The director of this year’s slick magic drama Now You See Me and such tentpole fare as Clash Of The Titans and 2008′s The Incredible Hulk will direct Sacha Baron Cohen in Paramount‘s Grimsby, a spy comedy written by Baron Cohen and Phil Johnson. The plot centers on a British black ops agent forced to go on the run with his long-lost brother — a northern English soccer hooligan. Our sister pub Variety broke the Louis Leterrier news first.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount and JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk’s Bad Robot are gearing up on their film about disgraced bike racer Lance Armstrong. I’m told that they are setting D.V. DeVincentis to write the script for a movie centering around the book Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur. She’s the reporter who covered Armstrong for more than a decade at The New York Times. That period spanned his near-fatal bout with testicular cancer to his capturing glory with seven Tour de France titles. Those honors have been stripped after Armstrong finally copped to the swirl of rumors that he engaged in doping that upped his endurance and strength and made him unbeatable.
Paramount is in a three-bike race to make movies on Armstrong, and I’m not sure all three of these will happen, as compelling as the arrogant Armstrong’s downfall might be. Paramount was actually the first studio to declare it would make an Armstrong project, but since then, two other substantial film projects have cropped up. That includes the Studio Canal-funded, Working Title-produced pic that Stephen Frears is directing with Lone Survivor’s Ben Foster playing Armstrong and Chris O’Dowd playing journalist David Walsh, from a script by Trance‘s John Hodge. He adapted sportswriter Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit Of Lance Armstrong. That movie’s almost done shooting, and surely will be first to the screen.
This marks the first project to come out of Paramount‘s re-launched television division and signals its plans to mine the studio’s movie library and team with experienced film and TV writers for series adaptations. Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman and veteran showrunner Jeff Pinkner will co-write a pilot script based on the hit 1990 film Ghost, which won Oscars for best original screenplay (Bruce Joel Rubin) and supporting actress (Whoopi Goldberg). (Watch the “Unchained Melody” music video for the paranormal thriller/tearjerker after the jump.) Directed by Jerry Zucker, Ghost follows the recently deceased Sam Wheat (Swayze), who teams up with a psychic (Goldberg) in an effort to reconnect with his fiancee (Demi Moore) and avenge his murder. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Akiva and Jeff, two deeply creative and accomplished talents, on the television adaptation of this classic supernatural drama,” said Paramount TV president Amy Powell.
The state of the entertainment industry is strong overall, but the state of the industry in California is in serious trouble and our Film and TV Tax Credit program just isn’t cutting it, politicians and studio execs said today at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s second annual State of the Industry Conference. “We need a game changer; this is a very incremental approach,” Paramount Studio Group President Randy Baumberger said of the annual $100 million lottery system program. “Virtually no feature films are shot in LA anymore. What producers need are commitment and consistency. What producers are looking for is to be able to plan out 3 or 4 years,” he added during a panel on keeping jobs in California. “They can’t plan for a lottery on one single day. We need to be able to look out a year in advance and say what is the cost structure for that film. California is at a disadvantage by having all of the money gone in a few hours.”
The shortcomings of the state’s current program and the job losses the industry is experiencing in California were the primary topics this morning as speaker after speaker lamented rising runaway production, the ineligibility of tentpoles and network TV for the credit and the much heftier incentives of states such as Georgia, Louisiana and NY.
Jason Reitman‘s tale of a reclusive single mom (Kate Winslet) whose young son struggles to be the man of the house will open December 27 for a weeklong Oscar-qualifying run. Labor Day, which debuted at Telluride en route to Toronto, is adapted from Joyce Maynard’s novel and co-stars Josh Brolin as the escaped convict who talks the mother and son into taking him in. Paramount will go wide with the drama on January 31.
While he is under contract to Disney until next year, it looks like producer Jerry Bruckheimer‘s next home is going to be either Warner Bros or Paramount. Both studios are vying hard for the producer to come to their lot and ramp up tent poles, and a decision is coming soon. His exit from Disney came after the pricey disappointment The Lone Ranger. While that left a bitter taste, you can’t argue that Bruckheimer is one of the few brand names in the non-writing producer category. When he takes a big swing and connects, the result often leads to franchises that are such high commodities these days. At Disney, these included Pirates Of The Caribbean, and National Treasure. His deal is about the most expensive in the business, with generous overhead, 7-figure producing fees and gross. Bruckheimer already has his TV deal at Warner Bros, and that studio could use a guy like Bruckheimer as it carves out its new identity under Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll, in the wake of the exit of Jeff Robinov and Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures. Paramount has the prolific Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian, but could also use another event film generator. And of course, Bruckheimer and his late former partner Don Simpson had an illustrious run at that studio long ago. Stay tuned.
EXCLUSIVE: In a big spec deal, Paramount Pictures has acquired Little Black Dress, a script by The Sopranos creator David Chase that will be fast-tracked to be the next film Chase directs. I’m told that this is a character-driven film about a twentysomething female war veteran who comes back from Afghanistan grappling with a disability. While working a potentially lethal investigation at a post-war job, she gets involved with a superstitious NYPD detective who helps bring her back from a personal precipice.
We are beginning to see more films dealing with the troubles facing vets returning from combat in the Middle East. DreamWorks has Jason Hall adapting the David Finkel PTSD book Thank You For Your Service, and Tom Hardy is teamed with Solar Pictures on Samarkand, a Greg Williams-directed drama about a British soldier who returns to battle the demons of post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s not surprising Little Black Dress has landed at Paramount, the studio run by Chase’s former Sopranos partner Brad Grey. The studio used its Paramount Vantage label to release Chase’s first post-Sopranos film, Not Fade Away, a small personal film about a ’60s wannabe rock band. Chase is repped by UTA.
The latest teaming of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will hit theaters just in time for an Oscar run. Paramount‘s The Wolf Of Wall Street is opening December 25. It originally was scheduled for November 15. The studio cleared the Christmas Day slot last week when it moved the Chris Pine starrer Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit to January 17. It’ll be a busy holiday at the megaplex, with Wall Street going up against openers including Universal’s Keanu Reeves actioner 47 Ronin, Warner Bros’ aging-boxer comedy Grudge Match, Ben Stiller’s take of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty for Fox, Open Road’s Justin Bieber docu Believe and the Weinstein Company’s August: Osage County.
Paramount Moves ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ To January; Is ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Headed For December 25 Spot?
BREAKING: Another film has dropped off of the busy Christmas season release schedule. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions said Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, previously scheduled on December 25, will now open on January 17, 2014. This offers more proof that Paramount’s plan is ultimately to date Martin Scorsese’s Leo DiCaprio pic The Wolf Of Wall Street for December 25 — just in time for an Oscar run. Nothing official from the studio but we’ll keep you posted. The latest shift comes two days after Sony and Fox moved its George Clooney pic Monuments Men off its original December 18 release date; the period drama will now be released February 7, 2014, Sony said today.
EXCLUSIVE: Seems the stakes are rising on Paramount’s The Gambler. Brie Larson is in negotiations to play the female lead opposite Mark Wahlberg in the remake of the 1974 James Caan pic, I’ve learned. Talks are in a very early stage and details of her role are sketchy, but it could all come together in the next few days. The role would be another step into studio movies for the actress, who starred in 21 Jump Street last year. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes helmer Rupert Wyatt is set to direct the new Gambler from a script by William Monahan. Larson may not be the only new addition: The studio and producers are looking to bring American Horror Story star Jessica Lange on board as well. In August, Larson won the Best Actress Award at the Locarno Film Festival for her turn as a troubled social worker in Short Term 12, and she also was recently seen in the Sundance pic The Spectacular Now and Joe Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon. She is repped by Gersh and managed by ROAR.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey continues to stray from the conventional path in his hiring choices for the film studio’s recently re-launched TV division. After naming Amy Powell — Paramount’s head of Digital Entertainment and Insurge Pictures who has no TV experience — as President of Paramount Television in July, I hear the division is bringing in Jennifer Howell as head of comedy. While Howell comes from a TV comedy background, it is all in animation. She most recently headed 20th Century Fox TV‘s animation department since its creation in 2008 until this past May, developing such series as Fox’s Bob’s Burgers, Murder Police, Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory. Before that, Howell was EVP at Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s production company Important Films and worked as a supervising producer on South Park where she also has voiced the character of Bebe Stevens. The plan for the next five years is to build Paramount TV into a creative studio financing and developing television for all platforms, from digital episodic content to primetime series, by mining existing Paramount properties as well as new ideas from established and emerging talent, broadly seeking partners and distribution. Paramount TV was one of the leading brands for TV production until 2005 when the studio merged with CBS Prods to form CBS TV Studios, which remained with CBS in the Viacom split.
EXCLUSIVE: Just five months after shepherding the Star Trek video game to its epic fail of a release, Paramount SVP Brian Miller is on his way out, Deadline has learned. The Paramount veteran will continue in his post as SVP of Worldwide Marketing Partnerships and Consumer Products through the end of the year as part of a mutual exit decision reached with the studio. I’m told Miller is looking to pursue personal projects after 14 years at Paramount. But the timing comes conspicuously on the heels of May’s Star Trek video game debacle which Miller produced in-house and did heavy media promotion for. Developers Digital Extremes and Namco took much of the blame for the widely panned video game, notably from Trek director JJ Abrams who in September called it a “big disappointment” and suggested that the game’s poor quality and reviews hurt the release of his Star Trek Into Darkness. Unlike those developers, Miller had boldly gone front and center for Paramount as the face of the video game doing press left and right and, insiders say, tying his fate to the game’s. Miller declined a request for comment.
Paramount has trimmed its staff by 110, with a memo issued just now on the lot. The layoffs happened this morning, and the casualties have been informed. This was not unexpected. Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman gave a speech at the Goldman Communicopia recently, and indicated the studio would be trimming its ranks by watching movie and TV costs.
The studio is coming off some success on the movie side, but it sure hasn’t been easy. World War Z and G.I. Joe: Retaliation both bore fruit after the studio pulled them off the 2012 schedule and fixed them. These layoffs are never fun, and it feels like it is getting tougher each year. The other part of this that sucks is often, when one studio trims staff, others seem to follow.
Here is the memo that was sent to staff.
To: Paramount Employees
From: Frederick Huntsberry
As our industry continues to adapt to an increasingly competitive environment, we are always ensuring that Paramount is conducting its business as efficiently and productively as possible. As such we are making important and necessary changes in how we operate across several business functions. Although most employees will not be impacted, these changes will result in organizational realignment in select areas, and the elimination of 110 positions on the lot and in a number of international locations. The headcount reductions will primarily impact Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, International Home Media Distribution, Legal and Marketing.
Change is always difficult
EXCLUSIVE: After seven years as Paramount Pictures‘ EVP Business and Legal Affairs, Daniel Ferleger will be leaving the studio at the end of September. The studio won’t be replacing him, I’ve learned. Instead, an as-yet-unnamed troika of EVPs from the movie division will run Biz Affairs jointly. (UPDATE, 4:41 PM: The three EVPs are Lindsey Bayman, Rona Cosgrove and Paul Neinstein.) They’ll report to Vice-Chair Rob Moore and Film Group Prez Adam Goodman. No landing elsewhere in Hollywood here for Ferleger — he’s retiring. Ferleger joined Paramount in mid-2006 after a stint as COO of Revolution Studios, where he had been since 2000 and worked with Moore. Before that the entertainment lawyer was at Fox for a decade, ending up as SVP Business Affairs.
Paramount Confirms ‘Transformers: Age Of Extinction’ Release Date; ‘Terminator’ Shifts To Fourth Of July Frame In 2015
The newly titled Transformers: Age Of Extinction will open on June 27, 2014, Paramount said today in announcing some tweaks to its release schedule. The fourth pic in the franchise is being directed by Michael Bay and stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Sophia Myles, TJ Miller, Titus Welliver, Han Geng and Li Bingbing and is currently in production. The studio scooped itself a bit when it unveiled the new title and release date in some key art at the beginning of the month. Meanwhile, Terminator, the franchise reboot from Skydance and Annapurna Pictures, has been bumped back from June 26, 2015 to a Wednesday, July 1. That puts it in the Fourth of July weekend wheelhouse along with Fox’s Independence Day sequel and an under-wraps animated pic from Illumination Entertainment. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, previously scheduled for a limited release November 22, 2013, will now open November 15 as it continues its fall festival swing.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m in transit from Toronto, but here is a hot project coming together quickly. I’m hearing that Mark Wahlberg is circling to star and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes helmer Rupert Wyatt is circling to direct The Gambler, a William Monahan-scripted remake of the 1974 James Caan movie for Paramount. The remake is being produced by original producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff and also Stephen Levinson. Caan played a college professor whose gambling addiction overcomes him even after he gets in big trouble with the wrong guys. James Toback wrote the original script and the pic co-starred Lauren Hutton and Paul Sorvino.
Paramount unveiled the official title of its fourth Transformers pic along with a new teaser poster today. Transformers: Age Of Extinction is due in theaters June 27, 2014. The Michael Bay pic stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Sophia Myles, TJ Miller, Titus Welliver, Han Geng and Li Bingbing and is currently in production.
The studio plans to squeeze more life out of its undead hit and space sequel. Paramount and a clutch of exhibitors are going back to the future for a week with an old-fashioned double feature of summer tentpoles World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness starting Friday. The twin bill screens in 3D or 2D through September 5 in select AMC, Regal, Carmike, Marcus and other theaters for the price of a single ticket. It’s the second stunt playdates for Brad Pitt’s zombie flick — third if you count a late-add IMAX run — following its $50 “Mega Ticket” deal that included an advance screening, a home video copy of the film, 3D glasses, a poster and popcorn. With more than $526 million worldwide, WWZ is Pitt’s highest-grossing film ever. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness has banked $458.7M worldwide and spawned another sequel.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has found its director for Virgins America, the remake of the hit UK comedy The Inbetweeners, about a group of kids straddling the line between dorks and cool. The studio is setting Jim Field Smith to helm the remake. His credits include She’s Out Of My League, Butter, and the TV series Episodes, and The Wrong Mans. Aaron Kaplan is producing for Kapital Entertainment; Don Granger is producing for the studio. He’s repped by WME, United Agents and Underground.