CBS News has named veteran Bill Whitaker a 60 Minutes correspondent, it was announced today by Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the newsmag and the chairman of CBS News. Whitaker, who has been based in Los Angeles, will move to the New York area and begin appearing in the fall on the CBS newsmagazine, which is America’s most-watched news program. The newsmag got nicked in its reputation when Lara Logan took a leave in the wake of the program’s since-discredited story on the Benghazi attacks.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Bag Man’, ‘Repentance’, ‘Stalingrad’, ‘The Lunchbox’, ‘Fatal Assistance’
Big Sony is opening Russian epic Stalingrad in a record number of IMAX theaters this weekend. The roll out may be a watershed for Russian filmmaking in the U.S. and it marks another blending of “specialty” and “Hollywood” though that isn’t really new as the grey areas have mounted for years. Hollywood’s biggest stars have long had indies intervals between studio cash cows. Cinedigm will open The Bag Man with Robert De Niro and John Cusack theatrically, while the Universal acquisition will remain with the studio’s non-theatrical lineup. Lionsgate/Codeblack will bow Repentance with Anthony Mackie and Forest Whitaker in over 150 theaters, targeting its primarily African-American audience. On the traditional end, Sony Classics will platform Cannes debut The Lunchbox this weekend, while Velvet Films will open an exclusive engagement at Film Society of Lincoln Center for Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance.
The Bag Man
Director-writer: David Grovic
Writers: Paul Conway, James Russo, Marie-Louise von Franz (inspired by her short story, The Cat)
Cast: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover, Dominic Purcell
First-time feature filmmaker David Grovic landed quite a cast for his crime thriller The Bag Man. Starring John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa and Robert De Niro, the title centers on a criminal who bides his time at a seedy motel, waiting for his boss after killing several men and making away with a mystery bag. “We were incredibly fortunate to get essentially first choices in all the roles,” said Grovic. “Unless you’re a studio paying huge money, I think the only way you can get this quality of cast is by making it a passion project.” Grovic said that the cast responded to the script’s non-stereotypical traits including De Niro’s hair and eccentric dialog as well as Da Costa’s wonder woman outfit for starters.
Oscar-winning Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, who won the Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2002 for Spirited Away, is back in contention this year with The Wind Rises, the film he says will be his last as a director. Could that be a factor in how the Academy votes? The film — about the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II — is nominated for its original Japanese version, but Disney on Friday will be releasing the English-language version featuring a starry voice cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Martin Short, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin and others. Here’s an exclusive clip that doesn’t depend on dialogue at all, a harrowing earthquake sequence that shows off Miyazaki’s true gifts as an artist. If this is his last hurrah as a director, you can see why he will be missed:
Berlin Briefs: Rob Cohen To Helm ‘Risk’; Umedia Digs ‘Deep’; Buyers Show Up For Competition’s ‘In Order Of Disappearance’
Alex Cross and The Fast And The Furious director Rob Cohen is set to helm Umedia‘s action heist thriller Risk. A summer production start is eyed. The film follows a brilliant thief who’s sprung early from prison to execute a nearly impossible art heist. Reluctant to follow the same path that put him in jail in the first place, he’s drawn into a dangerous triangle with a crime boss and a beautiful and mysterious accomplice. Brussels-based Umedia’s Adrian Politowski and Karl Richards will produce with Tim Kwok, Ksana Golod and George Parra. The screenplay is by Eric Harlacher. Umedia International will handle sales.
In other Umedia news, the company’s international sales arm has boarded Spanish animation studio The Thinklab’s family feature Deep. From a script by former DreamWorks story consultant Mike de Seve of Baboon Animation, the film is directed by Julio Soto (Fluffs!). Umedia is showing a sizzle reel to buyers. The story is set in a deep-sea world of the future where humans have abandoned the earth and the oceans have risen. An adventurous octopus named Deep, and his two best friends, angler fish Evo, and neurotic shrimp Alice, must set off on a perilous journey when an earthquake destroys their home. Deep is produced by Adriana Malfatti and Jorge Bazaco, Character development is managed by Spa Studios, the original story creators of Despicable Me, and the company’s owner Sergio Pablos who has designed characters for Disney’s Tarzan, Blue Sky’s Rio, Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Hercules.
EXCLUSIVE: Alexandra Daddario just landed the female lead opposite Dwayne Johnson on San Andreas, which New Line hopes will be its next big tentpole. In the Brad Peyton-directed film, Johnson plays a chopper pilot who sets out to rescue his estranged daughter after a massive earthquake hits California. Beau Flynn is producing and Village Roadshow Pictures is co-financing. Watch for Daddario; she is gaining notice for her role in HBO’s True Detective and is being courted for a role in the Entourage movie at Warner Bros. Daddario, who starred in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, is repped by UTA and McKeon-Myones Management.
Park City, UT — Sundance Institute, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today announced a new project that will harness the power of independent film to create a global conversation about extreme hunger and poverty. The Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge will spur the production of documentary and narrative films – through a global open call for three-to-eight-minute submissions – that will celebrate imaginative solutions real people are creating to overcome the challenges of extreme hunger and poverty.
The project supports Sundance Institute’s mission to empower independent storytellers and connect their work to communities around. The Institute is working with Tongal.com to manage the online call for entries. Winning films will receive a $10,000 grant and premiere at a private event at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Users can submit through July 1, 2014. There is no fee to apply. More information can be found at www.tongal.com/sundance.
The billionaire media mogul and co-founder of Shaw Studios, which produced hundreds of influential martial arts pics along with the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, died early Tuesday local time in Hong Kong. Sir Run Run Shaw was 106. He started the Shaw Organization with brother Runme in 1926, and it evolved from an exhibition entity into one of the biggest producers of Asian features and television shows. He was a force of nature, and his name is synonymous with Hong Kong Cinema and TV. In fact, much of Hong Kong’s culture can be attributed to Shaw and his Studios. During his 44 years at the helm, his Shaw Studios produced thousands of television programs/films. He also was a philanthropist and helped start many schools and hospitals in the country.
Starting in the early 1950s and peaking during the 1970s and ’80s, Shaw Brothers Studios made such popular and influential martial arts films as The One-Armed Swordsman — directed by Shaw Brothers regular Chang Cheh, the first Hong Kong movie to gross HK$1 million — and its sequels; The 36 Chambers of Shaolin and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, both directed by Lau Kar-leung and starring Gordon Liu; Come Drink With Me with Cheng Pei Pei, one of Shaw Brothers’ most popular female stars; the cult classic Five Deadly Venoms; The Flying Guillotine; and Five Fingers Of Death. His company produced as many as 40 films a year. The movies coming out of Hong Kong inspired many filmmakers worldwide and helped launch the career of director John Woo. In fact, Woo started his career as an assistant director at Shaw Studios working with Chang Cheh.
Related: Lau Kar-leung Dies
UPDATE: Paul Walker’s Charity To Receive Some Proceeds From ‘Hours’ Box Office And Soundtrack, ‘Fast & Furious 6′ Home Video Release
2nd UPDATE 6:10 PM: Pantelion Films, the joint venture between Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa, said today that it will donate a portion of its box office take for Paul Walker-starring drama Hours to the late star’s charity, Reach Out Worldwide. The company, which will bow the movie Friday in 16 theaters and on VOD, did not specify what percentage of the gross it will donate nor exactly when that would happen. Walker died November 30 in a car crash near Los Angeles.
UPDATED 1:55 PM Friday: Benjamin Wallfisch, who composed the music for the upcoming Paul Walker drama Hours, said today that he and Varèse Sarabande Records will donate a portion of the soundtrack’s sales and royalties to the late actor’s nonprofit, Reach Out WorldWide. The film, which stars Walker as a father struggling to keep his daughter alive in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, opens Friday.
Related: Photos: Paul Walker, 1973-2013
PREVIOUSLY: The studio hasn’t made any decisions about the future of Fast & Furious 7 yet in the wake of the death of Paul Walker on November 30. But Universal said today that it will donate some of the proceeds from the upcoming Fast & Furious 6 DVD, Blu-ray and digital release to Walker’s charity Reach Out WorldWide. Here’s the release:
Four months after NBC signaled a push in the longform arena with a development slate of several miniseries and event series, the network has greenlighted the first project from that slate, four-hour miniseries Rosemary’s Baby, an adaptation of the 1967 best-selling suspense novel by Ira Levin. Agnieszka Holland, who has been nominated for both an Oscar (Europa, Europa) and an Emmy (Treme), has come on board to direct the mini, written by Scott Abbott (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) and James Wong (American Horror Story). Casting begins immediately, with filming set to begin in January in Paris. Lionsgate Television is producing, with Joshua Maurer, Alix Witlin and David Stern serving as executive producers. “Ira Levin’s mesmerizing book was a groundbreaking reflection on how effective and influential a psychological thriller could be,” said Quinn Taylor, NBC’s EVP, Movies, Miniseries and International Co-Productions, who has been shepherding NBC’s longform strategy since joining the network from ABC in June. Added NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, “As we move into the event movie and miniseries space, Rosemary’s Baby represents the kind of attention-getting, surprising project that will make noise for us. The story has been updated and moved to Paris, but it’s faithful to the spirit of Ira Levin’s classic novel.”
Rosemary’s Baby centers on a young married couple who move into a Paris apartment that has a haunted past. After getting pregnant, the wife becomes …
Former New York Times media correspondent Brian Stelter also clocked 118,00 viewers in the news demo in his debut as permanent host of CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday. Same day, former Reliable Sources host Howart Kurtz logged 960,000 viewers — 239,000 in the news demo — in his new gig as host of FNC’s all-things-media program, MediaBuzz. That puts Kurtz 104% ahead of Stelter in total viewers, 103% in 25-54 year olds. Stelter’s debut came in 35% lower in overall crowd, and 49% in the demo, compared to Reliable Source’s most recent telecast on November 24 with another guest host. (CNN focused on breaking news coverage of the New York train wreck on Sunday, December 1 in the slot.) Kurtz has grown his MediaBuzz audience by 98% in overall audience — 33% in the demo — since debuting. (Last month, after 11 weeks at FNC, Kurtz broke the 1 million viewer barrier, without breaking news, on his new all-things-media show, MediaBuzz. In his 15 years hosting CNN’s Reliable Sources, Kurtz never sustained 1 million viewers for the full telecast — though it broke 1 million viewers on a couple of Sundays when the format was interrupted for breaking news of the earthquake that had struck Japan, in March of 2011, and again in December 2012, on the day of memorial services for Sandy Hook elementary school shootings victims.)
Related: CNN’s Anderson Cooper Hits New Ratings …
UPDATE: Jerry Bruckheimer And Paramount Ink First-Look Deal; Brett Ratner Attached To Direct ‘Beverly Hills Cop’
UPDATED: Paramount Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer are back in business together, with the free-agent producer and his Bruckheimer Films finalizing a three-year first-look deal with the studio that will begin in April 2014. “I have a lot more freedom than at Disney,” Bruckheimer told me today. Clearly, he’s referring to the fact that he can take projects elsewhere to develop if need be, something he couldn’t do at Disney. He also cited Paramount’s strong marketing and distribution team and said he was impressed with how well they handled the Brad Pitt zombie movie World War Z when the going got rough in the press.
In September, Disney announced it would not renew its first-look with one of the few brand-name producers in town — the one who begat the mega-successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. That decision came as the studio said it would have to write down as much as $190 million from losses tied to The Lone Ranger, the big-budget pic from Bruckheimer that failed to pop at the box office. Bruckheimer’s films have earned a combined $16 billion over the years, with 19 of his movies topping $100 million mark in U.S. box office receipts. His deal with Disney was about the most expensive in the business, with generous overhead, 7-figure producing fees and gross.
Bruckheimer will not have a discretionary fund at Paramount.
Projects he set up at Disney will remain there until they pass on them. One of the projects Bruckheimer will take with him is Shake, a cat-and-mouse thriller about and FBI agent who is bringing in a serial killer when an earthquake happens and the killer gets loose.
The first project under the new deal, however, will be a new Beverly Hills Cop movie — a reboot of one of Bruckheimer and Paramount’s biggest successes together when he produced the original with late partner Don Simpson. Eddie Murphy closed his deal to reprise his role as Detroit cop Axel Foley — this time Foley will be returning to his Detroit roots. It will be the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise. Brett Ratner, who is currently finishing up Hercules for MGM, is attached to direct the film as soon as his duties on the Dwayne Johnson-starrer finishes up. The picture bows in July. The Beverly Hills Cop script is still being worked on.
Another big Bruckheimer-Simpson-Paramount hit in their sights: Bruckheimer as part of his deal will also produce the long-in-the-works Top Gun 2, which is being developed by Skydance Productions with Tom Cruise back in the cockpit to star.
The production deal brings another heavy hitter into the Paramount mix with Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Bay, David Ellison and J.J. Abrams already there.
Warner Bros has slotted its earthquake actioner San Andreas for June 5, 2015. The disaster pic will be released in 2D and 3D, the studio said today. Brad Peyton directs Dwayne Johnson in the New Line- and Village Roadshow-produced movie, which centers on a massive earthquake that hits California. The big-budget film was hatched by producer Beau Flynn and scribes Jeremy Passmore & Andre Fabrizio as a pitch. Allan Loeb as well as Carlton Cuse did polishes, and the most recent draft is from Chad and Carey Hayes. Flynn’s FlynnPictureCo is producing, as is Tripp Vinson. This one’s been in the works for a while — producers went out to directors on this in December 2011 before finding Peyton. Johnson, who worked with the helmer on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, came aboard this October to star as a rescue-chopper pilot who treks across the earthquake-devastated state in search of his estranged daughter.
So far, that key summer weekend slot has Fox’s B.O.O.: Bureau Of Otherworldly Operations, with Universal’s Jurassic World staking out the next weekend.
7th UPDATE, 10:03 AM: Fast & Furious star Paul Walker died of trauma and burn injuries, the LA County Coroner’s office said today. The autopsy was completed last night, sources say. Walker was killed Saturday after he and friend Roger Rodas crashed in a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT while driving it in Santa Clarita, CA. Rodas was driving the luxury car with Walker in the passenger seat. Rodas died from “multiple traumatic injuries” said the Coroner’s report, with Walker’s death resulting from the “combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries.” Both deaths have been ruled to be the result of an accident. On a Thanksgiving break from filming Fast & Furious 7, the 40-year-old actor had been at a nearby charity event just beforehand. A LAPD investigation of the incident is ongoing, as is the Coroner’s toxicology examination. The latter is expected to take 6-8 more weeks.
Dwayne Johnson will star in the disaster pic San Andreas for New Line. He’ll play a rescue-chopper pilot who treks across an earthquake-devastated California in search of his estranged daughter. Brad Peyton, who directed Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, will helm San Andreas. The actor’s recent credits include G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Pain And Gain, and he next appears in Hercules: The Thracian Wars and Fast & Furious 7. He is repped by WME, the Garcia Companies and Gang Tyre.
UPDATE, 6:50 AM: Fox has declined the Media Action Network for Asian Americans’ suggestion it re-shoot its Dads pilot in order to remove the scene it finds most offensive. In the scene, business partners Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi have Brenda Song’s employee character dress up in sexy Asian Schoolgirl costume and giggle demurely to please Chinese businessmen.
Down the road, Fox execs promised the organization, “You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand.” They also said the show, from Seth MacFarlane and team, “is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries — sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations,” adding, “The series is based heavily on the executive producers’ own lives, and the relationships between the fathers and sons on Dads will continue to be the main driver of show’s comedic sensibility. Everyone involved with Dads is striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and ‘earns’ its audaciousness.”
PREVIOUS, AUGUST 15: The Media Action Network for Asian Americans says it’s waiting to hear back from Fox execs in response to a letter it sent Monday asking the network to reshoot some “racist” scenes in the pilot of Fox’s new Seth MacFarlane live-action comedy series, Dads. Fox says it has been in the process of responding. Word of the kerfuffle got out this afternoon when MANAA took the issue to the press. In case you didn’t get the screener MANAA saw back in July, Dads is about two video game developers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) with cranky old dads (Martin Mull and Peter Reigert) who move in to their place. Sometimes the dads say stupid racist things. Mull’s character, for instance, calls Asians “Orientals,” and says, of Chinese people, “There’s a reason ‘Shanghai’ is a verb.” TV critics don’t like the show much either, and said so at the recent Summer TCA Press Tour. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly placated them somewhat by telling them the show will need to recalibrate and find the right comedic balance. MANAA wants the pilot recalibrated before it premieres.
New York, August 14, 2013 – The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences today announced the nominees for the 2013 Current Affairs and News categories. Winners will be announced in New York on October 1, at a Ceremony at the Frederick P. Rose Hall of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The international winners will be honored alongside their American news and documentary counterparts. The 8 Nominees span 5 countries, Brazil, Germany, Romania, The Philippines and The United Kingdom. GMA Network (The Philippines) and TV Globo (Brazil) are nominated in both categories. Click over for the full list:
In addition to the news about Ehab Al Shihabi, the soon-to-launch network says that Kate O’Brian, formerly of ABC News, will be president. ABC News President Ben Sherwood lauded O’Brian’s “insights, judgment and humor.” Here’s the Al Jazeera America release, followed by Sherwood’s comments:
New York (July 22, 2013) – The Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, Dr. Mostefa Souag, announced today that Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director for international operations, has been named (till further notice) as an interim chief executive officer of Al Jazeera America, and ABC News veteran Kate O’Brian has been named its president. Dr. Souag also announced that the groundbreaking American news channel is scheduled to launch on August 20, 2013.
In addition, David Doss has been named senior vice president for news programming; Marcy McGinnis has been appointed senior vice-president, newsgathering; and Shannon High-Bassalik will serve as senior vice-president, documentaries and programs.
Al Shihabi, one of the network’s leading American senior executives, has effectively participated in and been in charge of developing Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera America will be headquartered in New York City and have 12 bureaus in key cities around the U.S.
Back when Darren Aronofsky stepped away from The Wolverine to direct Russell Crowe in the Biblical epic Noah, the emergence of James Mangold was something of a surprise. He’s an accomplished filmmaker, but his sweet spot is grounded characters with earthbound dilemmas in films from Walk The Line to Girl, Interrupted, Copland and 3:10 To Yuma. Just before he and Hugh Jackman unveiled a killer highlight reel as part of Fox’s Hall H panel, I sat down with Mangold to see why he related to Marvel Comics’ perennially pissed-off protagonist.
DEADLINE: You’ve directed actors like Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Angelina Jolie and Sylvester Stallone to career performances, but with the possible exception of Knight & Day, your movies have always been very grounded in character and reality. What made you take the leap into the fantastical genre of superheroes?
JAMES MANGOLD: Several things appealed to me. The studio and the star were ready to do something different. This didn’t have to serve other films, we were operating off some perception of disappointment for the first film. To follow an act that tripped in some way gave us a lot of freedom. As for my own sensibility as a filmmaker, the opportunity I sensed was a chance to make a movie more like the comic books I’ve read and less like what I call comic book event movies. I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a kid, and they weren’t always about the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Every week, it was not about how a city, a continent or a universe will be destroyed if X doesn’t happen. That is unsustainable for the comic book writers. I think what is missing from a lot of comic book films reliant on peak battles is the angst, the character work, the things that as young people we related to. It was not infantile, but incredibly mature themes about life, death, betrayal, revenge, friendship, loyalty, parents, genetics, who we are and accepting ourselves for who we are. Those are themes in the comic books but the movies dabble in that but become about defeating a villain who’s intent on destroying the X that will occur unless Y happens to stop them. I was really interested in the idea of making a superhero film that purposely avoided putting the audience at risk. It seems all too often that comic book movies convey situations to the audience that, if the superhero doesn’t succeed, we’re all dead. I was trying to make a film that operated as a real drama, a real thriller, noir, Western or a real samurai film. Where you become invested in the heroes of the film worried about their interests, their needs, their safety, and not yours.