecutive days as the fire takes hold of the city and the people desperately attempt to overcome the flames amid a threat to the monarchy. Buchan will play humble baker Thomas Farriner in whose shop the fire began on September 2, 1666. Leslie plays his sister-in-law with whom he has a complex relationship. Huston is the playboy King Charles II and Mays is Samuel Pepys, a close confidante. Per ITV, pyrotechnics and special effects, as opposed to CGI, will create the fire sequences as London burns. Also in the cast are …