EXCLUSIVE: The Divine Miss M. is taking on the great Mae West. HBO Films has put in development Mae West, a movie about the true Hollywood original, with Bette Midler attached to star and executive produce. The project is the brainchild of William Friedkin (The Exorcist), who will direct and executive produce. Broadway heavyweight Harvey Fierstein, who recently penned the book for Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots, is writing the script. Also executive producing is Jerry Weintraub, who executive produced HBO Films’ Emmy-winning Behind The Candelabra. Mae West, based on West’s autobiography Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, chronicles West’s rise to stardom when she takes New York by storm after writing and starring in her scandalous Broadway show Sex and battles authorities over obscenity charges. Instead of taking the road of a wide-eyed Hollywood ingenue, West forged her own path, writing and starring in her own risqué plays, including her breakthrough Sex, which had her prosecuted and sentenced to 10 days in prison for “corrupting the morals of youth.” The notoriety fueled her career and didn’t stop her from tackling taboo subjects in her next plays, including 1928 hit Diamond Lil, about a racy 1890s woman, which opened the doors to Hollywood for her.
EXCLUSIVE: Esai Morales is set to co-star in The Brink, HBO’s pilot directed by Jay Roach from a script by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib and exec produced by Jerry Weintraub. The Brink is an epic dark comedy focusing on a geopolitical crisis and its effect on three disparate and desperate men: U.S. Secretary of State Walter Hollander (Tim Robbins); Alex Coppins (Jack Black), a lowly Foreign Service officer; and Zeke Callahan (Pablo Schreiber), an ace Navy fighter pilot. Morales will play Julian Navarro, the President of the United States. While the U.S. is yet to elect a Hispanic president, that has been a popular trend on TV that has included Jimmy Smits’ Matt Santos on The West Wing and Blair Underwood’s Elias Martinez on The Event. Morales, who co-starred on Starz’s Magic City, recently wrapped a supporting role in the feature La Vida Robot and is recurring on the CBS’ Criminal Minds. He is with Innovative Artists and KLWGN.
HBO has put in development Club Life: Miami, a drama written and directed by filmmaker John Singleton (Boyz N The Hood, Shaft) who is executive producing with Russell Simmons. Set against the South Beach club scene, the project follows a reformed criminal who moves to Miami and gains a new lease on life as he embraces the vibrant, youthful and transgressive world. Simmons has a first-look deal with HBO where he also is executive producing a high-profile drama project from 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen. Singleton is repped by WME and Underground’s Trevor Engelson; Simmons is with WME.
Billy Crystal‘s Broadway hit 700 Sundays will be taped before a live audience January 3 and 4 at the Imperial Theatre In New York and will debut on HBO later in 2014. An autobiographical journey, 700 Sundays is an original two-act play in which Crystal plays numerous characters who have influenced who he is today, dealing with his youth, growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years and, finally, adulthood. 700 Sundays broke the house record for highest weekly gross at the Broadhurst Theatre in its opening week, and continued to top its own record in subsequent weeks. It won the 2005 Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event, as well as 2005 Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle awards. 700 Sundays will be Crystal’s sixth HBO solo special, following On Location, A Comics Line, Don’t Get Me Started, The Lost Minutes and Midnight Train To Moscow. 700 Sundays will be executive produced by Billy Crystal, Janice Crystal, Larry Magid and David Steinberg; directed by Des McAnuff.
Girls co-executive producer Murray Miller has closed a two-year overall deal with HBO. Under the pact, he will be bumped up to executive producer on Lena Dunham’s comedy series. Additionally, he has teamed with Enlightened creator Mike White for Mr. Romance, a half-hour project based on the article The Only Muscle I Can’t Control: In Search Of The Next Romance Novel Cover Man, written by Joshuah Bearman and first published in McSweeney’s in 2010. (you can read it here.) Murray will co-write the pilot with Casper Christensen, writer and star of the Danish film Klown. White and David Bernad will executive produce via their Rip Cord Prods banner along with Josh Bearman. Miller, repped by UTA and attorneys Don Walerstein and Matt Walerstein, previously worked on Fox’s American Dad and King Of The Hill. White and Bernad are with UTA and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.; Bearman with UTA, Circle of Confusion and Linda Lichter; Christensen with CAA and Douglas Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Pablo Schreiber is set as a lead opposite Jack Black and Tim Robbins in The Brink, HBO‘s comedy pilot directed by Jay Roach from a script by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib. Also cast in the project, exec produced by Jerry Weintraub, are Maribeth Monroe (Workaholics) and Geoff Pierson (Dexter) who join Aasif Mandvi. The Brink is an epic dark comedy focusing on a geopolitical crisis and its effect on three disparate and desperate men: U.S. Secretary of State Walter Hollander (Robbins); Alex Coppins (Jack Black), a lowly Foreign Service officer; and Zeke Callahan (Schreiber), an ace Navy fighter pilot. These three compromised souls must pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War Three. Monroe, repped by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment, will play Kendra Willis, Deputy Chief of Staff and lifeline to the hard living Secretary of State (Robbins). Pierson, repped by Stone Manners Salners and attorney Tom Hoberman, will play Pierce Mullin, the hawkish Secretary of Defense. He will next be seen opposite Hilary Swank in the indie You’re Not You. Schreiber, repped by ICM Partners and Circle of Confusion, recently worked with HBO on the film Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight. His recent series credits include Orange Is The New Black, Ironside and Law & Order: SVU.
EXCLUSIVE: Back when he was in France to head the Cannes Film Festival jury, Steven Spielberg dropped a bombshell when he announced that he would turn an un-produced Stanley Kubrick screenplay about Napoleon Bonaparte into a miniseries. Well, here’s another bombshell: They are courting Baz Luhrmann to direct the mini at HBO.
Deals are a long way from being made, but I’m told the plan is for Luhrmann to take on what becomes the highest-profile miniseries at that payweb. When Spielberg first revealed the project in an interview with Canal Plus on French TV, he said that this was the project Kubrick had dreamed of making, only to drop it when Hollywood studios refused to fund it, even after Kubrick promised in a letter to studio executives in 1971 that it would be the best movie ever made. Indeed, the movie has been coined “the greatest movie never made.”
Luhrmann, who last directed the hit The Great Gatsby, isn’t the only helmer interested in the diminutive French conqueror. Warner Bros just set Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders to direct a feature about Napoleon. This isn’t the first time Lurhmann has been in a competitive situation on an historic project: He was gearing up to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in Alexander The Great, but was beaten …
HBO’s flagship drama Game Of Thrones won’t extend its streak of two consecutive WGA Awards nominations in the best drama series category due to a submission issue. “As a result of an inadvertent online entry error HBO’s Game of Thrones was not entered in the WGA Awards Drama Series category,” the network said in a statement to Deadline. “The series’ episodic entries were not affected.” Since the submission process is online, it is not clear whether the omission was a result of a computer glitch or human error. I hear HBO tried hard to rectify the problem the moment it was discovered, but WGA would not add the show to the top drama category it had been competing in since it launch. In addition to two best drama series WGA Award nominations the last two years, GOT also landed a WGA nom for best series in 2012.
EXCLUSIVE: Actor and Daily Show correspondent, Aasif Mandvi has been cast in The Brink, HBO‘s comedy pilot directed by Jay Roach from a script by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib. Exec produced by Jerry Weintraub, The Brink is an epic dark comedy focusing on a geopolitical crisis and its effect on three disparate and desperate men: U.S. Secretary of State Walter Hollander (Tim Robbins), a lowly Foreign Service officer (Jack Black); and an ace Navy fighter pilot. Mandvi, repped by ICM Partners and Sweet 180 Management, will play Rafiq Massoud, a young Pakistani employed by the U.S. embassy whose love of America runs as deep as his resentment. He will be seen next in Million Dollar Arm.
Katherine LaNasa (Deception) is set to co-star in USA Network’s untitled Sean Jablonski pilot. The project, from UCP, follows investment banker Neil Truman (Matt Passmore) and his wife, Grace (Stephanie Szostak), as they struggle to sift through their stagnant marriage, looking for the spark they once had. When Neil discovers that Grace has been seeing a debonaire male escort (Blair Redford) his entire world is turned upside down.
The content choices just became more interesting for Google’s hot-selling $35 thumb-drive-sized dongle that brings Web content to TV sets. HBO GO pretty much had to make itself available on Chromecast: Users already can watch Netflix and Hulu Plus. The change means that HBO subscribers who have WiFi and Chromecast can watch shows on demand on TV sets that aren’t connected to a cable or satellite box. “Google’s Chromecast is one of the newest, more exciting devices in the marketplace today, so we are very happy to bring this capability to our subscribers,” says HBO’s Chief Technology Officer Otto Berkes. Google hasn’t released sales figures for Chromecast, but it’s Amazon’s top selling electronics device and ranks No. 2 among televisions and video products, and streaming media players.
EXCLUSIVE: There have been developments in HBO Films’ long-gestating movie about Bernie Madoff starring Robert De Niro as the disgraced financier. Lie To Me creator Samuel Baum has been brought in as the new writer, and HBO has optioned a second book, Truth And Consequences: Life Inside The Madoff Family by Laurie Sandell. It will be used as additional source material alongside Diana Henriques’ bestseller The Wizard Of Lies: Bernie Madoff And The Death Of Trust, on which the HBO movie, also titled The Wizard Of Lies, is based. The film, which tells the story of the imprisoned swindler and the $65 billion Ponzi scheme he concocted, has been in the works at HBO since 2011, when the network optioned Henriques’ book, attached De Niro to play Madoff and hired John Burnham Schwartz to write the script. Tribeca Prods is producing, with its principals De Niro and Jane Rosenthal executive producing. Baum is with CAA.
EXCLUSIVE: Fifteen years after Laurence Fishburne starred as Walter Mosley‘s Socrates Fortlow in the HBO movie Always Outnumbered written by Mosley and directed by Michael Apted, the actor-producer is revisiting the character for HBO, this time on the series side. The pay cable network is developing The Right Mistake, a drama series from Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Prods and Fox Television Studios. It is based on the series of novels by Mosley featuring Fortlow: an ex-convict who seeks redemption — while battling inner demons and external forces — after serving 27 years in prison. The books include Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, Walkin’ The Dog and The Right Mistake. Mosley and Patrick Charles are co-writing the series adaptation, with Fishburne attached to star. He is executive producing with Cinema Gypsy’s Helen Sugland and Tom Russo as well as Mosley and his partner, Diane Houslin. Charles is co-executive producing. The Right Mistake stems from the Cinema Gypsy’s first-look cable deal with FtvS. On the broadcast side, Cinema Gypsy has Black-ish, a single-camera comedy starring Anthony Anderson and written by Kenya Barris in development at ABC. The Matrix and CSI alum Fishburne, repped by Paradigm, Landmark Artist Management and Del, Shaw, also has a major recurring role on NBC’s Hannibal.
HBO and Starz garnered three nominations each as the American Society of Cinematographers announced its TV nominees for the ASC Awards today. Winners will be announced at the 28th ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography set for February 1 at Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom. Here are the noms:
One-Hour Episodic Television Series
Steven Bernstein, ASC for Starz Network’s Magic City (“The Sins of the Father”)
David Franco for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (“Erlkönig”)
Jonathan Freeman, ASC for HBO’s Game of Thrones (“Valar Dohaeris”)
Pierre Gill, CSC for Showtime’s The Borgias (“The Purge”)
David Greene, CSC for The CW’s Beauty And the Beast (“Tough Love”)
Anette Haellmigk for HBO’s Game Of Thrones (“Kissed by Fire”)
Kramer Morgenthau, ASC for Fox’s Sleepy Hollow (“Pilot”)
Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC for NBC’s Dracula (“The Blood is the Life”)
Half-Hour Episodic Series
Peter Levy, ACS, ASC for Showtime’s House Of Lies (“The Runner Stumbles”)
Matthew J. Lloyd, CSC for Amazon’s Alpha House (“Pilot”)
Blake McClure for Comedy Central’s Drunk History (“Detroit”)
Jeremy Benning, CSC for National Geographic Channel’s Killing Lincoln
David Luther for Starz Network’s The White Queen (“War at First Hand”)
Ashley Rowe, BSC for Starz Network’s Dancing On The Edge (Episode 1.1)
EXCLUSIVE: In a rare small-screen stint, Bill Murray has joined the cast of HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, the miniseries based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Adapted by Jane Anderson and directed by The Kids Are All Right’s Lisa Cholodenko, the mini tells the tale of a seemingly placid New England town fraught with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy, as chronicled through the eyes of Olive who is tough on the outside but has a strong moral center. She’s played by Frances McDormand, and Murray is playing Jack Kennison, a local widower whom Kitteridge befriends.
Richard Jenkins plays Olive’s husband, and John Gallagher Jr, Rosemarie DeWitt, Zoe Kazan, Jesse Plemons, and Cory Michael Smith also star. The miniseries is a co-production between Playtone and As Is, with Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman exec producing with McDormand and Anderson. Steven Shareshian is co-exec producer and David Coatsworth. McDormand optioned the material when it was in galley form, and it really has turned into something exceptional.
Murray just wrapped the Ted Melfi-directed St. Vincent De Van Nuys, as well as the George Clooney-directed Monuments Men, and the Wes Anderson-directed The Grand Budapest Hotel. He’s part of the cast of Cameron Crowe’s film as well. He’s lawyered by David Nochimson.
Captain Phillips writer Billy Ray is set to write and direct The Last Tycoon, an HBO drama series project based on F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s final unfinished novel. Party Of Five co-creator Chris Keyser is attached as showrunner to the project, which hails from Sony Pictures TV and I hear garnered interest from five networks, landing at HBO with penalty. Inspired by the life of film mogul Irving Thalberg, on whom protagonist Monroe Stahr was based, The Last Tycoon centers on Stahr, Hollywood’s first wunderkind studio executive in the 1930′s as he climbs to the height of power pitting him against his mentor and current head of the studio Pat Brady, a character based on Louis B. Mayer. With Stahr as a focal point, the series delves into the true violence, sex and towering ambition of Hollywood in the 30′s. Ray and Keyser executive produce with Perri Kipperman, Josh Maurer, David Stern and Alix Witlin. Ray, repped by CAA, Management 360 and Peter Nichols, will direct the upcoming The Secret In Their Eyes and Departure. Keyser also is with CAA.
So much for any Daily Show succession plan talk. On the heels of his impressive stint as The Daily Show fill-in host this past summer, the program’s veteran correspondent John Oliver is jumping ship, landing his own topical comedy talk show on HBO and leaving the Emmy-winning Comedy Central program that made him a star. His last regular Daily Show appearance is expected to be on Dec. 19. The HBO show, which like the Daily Show will take a satirical look at the week in news, politics and current events, will debut in 2014, airing on Sunday nights. It joins HBO’s long-running Real Time With Bill Maher, which airs on Fridays. “We weren’t otherwise searching for another weekly talk show, but when we saw John Oliver handling host duties on The Daily Show, we knew that his singular perspective and distinct voice belonged on HBO,” said HBO’s Michael Lombardo. Added Oliver, “I’m incredibly excited to be joining HBO, especially as I presume this means I get free HBO now. I want to thank Comedy Central, and everyone at The Daily Show for the best seven and a half years of my life. But most of all, I’d like to thank Jon Stewart. He taught me everything I know. In fact, if I fail in the future, it’s entirely his fault.”
Jack Black and Tim Robbins are set as two of the three leads in The Brink, HBO‘s comedy pilot directed by Jay Roach from a script by former Weeds executive producer Roberto Benabib and his brother, Kim Benabib. The Brink is described as an epic dark comedy focusing on a geopolitical crisis and its effect on three disparate and desperate men: U.S. Secretary of State Walter Hollander (Robbins), a man of big appetites and little patience for the war mongers in the Situation Room; Coppins (Black), a lowly Foreign Service officer reluctantly caught on the ground in the middle of it all; and ace Navy fighter pilot Zeke Callahan. These three compromised souls must pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War III. Roberto Benabib, Jerry Weintraub and Roach are executive producing, with Kim Benabib serving as a co-executive producer and Black and Robbins as producers. Black is with WME and attorney Warren Dern, Robbins is with ICM Partners and Elaine Goldsmith Thomas.
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has teamed with film and TV director and showrunner Salim Akil for Mr. Director, a single-camera comedy project Akil is set to write, produce and direct. Mr. Director, now in development, is envisioned as being in the vein of Larry David’s documentary-style HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm but with the backdrop of Black Hollywood. Like David, Akil will play a version of himself in Mr. Director, which will explore the life and times of Salim in the business and highlights the outrageous, circuitous path taken to become one of Hollywood’s Top 50 showrunner/directors. Akil is currently finishing Season 7 of BET’s The Game, on which he serves as director as well as co-showrunner alongside the series’ creator, his producing partner/wife, Mara Brock Akil. Under Akils’ rich multi-year deal with BET, Salim Akil also executive produces Brock Akil’s new series Being Mary Jane, and directed the 90-minute pilot, which aired as a movie to big ratings in July, drawing 4 million viewers and a 2.0 adults 18-49 rating. On the feature side, Salim Akil, repped by ICM Partners and Stephen Barnes, directed Jumping The Broom and Sparkle, and his writing credits include series The Game and Soul Food.
‘Alpha House’ Creator Garry Trudeau On Creating “HBO-Quality” TV On Amazon; ‘Betas’ Panel Stresses Character Over Cliche
Amazon Studios tonight introduced its first two original series, comedies Alpha House and Betas, during a TV Academy event at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre. And the recurring theme was creating quality TV.
Alpha House, about four Republican U.S. senators who share a residence in D.C., is created, written and exec produced by Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury and Tanner ’88 fame. (Cast member Clark Johnson called him “the Aaron Sorkin of the Internet,” adding, “I don’t change a comma.”) Trudeau began by saying he had “several reservations initially” about working with Amazon because “I had not seen great television produced on the web, and I did not see how they were going to be able to kick it up to another level with the kind of resources that had been provided to creators on YouTube and other venues. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the plan — the plan was to provide the kind of support you need to make high-end television. … (The) goal, I believe, was to create HBO-quality television right out of the gate.”
He said he’d read a story about four real congressmen who live together and one said a lot of people mentioned that it would make a great TV series but the problem was “who’s gonna watch a show about four middle-age guys with no sex and violence? So the way we got around that is we added sex and violence.”