Law & Order alumna Alana de la Garza has been tapped as the female lead opposite Ioan Gruffudd in ABC’s drama pilot Forever, written by Matthew Miller and directed by Brad Anderson. It centers on Dr. Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), New York City’s star medical examiner. But what no one knows is Henry studies the dead for a reason — he is immortal. His investigative work with recently widowed Detective Jo Martinez (de la Garza), a recovering alcoholic, and relationship with best friend Abe (Judd Hirsch) will peel back the layers of Henry’s colorful and long life. De la Garza, repped by SDB Partners, most recently co-starred on NBC’s Do No Harm.
Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor.
Producer Harvey Weinstein told LA Film Czar Ken Ziffren today that he needs to do whatever it takes to increase California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program in order to keep production in the state. The remarks were made during Weinstein’s keynote address at today’s 38th annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium.
Weinstein argued that California does not have to offer the same discounts as, say, New Orleans as long as the state can provide enough of an incentive when weighed against the added travel and production costs called for by out-of-state production. He said producers can elevate the quality of production by tapping the superior Hollywood talent pool and prefer to avoid transportation hassles that “can turn scheduling into a nightmare.”
On February 19, legislation was introduced to expand the $100 million credit program, with nearly 60 co-sponsors from across the state. However, Gov. Jerry Brown has been weary about adding new expenditures to the state’s stable budget. “Please, whatever you can do with the governor…” Weinstein pleaded to Ziffren, who offered no immediate response. Ziffren, who was named the city’s Film Czar on February 10, mentioned in a conference call February 27 that he wants to see production in the state return to the lofty levels seen during the mid-1990s. Industry sources have said the the California program should aim for a target credit level of $400 million.
Hammer-Wielding Attorney From Viral Super Bowl Ad To Topline Reality Series For Mike Fleiss & Warner Horizon TV
EXCLUSIVE: From Savannah to Hollywood. George-based personal injury lawyer Jamie Casino has been one of the most pursued pieces of TV talent since becoming an overnight celebrity with his epic two-minute Super Bowl commercial that featured him wielding his sledgehammer of justice (check out the ad below). In a very competitive situation, with more than 40 companies pursuing the viral star attorney for unscripted and scripted projects, Warner Horizon Television has signed Casino for Casino’s Law, a primetime unscripted series to star the lawyer. I hear Warners’ pursuit of Casino was spearheaded by new unscripted and alternative president Mike Darnell, who helped seal the deal as part of his efforts to ramp up the studio’s reality production. Casino’s Law will be executive produced by one of WHTV’s top producers, The Bachelor creator/executive producer Mike Fleiss, who will develop the show through his Next Entertainment. There is no concept for the series yet, with discussions underway to pin down the type of show that would suit Casino best.
Written and directed by and starring Casino, the Super Bowl ad tells the life-changing story of the tragic death of Casino’s brother and Casino’s subsequent efforts to clear his brother’s name and fight for justice on behalf of innocent victims everywhere.
With mere weeks until the big guy is back in theaters May 16, the Godzilla battle between Legendary Pictures and producers Roy Lee, Dan Lin and Doug Davison over the upcoming Warner Bros-released reboot looks more likely than ever to be heading to trial. A California Appeals Court judge today rejected Legendary’s attempt to have the matter dealt with in private arbitration (read it here). Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst said that “substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that the parties never had a written agreement to arbitrate their dispute.” On January 9 last year, Legendary filed a complaint to remove Lin, Lee and Davison from the blockbuster project with a puny $25,000 payout. According to Legendary, the tiny sum was all the three were entitled to under the March 2011 Producer Loan Agreement between them and the company. Today’s ruling was in response to a May 10, 2013 ruling by Judge Abraham Khan of the LA Superior Court denying Legendary’s desire for arbitration in the potentially multimillion-dollar lawsuit.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Godzilla’
Not that Legendary is breaking a sweat publicly after fighting so hard to keep things behind closed doors. “The Court of Appeals decision today decided nothing more than where Legendary’s dispute with Roy Lee and Dan Lin will be litigated,” the company’s lawyer Dale Kinsella said today after the ruling. “Irrespective of the location of the forum, Legendary is confident it will prevail on the merits of the case, for which this recent ruling has no bearing whatsoever. Kinsella is with Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP. (UPDATE, 2:59 PM - “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has agreed with our legal and factual position,” said the three producers’ lawyer Stanton L. Stein in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our case in a court of law before a jury. We are confident the jury will find in our favor.”)
Awards ceremony broadcasts may have been changed forever at last night’s Oscars when Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie of herself and a dozen A-listers in the theater. She broke the record for most retweets – 3 million-plus and counting — causing a brief service issue with Twitter. “We just broke Twitter,” DeGeneres announced during ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars after word got out.
Related: Ellen Gets Mixed Reviews For Oscars
“The envelope please … to @TheEllenShow — this is now the most retweeted tweet with over 1 million RTs. Congrats!” chimed in Twitter when DeGeneres’ selfie hit that retweeting threshold. (According to Poptip, a platform that analyzes and synthesizes social conversation in real time, among last night’s Oscar highlights, four of the top 15 phrases about the Oscars were about the Samsung selfie.)
Here we are again after the Golden Globes, Mike Fleming and Anita Busch taking on the task of play by play during the most wide-open Oscar race we can remember. Even on the party circuit, industry insiders who usually have a grasp of who’ll walk away with Oscars were evenly torn between Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D masterpiece Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Then again, there were so many terrific films that got Best Picture nominations, and all of them have at least a puncher’s chance at an upset.
That includes American Hustle, where David O Russell co-wrote the Best Original Script nominee with Eric Warren Singer and got tour de force performances and nominations for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Perfs so strong there was no room on the nomination roster for perennial Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. The film is up for 10 awards, and has grossed over $240 million on a $40 million budget.
Then there is The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving the most emphatic and complete performance of a great career, and Jonah Hill right there with him as his crazy con man sidekick. The film is up for five nominations, including Martin Scorsese for directing a terrific adaptation from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terence Winter.
Anna Lisa Raya, Diane Haithman, and Anthony D’Alessandro are contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage.
Related: OSCARS: Deadline’s Live Blog
So did the 12 Years A Slave team contemplate a potential best pic loss tonight? According to producer and co-star Brad Pitt — it didn’t matter if they won or lost. 12 Years A Slave in and of itself is a benchmark in cinematic history, unlike many films being made today. Asserted Pitt, “I love this story. It’s a historical story of man in an inhumane situation finding freedom. It’s an important film because it deals with our history that hasn’t been shown on screen. It’s important that we understand this era as it explains who we were, so we can better understand who we are now. The film is a gentle reminder that we’re all equal and want dignity for ourselves and for our families.” Fielding a question about how 12 Years A Slave has evolved cinema about African-Americans in the south since Gone With The Wind 75 years ago, McQueen exclaimed, “It’s obviously a progression. The background characters are now in the foreground and now they’re being recognized. It’s indicative of what’s going on; how people are ready for this narrative and how they want to look at this history. It’s like Brad said, ‘If you don’t know your past, we don’t know our future.’” Speaking about 12 Years‘ momentum around the world, producer Dede Gardner pointed out how Solomon Northup’s book is now available in high school libraries throughout the country after being out of print, while producer Jeremy Kleiner said, “the universality of the film’s story has broken down ideological concepts of what is a domestic and what is an international story.”
Related: OSCARS: The Complete Winners List
UPDATE, 3:50 PM: Well that didn’t take long. After a brief hearing on Monday in which Judge Dale Fischer said she was “inclined” to toss the multimillion-dollar Trouble With The Curve copyright infringement lawsuit, the federal judge today has pretty much done just that. “Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment re similarity is GRANTED, Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment re similarity is DENIED, Plaintiffs’ motion for continuance is DENIED, and the motion to strike the FAC is GRANTED,” said Fischer in a 10-page memorandum (read it here) “All other outstanding motions are DENIED as MOOT,” the judge added.
Today’s order essentially frees Warner Bros and others from plaintiff Ryan Brooks and his Gold Glove Productions’ October 1 119-page complaint that claims that the idea for the Randy Brown-written 2012 Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams baseball pic was stolen. Brooks had said that Curve actually came from a script he had paid another scribe to have written. “Anyone who knows me, knows my journey, how hard I’ve worked, and continue to work. And it’s incredibly disappointing that someone with money and malice can wreak such negativity,” said Brown to me after the order from Fischer came down today. Brown, along with WB, Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions, talent agencies UTA and Gersh and others, was named as one of the defendants in the case – Clint himself was not.
In one of the highest-profile pilot castings this season, Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt) is set as the lead of ABC‘s drama pilot How To Get Away With Murder, from ABC Studios and Shondaland. This marks the first series regular role in a decade for the two-time Oscar-nominated actress. In making her foray into pilot season, Davis joins her Help co-star Octavia Spencer, who recently signed on to star in Fox drama pilot The Red Band Society. Written by Peter Nowalk, How To Get Away is described as a sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller that centers on ambitious law students and their brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor (Davis) who become entangled in a murder plot that could rock their entire university and change the course of their lives. Nowalk is executive producing alongside Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Katie Couric To Play Talk Show Host, Alec Baldwin To Play Controversial Newspaper Columnist On NBC’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’
Alec Baldwin continues to leave public life, in a New York Magazine cover story called “Good-Bye Public Life” and now, in a role on one of the country’s most watched TV series. NBC made it official today that Baldwin will guest star as a controversial New York newspaper columnist, in an upcoming episode of Law & Order: SVU. Word of this guest gig got out earlier this month. But it wasn’t well known that Katie Couric will play herself — a TV show show host, that is — who grills Baldwin, as controversial New York newspaper columnist Jimmy MacArthur about the headline grabbing hate crime/rape case.
NBC wisely waited until Baldwin’s New York Magazine cover story came out and he was once again on the minds of the media to confirm he will play MacArthur, who questions the SVU squad’s motives during the investigation. Icing on the cake: show star Mariska Hargitay is directing — her debut.
“In our story, ‘Jimmy Mac’s’ reporting interferes with the investigation, which has a ripple effect when the case goes to trial,” EP Warren Leight explained in the announcement, adding that the chemistry between Baldwin and Hargitay “is palpable.”
The episode will air Wednesday, March 19.
Jericho alum Skeet Ulrich is set for a lead role opposite Meagan Good in NBC drama pilot Babylon Fields, from Michael Cuesta, Gerald Cuesta and Michael Atkinson. The 20th TV-produced project, originally developed and piloted at CBS seven years ago, is about a town’s residents coming back from the dead. Ulrich, repped by UTA and Brillstein, will play the dual roles of Father Harries, a local priest, and his estranged identical twin brother Graham, a junkie who returns from the dead. This marks Ulrich’s return to NBC, where he starred on Law & Order: LA. He will segue to Babylon Fields after wrapping indie Lost In Austin and next will be seen in the indie 50 to 1.
ION Television has joined Shaftesbury, Canadian network CTV and Fox International as a producer on the Canadian procedural drama series The Listener for its 13-episode fifth season, which started production earlier this year. Under the agreement, ION becomes the exclusive U.S. television network for originals of fifth and future seasons of the series. ION has been carrying The Listener — in 2011, the network acquired the first two seasons of the drama, which was originally picked up by NBC for a summer 2009 run of Season 1, which was cut short after several episodes. After the show did well alongside CBS’ off-network procedurals, including Criminal Minds and Law & Order; Criminal Intent, I hear ION exercised its option to become a co-producer of original episodes. The network used a similar strategy for another popular Canadian procedural drama, Flashpoint, first inking a syndication deal with CBS for the show’s Season 1-4 episodes that had aired on CBS (plus 11 that hadn’t aired) before becoming Flashpoint‘s exclusive US network for Season 5.
Jennifer Lopez To Topline 13-Episode FBI Drama Series At NBC She Is Producing With Ryan Seacrest For 2015-16
In one of the highest-profile packages this year, NBC has given a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Shades Of Blue, a drama toplined by Jennifer Lopez, which she will executive produce with her American Idol co-star Ryan Seacrest. Written by Adi Hasak (From Paris with Love), the project will begin working on scripts in June with an eye toward a 2015 production start and will be for the 2015-16 season, not the one that starts in September. Shades of Blue is a complex police series that centers on Harlee McCord (Lopez), a single mother and detective recruited to work undercover for the FBI’s anti-corruption task force. Part of a close-knit unit known for its conviction record, Harlee has become compromised by her colleagues — all of whom also pitch in to help her raise her daughter — and finds herself faced with the moral dilemma of working against her cop brothers in order to redeem herself. Lopez and Seacrest executive produce with Nina Wass, Hasak, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina for Universal Television, Lopez’s Nuyorican Prods., Ryan Seacrest Prods., EGTV and H’s Films. Search is underway for an experienced TV writer-producer to serve as co-showrunner alongside former Israeli journalist-turned-screenwriter Hasak. This marks reality powerhouse RSP’s first drama series. Its first scripted series, ABC comedy Mixology, which it joined at the pilot stage, premieres next week.
Related: 2014 NBC Pilots
“Whether its producing, acting, singing or any of her other many entrepreneurial activities, Jennifer is an extraordinary talent and life force, and we’re delighted to be in business with her and Adi Hasak on this sophisticated show,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. “We’re especially excited that Jennifer is returning to her acting roots from such great movies as Out of Sight, and we know that she will create this complicated character in a vivid way that will breathe new life into the cop show genre. Ryan Seacrest is part of the NBCU family and doing his first scripted drama series with us makes perfect sense.”
It might seem like ages ago but once upon a time American Idol winners and contestants regularly hit the Top 10 with their songs and become big stars and major moneymakers. Those days of almost assured hits out of Idol may be waning but there is still money on the table from those who hit the tune jackpot. Which is why the music company affiliated with Idol producers 19 Entertainment today took Sony Music to court for royalties that it alleges Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughty, Clay Aiken and other Idol alumni are owed – especially in the digital realm. In the breach of contract compliant (read it here) filed today in federal court in NYC, 19 Recordings are seeking compensatory damages of more than $7 million, pre and post-judgment interest of “at least $3 million” plus legal and organizational costs and whatever else the jury will give them. ”It was very important to my clients to protect their artists, and we look forward to pursuing this,” attorney Richard Busch told me today after the suit was filed. The Nashville-based lawyer at King & Barlow is representing 19 Recordings in the matter.
“Sony has failed to comply with the terms of the Recording Agreements, and failed to fulfill its obligations under the Recording Agreements, by failing to properly account to and pay 19 royalties for licensing, sales, and other exploitations of the …
Interviews by AwardsLine Editor Christy Grosz and Deputy Editor Anna Lisa Raya.
Here are some of this year’s lesser-known Oscar nominees, whose skills helped make the director’s and actors’ visions come to life. Without their research, technical mastery, or their ability to translate a story into melodies or visual effects, there would be none of the groundbreaking, iconic, historically significant films we’ve seen this past year. These are the real players who toiled in front of and behind the camera to make the 2013 Oscar season one of the best in recent memory.
Julie Delpy, Adapted Screenplay, Before Midnight
AwardsLine: What was the biggest challenge in writing and acting the 14-minute-long opening take?
Delpy: If we were able to do that as an improvised scene, we’d be geniuses. And we’re not geniuses. We work really hard at making it seem flawless, especially writing backstory stuff without seeming on the nose or expository. It’s the hardest part. How do you make it seem like we’re just having a conversation when we’re actually setting up the entire rest of the film, explaining what happened in the past nine years?
Lee Daniels’ The Butler co-star Terrence Howard is reuniting with the movie’s director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong, this time on TV. Howard is set as the lead in Empire, Fox‘s drama pilot from Strong, Daniels and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. Empire, which is geared toward series per Fox’s new development model, extends Howard’s relationship with the network where he co-stars on the upcoming event series Wayward Pines. His series credits also include Law & Order: LA. Howard is repped by CAA and Authentic.
Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
Hell still hath few furies like a shareholder with legal representation feeling scorned. In what seems to be the first but most likely not the last such legal move, a Time Warner Cable shareholder has launched a potential class action suit against the company to halt its acquisition by Comcast in a $45.2B all-stock deal. Filing in the Supreme Court of New York (read it here) one day after the TWC-Comcast deal was formally announced on February 13, Breffni Barrett is accusing TWC, its chairman and CEO Rob Marcus, former Sen. John Sununu and other members of the company’s board of cutting themselves a sweet deal and breach of fiduciary duty. The shareholder also says in the action, which also names Comcast as a defendant, that the mega-merger risks regulatory wrath. Of course, while it is easy to file an action such as this one, it is very hard to prove that a board acted as badly as Barrett alleges — especially when it had its own teams of lawyers going over every detail before anything was made public. Additionally, the merger is subject to approval by shareholders from both companies as well as a careful look from both the FCC and the Department of Justice. Put together, those facts mean there is little chance of Barrett’s filing stopping much of anything.