Spartacus: Blood & Sand alumna Erin Cummings has been cast as one of the leads in ABC’s 10-episode summer drama series The Astronaut Wives Club, from Fake Empire, Groundswell Productions and ABC Studios. Written by Stephanie Savage based on Lily Koppel’s book and directed by Nick Casavettes, it tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history during the height of the space race. Cummings, repped by Untitled and Paradigm, will play Marge, Deke Slayton’s outspoken wife, whose colorful past is not in keeping with the cookie-cutter image that the astronaut wives are expected to present to the world. Maternal and funny, she becomes the glue that holds the Astronaut Wives Club together. Cummings’ series credits also include ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7 and CBS’ Made In Jersey. She has three features coming out: Cold Comes The Night, Late Phases and The Last Word.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
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 keynote session with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 helmer Marc Webb leads the final lineup for the 2014 SXSW Film Conference slate which also includes chats with filmmakers Jason Bateman (Bad Words), Mike Myers (Supermensch) moderated by Jon Favreau, Ralph Steadman (For No Good Reason), and actors Robert Duvall and Tilda Swinton. The SXSW Film Festival runs March 7-15:
SXSW 2014 Features Lineup, New TV Section Unveiled
SXSW Midnighters & Full Shorts Slate Unveiled
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Tom Sherak got a star today on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Actually it was dated February 14, 2014, the day the ceremony was planned. But knowing his condition was worsening by the hour, the installation was moved up and the plaque was sent over and presented to Tom. He may not have been fully aware, but I hope he was. It probably doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. The fact is everyone in this town knew what tourists strolling down the Hollywood Walk Of Fame will soon find out. Tom Sherak was a star — and a champion. Deadline’s obituary states many of the reasons why. So let me make this personal.
Related: Hollywood Remembers Tom Sherak
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It has already been a great day for the legions of (predominantly female) fans of Diana Gabaldon‘s wildly popular Outlander time-travel romantic novels as Starz released a new image from its series adaptation of the first book depicting hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) shirtless. Here is more good news for them: Sony TV-produced Outlander, currently in production on its 16-episode freshman season, will do at least one more. “I would be shocked if we didn’t do the second book,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told me after the Scotland-set show’s session at TCA that featured writer and showrunner Ron Moore in a kilt. It is not only the enormous and enormously passionate fan base of the books, though that is not lost on Starz brass. Albrecht said he is very high on the early footage he has seen and didn’t spare praise for Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Moore’s skills as a top-notch writer and producer.
Related: TCA: “They Want To Lick Him”, ‘Outlander’ Author Says Of Fans And Her Hero
Even without the big vote of confidence from Albrecht, Outlander has the odds in its favor as all original dramas ordered by Albrecht have gone to second season with one exception, Camelot. I asked Albrecht about Starz’s “two-season curse” as no series since Spartacus has been able to go to a third season.
Related: TCA: Starz’s Chris Albrecht On 2014 Plans, ‘White Queen’ Sequel, ‘Magic City’s Demise
“You want a show that really makes a difference,” he said. The exec believes that good serialized dramas need time to reach their potential, which explains his willingness to hand freshman series a second season, but if he feels a show won’t go to the next level, he doesn’t have much trepidation about pulling the plug. (Albrecht did, however, regret the Kelsey Grammer drama Boss not getting a satisfying closure at the end of its two-season run the way Magic City did.) “TV shows are assets, not shrines,” he said. “You put them on; if they do the job, you keep them, if they don’t, you don’t.” Read More »
Starz‘s new swashbuckling pirate adventure series/Treasure Island prequel from Michael Bay goes 24 full minutes without nudity, which is a record for the pay cable network, a TV critic announced during the Black Sails Q&A session at TCA where Starz also released a new trailer for the new series. (watch below) The critic then asked Starz if being the “boobs and blood” network is something it embraces. To their credit, everyone from Starz who was in the room resisted the urge to hit the critic over the head with a blunt instrument. Instead, they explained that it’s “part of the possibility of pay TV” that Starz can tell stories without ad breaks, and without broadcast or even basic cable TV content restrictions. And, of course, Not Gratuitous.
Related: TCA: Starz’s Chris Albrecht On 2014 Plans, ‘White Queen’ Sequel, ‘Magic City’s Demise
Show creator/exec producer Jonathan Steinberg told the TV critics he’d never felt pressure to make this show sexier, or more violent. The show is violent, and the violence is sudden “the way violence feels in real life,” he explained. And, in re sex, he noted the pirates “almost certainly had sex in a world where none of them had job and they can kind of do what they will. I don’t think it ever gets gratuitous.”
Related: TCA: “They Want To Lick Him” ‘Starz’s Outlander’ Author Says Of Fans And Her Hero
Star Toby Stephens, Maggie Smith’s son, who has done his share of drawing-room period dramas, was asked if he watched his mom on Downton Abbey and if he prefers drawing room dramas or Black Sails. “I would any day of the week prefer to do the show I’m doing now,” he said. “I appreciate Downton for what it is. I have to say I don’t regularly tune in. It’s not the kind of show that I enjoy. I appreciate what my mom does in it, and she’s great in it. It’s not what I enjoy watching. This kind of thing is like going on an exotic vacation,” he said of Black Sails. In the UK, he said, “we do a lot of that the kind of stuff like Downton, and a lot of detective stuff. For me, that’s kind of like ‘Seen that, done it’. I don’t want to do it for the rest of my life.”
Related: Starz Pulls Out Of Sky Atlantic Series ‘Fortitude’, To Fast Track Internal Projects
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EXCLUSIVE: One of the most compelling movie questions coming into 2014 is, what film will Steven Spielberg direct? I don’t know if this is next or far down the line, but here is a tantalizing possibility: I’m told that he has his sights on Montezuma, an epic tale of the kinship and ultimately the bloody collision between Montezuma and Cortez as the latter led the Spanish infiltration into Mexico. I’ve heard that Javier Bardem has sparked to playing the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, and that the catalyst here is a nearly 50-year old script by Dalton Trumbo that is being rewritten by Steve Zaillian, who teamed with Spielberg on the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List.
Zaillian is boarding this project as producer, likely alongside Spielberg and his DreamWorks team. The rights are now controlled by DreamWorks, but Zaillian’s first look deal is at Fox and I don’t know if a team-up there is in the works. Zaillian is currently producing the Moses epic Exodus for Fox, with Ridley Scott directing Christian Bale in the lead role.
This project could be retitled Cortez, since the viewpoint will be from the latter character to be played by fellow Spaniard Bardem. The project, considered one of the great unmade scripts in moviedom, has an illustrious history. Trumbo wrote it for actor/producer Kirk Douglas, with whom he did the classics Spartacus and Lonely Are the Brave. Trumbo turned in a 205-page draft in 1965, when Martin Ritt was supposed to direct Douglas in the film. It never happened. Read More »
Colm Feore (Revolution, The Borgias) has joined the Peter Winther-directed indie Painkillers. He will play Dr. Troutman, a military doctor who treats soldiers with post-traumatic distress disorders in the sci-fi thriller produced by Liberation Pictures, Badlands Features and Ferns Entertainment. From an original screenplay by Jason Groce and Kirk Roos, Painkillers is set to start filming early next year in Alberta. Battlestar Galactica alum Tahmoh Penikett and Spartacus’ Lesley-Ann Brandt also are set for the pic. Feore’s upcoming films include Paramount’s Jack Ryan and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He is repped by Coronel Group.
Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters Of Sex) has signed on for the indie comedy Brother’s Keeper from director Ross Katz. She will star as Kat, the girlfriend of Jake (Nick Kroll) who dumps him after his tech startup fails and he moves back to his family home. Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale co-star in the pic from writers Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive and produced by Jared Ian Goldman and Mark Duplass. Production begins next month in New York. FitzGerald is repped by ICM, Authentic Talent and Literary Management and Peikoff Mahan Law Office.
EXCLUSIVE: Starz is developing an U.S. adaptation of the Italian drama Romanzo Criminale. It will be written by Steven S. DeKnight, creator/showrunner of Starz’s most successful original series, Spartacus, who is serving as executive producer and showrunner as part of his overall deal with the pay cable network. Lionsgate, which previously produced Boss for Starz, is the studio, with Steve McPherson, who has a first-look deal there, executive producing alongside Scripted World’s Alon Aranya and Rob Golenberg (Betrayal). The 2008 Italian drama revolves around a gang that controls Rome’s heroin trade in the 1970s and 1980s. The U.S. adaptation will be set in Philadelphia during the turbulent era of the late sixties and early seventies. The story will chronicle the rise of a gang of working class criminals who attempt to seize the American Dream by any means necessary.
Scripted World’s Aranya and Golenberg had been eyeing Romanzo Criminale for years. They finally landed the rights about 18 months ago and took the format to Lionsgate. When the studio signed a first-look deal with McPherson in April, it attached the executive-turned-producer to the project. The drama was taken to Starz, which brought in DeKnight.
The Italian series, which aired on Sky Cinema, was based on the 2002 novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo, which in turn was inspired by the notorious Magliana gang. The series was a followup to the 2005 feature adaptation of the book directed by famous Italian actor Michele Placido (La Piovra). You can watch below a trailer for the series in Italian and one for the movie with English subtitles that better explains the setup. Read More »
Lionsgate‘s Summit has acquired Millennium Films‘ Hercules: The Legend Begins, investing further in Kellan Lutz, who broke out as a vampire in Summit’s Twilight Saga and will co-star in Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3. Lutz takes center stage in the action-adventure as the titular Greek demigod hero. Sold into slavery, he must gain his freedom to save his true love Hebe, the Princess of Crete (Gaia Weiss). This is the latest bid for action hero status by Lutz, who has been filling out his non-Twilight résumé with such fare as Tarsem’s Immortals, IFC Film’s Java Heat, and Summit’s motion-capture Tarzan. The Renny Harlin-directed Hercules will hit theaters in 2D and 3D on February 7, battling WB’s The Lego Movie and Sony’s George Clooney-helmed The Monuments Men. The film also stars Lutz’s Expendables franchise-mate Scott Adkins (Expendables 2), Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Liam Garrigan (Strike Back), Johnathon Schaech, Roxanne McKee (Game of Thrones), and Rade Serbedzija. Daniel Eliat scripted and Danny Lerner, Les Weldon, Boaz Davidson, and Harlin produced. Avi Lerner, Trevor Short and John Thompson are exec producers. Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan, and Wendy Jaffe negotiated the deal with Avi Lerner and Mark Gill for Millennium.
Michael Graziadei (American Horror Story), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus) and Louise Lombard (CSI) have been cast in Lifetime’s dystopian future drama pilot The Lottery, written by Timothy J. Sexton and directed by Danny Cannon. The Warner Horizon-produced conspiracy thriller is set in a world where women have stopped having children threatening extinction of the human race. When 100 embryos are successfully fertilized, a national lottery is held to decide the surrogates. Graziadei, repped by Gersh and Main Title, will play Kyle, a recovering alcoholic and single father of one of the last children born in the country. He was in ABC’s pilot Venice and appears in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Thor crossover episode. Lesley-Ann Brandt, repped by Innovative Artists, LuberRoklin and Matt Rosen, will play Casey, a U.S. soldier longing for a child who jumps at the shot at being a surrogate by participating in the lottery. She has recurred on Single Ladies and the upcoming Killer Women and can be seen in Drift. Lombard plays Tori, a formerly free-spirited artist who is now a member of the Washington power elite, an accomplished writer and spinmeister who has the ear of the president. Read More »
Melissa Harper and Richter Hartig have been promoted from VP level to Senior Vice Presidents in Original Programming Production at Starz. Their appointments were announced today by Starz managing director Carmi Zlotnik. Both have been credited with a dramatic increase in original programming production in their roles as VPS and will continue to expand their responsibilities as the slate continues to grow. Harper joined Starz in 2006 as part of the IDT Entertainment acquisition and subsequent creation of Starz Media. There she was a part of the live action department providing production support and management on a slate of movies and series for other networks including the Syfy, Lifetime, and IFC. Since then Harper has provided oversight for the production and delivery of recent series such as Boss, Spartacus, Magic City, Da Vinci’s Demons, The White Queen, and the upcoming Starz original series Black Sails, Power, and Outlander Hartig also joined Starz in 2006 upon the creation of Starz Media. He has served in various programming business roles at Starz, acting as a nexus between TV production and corporate/finance.
Stella Maeve has been cast in a recurring role on NBC’s midseason drama Chicago PD, a spinoff from the network’s Chicago Fire. On the cop drama, from Wolf Films and Universal TV, Maeve will play Nadia, a pretty 18-year-old escort who is addicted to heroin and goes through a very difficult withdrawal. Maeve, repped by Principato-Young and Abrams Artists, recently co-starred in CBS series Golden Boy, CW pilot Norfolk and indie Dark Summer.
Spartacus and Crash alum Nick Tarabay has booked a recurring role on the new NBC Alfonso Cuaron drama Believe, about Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), a girl with special powers. Tarabay, repped by Domain and manager Brian Medavoy, will play Niko Zepeda, a dangerous, intimidating CIA Black Ops who is a constant looming threat as he hunts Bo and her protector Tate (Jake McLaughlin). Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and director Angelina Jolie have found their villain for the Lou Zamperini tale Unbroken. Jolie has set Japanese guitarist and singer Miyavi to play the role of Mutsushiro Watanabe, known as “The Bird.” That is the guard who made it his mission to break the spirit of Zamperini, and who haunted the athlete-turned-POW’s every step after he was captured in WWII. I’m told by individuals close to the project that it was no easy task to cast this role. After a long search for the perfect actor, the filmmakers continually found themselves returning to Miyavi’s captivating audition, one that mixed grace, ferocity, sensitivity and sophistication. That audition got Miyavi his first lead role in a Hollywood film. Jolie begins production in Australia in two weeks, and Universal releases the film December 25, 2014.
Miyavi might be a new face onscreen, but he is well known in international music circles for his unconventional guitar and singing skills and music that incorporates period-authentic guitars and playing styles from the 1940s. Now he’s going back to that volatile wartime era in Unbroken. Miyavi will have to reschedule part of an upcoming Asia tour to perform the role.
“As a musician, I questioned whether I should take a break from my craft to pursue this role,” Miyavi said in a statement. “After meeting Angie, it became clear to me that an underlying theme to this story is forgiveness. This resonated with me because that is exactly what I want express through my music. I look forward to taking on this challenge whole-heartedly.”
I must say, I have been fixated on The Bird since I first saw a wonderful short segment broadcast during the Nagano Olympics, where Zamperini returned to Japan in 1998. After running so compellingly in the final lap of his distance race in the 1936 Munich Olympics that Hitler asked to shake his hand, Zamperini was expected to bring home the gold with four more years of seasoning. The 1940 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Japan but all that fell apart in war. Zamperini instead arrived as a bombardier fighting in WWII. Sent on a rescue mission aboard a faulty aircraft, Zamperini and two other crewmen were the only survivors of a crash in the Pacific Ocean. After surviving in a raft for 47 days, the near-dead men were caught by the Japanese navy. And so began a POW ordeal that would have broken most men. In that CBS segment, Zamperini found the grace to forgive his captor, and offered to do it in person. The Bird was interviewed on camera, but he refused to meet with the hero he tormented for so many years. Read More »
Starz has looked like takeover bait since January when Liberty Media spun off the premium networks company. And investment bankers “of every shape, color, and size have come to us to talk about their best ideas,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told investors this morning at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. But “there hasn’t been anything yet that makes sense to us.” So he continues to plug ahead with a strategy to boost the number of original shows Starz airs, and expand the number of platforms where the networks he controls are offered. Next year Starz should have about 50 hours of originals — and Albrecht says he’d like to increase that to about 75 hours, close to what HBO offers. “HBO has a lot of everything, including money.” He’s not certain how long it will take to get there because “those decisions haven’t been made yet” and the company’s tentative plans provide opportunities for it to “press pause” if shows fail to perform as well as he expects. A lot depends on the deals Starz can make to co-produce new series, or licence them, overseas.
Related: Starz Developing International Organized Crime Drama
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