Jeremy Davies (Justified) and Robert Knepper (Prison Break) have been cast in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Davies, repped by Paradigm, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Karl Austen, will play Sgt. Ephraim Knowles, a shifty rogue whose only thought is for his own survival who reluctantly joins the Rangers to avoid being executed for desertion. Knepper, repped by Innovative Artists and Kramer Management, will play Empresario Buckley, an unshaven bombastic slob. He is the only law in the town of Victoria, and he abuses his position to further his own agenda and make himself rich in the process.
Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
Jake Busey has been cast in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Busey will play the older brother of “Big Foot Wallace”, Samuel Wallace, who recites the legendary admonition “Remember the Alamo.” Busey, repped by TalentWorks and manager Steven Jensen, also can be seen in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn on El Rey Network.
With the openings of Draft Day and Joe this weekend we suddenly re-discover two Oscar winners from the ’90s who have found their groove again after years of cinematic disappointments. I can’t remember the last time either Kevin Costner and especially Nicolas Cage delivered performances worthy of their prime as Costner does in Summit’s Draft Day and Cage does in Roadside Attractions’ Joe. Both come from companies associated with Lionsgate and hopefully both will find some sort of audience this weekend as they reaffirm the power of great actors in the right role.
Costner, who won Oscars for directing and producing Dances With Wolves in 1990, is right in his wheelhouse playing the general manager who has the opportunity to turn a hapless Cleveland Browns football team around with a No. 1 draft pick of a hot Heisman Trophy winner. It’s reminiscent not only of Moneyball but more importantly, of the kind of sports-oriented movies like Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams that made him a star in the first place. And Cage, is playing a combustible ex-con who becomes a surrogate father figure to a troubled teen (Tye Sheridan) in the Southern-set drama Joe. Cage turns down his usual volume of late to deliver a performance of power and poignancy in a film that has much in common with last April’s surprise indie hit Mud (also from Roadside and also co-starring Sheridan) but even more akin to the 1953 George Stevens classic Shane. It is perhaps his best screen acting since winning the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas almost 20 years ago. And from what I can tell, both these stars clearly know they have again hit their mark.
Geoffrey Blake (Forrest Gump) and Dillon Lane (Bucket And Skinner’s Epic Adventures) have joined the cast of History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Blake, repped by Michael Levine of Levine Management, will play Colonel George Hockley, Sam Houston’s most trusted confidant and adviser, who senses the unrest among the men before the Alamo, but supports Houston even as others question his leadership. Lane will play Yancey Burns, one of the youngest Rangers who goes on a dangerous mission to help rescue his friend Truett Fincham’s family.
Adam Hicks (Lemonade Mouth) has been cast in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Roland Joffé will direct. Hicks, repped by Paradigm, Gilbertson Entertainment, and Myman Abel Fineman Fox Greenspan Lights, will play Turett Fincham, the youngest Ranger who faces his first skirmish with a group of murdering Indians. Hicks will next be seen in the upcoming feature Boy Next Door.
There is a second reality series project devoted to chronicling a mission to the Red Planet. Leslie Greif’s Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys, Gene Simmons: Family Jewels) has partnered with The Mars Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, on an unscripted TV project that would document Mars Society’s year-long Mars simulation in the Canadian Arctic. Thinkfactory had been working with the Mars Society on the project for the past four months. It took the series out to networks last week, with two outlets interested and currently in discussion with the production company. Tentatively titled Mission To Mars, the series is one of two Mars colonization reality projects in the marketplace, along with Lionsgate TV’s untitled series done in collaboration with Lansdorp’s Mars One, the international Mars mission backed by Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp.
According to Thinkfactory EVP Adam Reed, their project is further along, with a six-person habitat already built on Canada’s Devon Island in the Arctic, and it has NASA’s cooperation. After a lengthy location search, with its harsh climate the deserted island, which features a 14-mile crater, was deemed the closest environment to Mars that can be found …
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus: War Of The Damned) has been cast as the female lead in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Roland Joffé will direct. Robinson, repped by Innovative and Liebman Entertainment, will play Emily West, a mythic historical figure, later dubbed “the Yellow Rose of Texas,” who gets caught in a love triangle between Houston (Bill Paxton) and Santa Ana (Oliver Martinez). Robinson currently recurs on CW’s Arrow and also recurred on The Vampire Diaries. Texas Rising is slated to premiere in 2015.
A rash of acquisitions of European and U.S. independent production companies has been steadily spreading over the past year and a bit. One exec says, “We joke that there’s a transaction a day.” Leading the charge is the UK’s ITV, which has been on a shopping spree since it first bought a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty maker Gurney Productions in late 2012. Also acquisitive has been the Pro Sieben-owned Red Arrow, which recently bought Say Yes To The Dress maker Half Yard Prods. But it’s a two-way street: NBCUniversal already owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films in the UK as well as Monkey Kingdom and Chocolate Media, among others. Warner Bros last month entered an agreement to take over the global interests, outside the U.S., of Dutch company Eyeworks, and has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media. Core Media is also known to have its eyes open to UK purchases. What’s more, many of these outfits also own companies in the hot Nordic region. And now there’s word that giant FremantleMedia may be moving in on vast group All3Media. A TV industry exec says, “We had the super-indies and now there’s a new breed of mega-indies.” If FremantleMedia acquires All3Media, it would create what an observer describes as “a very big beast.” Fremantle is a large group with significant turnover and some of their properties are getting older, an exec suggests. “It’s very difficult to replace that scale just through new productions.” However, I’m cautioned that should a deal be done, it won’t be in the imminent future.
So what’s been driving all this consolidation and cross-pollination? For one, with TV channels proliferating in the U.S., whether it be via basic cable or digital platforms, foreign outfits see a prime opportunity to establish a foothold and build scale. In the reverse, U.S. companies moving into the booming UK production sector know that broadcasters are doling out a lot of cash for original content.
Christopher McDonald, Trevor Donovan Join History’s Texas Rangers Mini; S. Epatha Merkerson In NBC’s ‘Babylon Fields’
Christopher McDonald (Requiem For A Dream) and Trevor Donovan (90210) have joined the killer cast of History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. 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. Roland Joffé will direct. McDonald, repped by Gersh and Brillstein, will play Henry Karnes, a grizzled, tough taskmaster of the ranging company. Donovan, with APA and Michael Yanni Management, will play Kit Acklin, a handsome, wise-ass, expert horseman whose chivalry and equestrian skills are matched only by his gun-fighting prowess. Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Thomas Jane, Olivier Martinez, Chad Michael Murray, Michael Rapaport and Max Thieriot round out the all-star cast.
History Greenlights Texas Rangers Mini From ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ Producer; Bill Paxton & Brendan Fraser Lead Star Cast
History has given the green light to its next big-scope miniseries, the eight-hour Texas Rising (working title), for a 2015 premiere. The project, which had been in the works at the cable network for a year and a half, comes from Leslie Greif, the producer of History’s first miniseries, mega hit Hatfields & McCoys. It will feature a big-name cast led by Hatfield & McCoys star Bill Paxton, who earned an Emmy nomination for his role as Randall McCoy. The project will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers.
Paxton will play Sam Houston, the father of Texas. He is joined by Brendan Fraser as Billy Anderson, a Texas Ranger with Comanche Indian ties; Ray Liotta as Lorca, an Alamo survivor seeking brutal revenge; Jeffrey Dean Morgan as “Deaf” Smith, a deaf and grizzled veteran Texas Ranger with an advanced case of consumption; Thomas Jane as James Wykoff, a homesteader who finds himself living in the middle of hostile Indian territory; Olivier Martinez as President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the tyrant dictator of Mexico; Chad Michael Murray as Mirabeau Lamar, a spirited Texas soldier who helps win the battle of San Jacinto; Michael Rapaport as Sgt. Ephraim Knowles, a would-be deserter and coward turned hero; and Max Thieriot as Jack Hays, a volunteer freedom fighter who becomes the youngest Texas Ranger.
Roland Joffé is is directing the mini, from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America, produced by Thinkfactory Media with Greif serving as executive producer. Greif also co-wrote the script for all four two-hour installments with Hatfields & McCoys producer Darrell Fetty; Hatfields co-writer Ted Mann co-wrote Night 1 with them. “From Hatfields & McCoys to The Bible to Vikings, History has made a major commitment to high-quality scripted historical dramas,” said the network’s EVP Dirk Hoogstra, “The Texas Revolution is one of the most gut-wrenching and inspirational events in our history. Doing the story justice will be a massive undertaking and we’re excited to begin production with one of the best teams in the business.”
They knew what they had was dynamic. They were smart, did their research and worked hard — and the result was the Son Of God big-screen version that is expected to gross anywhere from $25.7M to $26.7M in its debut weekend. People in this world achieve great success for a reason, but not all get the reason why — whether it be George Clooney, who has used his celebrity to bring well-needed attention to the horrors of Darfur, or Angelina Jolie, whose humanitarian work is also well needed and appreciated, or Mel Gibson, whose The Passion Of The Christ brought the word of God beyond borders anyone had ever seen before ($611M worldwide — that’s a lot of eyes). These are the kings of charity, who understand their responsibility in the world. Mark Burnett — the reality TV entrepreneur behind such phenoms Survivor, The Voice, Shark Tank, and The Apprentice — understands the reason why, too. He and wife Roma Downey know in their core that they are on that path now — to spread the word to as many people as possible, he said.
On the wings of angels (and butterflies) and in many languages — the marketing behind this film is very interesting: The team wisely dubbed a Spanish version for this weekend’s movie debut, and it was put in 200 theaters; they also did a subtitled Korean-language version and placed it in 15 select theaters. “Because we are a small organization, we don’t have to ask permission — we just do it,” Burnett said. The theaters playing Spanish-language Son Of God grew in a just few days as they were booking theaters and 4% of the gross came from those theaters; 22% of the audience was Hispanic. In addition, the film had a phenomenal 91% rating on PostTrak and was heavily weighted to excellent with an impressive 72%. In addition, it has an incredible 80% recommend and played 62% female to 38% male with 82% of moviegoers over age 25.
Related: Hot Trailer: Fox’s ‘Son Of God’
EMMYS: TV Academy Splits Best Miniseries & TV Movie, Reality Program & Voice-Over Categories, Expands Combined Longform Fields To 6 Nominees, Sets Scenario For 7 Best Drama & Comedy Series Nominees
As expected, the Television Academy’s Board of Governors voted tonight to split the merged best TV movie and miniseries category into two, reverting to the long tradition of separate top longform Primetime Emmy categories, which was ended by the TV Academy vote in 2011 to merge the two fields because of the dwindling number of miniseries entries. Ironically, as the decision was made, miniseries already had started their resurgence, which was cemented by the blockbuster success of the 2012 History mini Hatfields & McCoys. Several months ago, a movement started within the TV Academy in support of splitting the top longform categories again. It gained momentum, leading to a recommendation that passed through the February 4 Awards Committee meeting and was sent to the board, which approved the move tonight. Also recognizing the proliferation of longform programming, the combined miniseries/TV movie categories for writing, directing and performing categories will all be expanded from five to six nominees, with the final voting switched from a preferential vote to a ratings-score vote.
The telepic based on Diana Lopez’s novel Choke follows a teenager who flirts with disaster after being introduced to the “game” of intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain to get high. Freya Tingley (Hemlock Grove) stars in The Choking Game as Taryn, who is just starting her senior year when a charismatic new girl claims her as a “breath sister” as they take “flights” together. Frasier alum Peri Gilpin also stars in the Lifetime Original as Taryn’s mom, who tries to help after sensing that something is seriously wrong with her daughter. Directed by Lane Shefter Bishop and written by Jen Klein, the telefilm from Orly Adelson Productions is executive produced by Jonathan Eskenas, Bishop, Marilyn R. Atlas and Adelson.
EXCLUSIVE: Following the success of The Bible miniseries on History, A+E Networks sibling Lifetime too has put in development a longform project about Jesus. Titled The One, the movie hails from Leslie Greif, the producer of History’s blockbuster Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, and his Thinkfactory Media. Written by 2013 Nicholl Fellowship Winners Frank DeJohn and David Alton Hedges, The One is described as a coming-of-age story exploring Jesus’ early life and formative years as he comes to learn he is the Son of God and is destined for greatness. The project is poised to shed light on a lesser known period in Jesus’ life as there is very little written about him from the age of 13, following a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he took with his parents, to age 30, when he began his ministry and was baptized by John the Baptist. The One is expected to stay true to the spirit of Jesus’ image as chronicled in The Bible. Another project about Jesus’ so called “lost years,” which was briefly in development at History, took a more unconventional approach, exploring a theory about Jesus’ origins as an exorcist. DeJohn and Hedges are with UTA and BenderSpink.
Matt Barr, who played the title character in Lifetime’s Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story, has been cast as the male lead opposite Ahna O’Reilly in the CW drama pilot Identity, exec produced by Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci. It centers on Mia (O’Reilly), a young New Yorker who learns she needs an organ transplant to survive and her only living relative is a newfound half-brother, Davis (Barr), the charming, privileged only son of a wealthy and powerful Charleston family. She connects with them only to find they’re the target of a CIA investigation for involvement in domestic terrorism, and the agency wants her as their newest informant.
The unscripted series will focus on the inaugural season of the LA Kiss Arena Football League team and owners Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, bass guitarist/lead vocalist/co-founder of heavy metal band Kiss, and longtime manager Doc McGhee. The 10-episode series will follow the dedicated players and coaches as they try to turn LA’s first professional football team in years into a winning franchise. Produced by Thinkfactory Media (Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Hatfields & McCoys), the series will premiere on AMC this summer. Executive producers of the as-yet-untitled show are Adam Freeman, Adam Reed and Leslie Greif. Goldberg, Marco Bresaz and Andrea Beckerman will oversee the series for AMC.
Berlin Briefs: Nicolas Cage In Talks For ‘Men With No Fear’; Tom Berenger Stars In Western ‘Lonesome Dove Church’
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Writer-director Paco Cabezas’ heist thriller Men With No Fear is coming to Berlin’s European Film Market this month, with Nicolas Cage in negotiations to star and The Exchange setting a deal to finance and sell worldwide rights. Bryan Singer and Jason Taylor of Bad Hat Harry Productions are producing. The movie centers on Marty ‘The Mule,’ newly released from prison after being set up by his former boss Frank, a smalltime neighborhood crook. While Mule was locked up, Frank went big time and became a ruthless drug kingpin. But Frank also took Mule’s most precious item — his son, raising him like his own. But now Mule is back on the streets and ready for revenge.
PILOT SEASON: Walls Of Vertical Integration Fall Down As Orders For Projects From Rival Networks’ In-House Studios Skyrocket
It was 1999, the height of the cold war among the broadcast networks. Following the 1995 elimination of the fin-syn rules, which allowed networks to begin producing their own series, ABC, CBS and NBC started building up their in-house production arms with one mandate – to churn out product the nets would own. Cross-pollinating was considered almost heretic. Then in 1999, an ABC-based company, Jerry Bruckheimer TV, didn’t fold after getting a “no” from the network on its CSI pitch, instead setting the forensic drama at rival CBS. But vertical integration got in the way, with ABC deciding it wouldn’t be prudent to subsidize a rival by deficit financing the newly picked-up series — a $1 billion blunder for Disney as CSI went on to become a global hit. The last-minute pullout by ABC that left CBS scrambling put extra chill on the networks’ willingness to buy from the in-house production company of another network. (Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV had long established itself as a major studio selling to everyone.)
Fast forward to 2014 when a whopping 10 projects from ABC Studios (5), Universal TV (3) and CBS TV Studios (2) have received series or pilot orders at rival broadcast networks so far, with pickups still underway. Here is how we got here. The ice among the broadcasters started to thaw a little in the mid-2000s. ABC’s in-house studio landed another hit on CBS with drama Criminal Minds, which it stayed with, and NBC’s production arm fielded a couple of short-lived series including Worst Week for CBS and Sons And Daughters for ABC. During the 2011 pilot season, there were two pilots from ABC’s, CBS’ or NBC’s production arms at rival networks: Weekends At Bellevue at Fox from Universal TV’s predecessor Universal Media Studios, and Ringer at CBS from ABC Studios. (Fox and UMS had an existing relationship via Fox’s hit drama House, sold by then-independent Universal Television just before its merger with NBC, while ABC Studios pulled out when Ringer moved to CBS sibling the CW.)